Brose explains a terrible truth about war with China

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Kill Chain by Christian BroseTyler Cowan Alex Tabarrok used to think that however bad the US government was, the US military remained by far the best in the world, but the failing US power grid, the lethargic response to the pandemic, and the ignominious retreat from Afghanistan have all caused him to update his priors. He cites David Ignatius on Christian Bride’s The Kill Chain:

The book isn’t just a wake-up call, it’s a fire alarm in the night.

Brose explains a terrible truth about war with China: Our spy and communications satellites would immediately be disabled; our forward bases in Guam and Japan would be “inundated” by precise missiles; our aircraft carriers would have to sail away from China to escape attack; our F-35 fighter jets couldn’t reach their targets because the refueling tankers they need would be shot down.


How did this happen? It wasn’t an intelligence failure, or a malign Pentagon and Congress, or lack of money, or insufficient technological prowess. No, it was simply bureaucratic inertia compounded by entrenched interests.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    This has all happened before. See Prof. Charles Handy’s theory of the Sigmoid Curve. Any organization goes through a cycle of difficult start-up, followed by a happy growth phase, then it plateaus, and finally declines. This describes everything from the Roman Empire to General Motors. Sadly, the USA is not exempt.

    But people are stuck fighting the last war — with bullets and bombs. For China to bring the de-industrialized US to its knees, all that is necessary would be a command to the 100+ container ships waiting to unload off the California coast to weigh anchor and return to the Middle Kingdom. Panic would grip the US as store shelves emptied and spare parts for vital equipment ran out. Collapse would follow.

    China has been waging economic war on a foolish US elite for about quarter of a century — and they have not even noticed. The game is over. We just have not realized it yet.

  2. Cassander says:


    They can do that no more than the Saudis can. The Chinese need western money at least as much as the West needs Chinese goods. The CCP has built their legitimacy on being able to tell the average Chinese person “Hey, you remember how your granddad had a literal dirt floor and you now own a car? You’re welcome.” Take that away and the regime will not survive.

  3. Buckethead says:

    Cassander, maybe so, but which is going to collapse faster?

  4. Mike in Boston says:

    “The Chinese need western money at least as much as the West needs Chinese goods.”

    I am completely unconvinced of this.

    Many Chinese goods have inherent value, and are not produced in much volume outside China. Antibiotics and electronics leap to mind.

    Western “money”, by contrast, is a bookkeeping fiction not worth the paper it’s not printed on.

    What China needs is not the increasingly fictive dollar, but semiconductors, agricultural goods and hydrocarbons. For the latter two it can substitute South American and Russian suppliers, respectively, at only a modest increase in cost, which is why it is working so feverishly on semiconductor independence.

    By contrast the West, without Chinese imports, would face massive dislocations.

  5. Bob Sykes says:

    There is something called RCEP, a free trade agreement among some 15 East Asian countries. It replaced TPP that Trump killed. It includes every one of our East Asian allies: Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. China is the main trading partner for each of those countries, and for 134 other countries in the world. India and the US are excluded from RCEP.

    The point being that China has other trading partners, and does not need the US.

    Even more so, Russia does not need Europe (nor the US).

    As to our loss of technological advantages in weaponry, we spent 30 years, $7 trillion, thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of American cripples, and hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, dead Muslims while fighting and losing to Muslim militias. Russia and China stayed at peace and invested their monies in their people, their economies, and their militaries.

    What the last 30 years have seen is the suicide and passing of the American Empire.

  6. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Mike in Boston: “What China needs is not the increasingly fictive dollar, but semiconductors, … which is why it is working so feverishly on semiconductor independence.”

    The US could use semiconductor independence also — but first it is apparently more important to hunt down those White Supremacists who seem to be hiding behind every lamppost. Instead, the US imports much of its semiconductors from Taiwan — which the US (and most every other country except mighty Lithuania) recognize diplomatically as already part of China.

    Thus Taiwan is in a more precarious situation diplomatically than the Ukraine. What do we guess the movers & shakers in Taiwan are making of the limp Western reaction to the Ukraine problem?

