Wild Ride

The Far Middle

Feb 28 2024 • 26 mins

Episode 145 of The Far Middle begins with a sports dedication that continues a recent theme of honorees and tributes whose stories transcend beyond sports. Professional baseball pitcher, and longtime Pittsburgh Pirate, Dock Ellis is remembered in this installment. Nick describes Ellis’ intriguing story as one that’s reached urban legend status, but one that’s also sad and tragic.

Nick looks back on Ellis’ career, specifically recounting Ellis’ infamous no-hitter from June 12, 1970, which Ellis accomplished after taking LSD earlier in the day. Ellis “was a personality, an advocate for causes, an addict, an individual, a lightning rod, and in many ways, he epitomized much of the late 1960s and 70s,” says Nick, paying respect to Ellis and his “wild ride.”

Transitioning from Ellis, Nick notes the geopolitical instability during Ellis’ playing days, and how those trying times—from the Vietnam War to the Cold War—resemble many of the myriad threats and “wall of worry” we face today. And amongst the multi-faceted wall of worry spanning the globe today, Nick delves into his greatest concern, which is China and its potential attack on Taiwan.

Nick proceeds to examine a China-Taiwan analysis led by Mark Cancian (Colonel, USMCR, ret.), which looked at “what would happen if China attempted an amphibious invasion of Taiwan?”

Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) International Security Program, alongside co-authors Matthew Cancian and Eric Heginbotham, “developed a wargame for a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan and ran it 24 times. In most scenarios, the United States/Taiwan/Japan defeated a conventional amphibious invasion by China and maintained an autonomous Taiwan. However, this defense came at high cost.”

After reviewing the CSIS China/Taiwan wargaming report, Nick considers several follow-up questions. Including:

  • How effectively do the Chinese and American militaries fight?
  • If China invades Taiwan and is left vulnerable, will the U.S. attack Chinese military locations on China’s mainland?
  • Will the Taiwanese fight, or will they fold and collapse when confronted with the brute force of a Chinese invasion?
  • Will public opinion in the United States be able to stomach the level of losses likely to be suffered to save Taiwan?
  • How will the conflict end? Does China go all in resulting in a global conflict?

If the worry of a potential China-Taiwan conflict is keeping you up at night, Nick has an appropriate 1983 film directed by John Badham for you…shall we play a game?