Stupid miscalculation leads to war
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2020 - 12:00am

A few days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the Chinese Armed Forces to prepare for war with all their minds and energy. This happened during a visit to the military base in the southern province of Guangdong. During an inspection tour of the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps in Chaozhu City, state news agency Xinhua quoted Xi as telling the soldiers to “...maintain a state of high alert” and called on them to be “...absolutely loyal, absolutely pure and absolutely reliable.”

Tensions between China and the United States remain at their worst state in decades. Some experts say this is the worst period in China-US relationship since the days of Mao. There are several points of tension; but the current high point of tension is over Taiwan. The US has announced that it would sell three advanced weapons systems to Taiwan and last August, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwan, ostensibly to discuss the pandemic. He is the highest American official in decades to visit Taiwan.

Taiwan has never been controlled by the Chinese Communist Party; but the Chinese government continues to claim sovereignty. There is a median line that serves as a boundary between China and Taiwan. Beijing has recently increased military drills around Taiwan. Almost 40 warplanes crossed the median line between the mainland and Taiwan. Taiwanese  President Tsai lng Wen sees it as a “threat of force.”

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a recent speech that “...China cannot match the United States: in terms of military and naval power.”  The US has just announced a “Battle Force 2045” plan which calls for an expanded and modernized US Navy of 500 manned and unmanned vessels by 2045.

The long held proposal of the Communist Party is for Taiwan to be reunited with the mainland under a “one nation two systems” program. This was the same arrangement with Hong Kong. However, since China has almost completely taken over Hong Kong, the Taiwanese people seem to have lost faith in this “one nation two system.” There is a growing trend toward independence. In a survey conducted by National Chengchi University last June, 67.0 percent identified themselves as Taiwanese; 2.4 percent as Chinese; 27.5 percent as Taiwanese and Chinese.

There is a strong and growing sentiment, especially among the younger generation, for Taiwan to become an independent country.The survey showed that among those 18 to 29 years old, 75 percent consider themselves as Taiwanese only.

The question being asked now is whether the tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea will eventually lead to a war. According to the famous author Yuval Noah Harari: “The last few decades have been the most peaceful era in human history. Whereas in early agriculture societies human violence caused up to 15 percent of all human deaths, and in the 20th century it caused 5 percent, today it is responsible for only 1 percent. Yet since the global financial crisis of 2008 the international situation is rapidly deteriorating, warmongering is back in vogue and military expenditures are ballooning. Both lay people and experts fear that just as in 1914 the murder of an Austrian archduke sparked the First World War, so in 2018 (or beyond) some incident in the Syrian desert or an unwise move in the Korean peninsula might ignite a global conflict.”

I may add to the list of possibilities a chance encounter between American and Chinese jet fighters over the South China Sea or Taiwan Strait could lead to a wider war.

In the past  centuries, empires were created through military conflicts. The British Empire was built through a number of little wars. Even the United States owed its great status to military conflict. In 1848 it invaded Mexico and conquered the present day states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming and Oklahoma. About 13,000 American soldiers died in that war; but it added 888,000 square miles to the United States – more than the combined size of France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy.

In recent decades, wars  have been considered unnecessary. The United States defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War without the loss of human lives. Germany, Italy and Japan waged unsuccessful wars to satisfy imperialist ambitions. They lost millions of lives and their countries lay in economic ruin after the war. Yet today, Germany and Japan are two of the most prosperous and powerful countries in the world without going to any war. Harari calls it “stupid miscalculation.”

Technology and not territory or natural resources is the key to a nation’s prosperity. Why is the world still intent on territorial conquests? Here is what Harari says about wars: ‘”Human stupidity is one of the most importance forces in history yet we often tend to discount it.... national, religious and cultural tensions are made worse by the grandiose feeling that my nation, religion and my culture are the most important in the world.”

Even if war is catastrophic for everyone, no God or law of nature can protect us from human stupidity.

*      *      *

An invitation for online writing classes:

Young Writers’ Hangout, Oct. 24, 2-3 p.m. with Gabriela Lee.

Contact writethingsph@gmail.com.  0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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