When you can kill your enemy, every part of your life is better. Your food tastes better. Your marriage is stronger.
— General Mike Minihan
On January 27th, a leaked memorandum came to light from General Mike Minihan, Commander of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, in which this man, who says his food and marriage are improved by killing, claimed that war with nuclear-armed China is nearly inevitable, and that it would probably happen in around two years. I have no idea who leaked this memo, or why, or if this General Ripper gasbag (the military has a fine selection of commissioned gasbags) is just jerking himself off while he moves his troops around like toys. It’s certainly lit a fire under the gasbag Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, who’s now also issuing the call to arms against the Yellow Peril.
On the dreadful chance this could happen, or that gasbag loons will make it a self-fulfilling prophecy (I will not allow Chinese subversion to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids!) I’m going to treat this as a real possibility; but I think we need the background.
The background is that we could risk mass annihilation for fucking microchips. Think I’m kidding?
Lots of us have been decrying the kinds of ecological, economic, cultural, and psychological collateral damage we’ve sustained sustained by putting the world online; but now we’re faced with paying the unthinkable price for allowing this technology to colonize our economies, our minds, our bodies, and our relations.
We’ve gone far out on a limb.
Without microchips, the world of human beings would now grind to a halt. Even more to the point, the highly-technologized US military would become irrelevant. Like oil, of which the single biggest institutional consumer in the world is the US military, we might fight a war over chips to sustain the ability to fight wars in the same way we could fight wars over oil to sustain the ability to fight wars.
It’s along story that I’ll keep very short; but chips are really expensive to make, because they require environmentally hyper-controlled, multi-billion dollar semiconductor fabrication plants (FABs). The history is somewhat complicated, but Taiwan set itself up — with lower than US labor costs and huge Taiwanese government subsidies — to become US FAB Central (through an outfit called the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company [TSMC]), with the strategic calculus that by becoming essential to the US they would incentivize the US to protect them from the mainland’s designs for unification.
This calculus worked, but General Minihan can’t have his warplanes without the TSMC.
Right now, chip production requires several things: design, software, machines, machine components, wafers, chemicals, laser technology . . . and FABs. Japan contributes chemicals, wafers, and machine components. The Netherlands contributes laser technology. The US supplies design, machines and software. The most irreplaceable and important monopolies in this supply chain are design and FABs. The US-Taiwan joint venture.
China, on the other hand, had also come to import 40 percent of Taiwan’s chip production, which also made China a huge customer for US tech outfits and essential to the Taiwanese economy. China depends on this technology — for which their design and manufacturing capacity still lags well behind — just as the US totally depends upon Taiwanese FABs, and Taiwan relies on the mainland as a chip customer.
The Chinese state’s two overarching drives are (1) for sustaining economic expansion and (2) modernizing its military. China wants to upgrade the its capacity, and so it needs designs and FABs (which it’s working on). Without chips, they are up — ahem — chip creek. Until last year, China was getting all its chip upgrades, directly or indirectly, with the latest designs, from US companies (who were making a mint).
Welp . . . in 2018, the Chinese military tested its first “hypersonic missile system” (HMS), a weapon with short and medium range capabilities that flies at Mach 5 and can duck and dodge during flight to confuse air defense tracking systems. Short and medium range missiles were not a threat to the US, but Taiwan is well within range.
Then again, China isn’t going to kill the goose that lays the microchip eggs.
Of course, the US Generals (like “Kill Kill Kill” Gasbag Minihan) are always alert to any lethal penis enlargement technology that might outstretch their own, even though the US military is still vastly more powerful than any other military in the world. So, when in 2021, China ran two semi-successful tests of long-range HMS’s, the Generals, the US government, and the mainstream media (sponsored by “defense” industries) all went into total meltdown. Now someone else — who might even cooperate with Russia (gasp) — was close to having a “surprise nuclear first-strike capability.” (That shit sounds pretty scary.)
The Biden Administration declared a chip embargo on China, which sent several US companies into a tailspin . . . but never fear. Our government then authorized massive bailout subsidies to the same companies on the condition that they retool themselves to build . . . FABs. But that’s gonna take a while.
When Nancy Pelosi did her provocative little publicity stunt in Taiwan, the place she visited was the TSMC.
The truth is, China has no interest in a war with the US. The US is still China’s biggest export target (18% of total Chinese exports). But given the new embargo and the tensions ratcheting up around Taiwan, China’s response is now military-economic; which is to say, they’ll play brinksman with the military to exact a price from the US and Taiwan. Total war is neither on their agenda nor in their interest. But they can use the military to threaten Taiwan — playing bluff-poker right up to the edge — as a way of slowing down and disincentivizing trade with Taiwan. The military as a weapon in an economic war.
These interwoven motives are perhaps too complicated for Generals, though. In their minds, they are always at war; they just haven’t jumped off the lines of departure yet. And therein is the danger from all these fucking men (around the world) and their power games. As Einstein once noted, one cannot simultaneously prepare for war and prevent it.
Already, the US is fighting nuclear-armed Russia down to the last Ukrainian. Now Minihan and his macho associates are surmising some China-Russia compact and portraying it as an existential threat to America. Add “surprise nuclear first-strike capability,” and stir.
These things can take on a life of their own, and there’s the big fat rub. Billions of the rest of us are just pawns to these homicidal power-hungry gasbags.
One can only hope (and pray) that leveler heads prevail.
Lord, have mercy.