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Headline: War College Details New Taiwan Attack Scenario

Source: Washington Post, 31 August 2001; Page A21


"War over the Taiwan Strait could some sooner rather than later," predicts a provocative essay just published by the Army War College.

That startling conclusion appears in the new issue of Parameters, the college's professional journal. Author Richard L. Russell, a professor at the National Defense University, calls for a reexamination of the conventional wisdom that China's armed forces are too technologically unsophisticated to launch a sustained, large-scale attack on Taiwan.

"China could use strategic surprise to compensate for shortcomings in military capabilities," Russell writes in the article, awkwardly titled "What if . . . 'China Attacks Taiwan!' "

Rather than begin with a slow buildup and then an amphibious assault, as many have predicted, he says, China instead might launch a surprise attack. In this scenario, Beijing could assemble its forces under the guise of conducting a routine if large annual exercise. Then it could open fire on Taiwan with a barrage of surface-to-surface missiles, aiming the attack on the island's civilian and military leadership.

While Taiwan's military was still reeling from that "bolt from the blue" attack, assault troops could seize airfields. Once the perimeters of those air bases were secure, more troops could be flown in.

Only then, Russell says, would China need to begin ferrying in troops for large-scale amphibious landings. But even those beach attacks could be executed before the United States was able to get forces in place to fulfill President Bush's pledge in April to do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan.

Russell's essay is just one part of a package of three unusually bellicose articles in the autumn issue of Parameters. Rather than have a balancing article arguing the opposite viewpoint, as often is done with controversial pieces, the magazine offers two companion essays pointing to other aspects of an emerging Chinese security threat.

One, looking at China's growing population and economy, asserts that "China's needs may . . . trigger outright wars over resources." The third calls for paying more attention to China's regional ambitions, saying that focusing too much on Taiwan "may be blinding us to new threats elsewhere."

-- Andre Weltman (, August 31, 2001

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