Monday, June 01, 2009

Halloran gets everything wrong

Several people flipped me Richard Halloran's piece on Taiwan's defense in the Honolulu Advertiser, which seems to have a rather strange understanding of the issues....

It starts with a rather strange title....

Taiwan reasserts determination to defend itself

...which we'll come back to in a moment. On to the rather strange claims Halloran makes -- entirely background-free, of course....
The government of President Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan has launched a revolution in military affairs that is intended to:

• rally the people of Taiwan to a firm defense of their island nation;
• give Taiwan's armed forces their marching orders for fundamental reforms;
• deter mainland China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, from invading the island;
• convince the U.S., Taiwan's only major ally, that Taiwan is prepared to do its part in defending itself.

Until now, some American, Chinese and Taiwanese analysts have questioned the political will of the people of Taiwan to defend themselves. Taiwan's armed forces have been seen as lethargic and not well organized. In contrast, China's armed forces have made steady strides in arms, training and preparing to invade Taiwan. And American leaders have muttered that Taiwan was not doing enough for its own defense.
A revolution! Absent from this discussion is the simple fact that the KMT, Ma's party, was the major force behind the US complaints that Taiwan wasn't doing enough to defend itself. Readers may recall that the KMT blocked the special arms purchase budget for years in the legislature, preventing it from reaching the floor for consideration some 60 times, leading to complaints from the US that Taiwan wasn't doing enough to defend itself, part of a wider KMT policy to drive a wedge between the Chen Administration and the US, among other things. Moreover, Halloran also fails to inform the reader that the Bush Administration held up arms sales to Taiwan whilst blaming Taiwan for not doing enough to defend itself, something much discussed on this blog last year. In other words, Taiwan is not "reasserting a determination to defend itself" all previous Administrations, including the Chen Administration, have struggled to do just that. But what are the complexities of history when Ma Ying-jeou is launching a revolution!?

What is this revolution? Halloran says:
Specifically, if the QDR reforms are implemented, civilian control of Taiwan's military forces will be enforced. That has not always been so; in the days of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who led Taiwan from 1949 to 1975, and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who ruled until 1988, Taiwan's armed forces were largely autonomous.
There's a reason I get so testy when I blog and it is passages like this that seem to spring from an alternate universe where Google has never been invented: civilian control of the military was a DPP innovation and an excellent article dating from 2006 by Michael Chase on the topic has been online for some three years now. I blogged on it in July of 2008 when Ma the Revolutionary Military Leader repoliticized the military after years of DPP-driven democratic reforms. From Chase's piece:
To promote the achievement of these objectives, the laws codify the political neutrality of the armed forces. Article 6 of the National Defense Act states, “The ROC Armed Forces shall remain neutral from individual, regional and party affiliations” [7]. The laws also establish a new chain of command; Article 8 of the National Defense Act states, “The President shall assume the supreme command of army, navy, and air force of the ROC, and is the commander-in-chief of the ROC Armed Forces. He exerts executive authority over the Minister of National Defense, and the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) follows the command of the Minister to lead the ROC Armed Forces” [8]. This means that the CGS, who previously reported directly to the president, is now subordinate to the civilian defense minister. The Two Defense Laws also increased the power of the defense minister by placing both the ministry staff and the armed forces under his direct authority.

Under the new laws, the MND is thus effectively placed in charge of all major aspects of national defense. Specifically, the Organization Act of the Ministry of National Defense declares, “The Ministry of National Defense (MND) is in charge of the overall national defense affairs of the Republic of China” [9]. Accordingly, the law grants the MND authority over a number of areas that were previously the exclusive purview of the General Staff Headquarters (GSH) and the services. Specifically, the law stipulates that the MND is in charge of, among other things, the defense policy, military strategy, budgetary plans and the development of the military forces [10].

The laws thus give the minister control of both military administration and military command, for the first time placing these two functions under the jurisdiction of a single official. Moreover, Article 12 of the National Defense Law stipulates that the minister of national defense must be a civilian. Therefore, a civilian is in charge of administration, command, armament and resource allocation, and is responsible for developing military strategy and defense policy. Another important change resulting from the two defense laws is that the MND will now have the power to make important personnel decisions, a function that was previously dominated by the GSH.
Yes, civilian control of the military is a DPP innovation, not a Ma Revolution. One reason people complain the DPP never did anything is that the KMT struggles to obliterate its reforms or else to annex them as its own, and foreign commentators fail to get wise to this.

Halloran plunges on:
A major reform will be setting up an elite, professional, volunteer force that will be slimmed down to 215,000 people by 2014 from the present 275,000. The draft, however, will be continued for all young men who will receive four months of basic training, then be required to join the reserves. Women may volunteer but will not be drafted.
I can't even remember when discussions of an all-volunteer force began, they may date back to the Qing Dynasty, but the military began experimenting with all-volunteer units back in 2003 or 2004 (failed experiments, didn't get enough volunteers, experts in both parties decided to put it off). This is not a revolution of Ma Ying-jeou, but an evolution that long predates Ma. Continuing:
The QDR calls for the national legislature to appropriate a minimum of 3 percent of gross domestic product annually on defense. Taiwan's defense spending has been steadily decreasing for 10 years to about 2 percent of GDP even though Taiwan's economy, like that of South Korea, has been expanding for several decades. By comparison, the United States spends about 4 percent of GDP for defense while Japan spends 1 percent.
*Sigh* The target of 3% of GDP on defense spending once again long predates Ma. A simple Google search turns up this promise from President Chen in 2005 to boost defense spending to that level by 2008, for example. Once again, not Ma Revolution but long evolution.
Taiwan's defense review instructs the armed forces to adopt principles of "not provoking incidents, not escalating conflicts, and avoiding hostile actions" when confronted by Chinese forces. Taiwanese officers said, for instance, this would require Taiwan's fighter pilots to break off contact if they encountered Chinese fighters over the Taiwan Strait.

On the other hand, the QDR directs Taiwan's forces, mainly air and naval, to prepare to attack China's centers of gravity in the event of hostilities. That means attacking critical targets such as Chinese ports loading invasion troops, missile launch sites preparing to fire, and airfields loading paratroopers into transports.
Again, no revolution. Attacks on targets in China have been envisioned as part of Taiwan's defense strategy for years, while protocols to avoid conflicts over the Strait have also been in place for years.


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1 comment:

Tim Maddog said...

Alternate universe, indeed! Ma's term has been nothin' but devolution.

Tim Maddog