A U.S.-China war would be a battle between networks, according to one prominent security analyst.
Speaking to a packed room of mostly undergraduate students at George Mason University earlier this week, Elbridge Colby, the Robert M. Gates Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), gave a sweeping overview of the budding security competition underway in the Western Pacific between the United States and China.
In an hour long talk sponsored by theAlexander Hamilton Society’s GMU chapter, Colby began by outlining U.S. interests in the region and the challenges an increasingly aggressive China poses to them. In particular, he emphasized the necessity of preventing China from being able to successfully coerce maritime Asian states in a manner that allows Beijing to dominant the Western Pacific.
The U.S. will have to do the heavy lifting to prevent such an outcome, Colby argued. Although it is tempting to argue that regional states can balance China, the reality is that “no one else can manage it,” in light of available economic resources. On the other hand, the U.S. will likely be able to balance China even over the long-term, especially given Beijing’s slowing economy.
Strategically, Colby argued the U.S. must remain supreme in maritime Asia and retain the ability to project power in the region. This can be best achieved by building a robust defense posture immediately, instead of allowing U.S. capabilities to atrophy in the short-term and trying to play catch up later.
Operationally, Colby made the case for some form of Air-Sea Battle (ASB) that ensures the U.S. maintains escalation dominance over the People’s Republic of China (PRC). America’s ultimate goal would be to deter China from taking actions that would precipitate a war. No one, Colby stressed repeatedly during the talk, wants a Sino-American war, but “the best way to avoid a war… is to be strong.”