    Likely the Taiwnese are drawing two conclusions. First is that they cannot depend on the US or Europeans to help them with respect to China; they are on their own. Second, they must be wondering about what kind of deal they could cut with China for peacefully reunifying.

    Since a lot of what is left of the US economy (and the US military) relies on imported Taiwanese semiconductors, the advantage will increasingly lie on China’s side. But let’s not blame China — we did this to ourselves.

  7. Harry Jones says:

    I may yet live to see what rises from the ashes of Western civilization. The new phoenix will bear a family resemblance to what we have known, but I doubt it will be a clone.

    The Americas have certain geographical advantages that will offer protection to the fledgling. I think the Eurasian supercontinent and related islands are a write-off.

    The First Republic of the United States has had a good run.

  8. Faze says:

    The sentiments attributed to Tyler Cowen in the OP are not his, but those of his co-blogger, Alex Tabarrok. Just for the record.

  9. Suvorov says:

    Peer to Peer warfare has never been a good idea. Whether we are in the animal kingdom, Ancient Sparta or WW2, total war implies total loss by one or both sides. During the 19th Century, following the Taipei Rebellion, a Manchu dominated China was unable to resist European, and later Japanese incursions. While the invading powers were operating on an expeditionary basis, with minimal losses and maximal gains, China was existentially hobbled. I suspect that Chinese policy will seek to avoid such a conflict. After all, the Empire is doing a great job of emasculating itself to China’s benefit. War plans against China are nothing new or unknown. Invasion is not viable, nor has it ever been for Westerners. It takes a degree of ruthlessness that are lacked by Western powers.

    The US military is not designed for peer to peer conflict, nor has it been since 1945. All it takes is a quick perusal on the internet to research the level of both industrialization and mobilization that were present during the WW2 period, with a scale down to a sustained level during the Cold War period. After the USSR fell, the massive BRACs of the 1990s, with resulting economic downturns in affected areas have continued through the ME conflicts. In short, there is no way in heck that a campaign against the Chicoms can be launched militarily. Nor the Russians, as the supply lines to sustain such endeavors are not possible at this time. The US military can only exist on an expeditionary level. The Russians or Chinese can hardly be expected to leave their respective bulwarks to joust with US carrier groups and MEUs.

    All this sabre rattling is just a diversion from the domestic policies and issues of the fading Neocon Empire.

  10. Ezra says:

    “The US could use semiconductor independence also — but first it is apparently more important to hunt down those White Supremacists who seem to be hiding behind every lamppost.”

    Machines that make the machines to make the semiconductors made in Taiwan too. STEM personnel to run and operate the machines probably hard to come by USA way also. Ten years to ramp up production needed before output at necessary levels?

  11. Cassander says:


    There’s no such thing as inherent value. goods are worth what people will pay for them, and the chinese can’t consume all the electronics and antibiotics they produce, which makes them useless if they can’t sell them to someone. And they can’t pay for those petrochemicals without the dollars you disdain.

  12. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    “There’s no such thing as inherent value. goods are worth what people will pay for them.”

    But why would a given being give so-and-so for such-and-such?

    You may find in the course of trying to answer the latter question, the former sentiment starts standing on ever more stickier grounds…

  13. Sam J. says:

    Our military is screwed. We have good air power but the structure of the whole system is based on that and we are losing our advantage. Profit taking by the arms industries and incompetence of the managers is making this possible.

    We have fairly good armor but armor is useless. There are no tanks that can not be killed two man teams with anti-tank weapons.

    To get the striker approved General Eric Shinseki fired a kinetic weapon at a M1 and it went right through it. The old big armor guys were stopping it but he showed that no matter how good the M1 was, it was not enough.

    The Israelis had some of the best tanks and APC’s built ever and two-man teams of Hezbaloh took them out.

    The only way to protect tanks is active, read explosive, armor and that’s a big fail because you need troops to watch the armor’s backside and they damn sure can’t do that will exploding armor. I won’t say tanks are unless, but they’ve very close to it and they are not worth the money spent on them.

