Taiwan arms...even though seven notifications are pending and had been expected to be submitted to Congress last week, sources say it may not happen, as White House officials take seriously a case against them made by a defense expert.
"Perspective" tonite comes from the conclusion of an influential study of Taiwan's defense needs by Naval War College analyst Bill Murray which helps explain what's happening...or, rather, not happening.
TAIWAN arms...a Loyal Reader asked last week what's up with notifications which faced a deadline for submission to Congress. Today, it's clear the deadlines have been missed, and pro-Taiwan folks are expressing outrage.
Heritages' John Tkacik tells Defense News he fears that Beijing will just "pocket" the Bush Administration non-decisions and that the next US Administration will be stuck with the ability to sell even less, regardless.
Maybe that's what will happen, say our defense experts...John is talking mainly politics, geopolitics here...but the internal debate on what Taiwan really needs, especially given China's current build-ups and power projection capability intentions...that may help explain the Bush decision to "decide" by not deciding.
Also remember, as Defense News notes, the Taiwan politicians are themselves to blame, in that they indulged in domestic gamesmanship for most of the Bush Administration, and "missed the window" which might...might have produced a favorable decision on some of the systems now stuck in limbo.
But the main reason? Our understanding is that a hard-nosed critique of the Taiwan arms situation by the Naval War College expert William Murray has been very closely read by senior Bush Administration players in various appropriate agencies.
So while it may be psychologically comforting for some pro-Taiwan folks to blame it on State (for example) that's not the real situation, they argue.
For "Perspective" tonite we're providing selections from the 32-page Murray paper which has clearly been so influential. You can ask yourself how YOU would react, were you a decision-maker, knowing that he is not speaking from out in left-field...rather, he is voicing concerns long expressed by experts in and out of the US military itself:
"It is difficult to escape the conclusion that China either already has or shortly will have the ability to ground or destroy Taiwan's air force and eliminate the navy at a time of its own choosing. This prospect fundamentally alters Taiwan's defense needs and makes the intended acquisition from the United States of diesel submarines, P-3 aircraft, and PAC-3 interceptors ill advised.
Diesel submarines are poor antisubmarine platforms, since with their low speed and limited underwater endurance they simply cannot search quickly large volumes of ocean for quiet submarines. These physical restrictions also limit their versatility as antisurface platforms. They are, for all practical purposes, four-knot minefields. At a cost of over U.S. $1.5 billion each and with indeterminate delivery dates, conventional submarines also carry significant opportunity costs, as some in Taipei clearly recognize. Finally, submarines are no more likely than other naval ships tied up at exposed piers to survive the opening salvo of a war with China.
Taiwan's apparent decision to purchase up to twelve submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft is similarly brought into question. Although these planes can collect valuable information during peacetime and in crisis, in wartime they would be sitting ducks while on the ground (though hardened shelters might protect P-3s) and aloft would require uncontested air superiority to have any chance of accomplishing their mission.100 In any case, Taipei cannot protect its runways. Patriot surface-to-air missiles have some utility against short-range ballistic missiles, but China already has the means to defeat this expensive air-defense system.
The implication is that Taiwan would be far better served by hardening, and building redundancy into, its civil and military infrastructure and systems. In that way the island could reasonably hope to survive an initial precision bombardment, deny the PRC the uncontested use of the air, repel an invasion, and defy the effects of a blockade for an extended period. Many of these actions, in fact, would be consistent with recent efforts by Taiwan to improve its defenses. Others, however, would entail substantial shifts that some in Taiwan's navy and air force would doubtless oppose. Air force leaders would be understandably loath to admit that their fighters cannot defend Taiwan's skies; their navy counterparts might similarly resist suggestions that their fleet is acutely vulnerable in port. Both services' political champions would certainly challenge the implications of this article's analysis. So too would the arms manufacturers who stand to benefit from the sale of aircraft, ships, and supporting systems to Taiwan.
Yet under present conditions it is doubtful that the people and government of Taiwan could withstand a determined PRC assault for long. A hasty American military intervention would be Taiwan's only hope, but only at the risk of strategic miscalculation and nuclear escalation. A "porcupine" strategy - a Taiwan that was patently useless to attack - would obviate the need; it would also make a determined Taipei conspicuously able to deny the objective of a bombardment or defeat an invasion, thus deterring either scenario. Ability to resist a full-scale campaign - long-range precision bombardment, invasion, and blockade - for a substantial amount of time would allow its potential allies to shape their responses carefully. Above all, demonstrable Taiwanese resilience would diminish Beijing's prior confidence in success, strengthen cross-strait deterrence, and reduce the risk of the United States being dragged into a conflict with China.
