Mar 10, 2009

Naval fracas: redux

After writing from one side of the fence on this naval incident, the interesting question is, how would this type of thing played out if the roles were reversed? For example, what if the US had a run-in with a PRC research vessel off the coast of Honolulu, or perhaps off of San Diego, where we tried to get in their boat's face about it, and they sprayed us with a water hose? I think it might have gone differently.

Let's start off with the setting where the decisions get made. The meeting room would be similar, but with some small changes. I couldn't find a picture yet of Obama with the Joint Chiefs, so this photo I came across will have to suffice:

First, the things that are similar:
  • Everyone has an identical white ceramic mug, however, they don't have lids, and they're probably drinking coffee
  • Everyone's got their legal pads
And, the things that are different:
  • Plates of delicious chocolate chip cookies instead of ashtrays
  • It's not just guys, there's at least one woman at the meeting
  • There's water in addition to the coffee or tea that they're drinking
  • The participants' outfits aren't quite the same; I see varying shades of grey, and even a few red ties
  • To me, this looks like a no smoking meeting room. But would there be some sort of celebratory joint passed around upon meeting adjournment? We'll never know.
Now for the military tactics. If this type of thing happened off of the coast of a US territory, it's unlikely we'd be nearly as patient about it. My speculation is that something like this would happen at the military level:
  • The ship's crew would probably be apprehended, sent off somewhere temporarily, same as the 2001 spy plane scenario. After some haggling and apologizing, they'd get returned home.
  • As a deterrent warning, maybe a submarine or two would be diverted in the general direction of the PRC, surfacing long enough for satellites to pick them and let everyone know they're around
  • Maybe one of the forward-deployed carrier groups would do training laps around in the Pacific more that it usually does; nothing deliberately threating, but just enough to let everyone know that the sleeping giant has been annoyed a little
At the citizen level, I think you'd have a lot of Americans screaming and yelling. A lot of people aren't in the greatest of moods lately, with everyone's 401Ks and houses going down in value more and more each day. Because of that, they could be extra aggressive. Then again, people may have already been drained emotionally worrying about jobs and the economy. They might not have the energy to get worried about a thing like this.

So, many things would be similar if the roles were reversed, but still a lot of other things would be different. If it ever goes down like this, we can come back and check my prediction list to see how right or wrong I was.


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