Yet Washington may be preparing for the wrong kind of war.
Both sides would prefer a splendid little war in the western Pacific, but that is not the sort of war they would get.
If Washington doesn’t start preparing to wage, and then end, a protracted conflict now, it could face catastrophe once the shooting starts.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, wars between leading powers—the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the world wars—were protracted slugfests.
Any conflict between the United States and China is likely to force both countries to mobilize their economies for war.
During the Korean War, American leaders repeatedly contemplated dropping nuclear bombs on China to force it to accept a cease-fire.
Washington should confront Beijing with a basic proposition: the longer a war lasts, the more devastation China will suffer. »