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The U.S. Army Should Plan To Send Four Divisions To Taiwan: Expert

If China invades Taiwan and the United States opts to get involved, the U.S. Army should be prepared to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers and thousands of heavy vehicles to the island country and “drive the enemy into the sea,” according to a bold new essay from Brian Dunn, a former Michigan Army National Guardsman.

Dunn’s essay is one of several Taiwan-themed think-pieces in the latest issue of Military Review, the Army’s professional journal.

Many American military thinkers for decades have steered clear of publicly, and specifically, discussing the possibility of war between the United States and China over Taiwan. But with Beijing’s escalating aggression in the western Pacific and the Pentagon’s own increasing attention on the region, that’s changing.

“The U.S. Army is getting smart on Taiwan defense issues,” tweeted Ian Easton, senior director at the Project 2049 Institute in Virginia.

Dunn’s scenario assumes that the People’s Liberation Army succeeds in crossing the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait and establishing a lodgment in Taiwan.

“If China can then build up forces faster than Taiwan can mobilize and counterattack,” Dunn asked, “what can be done to prevent PLA ground forces from remaining on Taiwan in a ‘frozen conflict’ that it can heat up at a time of its choosing to complete the conquest?”

One solution, Dunn proposes, is for the U.S. Army to deploy to Taiwan a full corps, which could include up to four of the service’s 10 active divisions. “Naturally, this requires the Navy and Air Force to fight through China’s … naval and air forces to gain secure access to Taiwan’s ports and airfields that would allow the deployment of the Army,” Dunn wrote.

That’s easier said than done, of course. The PLA would be able to position scores of surface ships and submarines, hundreds of warplanes and thousands of rockets in and around the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan possesses missiles of its own that can sink Chinese ships and even pummel bases on the Chinese mainland.

Four divisions, each with 10,000 soldiers and hundreds of heavy armored vehicles, would be the biggest force that the Army has deployed in the western Pacific since the Vietnam War. The Pentagon still practices surging forces into South Korea in the event of a North Korean attack, but it’s been a long time since it prepared for a similar mobilization in Taiwan.

“The infrastructure and logistics support to carry it out are insufficient,” Dunn noted. Washington might have to spend billions of dollars just to prepare for a corps-size deployment in support of Taipei. Deploying troops would need lodging and supplies and experience staging across Taiwan’s roads, rivers and railways.

The preparations themselves would be highly provocative. The United States hasn’t had bases in Taiwan since 1979. The former site of the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command headquarters is now a fine-arts museum in Taipei.

The Army could ease the transition by acquiring an additional squadron of prepositioning ships carrying weapons, ammunition and supplies. The ships would sail to Taiwan during a crisis, ahead of or alongside the troop convoys.

The arriving American troops would have one job—help Taiwanese troops contain, isolate then reduce Chinese beachheads. U.S. divisions “will provide the core for a decisive counterattack,” according to Dunn.

“Just the credible threat of a U.S. Army corps capable of being deployed to Taiwan might deter China from starting an invasion,” Dunn wrote. “China might no longer be confident that the main effort will remain one between the PLA and the Taiwanese ground forces.”

“And if deterrence fails, the corps will drive the enemy into the sea.”

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