Monday, August 01, 2005

Loose Cannon wanted?

John Derbyshire at NRO muses today that perhaps we need 'irresponsible' or at least outspoken senior officers in the US military. Derbyshire writes:

Major General Zhu Chenghu, a dean at the prestigious National Defense University in Beijing, stated on July 21 that China would have to resort to the use of nuclear weapons in a war with the United States over Taiwan. Warming to his theme, Maj. Gen. Zhu Zhu declared that "we Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all cities east of Xi'an. [Which is to say, practically all big Chinese cities.] And the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese, too" in order to prevent the "separation" of Taiwan from China.

So in order to assert a highly theoretical claim to a territory that has been governed from China for just four of the past 110 years, and whose inhabitants would much rather be left alone to govern themselves, this guy is willing to countenance the incineration of several hundred million of his countrymen, and a proportionate number of Americans. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: On the subject of Taiwan, the mainland Chinese are stark gibbering insane.

An administration spokesman said that Maj. Gen. Zhu's remarks were "irresponsible."

Irresponsible they may have been, but they sure got a lot of attention. What I want to know is, why haven't we got any irresponsible generals? Wouldn't it be great if some member of the Joint Chiefs would off-handedly mention, within range of a mike, that we have enough functioning nukes and delivery systems to turn the People's Republic into stained glass? Or recycle the old joke about: "Q — What's big and flat and glows in the dark? A — Tehran, 12 hours after Iran announces they're going to continue with uranium enrichment."

Unfortunately, Derbyshire continues, the US senior military staff are all "career-whipped" and the Curtis LeMays have been selected out. Don't get me wrong, having an officer corps that follows orders and directives is a very good thing. However, one could see cases where toeing the line doesn't do much for deterrence.

Uncertainty can be an extraordinarily powerful weapon when applied judiciously. The rants of a Zhu Chenghu are might be counterproductive but 'unauthorized' or 'not-for-attribution' comments or 'leaks' involving, say, plans for a devastating response to Tehran threatening the use of nuclear weapons could be very, very effective. 24 years ago Iran released 52 American hostages after 444 days in captivity. Historical articles now cite the death of the Shah and the onset of the Iraq-Iran war as the primary drivers that contributed end the crisis. The uncertainty to the mullahs, however, of how a new administration that was elected overwhelmingly on a campaign of a restoration of American power would act was material.

The Bush administration has been generally quite good and public about 'keeping all options on the table' and not ruling out any specific use of force. However, it might consider more seriously a proactive use of unorthodox strategies in extending the efficiency of deterrence.

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