Meanwhile, a porcupine strategy would restore the United States to unequivocal adherence to the Taiwan Relations Act, since Taiwan would be in the market only for defensive systems. Taiwan would find itself with a better defense for fewer dollars, and the United States would abide by the 17 August 1982 joint communique© declaring that it would "not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those [arms] supplied in recent years...and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution."102
Finally, and most important, a porcupine approach would shift the responsibility for Taiwan's defense to Taiwan, rendering U.S. intervention in a cross-strait battle a last resort instead of the first response. Many observers believe that Taiwan today relies unduly on a perceived American security guarantee and does not do enough to provide for its own defense. Yet since 2000 the Kuomintang and the Democratic People's Party have not framed a defense debate that could produce the open, honest appraisal that is desperately needed if domestic consensus on a viable defense is to be achieved. A Taiwan that China perceived could be attacked and damaged but not defeated, at least without unacceptably high costs and risks, would enjoy better relations with the United States and neutralize the threat posed by many of China's recently acquired military capabilities. Unfortunately, political gridlock in Taipei stands in the way of any such hopes. It is not that Taiwan does not do enough to construct a viable defense but that it is not doing the right things.
William S. Murray is associate research professor at the U.S. Naval War College, where his research focuses on China's navy. He conducted submarine deployments and qualified to command nuclear submarines prior to retiring from the U.S. Navy. He is the coeditor of and a contributing author to China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force and China's Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing' s Maritime Policies...
It's not a bright idea to base your policy decision on the opinion of a single expert, however intelligent. Especially when he is saying what you want to hear. UPDATE: Original article is here. Murray's assessment, little birdies say, appears to have been made without visiting Taiwan. I'll be talking about it in a post tomorrow.
Defense News reports:
The Chinese will pocket the Bush administration’s Taiwan arms halt as the baseline for approaching the next administration,” said Tkacik, now with the Heritage Foundation. “Beijing will make it very painful for the next administration to restart arms supplies to Taiwan, insisting that doing so would renege on Bush commitments, imaginary or otherwise.”
The package has been held up since December. It includes items promised by the Bush administration in 2001, plus newer items such as attack and utility helicopters.?
"All in all, Taiwan policy is in complete tatters," said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. “The administration is blatantly gaming the system in a manner that runs contrary to U.S.-Taiwan interests.
“There are simply no other examples of a non-NATO or other security relationship having its congressional notifications stacked at [the U.S. Department of] State in this manner. They are doing so over a zerosum attitude toward U.S.-China-Taiwan relations and the equities Mr. Bush believes will be hurt by following through on his 2001 commitment.”
And the CNA report connects the reluctance to sell the weapons to the financial situation:
Taiwan's plans to procure weapons systems from the United States remain unchanged, as the nation is resolved to defend itself militarily and needs to beef up its self-defense capability, Chang Shuo-wen, a ruling Kuomintang (KMT) legislative caucus whip said Sunday.We're in deep, deep trouble.
Taiwan has submitted its military procurement plans to the United States and it is now up to the Bush administration to decide what to do about Taiwan's requests, President Ma Ying-jeou said recently.
Taiwan is seeking to buy a weapons package of anti-tank missiles, Apache helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, diesel-electric submarines, P3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, sea-launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Black Eagle helicopters from the US.
The US Department of State told Taiwanese news media Friday that Taiwan's arms procurement package is still under inter-departmental screening by the George W. Bush administration.
Once a final decision is made on the arms procurement package, the executive branch would notify Congress immediately, the State Department said.
When asked whether the arms procurement proposal would be left up to the new US administration, a State Department official said that "there is no timetable for that matter."
Commenting on the uncertainties surrounding the arms deal, KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who is the convener of the Legislative Yuan Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said there is no need for Taiwan to worry too much, given that Taiwan remains part of the strategic interests of the United States.
Washington would not like to see the Taiwan Strait become a waterway of China, as this would open a big hole in the US defense frontline in the West Pacific, he added.
Noting that the supply of defense weapons to Taiwan is part of the stipulations in the United States' Taiwan Relations Act, Lin expressed confidence that whoever is elected the next president of the US will not renege on the commitment.
Lin attributed the "bumpy ride" of Taiwan's arms procurement package partly to Washington's reliance on China's cooperation in US anti-terrorism efforts and in its spiraling financial and economic storms. For example, China currently holds between US$500 billion and US$950 billion worth of US Treasury bonds, he said.