Pentagon Preparing for War with China?

Littoral Combat Ship
Few Americans know what goes on at the Pentagon – the headquarters of the United States military – and, most of the time, few care. Of greater concern is the fact that few of America’s elected political representatives know very much about what the Generals are doing, either. Currently – and without much congressional oversight – the Pentagon is preparing for war with China.

It is, of course, the job of the Defense Department to plan for various contingencies, including strategies for dealing with emerging threats. It was for this reason that, in late 2008, a strategy was born that has since developed into a major Pentagon project aimed at neutralizing the perceived threat of China, the world’s newest superpower. This project is now known as AirSea Battle.

The AirSea Battle project is, in its most simplistic form, the plan for pre-emptively attacking and neutralizing China. The project covers the development of new weapons, technologies and military capabilities that will be necessary for carrying out such an attack. Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, gave the project his official blessing in 2010. The Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report directed the military to “develop a joint air-sea battle concept . . . [to] address how air and naval forces will integrate capabilities across all operational domains—air, sea, land, space, and cyberspace—to counter growing challenges to U.S. freedom of action.” Leon Panetta, who succeeded Gates as Defense Department chief, also endorsed the project and established the Multi-Service Office to Advance AirSea Battle, as described by Amitai Etzioni, Professor of International Affairs at The George Washington University, in an article for Yale Journal of International Affairs.

AirSea Battle requires “interoperable air and naval forces that can execute networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.” The project acknowledges that “[t]he scope and intensity of U.S. stand-off and penetrating strikes against tar­gets in mainland China clearly has escalation implications.”

Does the development of the AirSea Battle project mean that President Obama – or, indeed, the Pentagon – actually intends launching a military strike against the Chinese? There is nothing to indicate such an intention. In addition, China is not yet at the point where it could seriously challenge the United States, militarily. As Etzioni infers, however; the mere existence of AirSea Battle may prompt the Chinese to escalate their own defense spending and planning for military ‘contingencies’.

It should be noted that Pentagon officials deny that the project is aimed specifically at China. It appears to be widely accepted, however, that the scope and nature of the AirSea Battle clearly indicate that it is being developed with China in mind. As one senior naval officer put it, “Air-Sea Battle is all about convincing the Chinese that we will win this competition.”

The Chinese, of course, are aware of the project and are presumably in little doubt that AirSea Battle was developed with them in mind.

The most unsettling aspect of this Pentagon project, however, is that it has been neither reviewed, nor approved, by either the White House or Congress; it was conceived by the military and approved by the Defense Department, but appears to have moved forward with little involvement or oversight by the civilian leadership of the United States. In 2011, Admiral Robert F. Willard wrote to Defense Secretary Panetta that “[d]espite reports throughout 2011 AirSea Battle had been completed in an executive summary form, to my knowledge Members of Congress have yet to be briefed on its conclusions or in any way made a part of the process.”

The military, therefore is preparing for war with China without the approval of elected representatives. The Pentagon, it seems, is quite literally above the law.

Graham J Noble


6 Responses to "Pentagon Preparing for War with China?"

  1. loco hack 1.7.5 download   February 20, 2019 at 7:04 am

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  2. dmh   July 29, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Agree with Clint’s remarks above. Not to mention that the notion that neither the Executive branch nor Congress have been informed or involved is ludicrous.

  3. Clint Casey   July 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    It would seem that Mr. Noble doesn’t understand how the military operates. Running drills and making battle plans is what the Military does during peacetime. The military doesn’t disband when the troops come home, they make preparations for possible future conflicts.

    China runs drills specifically for that purpose, as does almost every other significant military power in the world.

    • Graham Noble   July 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      For your information, Mr. Noble spent ten years in the military.

      The article merely reports on the existence of the AirSea Battle project. You seem to have decided to interpret this as an opinion piece. I am making no comment on the wisdom or folly of the project in question. I clearly point out in the article that it is the Pentagon’s job to plan for contingencies. You either chose to ignore that fact, or did not read the article carefully enough.

    • Graham Noble   July 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      To be completely fair, I did inject my opinion that it is somewhat concerning when the Pentagon launches a major project with little oversight by Congress or the White House. If you disagree that the project has been conducted without oversight, I suggest you call your Congressional representatives and ask them what they know about AirSea Battle.

      I think you’ll find the answer will be “AirSea what?”

      • Michael White   January 16, 2014 at 1:04 am

        There has been a fair amount of press about the AirSea Battle concept. If you and I know about this, it is unlikely that congressional committees with military oversight are in the dark. Developing plans is quite different than carrying them out. There is no reason to believe anyone in the Pentagon has gone rogue or that our military would engage a foreign power without authorization.

        The Chinese have made it clear they have developed capabilities to strike U.S. naval targets in Asia and even U.S. cities, so one would hope our military is developing a strategy to deal with potential threats.


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