Taiwan Invasion War Game Shows Devastating Potential Results for the US

James Lacey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As we approach a year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been immense speculation since President Vladimir Putin’s aggression that China has been keeping a close eye on how the world has reacted to Russia’s attempt to absorb Ukraine back into the fold. Some have postulated that President Xi Jinping may attempt to find parallels between Russia and Ukraine and China and Taiwan.

This prompted an increase in war games last year, with all simulations showing that China would not be successful in its endeavor to secure Taiwan. However, the cost to our allies and, most notably, the United States is always very high.

A recent extensive war game conducted by a prominent D.C. think tank had similar results, which begs the question, what does victory really look like? A logical follow-up question would be whether the United States defense machine knows what success looks like, or whether we are setting ourselves up for another military failure in the future.

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Only Losers

The Center for Strategic and International Studies conducted this specific war game. Unlike other war games that generally only run one to two rounds of gameplay, this war game went through two dozen scenarios, making it one of the most comprehensive war games with this particular scenario to date. The situation was a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2026, just three years from now.

Every round of play had the same results; massive Chinese, American, Taiwanese, and Japanese casualties. CNN, who got a sneak peek of the report titled “The First Battle of the Next War,” boiled the results down to a simple statement.

“A war over Taiwan could leave a victorious US military in as crippled a state as the Chinese forces it defeated,” said the report.

The Chinese Navy, arguably one of the most formidable in the world, would be left in “shambles.” However, the United States and Japan would be just as decimated. Each scenario had the United States losing two aircraft carriers to the deep and both the United States and Japan losing dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of service members.

What about the island we would be fighting to protect thought? How would Taiwan stand as a result of this potential warfare?

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Not Ukraine

The war games showed that Beijing would be “unlikely” to win, meaning they’d be unsuccessful in their invasion of Taiwan. Of course, the term “unlikely” doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but for the sake of the war game, how does Taiwan fare at the end of the first battle of the next war?

Terribly, there is no other way around it.

According to the report, “While Taiwan’s military is unbroken, it is severely degraded and left to defend a damaged economy on an island without electricity and basic services.”

So why does this assessment matter? While China’s military would be decimated, the likelihood that they’d be able to rebuild faster and better than Taiwan is high. The memory of the Chinese government is long, and the idea that China would give up its goal of unification is ridiculous.

I would venture that even with an initial crushing defeat; China would return and be in an even better position than before to overtake an embattled Taiwan. While many have compared Ukraine to Taiwan, these countries have vastly different challenges.

“Whatever the Taiwanese are going to fight the war with, they have to have that when the war begins,” said CSIS senior advisor Mark Cancian.

The ability to funnel our weaponry to Ukraine is vastly different than the ability we would have with Taiwan because of a little thing called the Pacific Ocean. 

Blind Leading the Blind?

This particular war game, like most, included not just advisors working at the CSIS but also retired Generals, Naval officers, and former Pentagon officials. I think it’s important to note that our military and defense leaders aren’t well known in recent years for securing victory in wartime theaters, one only need look no further than Iraq and Afghanistan.

One merely has to look to the epic failure of our forever wars in the Middle East and the subsequent disastrous moral injury known as our Afghanistan withdrawal to see evidence of what has become institutionalized military incompetence. As of yet, there haven’t been any military or defense leaders held to task for that failure.

Gone are the days of Admiral Nimitz, who was prepared to be relieved of command if the Battle of Midway went south, or General Eisenhower, who penned a resignation letter in advance of the Normandy invasion in the event it failed on D-Day. Instead, our failed military leaders get to stay in their positions only to retire into jobs at the Pentagon or advise on think tanks like CSIS. 

This fact gives me quite a bit of pause on the results from the CSIS that say Beijing is “unlikely” to win, I have yet to see any evidence that I should trust any of the advice or predictions from the military complex. So what do these ‘experts’ advise post-war game?

Throw more money at the military-industrial complex and Taiwan, of course.

Victory for Whom?

The report suggests that to put the world in a better place to defeat China, the United States should “prioritize submarines and other undersea platforms.” On top of the already incredibly bloated defense budget, we should throw even more cash at weapons systems that may or may not be operational.

Sounds like a pretty good deal for defense contractors. Meanwhile, we can’t even convince young Americans to raise their right hand to join a woke military, let alone find Americans who can even serve.

The Army has recently adapted its basic training to adjust for overweight recruits and those with low academic scores. However, I highly doubt China is having this same issue.

According to the report, we should provide Taiwan with more money and security assistance on top of the recent NDAA that promises Taiwan $10 billion over five years.

What the report did highlight that I think is important to focus on is that the anticipated losses for the United States would “damage the US global position for many years.”

Not only do I think our Department of Defense is ready for a protracted war with China due to failed weapons systems and a bureaucracy focused on military brass and civilian leadership’s personal and professional gain, but I don’t believe the American public can stomach a heavy war. Those who would don the uniform and fight across the great vast ocean are not made of the same stuff as our grandfathers.

“Victory is not everything,” the report of the war game bluntly states.

Victory isn’t even assured, and I argue that how we measure victory only leads to the American public losing yet again. 

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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