By Mauro Gia Samonte
I came across this article on the website Time, and I was encouraged to read it at length for its theme: Taiwan.
In recent times, the island off the east coast of mainland China has figured in the news as a possible trigger for hostilities between China and the United States in the South China Sea (SCS) region. And when you talk about the SCS, you cannot but involve the Philippines.
Of late, what has shocked Asean nations was the formation of the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (Aukus) military alliance, a move immediately perceived by Asean leaders (but for Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.) as an escalation of the SCS crisis. How does the Time article bear upon this feared escalation?
Considering that the article was written by Admiral James Stavridis, a noted 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, the military pontification immediately apparent in the composition should be worth perusing.
For starters, the retired officer cited a stand expressed by US President Joe Biden at a recent CNN forum where he “strongly and directly promised to defend Taiwan from Chinese invasion.” The author quoted Biden: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”
“But,” went the Stavridis rebuttal, “the US very specifically does not have such a commitment. In fact, for decades our policy has been one of so-called ‘strategic ambiguity,’ i.e., choosing not to be definitive as to how [the] US would respond to invasion from the mainland of what Beijing regards as its renegade province. Recently, the presence of US troops on the [island] became public, provoking angry protests from China.”
READ: With heightened rhetoric, is US moving away from ‘strategic ambiguity’ on Taiwan? https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20211030-with-heightened-rhetoric-is-us-moving-away-from-strategic-ambiguity-on-taiwan
Now, my scant military orientation would go as far only as those learned from higher party schooling in the Communist Party of the Philippines when we would divide the armed struggle into three stages: the strategic defensive, the strategic stalemate and strategic offensive.
Within this formulation, the revolutionary forces first spend a long period of guerilla warfare until they become at par with the enemy, the stage called strategic stalemate, the point where neither of the protagonists is able to advance.
I had a discussion with then New People’s Army chief Rolando Kintanar in 1989 during which he stressed that the revolution had already reached the stage of strategic stalemate from where we could now attempt to advance to the strategic offensive onward to seizing victory.
Until I came across Stavridis, I never realized that outside of my earlier learned stages of warfare, there is such a thing as “strategic ambiguity.” What is it all about?
You read on and you get a clarification. It is about a protagonist not making known his strategy in a conflict. To repeat Stavridis, “In fact, for decades our policy has been one of so-called ‘strategic ambiguity,’ i.e., choosing not to be definitive as to how [the] US would respond to invasion from the mainland of what Beijing regards as its renegade province.”
So, hey, it’s no new idea after all. Sun Tzu has worded it more classically in his Art of War: “Make your plans be as dark as night and when you move, strike like thunder.”
How this Sun Tzu wisdom has all along been violated by the United States is borne by the fact that in all its wars over the past many decades, its actions had always been preceded by false flags: the sinking of the USS Maine at Havana Harbor to start off the Spanish- American War in 1898; the mocked-up Gulf of Tonkin incident to gain alibi for invading Vietnam in 1964; the blasting of the New York Twin Towers to incense the American public into agreeing to the US war against Iraq.
In recent years, the US design to destabilize China had been betrayed in so many ways, like the pro-democracy movement that nearly succeeded in shattering the Hong Kong economy or the instantaneous, orchestrated actions by pro-US elements in the Philippines inciting anti-Chinese rage among Filipinos over the accidental sinking by a Chinese vessel of Filipino fishing boat Gemver 2, which incident the US ambassador quickly seized upon to invoke resort to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines, clearly agitating armed retaliation against China.
In all the major wars the US had started in recent memory, the US never won, yet here is America, at it again, finding means to fan the China-Taiwan animosities — never learning a lesson.
“The US Risks Catastrophe if It Doesn’t Clarify Its Taiwan Strategy,” goes the title of the Stravidis article.
I say, tell that to the Marines. As far as China is concerned, it has been clear enough and transparent all this time.
Remember how sometime ago, China detected the ploy of the United States to send spy planes flying over its coasts, criminally masking airline frequencies of the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries?
The problem of the United States in this regard is not clarifying its Taiwan strategy but China’s being well aware of it already such that it perseveres even more in pushing its Belt and Road Initiative all over the world, convincing peoples to its win-win solutions rather than zero-sum games, cooperation rather than competition, peace rather than war, and all this for achieving President Xi Jinping‘s vision of a world community of shared future.
How can the US win?