UNRESTRICTED warfare, like asymmetric warfare, is a weapon of the weak to fight and defeat the strong. It is a form of fighting where anything goes: “a poke in the eye, a stab in the back, a kick in the groin”. Anything that will help the weak defeat the strong is brought into play. Nothing is prohibited. No target or weapon is off-limits.
If ever a major war erupts between superpower America and weaker nations like China, Russia, or Iran, we can expect the weaker ones to resort to unrestricted warfare. It will not be confined to a mere shooting war. It will involve combat on land, sea, air, in outer space, cyber space and even into the microbial realm. It will encompass attacks on a nation’s electric grids, computer networks, strategic resources, oil supply routes, logistic sea lanes, national currency, trade, banking and finance, stock exchange, basic services, and the nation’s social fabric. It will also include combat in the realms of media, the environment, diplomacy, culture and the struggle for alliances.
Unrestricted warfare was conceptualized by two senior colonels of the People’s Liberation Army of China, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, in their famous book, Unrestricted Warfare published in 1999.Qiao’s famous quote on the subject is that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” Usually, rules are laid down by the strong to dominate the weak. To level the playing field, the weak has to break the rules, avoid the enemy’s strength, and hit the strong side at its most vulnerable points.
Another Chinese theorist on modern warfare, Chang Mengxiong, compared China’s form of fighting to “a Chinese boxer with a keen knowledge of vital body points who can bring an opponent to his knees with a minimum of movements”. It is like key acupuncture points in ancient Chinese medicine. Puncture one vital point and the whole anatomy is affected. Acupuncture is normally used for healing. But some acupuncture points called Dim Mak, when hit in a specific way at certain times of the day can cause paralysis or instant death.
Dim Mak is a form of martial art which literally means “meridian press”. Meridians are energy channels in the human body through which “chi,” or vital life forces, flow. There are twelve primary meridians in the body. Within these channels are 800 cavities or points. When struck, 36 of these points can cause death while 72 others can cause numbness or unconsciousness. A weaker combatant skilled in Dim Mak will know which particular point along the meridians to strike in a given time of day in a certain way to defeat a more powerful opponent with a minimum of movement.
Taken in a geopolitical context, China can be likened to the weaker fighter that uses deep understanding of her adversary’s anatomical vulnerabilities to bring a much stronger belligerent nation like the United States of America to her knees with minimum effort.
If America ever wages war against China, say, over Taiwan or the South China Sea, then it should be prepared for the following Dim Mak points in its [national]anatomy to be the focus of attacks. Each one of these vital points can bring America to its knees with a minimum of effort:
• Electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack
• Cyber attack
• US dollar vulnerability
• US geography disadvantages
• US vulnerability to asymmetric warfare
• Aircraft carrier battle groups
• Satellite-based military command and control
• Fixed military bases
• US heavy reliance on hard power
Let us look at America’s first Dim Mak point: Vulnerability to an EMP attack.
China and Russia are two potential US adversaries that have the capability for this kind of attack. An EMP attack can either come from an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a long-range cruise missile (HN3 or Kh55), or an orbiting satellite armed with a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warhead. An insidious danger lurking like the sword of Damocles over America are innocent-looking satellites disguised for civilian purposes but carry powerful EMP-enhanced warheads. Russia even went to the extent of developing suitcase and hand grenade versions of EMP weapons for use by their SPETSNAZ commandos. The Backgrounder, a journal published by The Heritage Foundation described EMP thus:
“The scientific principles behind generating a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse are relatively simple. If a nuclear weapon is detonated between 25 miles and 300 miles above the earth’s surface, the radiation from the explosion interacts with air molecules to produce high-energy electrons that speed across the earth’s magnetic field as an instantaneous, invisible electromagnetic pulse.
“An EMP can have devastating consequences for developed countries, because any metallic conductor in the area affected becomes a “receiver” for the powerful energy burst released by the blast. Such receivers include anything with electronic wiring – from airplanes and automobiles to computers, railroad tracks and communication lines. If systems connected to these receivers are not protected, they will be damaged by the intense energy pulse.”
Having repeatedly refused to agree on a ban on putting weapons in space, the US is particularly vulnerable to this kind of attack. Such repeated refusals send clear signals to China and Russia of the US intention to deploy weapons in space. The US refusal and moves to dominate outer space are strong motivations for the two countries to speedily develop their own space-based weapon system. An orbiting satellite carrying a miniaturized, EMP-enhanced, megaton-size warhead exploding some 400 kilometers above the central United States (Omaha, Nebraska) can blanket the continental US with an electro-magnetic pulse in less than one second.
Electricity and electronics are so pervasive in American society and military, increasing the country’s susceptibility to an EMP attack. A single attack can bring catastrophic consequences. It will damage most electrical grids in the US mainland. It will disable computers and other similar electronic devices with microchips. It will bring motor vehicles on the road to a full stop, causing massive traffic jams. Trains, planes and ships will cease to function altogether. Life support systems in hospitals will be severely affected. Power plants will close. People will have to go back to firewood to heat their homes. With electricity and electronic devices failing, most businesses and industries will shut down. Basic services will be disrupted. The entire US economy will practically grind to a halt.
Satellites within the line of sight of an EMP burst will also be damaged, adversely affecting military command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (C4ISTAR). Land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles will be rendered unserviceable in their silos. Anti-ballistic missile defenses will suffer the same fate. In short, total blackout. No TV. No radio. No internet. No cell phone or landline communication. No heater. No air conditioner. No water in faucets. No gas in the pump. Food crops remain in the field. Supermarkets emptied. The after-effects of such an attack will be long-lasting, and a difficult recovery period for America. American society as we know it will be thrown back to the Dark Ages.
The catastrophic effects of EMP are best described by the 2004 EMP Threat Commission Report chaired by Dr. William R. Graham:
“The electromagnetic fields produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and information systems upon which American society depends. Their effects on dependent systems and infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the Nation.
“Depending on the specific characteristics of the attacks, unprecedented cascading failures of our major infrastructures could result. In that event, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult and would seriously degrade the safety and overall viability of our Nation. The primary avenues for catastrophic damage to the Nation are through our electric power infrastructure and thence into our telecommunications, energy, and other infrastructures. These, in turn, can seriously impact other important aspects of our Nation’s life, including the financial system; means of getting food, water, and medical care to the citizenry; trade; and production of goods and services. The recovery of any one of the key national infrastructures is dependent on the recovery of others. The longer the outage, the more problematic and uncertain the recovery will be. It is possible for the functional outages to become mutually reinforcing until at some point the degradation of infrastructure could have irreversible effects on the country’s ability to support its population.”
Because of the devastating effects of an EMP attack on the US economy and military, the US may decide to strike first, but China and Russia now have the capacity to retaliate with their own submarine-launched ballistic missiles, road-mobile ICBMs protected by 5,000 kilometers of strategic tunnel that are immune from EMP, strategic bombers–and most probably, their own EMP-armed satellites as well–with equally devastating results. China’s strategy of “active defense” demands that when a war with the US becomes imminent and America starts mobilizing or is poised to strike, China will seize the initiative, as mandated by its military doctrine, by striking first.