A new study by the RAND Corporation titled “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable” is just the latest think tank paper devoted to assessing a US war against China. The study, commissioned by the US Army, provides further evidence that a war with China is being planned and prepared in the upper echelons of the American military-intelligence apparatus.
That the paper emerges from the RAND Corporation has a particular and sinister significance. Throughout the Cold War, RAND was the premier think tank for “thinking the unthinkable”—a phrase made notorious by RAND’s chief strategist in the 1950s, Herman Kahn. Kahn devoted his macabre book On Thermonuclear War to elaborating a strategy for a “winnable” nuclear war against the Soviet Union.
According to the preface of the new study, released last week, “This research was sponsored by the Office of the Undersecretary of the Army and conducted within the RAND Arroyo Center’s Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program. RAND Arroyo Center, part of the RAND Corporation, is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the United States Army.”
The paper is a war-gaming exercise in the Kahn tradition: weighing the possible outcomes of a war between two nuclear powers with utter indifference to the catastrophic consequences for people in the United States, China and the rest of the world.
The study is based on a series of highly questionable assumptions: that a war between the United States and China would not involve other powers; that it would remain confined to the East Asian region; and that nuclear weapons would not be used. In reality, a war on China would from the outset involve US allies and would thus, in all likelihood, rapidly escalate out of control, spread beyond East Asia, and heighten the danger that nuclear weapons would be used.
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