It’s good to see the world catching up to me. Both Rank and Wandering to Tamshui blogged on recent reports that senior US military officials (actually Admiral Fallon of the US Pacific Command) want the island to quietly dump the request for subs. Subs being pre-eminently offensive weapons, that request was routinely refused by Washington prior to the advent of the Bush Administration. These remarks were first made public in a Washington Post article I blogged on a couple of weeks ago.

It’s high time senior US decisionmakers started talking sense on this topic. Subs are useless as deterrents for invasion — especially when they will arrive in dribs and drabs over 10 years, making a grand total of 8. Pundits often quote “But the best weapon to hunt another sub with is a sub” without really thinking through the implications. HINT: If we’re subhunting, which nation do you want to be — the one that operates dozens of subs, or the one that operates eight? The fact is that this axiom is a two-edged sword, and the Chinese side is a lot sharper.

More to the point, no invasion in modern history has ever been defeated by subs — but control of the air has determined the fate of many amphibious assaults. Hitler canceled Sealion because he lost control of the air over the Channel, even though his subs were at the height of their success. Similarly US control of the air defeated planned invasions of Midway and Port Moresby. On the other hand, Allied control of the air paved the way for Normandy and the landings on Okinawa and Leyte. It was the ability of German airpower to control the sea that sealed the fate of Crete in 1941 (many possible lessons for an invasion of Taiwan there). In short, what we need for that $12 billion is not subs, but fighter aircraft and plenty of them, as well as deals for increased pilot training, spare parts, and plenty of ammo to stockpile.

UPDATE: (10/14)MeiZhongTai busts me for an error: it ain’t Fallon who said this, and responds. See Oct 14 blog round-up for more.