China Mistakenly Challenges Andrew Jackson to a Duel USS Ronald Reagan and ships of Carrier Strike Group 5 transit the Pacific Ocean in June 2017.
A Chinese diplomat’s insulting words invite a vigorous response from the U.S. The United States Navy will be making a port call in Taiwan in the near future. The only questions that remain are where, when, and how many ships of what type will drop anchor or tie up at Taiwanese piers. Of course, this may cause a war to break out in Asia, but it won’t be one of the United States’ making. We owe this troubling possibility to a China whose rising sense of anticipatory greatness is at odds with its capacity to execute a successful war. Hubris stimulated a Chinese official, Li Kexin, who is attached to its embassy in Washington, D.C., to threaten war against the United States. Li was responding to fairly normal language within the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed for mutual port visits between American and Taiwan naval vessels. In response, Li stated: “The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung [Taiwan’s main deep-water port] is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force.”
Under these conditions, the United States has no choice but to send the United States Navy to Taiwan for a port visit, and to do so in a big way. The USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class super carrier based in Japan, with its entire embarked air wing of 65 strike fighters and reconnaissance aircraft and its accompanying escort strike group of Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class ballistic-missile-defense destroyers, should quickly sortie to Taiwan. They should divide up, with one portion of the strike group transiting down the strait that separates the island from China and the other coming down the eastern coast, meeting up at the southern tip to escort the Reagan into port at Kaohsiung. At that point, the other strike-group ships should either take up station north and south of Taiwan, with their Aegis radars at full alert given the nature of Mr. Li’s threat, or rotationally enter other ports in Taiwan for friendly port visits. The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine Michigan, carrying 154 Tomahawk missiles, should also make an appearance, before quietly disappearing into the depths to continue its lonely patrols. Such a move would be an effective demonstration of American naval coercive diplomacy worthy of Theodore Roosevelt.
.. Additionally, the United States should consider a robust, healthy defensive-arms sale package for Taiwan in the coming year. Surface ships and fighter aircraft, top-of-the-line fifth-generation stealth fighters, should be part of the package,
..All of this will be viewed by China as escalatory, and it should be, but the Chinese must be reminded that it was their intemperate language that started the upwards climb.
.. Walter Russell Mead identified four schools of U.S. foreign policy; the
- pro-business Hamiltonians, the
- liberal-order Wilsonians, the
- realist Jeffersonians, and the
- mercurial, exceptionalist Jacksonians.
The election of President Donald Trump signaled the return of the Jacksonian impulse for the first time in a generation
.. And when it comes to war? Mead states that “when an enemy attacks, Jacksonians spring to the country’s defense” viscerally, and Jacksonians, like their namesake Andrew Jackson, will not stop until honor is satisfied. It is a dangerous impulse to stimulate, as China’s Li Kexin has done. China owes the United States a public apology. It now needs to accept a U.S. Navy port visit to Taiwan with a minimum of protests
.. Jerry Hendrix is a retired U.S. Navy captain, an award-winning naval historian ..