“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A General's Warning

Democrats and groups like the Council on Foreign Relations lament that the Bush Administration's unilateralist, bullying policies have turned world opinion against the United States. They claim the anti-Americanism is rampant and the world sees the U.S. as a torturing hegemon bent on total control through the exercise of its sole superpower status and its policy of hard power.

A retired Phillipine Brigadier General guest writing at the Asia Times under the name of Victor N Corpus offers a two part series entitled AMERICA'S ACUPUNCTURE POINTS. While this article has already been seen by some and discussed by some here at the Elephant Bar, its worth a closer look.

Here the General summarizes the genesis of the current world disdain:

In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed from its own weight, the US emerged as the sole superpower in the world. At that crucial period, it would have been a great opportunity for the US to establish its global leadership and dominance worldwide. With the world's biggest economy, its control of international financial institutions, its huge lead in science and technology (specially information technology) and its unequaled military might, America could have seized the moment to establish a truly American Century.

But in the critical years after 1991, America had to make a choice between two divergent approaches to the use of its almost unlimited power: soft power or hard power. The exercise of soft power would have seen America leading the world in the fight against poverty, disease, drugs, environmental degradation, global warming and other ills plaguing humankind.

It would have pushed America in leading the move to address the debt burden of poor, undeveloped or developing countries; promoting distance learning in remote rural areas to empower the poor economically by providing them access to quality education; and helped poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America build highways, railways, ports, airports, hospitals, schools and telecommunication systems.

Unfortunately, such was not to be. If there was any effort at the exercise of soft power at all, it was minimal. In fact, it is not America which is practicing soft power in diplomacy but a rising power in the East - China.

Mr. Corpus warns that the militaristic attitude of the United States could lead to a devastating war with China which the United States can not win. This is the preface to Mr.Corpus' lenghty and disturbing two part series:

A noted Chinese theorist on modern warfare, Chang Mengxiong, compared China's form of fighting to "a Chinese boxer with a keen knowledge of vital body points who can bring an opponent to his knees with a minimum of movements".

It is like key acupuncture points in ancient Chinese medicine. Puncture one vital point and the whole anatomy is affected. If America ever goes to war with China, say, over Taiwan, then America should be prepared for the following "acupuncture points" in its anatomy to be "punctured". Each of the vital points can bring America to its knees with a minimum of effort.

Part One - Striking Where it Hurts Most

The "General" outlines how China and Russia can hit "vital points" of the United States.

1. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.
2. Cyber Attack.
3. Interdiction of US foreign oil supply.
This is also the reason why Iran is so brave in daring the US to attack it on the nuclear proliferation issue. Iran knows that it has the power to hurt the US. Without oil from the Gulf, the war machines of the US and its principal allies will literally run out of gas.

A single blow from Iran or China or Russia, or a combination of the three at the Strait of Hormuz can paralyze America. In addition, Chinese and Russian submarines can stop the flow of oil to the US and Japan by interdicting oil tanker traffic coming from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. On the other hand, US naval supremacy will have minimal effect on China's oil supply because it is already connected to Kazakhstan with pipeline and will soon be connected to Russia and Iran as well.

4. Attack on the US dollar.
What is frightening for the US is the fact that China, Russia and Iran possess the power to cause a run on the US dollar and force its collapse.

China is now the biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves in the world, accumulating $941 billion as of June 30 and expected to exceed a trillion dollars by the end of 2006 - a first in world history. A decision by China to shift a major portion of its reserve to the euro or the yen or gold could trigger other central banks to follow suit. Nobody would want to be left behind holding a bagfull of dollars rapidly turning worthless. The herd psychology would be very difficult to control in this case because national economic survival would be at stake.

Russia is now the world's biggest energy supplier, surpassing Saudi Arabia in energy exports measured in barrel oil equivalent or boe (13.3 million boe per day for Russia vs 10 million boe per day for Saudi Arabia). Russia has the biggest gas reserves in the world. Iran, on the other hand, runs second in the world to Russia in gas reserves, and also ranks among the top oil producers. If and when either Russia or Iran, or both, shift away from a rapidly declining dollar in energy transactions, many oil producers will follow suit. These include Venezuela, Indonesia, Norway, Sudan, Nigeria and the Central Asian Republics.

5. Diplomatic Isolation.
The US-led war in Iraq was a tactical victory for the US initially, but has resulted in strategic defeat overall. The Iraq war caused the US to lose its principal allies in Europe and be isolated, despised and hated in many parts of the world. Without too many friends and allies, the US is likened to an "emperor with no clothes".

So in a major conflict between America and China, isolated America cannot possibly win against a global united front led by China and Russia.

