ADELAIDE - While I agree with Phil Fitzpatrick's observation, in a comment to PNG Attitude, that the USA has involved both itself and Australia in a series of mostly disastrous wars, it does not necessarily follow that this is inevitable in the case of rising tensions with China.
I say this for several reasons but will mention only one, which is China's serious vulnerability to a trade embargo.
Trade embargoes have been a potent weapon in international affairs for a long time.
Generally speaking, the more reliant an actual or potential combatant is upon trade, the more an embargo will undermine its ability to fight and win a war.
So, for example, the underlying strategy of the Union forces in the American Civil War was the so-called Anaconda Strategy.
Basically, the Union Navy blockaded the Confederacy's ports and stifled trade, notably in cotton.
Although imperfect, the blockade slowly and remorselessly deprived the Confederacy of the funds it needed to fight the war.
Ultimately, this weakened its ability to maintain armies in the field and materially contributed to its defeat.
Similarly, during World War I, the British Navy successfully blockaded the German ports and seriously damaged that country’s capacity to sustain a protracted war effort.
It was civil disorder in Germany as well as serious defeats on the Western Front that drove the German government to seek an armistice in November 1918.
In World War II, the Battle of the Atlantic saw Britain very nearly driven to its knees as the German U-Boat fleet imposed what amounted to a blockade on Britain's ability to sustain its military effort and feed its population.
Only the timely involvement of the USA in the war, combined with important technical innovations - including ship and air borne radar, asdic submarine detection and improved depth charge systems - allowed Britain and its allies to win the battle and achieve eventual victory.
In a modern context, China is the world's largest manufacturer and exporter of tradeable goods, with its main markets being in the USA, Europe and South East Asia.
Any disruption to this massive trading system would generate very serious problems for the Chinese government.
It is for this reason (and others) I think that China is most unlikely to precipitate a serious conflict with the USA and its Pacific and South East Asian allies.
Basically, the economic cost of invading Taiwan, for example, would be extraordinary.
This is the case even if such a chancy endeavour could actually be achieved by the untried People's Liberation Army, Navy and Airforce.
So war is by no means inevitable, and I very much doubt that military planners think that it is, but the worst must be assumed and plans made accordingly, hence Australia's decision to build or buy nuclear submarines, new missile frigates, long range cruise missiles, fifth generation fighter jets and so forth.
Of course, as I have observed in previous articles, history is not a perfect guide to the future, and the human factor always complicates and sometimes confounds plans and expectations about how events may develop.
Consequently, we must collectively hope that those who lead our various nations have the knowledge and wisdom necessary to avoid blundering into a war that no-one wants and which would not unfold in accordance with even the best laid plans.
As the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said 2,600 years ago, “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength.”
Or as it’s rendered somewhat imperfectly today, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.
Something all our leaders ought to bear in mind.