One hundred and sixty-six years ago, a political writer on the staff of a respected journal-the Philadelphia Monthly Magazine-devoted a column to reports of a civil war then said to be raging in China. This anonymous and unpretentious commentator, unlike some who follow the trade today, admitted that his analysis was almost entirely speculative, for he wrote: "Our knowledge of that nation is very little, and that little, too obscure to be trusted."
Since 1798 this situation has not improved much, if at all, and there is small prospect that it will. Thus, any lay estimate of current Communist Chinese military capabilities, or future potential, is likely at best to be but partially correct; at worst, flagrantly inaccurate. "It is extremely important," Mao Tse-tung wrote in "On Protracted War," to keep the enemy "in the dark about where and when our forces will attack." This, he goes on, creates a basis "for misconceptions and unpreparedness on his part. ... In order to achieve victory we must as far as possible make the enemy blind and deaf by sealing his eyes and ears, and drive his commanders to distraction by creating confusion in their minds."
Even those whose primary professional concern it is to assess Communist Chinese military capabilities have made egregious mistakes. History has qualified the late General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Commander-in- Chief, United Nations Command in Korea, as an expert witness to the truth of this statement. At the Wake Island conference, on October 15, 1950, President Truman asked MacArthur what he thought of the Chinese capability to intervene in the Korean War. MacArthur was not perturbed. He viewed this as a remote contingency. He replied:
Very little. Had they intervened in the first or second months it would have been decisive. We are no longer fearful of their intervention. We no longer stand with hat in hand. The Chinese have 300,000 men in Manchuria. Of these probably not more than 100,000 to 200,000 are distributed along the Yalu River. Only 50,000 to 60,000 could be gotten
Loading, please wait...