Part Two - The assassin's mace

If America ever goes to war with China, Chinese military doctrine suggests the US should expect attacks on a number of key points where it is particularly vulnerable - where a single jab would paralyze the entire nation.

China would aim at targets such as the US electricity grid, its computer networks, its oil supply routes, and the dollar. Other vital "acupuncture" points are outlined below.

Pointing out that with the fall of the Soviet Union, the US as the world's sole superpower had two methods to exert it's power and influence around the world, The General goes on to paint a picture of certain death facing the United States.

1. A powerful triumvirate
Imagine the war machine of the superpower running out of gas. Imagine also a US economy minus 23% of its imported oil. This 23% can rise considerably once Chinese and Russian submarines start sinking US-bound oil tankers.

The triumvirate of China, Russia, and Iran could bring the US to its knees with a minimum of movement.

2. The US's geopolitical disadvantage
Another "acupuncture point" in America’s anatomy in the event of a major conflict with China (and Russia) is its inherent disadvantage dictated by geography. Being the lone superpower, any major conventional conflict involving the US will necessitate its bringing its forces to bear on its adversaries. This means that the

US must cross the Pacific, Indian, and/or Atlantic Oceans in order to bring logistics or troop reinforcements to the battlefield.

In so doing, the US will be crossing thousands of miles of sea lanes of communication (SLOC) that can easily become a gauntlet of deadly Chinese and Russian submarines lying in ambush with bottom-rising sea mines, supercavitating rocket torpedoes, and supersonic cruise missiles that even aircraft carrier battle groups have no known defense against. Logistic and transport ships and oil tankers are particularly vulnerable.

3. Asymmetric attack
Superpower America is particularly vulnerable to asymmetric attack. A classic example of asymmetric attack is the September 11, 2001, attack on America. Nineteen determined attackers, armed with nothing but box cutters, succeeded in toppling the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and causing the death of some 3,000 Americans. Notice the asymmetry of casualty ratio as well - the most lopsided casualty ratio ever recorded in history.

China, Russia, and Iran also possess asymmetric weapons that are designed to neutralize and defeat a superpower like America in a conventional conflict. Supersonic cruise missiles now in their inventories can defeat and sink US aircraft carriers. The same is true for medium- and short-range ballistic missiles with independently targetable warheads, extra-large bottom-rising, rocket-propelled sea mines (EM52s), and supercavitating rocket torpedoes (SHKVAL or "Squall"). The US Navy has no known defense against these weapons.

Connected to asymmetric warfare is asynchronous warfare, where the weaker side bides its time to strike back. And it strikes at a time and place where the adversary is totally unprepared.

For example, if the US were to strike Iran’s underground nuclear facilities with bunker-busting tactical nuclear warheads, Iran could bide its time until it develops its own nuclear weapons. It could then use its Kilo class submarines, equipped with supersonic "moskit" cruise missiles armed with Iran’s own nuclear warheads, to hit New York, or Washington, DC as a payback to the US for using nuclear weapons against Iran. Or the Iranians could infiltrate nuclear scientists into the US, where they would fabricate a "dirty" bomb to be detonated near the US Congress, in full session while the president is making his annual state of the nation address.

4 Attack on US's command and control
China now has the capability to identify and track satellites. And for more than two decades they have been busy developing anti-satellite weapons. China has been developing maneuverable nano-satellites that can neutralize other satellites. They do their work by maneuvering near a target satellite and neutralizing the target by electronic jamming, electro-magnetic pulse generation, clinging to the target and physically destroying it, bumping the target out of orbit, or simply exploding to bring the target satellite down with it. Such nano satellites can be launched in batches on demand by road-mobile DF21 or DF31 booster rockets.
5 Attack on US aircraft carrier battle groups
General Corpus describes the assassins mace loaded with the spikes of:
1.Medium and short range ballistic missles. 2. Supersonic cruise missles. 3. The "deadly SHKVAL or "Squall" rocket torpedo developed by Russia and passed on to China. It is like an under-water missile." 4. Extra-large, bottom-rising, rocket-propelled sea mines laid by submarines along the projected paths of advancing carrier battle groups. 5. A fleet of old fighter aircraft (China has thousands of them) modified as unmanned combat aerial vehicles fitted with extra fuel tanks and armed with stand-off anti-ship missiles.

The sad part for the US Navy is that even if American leaders and naval theorists realize the horrible truth that aircraft carriers have been rendered obsolete in modern warfare by China’s "assassin’s mace", the navy cannot just change strategy or discard its carriers. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured into those weapon systems and hundreds of thousands of jobs would be affected if such behemoths are turned into scrap. Besides, even if US Navy authorities wanted to change strategy, the all-powerful and influential military-industrial complex lobby would not allow it.

