understanding "Go" ... a board game (left) said to have been
invented in China around 3,000 years ago ... the United
States can better craft its national security strategy with
China and avoid war, said William "Trey" Braun (right).
Braun, a retired Army colonel and research professor at
the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Institute, led a
discussion on U.S.-China strategy at the National Press
Club, May 24, 2016.
With him were some of the 10 U.S.
and international students from the USAWC, who participated
in a nine-month study of that strategy. Braun was project
lead, with support from fellow USAWC research professor
THE GRAY ZONE
Before understanding Go, however,
one needs to understand the tense relationship China and the
U.S. have, Braun said, describing it as "the gray zone."
Basically, both countries are operating in the gray
zone, where neither war nor peace is present. And, "the U.S.
is not doing well in that competitive space," he said.
When Beijing hosted the summer Olympics, that marked
China's emergence into a stage of power transition marked by
growing assertiveness, he said. It was at that time that
China -- a rapidly rising military and economic power --
began to flex its muscles in the region. At the same time,
the U.S. went into the so-called "Great Recession" and was
focused in Southwest Asia.
By flexing its muscle,
Braun said he meant China occupying reefs in the South China
Sea inside an arc of territory they felt was taken from them
after World War II. China also began challenging air and
nautical passage of other countries with its own air and
naval fleet, sometimes using its fishing vessels as proxies.
Braun said his group's study predicted that future
aggressive acts could result in a miscalculation that
triggers war. In fact, he noted, 16 countries from other
parts of the world at one time went through their own gray
zones with competitor nations; and, of those 16, 12 resulted
in miscalculations leading to war.
The goal of the
study, he said, was to find a way for the U.S. and its
partner nations in that area to navigate smoothly through
the gray zone competition, so China's rise to eventual U.S.
equality of power in the region will transition peacefully.
Both countries, he noted, share this desire to resolve
differences without using force.
MORE THAN A GAME
Go is much more than a game, Braun said. It's the prism
through which China views the world and the way it thinks
and operates. And, if America wants to be successful in the
gray zone, it needs to first understand how their game is
Braun compared and contrasted Go to the
Western game of chess.
In Go, a two-player game, the
object is to surround and seize an opponent's terrain.
Players use white or black stones as game pieces. The idea
is to outmaneuver the other player's arrangement of stones
on the board, which is about the size of a chess board but
with many more positions that can be played.
the game of Go produces a winner just as in chess, he
explained, the difference is that in Go, the "loser" who
played well may have lost overall, but won in various
sections of the board and can walk away from the game
knowing not all was lost.
This analogy speaks to a
range of gray zone competitive interests China and the U.S.
have in other parts of the world, in military aspects,
cyber, space, policy and economic, he said. There doesn't
need to be a clear winner across the board.
offered another analogy.
The aim of Go is to win
without fighting and an apparent attack doesn't need to
occur right away. It more or less unfolds, he said. In
chess, the aim is to right away attack, remove opposing
pieces and checkmate the other's king, Braun said.
The chess analogy for the U.S. is that when "its interests
are threatened" it has a tendency "to break glass, bring out
the military and then go back to peace," he said. That's now
how the Chinese operate. Their strategy unfolds over time,
not in an abrupt manner.
GO-LIKE STRATEGIES OFFERED
The U.S. Army and national strategy policymakers need to
understand this Chinese mindset and perspective in order to
accommodate China as a co-power in the region, without
necessarily compromising partnerships with allies in the
region, Braun said.
There are low-cost approaches to
accomplishing this, he said.
To sum them up, Braun
said, most involve sharing the cost and burden of a regional
defense and letting other countries lead when it comes to
military training and preparedness. Right now, the countries
in that area look to the U.S. to lead and to provide
advanced military technology. "We're not allowing our
partners to grow."
The other effect that would have,
would be to reduce tensions with China, he said. For
example, if there's a confrontation with a Chinese fishing
vessel by a U.S. Navy ship, it would be much more
provocative than if that vessel is from a partner nation.
But the vessels from partner nations just aren't there.
Another important approach is to continually engage
China in dialog and in peaceful military-to-military
engagements, something currently not happening, he said.
By U.S. Army David Vergun
Army News Service
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