The View From Olympus: A Glimpse of Future War Among Great Powers

Several weeks ago, the world got a glimpse of what future war will look like among Great Powers.  The weapons were rocks and clubs.

Indian and Chinese troops battled each other over worthless ground along their undefined border high in the Himalayas.  It was a classic case of two bald men fighting over a comb.  But at least 20 Indian soldiers died, along with an unknown number of Chinese.

What is interesting about this skirmish is the weapons employed.  Both India and China have sizable arsenals of modern weapons.  They employed none of them.  Instead, they fought with rocks and clubs.

I find the deafening silence over this choice of weapons, including from the U.S. military, to be interesting.  It certainly should draw the attention of anyone who studies where war may be going.  Why did such a bizarre scenario unfold?  Because both countries have nuclear weapons.

It is probably true that neither India nor China wants a war at this point.  But what limited both countries’ soldiers to the weapons of cavemen was something with general import: so terrifying is the prospect of nuclear war to anyone threatened with it that governments are willing, even eager, to go to seemingly ridiculous lengths to prevent it.

Prevention begins with avoiding the escalatory ladder.  And that is what led to a fight with rocks and clubs.  Both countries rightly feared that if they went to the weapons of, let’s say Sung dynasty China or Moghul India, they would set foot on that ladder.  So rocks and clubs it had to be.  Even a battle with those so alarmed Beijing and New Delhi that they quickly sought to settle the dispute diplomatically.  Many weapons have claimed the title of “the Peacemaker”, but nuclear weapons actually deserve it.

This offers us a look at what war between other nuclear powers, let’s say the U.S. and China, might be like.  The driving consideration for both countries’ leadership would be avoiding escalation.  Since any confrontation would probably be a sea and air war, it might look something like the Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland.  Ships might ram each other (not too hard).  Water cannon might be employed.  Chinese sailors might throw bao at American crews, who would volley back hamburgers in return (the Americans would end up with the better lunch).  Fighter aircraft might engage, at least to the point of seeing who was better at staying on the other guy’s six.  Would they shoot?  If they did, both capitals would be frantic, trying to de-escalate.

Since both countries now have obesity problems among their youth, my proposal for an escalation-safe war would be vast eating and drinking matches between their respective ships’ and aircrafts’ crews.  Just imagine what the Navy PFT might look like!  It would do wonders for qualifying recruits.  Join the Navy and become the world!

The really funny thing here is that both the U.S. and China are spending vast sums buying weapons and generating forces for a conventional war.  That is not going to happen, barring outright insanity in both capitals at the same time.  Unless the inmates are running the asylum, both countries will seek to de-escalate rapidly from any accidental clash that might occur (things can happen; remember the War of Jenkins’ Ear).  Rules of engagement would quickly be established that would take both sides back to rocks and clubs, as India and China had already done.

The fact is, the whole China Scare is a sham, at least as far as a shooting war is concerned (our economic conflict is real, as President Trump understands).  It’s one more con job on the American people, intended to keep the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex rolling in dough.  When the massive defense budget cuts hit, which they soon will, remember my suggestion; let both countries’ navies roll in real dough.  That we may still be able to afford.