    You need something fast with light armor.

    For the combat soldier they have not kept up. We’re still using M16′s which if you have any brains you can immediately see that the bolt is round and fills most of the receiver, like…a piston. So any dirt that gets in there grinds away between the bolt and the receiver. Why can some guy on the internet see this and they can’t?

    They should have had a LONG TIME AGO some sort of powered battle armor. They should have also had some sort of mechanical horse and a mule to carry stuff.

    Most of all we know vast sums, trillions, of dollars were stolen from the defense budget. I’ve seen numbers as high as 20 trillion. People should be lined up against the wall and shot.

    And even worse if the troops were all given the poison version of the vax, and yes there is such a thing, then they will all be dead in a couple of years, and we will have no defense at all.

    Maybe that’s why they keep pushing the war in Ukraine. Maybe they think they can kill off enough of them so that when they are start dropping dead, they don’t kill the people responsible with their last breaths.

  14. Szopen says:

    Cassander: “The Chinese need western money at least as much as the West needs Chinese goods.”

  15. Dan Kurt says:

    What a bunch of French surrender monkeys are commenting here. Get a life guys.

    China is screwed by Geography, two generations of the One Child Policy, & Communism with Cult of Personality leadership. Russia is in terminal decline after its population losses of WW2 & Communism for circa seventy years with its Gulag population shredding policies.

    Currently state of the art microchip factories are being built in the USA, Apple Silicon has been introduced and shown to be a giant leap forward in microcomputer innovation so it will be emulated. Fracking has been demonstrated to work so after the soon collapse of Buyden and the Woke Democrats energy independence again will grace the American economy.

    Be not afraid.

    Dan Kurt

  16. Altitude Zero says:

    Right now the biggest problem we face is that China is a serious country, and we are not. That could change, but the fact of the matter is, we could not win a war with either China or Russia with our current elite running things, and they would rather see the United states go down to defeat than give up power. The US still has lots of advantages, human, geographic, and resources, as will be seen when we pick up the pieces after the crash, but as currently constituted, the US is a non-starter, IMHO.

  17. Harry Jones says:

    China is not a country in the same sense that America is. This is why they don’t understand us. All their thinking about us is predicated on a vast category error.

    There is a regime in Beijing that is deadly serious. There is a regime in Washington that is deeply neurotic. But that regime in Washington is not America.

    If both capital cities got nuked to radioactive glass tomorrow, only one of the nations would be destroyed.

  18. Harry Jones says:

    A thing has inherent value to the extent that it would make sense to keep it instead of selling it. The rest is market value.

    The market is only a good pricing mechanism to the extent that all trades are voluntary. An involuntary trade is theft. And the market can only measure market value. It can’t measure intrinsic value. But intrinsic value exists all the same.

    The freedom to walk away from a bad deal is the freedom to negotiate, and this is the core of all freedom.

    Intrinsic value defines what is or isn’t a bad deal. So the market’s very existence is determined by intrinsic value. But everything that happens in the market is the froth of market value.

    Know your BATNA.

  19. Gavin Longmuir says:

    Dan Kurt: “Currently state of the art microchip factories are being built in the USA …”

    How about State-of-the-Art steel mills? Or shipbuilding yards? Or lithium mines? Or nuclear power plants?

    Yes, the US could recover from the current de-industrialized state. It took a quarter of a century or more to offshore productive capacity; it will take at least as long as that to rebuild. And the clock can’t start on that until the Woke get driven from the public square and the incompetents in Congress & the bureaucracy get eliminated.

    It is going to be a long road back. And that is without even considering how to deal with the unrepayable National Debt, with all the economic impacts that will have.

  20. Isegoria says:

    D’oh! Thanks for the correction, Faze.

  21. Sam J. says:

    Remember what I said, over and over, about tanks?

    Look here.

    Big main battle tanks are worthless compared to the amount of cash put into them and the amount of resources needed to deploy them.

    If you’re fighting serious competitors they are no use, and if you are fighting those with little resources they are overkill. Either way, they are a waste of money.

Leave a Reply