This week, The Critic published Looking Back: World War III Remembered, a piece reflecting back on the great war of 2029. The fictitious article tries to grapple with how a nuclear war between the United States and China took place, examining discussions at the very top in both governments shortly before it took place. The article suggests the trigger was a near-replay of a similar crisis in 1996--but one that had a much more devastating outcome.
The origin of the war, the article explains, was the aggressive rise of China. America, on the other hand, "the weary titan, grew scared of China's rise and the defection of allies". In the article, the United States makes the decision to decouple from China and recouple with Taiwan, a policy that triggers, "enhanced arms sales, diplomatic contact, naval port visits, even sailing a carrier through the Taiwan Strait".
Meanwhile, on the ground in Taiwan, the article explains, "without warning, Taiwan's president announced a referendum on independence. Beijing responded with a total blockade, demanding it acknowledge 'One China'." In response the United States decides to send two carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Strait, either to stage a counter-blockade against China or break the blockade against Taiwan. We never know what course of action Washington ultimately decided to take.
In response to the U.S. deployment, China decides to launch a "Sunshine Bomb", a nuclear detonation far from U.S. or Taiwanese forces that shows resolve. If that failed to work, the People's Liberation Army would stage a limited attack against the carriers. We can infer that the "Sunshine Bomb" did not work, nor did any effort on either side to limit the scope of the war, as we know that ultimately the conflict spun out into an all-out nuclear war.
The United States makes a grave strategic error in the article, moving two carrier strike groups near the Taiwan Strait. Although aircraft carriers are the U.S. Navy's greatest assets, the six thousand or so personnel on each ship make for a serious problem in a crisis. The total loss of one carrier would cause almost as many casualties as those suffered on 9/11 and Pearl Harbor combined. The loss of a carrier would create a demand to dramatically escalate any conflict, more so than the loss of any cruiser, destroyer, or submarine.
Read the original article.