I think our positions are closer than they appear. We just differ on where we draw the line at acceptable vs unacceptable damage - you might put it at 90% of pre-war industrial capacity destroyed, while I might put it at 30%. You've also convinced me that US military capabilities near China will have to be near totally degraded before tactical nuclear weapons on the US homeland can be employed so the US enjoys no asymmetric advantage in retaliating.I understand where your argument comes from.
However I believe "Success/Failure" and "Acceptable Damage/Unacceptable Damage" are both the same thing, respectively.
Putting it another way, it's not a 2x2 grid with four possible outcomes.
It's a 1x2 grid with only two possible outcomes.
(one consequence of which is that damage is at acceptable levels)
China doesn't use nukes PLA failure
(one consequence of which is that damage is at unacceptable levels)
Possible or likely use of China using nukes/nuclear armageddon in general
Hard no on that one, buddy. This isn't some cosmic tale where China falls down and picks itself up over generations only to fall down again ad infinitum. The sorry story of the Century of Humiliation is not going to repeat itself. If China falls again, that's a wrap on humanity.Getting back on your feet to fight again does that, even if it takes many generations.
Whether or not that deterrence fails masks a far more interesting question: Why does the US accept that Taiwan is a Chinese red line that it's willing to go to nuclear war over? After all, it's just an island. Is the PRC willing to destroy the world - itself included - over one island?If tomorrow, for instance, the US were to violate all of China's red lines and Taiwan were to declare abject independence - that would be a failure of Chinese deterrence.
The answer is that where red lines are drawn and deterrence is established is completely arbitrary. The US is deterred from violating China's red lines on Taiwan because China drilled that message into its head. It's the same with my concept of nuclear retaliation - you're undeterred because it's a novel concept, but give it some years and China will drill that new message into your head until you accept it.
You dismiss "values" and national character as something outside rational strategic analysis when you really shouldn't. Your analysis is shot through with American idiosyncrasies that I'm sure you view as completely neutral. Among them is this very specific desire for "rules of the road" and "guard rails"; you want Chinese nuclear doctrine to be a series of if/then statements - if America does x, China responds with y. I'm sorry, it's not a computer program. It just doesn't work that way, what you'll get is what the Chinese general told his American counterpart after he tried to press for a list of if/thens: Try it and find out.Similarly, if the nuclear capabilities of the PLA are clearly and definitively given conditions that would result in their use - the goal of doing so is to prevent the US from doing those things.
No, I differentiate perfectly well between deterrence and punishment. I also understand that deterrence and punishment work in mutually reinforcing cycles - if one layer of deterrence fails, then the punishment deters the next level of misbehaviour. For example, although the US failed to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, its punishment and the promise of more still successfully deters Russia from employing nuclear weapons in Ukraine.Where you seem to get off to a strange start is that you don't differentiate between deterrence and punishment.
Deterrence is not a binary state, it's a process.
Furthermore, although you might not find a place for it in "rational analysis", revenge and punishment are a core part of human psychology. Ultimately, countries are collections of human beings.
A deterrent that can't be used is no deterrent at all. Your argument would have merit if I advocated strategic nuclear strikes on US soil in response to attacks on Chinese industrial infrastructure. I don't.The key difference here is that you should never want to have to use your deterrent.
The same applies to the US. Should the first level of deterrence fail and China strikes a shipyard, a factory, or a port with a tactical nuke, what is further retaliation worth when compared to the existence of the United States of America. I don't buy your sales pitch that America is full of Rapture-ready lunatics who'll start a terminal nuclear war because a shipyard, a factory, or a port on *gasp* American soil got destroyed. They'll take a deep breath, realize that China's got plenty more where that came from, and chew on their resentment. Calibrated punishment will successfully establish the next layer of deterrence.Something as small in scale as a shipyard, a factory, or a port when compared to the existence of the People's Republic of China simply are not on anywhere near the same magnitude of importance.
If I'm wrong and Americans are that crazy, then I'm willing to pay the price of being wrong.
Frankly speaking, you and your colleagues have an important role to play here. The American people are deluded about the balance of military power between China and America today, let alone what it will be post 2035. You should disabuse your countrymen of their halo of invulnerability.
No, not at all, see above.Yes, I am fully aware of this. Americans are fully aware of this. This is not news.
These are the rules that America developed for itself during its cold war with the Soviet Union. That has absolutely nothing to do with the present contest; here it's tabula rasa. New rules.My point is that employing nuclear weapons is basically the capstone to what ought to be a series of escalations culminating in there being existential threat to the state, if their use is to be justified.