Saturday, July 16, 2011

F-16s? Now's the time

This earth god shrine is on the Floo Network. Poor fellow got splinched....

In The Diplomat Matt Anderson of CSIS argues for the sale of F-16s to Taiwan:
The first difference is that the F-16 production line could be permanently shut down if no new orders are received by the end of this year. On the surface, it appears that this will prompt the typical reaction by the military industrial complex to push arms sales in order to boost revenues and save jobs. But this time things are different. After the F-16 production line closes, there will be no other similar US fighter jets to sell to Taiwan. And other foreign militaries are probably less likely to anger China with sales of their own planes. After the F-16, the only options that could address the problem would be even more capable planes, like the F-35. If Beijing strongly disapproves of the sale of F-16s to its renegade province, the sale of more advanced aircraft would likely evoke exponentially stronger protests from China.

Another difference is how the debate is coinciding with US electoral cycles. Arms sales to Taiwan have been a part of US presidential politics before. However, awareness of and potential resentment toward China has rarely been so heightened. China’s rise has increasingly taken the lead in US geopolitical calculations of both policymakers and average voters. The last mid-term election saw a trend toward anti-China pandering on the economic front, and, since that time, China’s image has plunged in the eyes of many Americans because of its perceived belligerence. The underdog story of Taiwan, with its liberal, democratic society, could become prominent in the foreign policy debates of the next presidential election if the arms sale debate is still simmering.

A final difference in the current situation is that Beijing and Washington have a rare convergence of interests in the next Taiwanese election. Both sides would prefer to see Ma Ying-jeou re-elected. But to secure victory, Ma will likely have to prove to Taiwanese voters that he isn’t selling out their hard-fought de facto sovereignty with his pro-mainland policies. Ma could help his re-election chances if he could show to the Taiwanese electorate that he’s still prepared to defend the island from any unilateral move toward reunification by the PLA. US arms sales could be a clear signal that Ma is steadfast in his intent to adequately provide for the defence of Taiwan. In the event he fails to secure what is perceived to be a needed arms sale, then more provocative actions or statements may be required to co-opt the Kuomintang’s pro-independence rivals and move Ma closer to the middle.
Aside from the pro-forma hacks on the pro-democracy crowd, which is Provocative®:, Anderson advances the argument that it would actually be better for stability to sell F-16s now than have to sell more advanced fighters later. The idea that Ma is going to become "provocative" if he doesn't get F-16s is laughable -- he need merely make noise in their favor, as he is doing now. But he really doesn't want the aircraft, and the Obama Administration really doesn't want to give them.

Further down he notes that the US public is less happy about China than it used to be, and US corporations, China's main constituency in the US, are also less enthused about China's mercilessly mercantile business environment. This means that the moment to sell F-16s has arrived.

This week Taiwan spokesman Philip Yang was in Washington to ask for the fighters. Yang's public calls for the sale should be read against Peter Lee's piece in the Asia Times which reveals much information about the little game Washington and Taipei are playing. Lee says:
The issue has become a Catch-22 for Taiwan, in which TECRO cannot submit an [Letter of Request] to AIT because [AIT] is under State Department orders to deny it, and then TECRO is told by the State Department that the LoR cannot be processed because it was not received, he said.
This is why we won't get those fighters despite an array of impressive arguments for the sale. But since we can't get the fighters, we should build more missiles, says this analyst in Foreign Policy.

Man, I was saying that in letters to the old Taiwan News 15 years ago. Good to see the rest of the world catching up.
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Anonymous said...

Iraq has been talking about doubling its F-16 order from 18 to 36, and there is talk of Oman ordering 18 of these F-16s also. So perhaps Taiwan has just been bought a very slight deadline extension.

Within a few years' time, though, F-16C/D Block 52 may not be worth the pursuit. The discussion would have to turn to Super Hornet, F-18I Hornet International, or F-15SE.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan will not be getting F-16s and this fact has been known by the Ministry of National Defense since the time when the KMT blocked the sale to the faux outrage of the DPP administration. Michael, stop being taken for a ride on this issue and concentrate on real issues such as the Taiwan-EU free trade agreement, hahahahahahahahahahaha!

ALX said...

Or maybe the EU will get pissed enough at China to sell us some of their fighters...