How Russia and China are Using America’s Predictability as a Weapon
by Jerry Hendrix
“Rommel! You magnificent bastard! I read your book!” are the words the actor portraying General George Patton screams across a battlefield in north Africa during a key scene in the Academy Award winning film “Patton.” Patton’s statement conveys to the movie’s audience that the general was a student of war and that he read the writings of his opponents prior to battle and he most certainly had. Rommel’s book, Infantry Attacks, which detailed the lessons he learned in World War I, appeared in 1937 and the power of his arguments led Hitler to promote him to high command in World War II. While we do not know that Patton ever said such words on the battlefield, as a student of war he certainly was aware of Rommel’s theories of war, and for Rommel, that became a problem. Today, the United States is the origin of most of the current books on conflict and how to prosecute it, and its enemies can read.
The United States, and its military, believe in the rule of law, and has sought to codify the manner in which nations interact with each other in an attempt to bring predictability and order, as well as lessen the chances of war. To this end, it has sought to establish administrative rules to explain its actions and decrease the chances of misunderstandings among nations. Great examples of this effort are the 1972 Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) agreement negotiated between with the Soviet Union to decrease the number of confrontations at sea between the two Cold War powers or the more recent Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) agreement reached between 21 nations of the Western Pacific, to include China and the United States, that provided guidelines for naval units meeting each other in a professional manner. Agreements such as these allow for demonstrations of mutual respect, but predictability isn’t always a friend.
Both Russia and China have demonstrated an affinity for hybrid warfare and “Little Green Men” in their recent aggressive campaigns against the west. Since 2008 China has been making greater use of its commercial fishing fleets and civil maritime security boats to challenge U.S. and other regional navies in the South and East China Sea. Their intention is clearly to avoid the appearance of a military on military confrontation but nonetheless to continue to strongly enforce their illegal sovereign claims over international waters. Russia was a bit less covert, using Russian special forces units absent identifying patches and markings in the Crimean and Donbass regions of Ukraine as mechanisms to shoot down civilian airliners, gain illegitimate local political control and illegal Russian territorial expansion. Both nations seem to be able to walk right up to a line that would trigger an armed response from the United States and its allies without going over it. Perhaps they are able to do this because there is such a line, and the United States has provided a clear definition of it.
Read more: nationalinterest.org