So, if and when a major conflict between the US and China occurs, say over the issue of Taiwan, pity those thousands of American sailors who are unfortunate enough to be in one of those aircraft carrier battle groups. They won't stand a chance.

According to the Asia Times:
Victor N Corpus is a retired brigadier general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); former chief of the Intelligence Service, AFP; and holds a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

He ends his guest column with this:

A challenge to America
The 10 "acupuncture points" mentioned in this article (See also Part 1: Striking the US where it hurts) are like a 10-stage riddle. It is an "assassin's mace" or war club of olden times with 10 deadly spikes. Any one of those spikes can bring America to its knees. I therefore throw this riddle to the think tanks in the Pentagon, to the US Congress, to the president's men, to US academe, and to every concerned American.

America is in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter of the "great game", and it is behind in points. If America can solve the riddle in time, it wins the game, it can seize global leadership, and the 21st century will truly be the American Century.

On the other hand, failure to solve the riddle will shake America to its very foundation and cause this great nation to collapse - just like that vivid image of the collapsing Twin Towers familiar to each and every American. America loses, and it will be down and out for the rest of this century.

Wake up, America!

The riddle is trying to figure out what the General's riddle is.
Why would a former Phillipines General outline a doomsday scenario for the United States? Why would he point out the US vunerablities? What is the real purpose to this piece? Is the threat of a war with China so imminent that a piece like this is required to warn the super-power away from an abyss? Is the piece politically designed sway US elections? Is the author really who he claims to be?

The world is a strange place.


  1. Just #3 is easy emough to accomplish, by conventional asymetric force, to be a real threat.
    The Chinese or the Russians would not have to get their feet wet, or their fingerprints on the Operation.

    Hugo, Abracadbra and Lil' Kim would fade all the heat.

  2. rufus, If I worked for Hugo and Abracabra & Lil Kim, I could accomplish #3.
    In Mexico, Panama, Canada as well as LA and CA
    There are any number of folk that could, given the assets and the time.
    They've had plenty of both.

    Their timetable is flexible, base on US actions in Iran or Korea. The more drawn out the better.

  3. But it does not have to match US defense spending. Not across the board.
    Where they are pushing, we are not even in the game.
    Where we are strong, they will withdraw, leaving pawns in their wake.

    Funny read all this before, then lived it, years & years ago.

  4. Defense does not win Wars

    The US has not won a War with a Defense Department

    Never lost one with a
    War Department

    Wonder why?
    Words have meaning.

  5. Who cares what a Filipino general has to say about how America should defend her interests, when he can't even maintain Arroyo's monopoly on force throughout Mindinao.

  6. Just doesn't count.

    Could never happen...

    1% chance makes preemptive Invasion a necessity.

    Did with Saddam

    It's the Cheney Doctrine

    Or is he no longer a reference.
    Are we all James Baker now?

  7. All of this very interesting...

    ...but the true weakness and threat we face is from within

    that will bring us down before any of the other.

  8. Those threats and weaknesses the US has always had, tiger.
    Nothing new there.
    From the Founding and before.
    The Civil War exemplifies the worse the divisioon has been.

    Major General Smedley Butler USMC Ret was offered the opportunity to lead an Industrialist Coup, in 1933.

    In WWII the Chicago Tribune's behaviour makes today's MSM look like the lap dogs of the Federals.

    Nothing new at the dawn of 21st Century.
    Eternal vigilence is still required.

  9. yes, I agree...eternal vigilence

    External and Internal, inside and out

    maybe we're concentrating too much on the out?

  10. Mr. Corpus has obviously read a book I mentioned two months ago witten by two Chinese Colonels,Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. In their book, "Unrestricted Warfare" the same recipe's are developed for the conquest of the USA.

    What the Colonel's nor Mr. Corpus have evaluated in thier "independent threatis" is the last place scores in math and science in an already dumbed down acedemia within the USA. This renders at least half of their strategy unnecessary.
    Other aspects overlooked by these gentlemen are the number of rap artists video ho's that will render their troops slacked jawed and boned up when that booty is hump'n their hormones with a seem ripping lap dance. A young man can't be fight'n when the booty's up and tightened.
    These are only two examples of how decadence can easily corrupt an entire force. Throw in a couple a jolts of horse or snow, XM Jenna Jameson orgasms and they'll be jammed up to get to the piece table.
    It's all good. We can party all the time,party all the time, party all the ti-i'm
    Oh and word to yo mutha.
    Inconclusion if they'll just be a bit more patient we'll just give 'em the keys to the place..Sandy Burger already tried once. Just a few more decades of the sweet road we're on and it's moo goo all chaser.