Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stokes and Hsaio on the US Strategy and Taiwan

Somebody is at last saying openly that Taiwan needs greater integration into the US defense screen. Stokes and Hsiao rock the conventional wisdom in explaining Why the US Military Needs Taiwan....
Addressing these challenges requires greater collaboration not only within the U.S. defense establishment, but effective leveraging of talents of allies and ad hoc coalition partners in the region. The U.S. reportedly has begun examining how to diversify defense relations with traditional allies in the region, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Yet, little consideration appears to have been given to the significant role that Taiwan could play in an evolving U.S. defense strategy, including the JOAC and Air-Sea Battle. Taiwan’s future and U.S. interests in regional security are intimately related. Indeed, Taiwan is a core interest of the United States and has a pivotal role to play as an ad hoc coalition partner in Air-Sea Battle, JOAC, and the strategic rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific.

First, Taiwan should be the central guiding focus of defense planning in the Asia-Pacific region. In assessing JOAC and Air-Sea Battle-related requirements, the greatest emphasis should be placed on contingency planning for a PLA amphibious invasion of Taiwan with minimal warning. Based on a premature and faulty assumption that cross-Strait trade and investment will inevitably lead toward Taiwan’s democratic submission to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authoritarian rule, prominent analysts have asserted that the focus of U.S. defense planning should shift toward the South China Sea and defense of the global commons.
Stokes and Hsiao call into question the inevitability thesis, that sooner or later China will absorb Taiwan as the inevitable result of increased links between the two. Like the way the US inevitably absorbed Canada... Consider also...
The fact is that no free and open society understands China as well as Taiwan. Unfortunately, few U.S. military officers conduct in-country training in Taiwan, and there are no known students attending Taiwan’s National Defense University (NDU) or other intermediate/senior service schools. More educational exchanges between the two defense establishments are warranted, particularly for junior and non-commissioned officers. Even as the Pentagon has actively pursued deeper and broader military-to-military relations with the PLA, the number of U.S.-Taiwanese conferences held on the PLA has dwindled.
Taiwan is a fabulously under-utilized platform. This piece would have been stronger if Hsiao and Stokes had explained how the US is going to get around the interpenetration of Taiwan's intelligence services by Beijing. Or how the US is going to work on deepening the alliance when a pro-China ideologue like Ma is in power. What S and H are really arguing is that the whole strategic thrust of US policy is headed down the wrong road. Those who envision standing up to Chinese expansion while handing over Taiwan to China are setting out to fight with one hand tied behind their back. This also means that the US is supporting the wrong party in Taiwan's politics; making the Chinese feel secure about Taiwan simply allows them to ramp up tensions elsewhere. But that goes without saying.

As if an ill omen of the coming hegemonic conflict in Asia, the standoff at Scarborough Shoal (the A on the map) is still ongoing as of yesterday....

Philippines has no real navy to speak of, China can simply brush it aside if it came to conflict. But the US has a security treaty with Philippines. I don't know how Washington interprets that treaty (would we go to war over some shoals in the South China Sea?). But I loved this report:
On Thursday, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and a third Chinese ship from the Ministry of Agriculture arrived. Shortly after, BRP Gregorio del Pilar and one of the Chinese maritime surveillance ships pulled out of the area.
Does the Ministry of Agriculture in the PRC operate armed fishing vessels? It would indeed seem that way.
Daily Links:
  • Haha. Last time this ad was forwarded to me, "Amy Livingston" was in Taipei. If you run some Google searches you'll soon find that Amy is one of the great world travelers of our time, having made thousands while living in Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa, and Goth Hashim Khan.
  • KMT wusses out, won't hold KMT-CCP forum in Taiwan. This means that the party forums are always held in China, where they can't be seen by pesky democratic eyes or protested by pesky democratic protesters. 
  • Satellite views of Taiwan
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Readin said...

"This piece would have been stronger if Hsiao and Stokes had explained how the US is going to get around the interpenetration of Taiwan's intelligence services by Beijing. Or how the US is going to work on deepening the alliance when a pro-China ideologue like Ma is in power."

It's not just Ma. The Taiwanese people elected Ma despite his clear signals that he wants to surrender the island. Even under the DPP the Taiwanese were unreliable allies with Chen promising as quickly as possible that no Taiwanese troops would be put in danger to support American allies in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Taiwanese are weak sisters and cannot be counted on as the center of the front-line of a defense against Chinese expansion. Rather than losing valuable American lives in a ultimately doomed attempt to defend a people unwilling to defend themselves, it makes more sense to work with more reliable allies like Korea and the Philippines.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't use Readin's vocabulary... but I guess it can't be denied that the US has enough and far better suited allies in the pacific (S. Korea, Japan, Philippines, Thailand) than Taiwan could ever be, considering the political situation.

Ben Goren said...

Readin has a point here. I wouldn't like to estimate what percentage of even a fully voluntary Taiwan military facing overwhelming PRC air / land/ sea attack would down tools and up sticks back home rather than stand their ground. Now if they saw that the US military was on their side and ready from the off maybe that would not be the case but even then the Taiwanese would be fighting with very old equipment.

As much as it pains me to say, at the end of the day I think many Taiwanese think it's just not really very CONVENIENT to have to do crazy stuff like put your life on the line to protect a crony democracy. History has scarred many psyches with the lesson that there is no nation or leader worth dying for.

Anonymous said...

Besides Taiwan, what other defense and security establishment in the region is specifically oriented toward China and willing to align itself closer to the United States? The problem is US hesitancy, not Taiwan. South Korea is focused on the North. Japan’s Self Defense Forces are also oriented toward North Korea, and they have strict prohibitions on long range precision strike. Japan also has strict limits on interoperability with the US. Both South Korea and Japan have significant relationships with the PLA, and are only willing to go so far. The Philippines barely has a military, and Thailand is quite friendly to China. Australia is fairly weak in committing to closer US ties. Even the Obama administration avoids any public assertion that Air Sea Battle is directed against China.

Taiwan is the only defense establishment in the world that is explicitly and openly focused on China, and more than willing to embrace the United States. Plus, a number of CSIST programs directed against China have been the cause of concern in the US, mostly related to Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) considerations. Programs initiated under the KMT in the late 1990s, and continued under the DPP, are now starting to come on line. They never stopped, and fortunately don't get much attention. In November 2010, Apple Daily reported that the US refused a visa for the CSIST director to protest programs believed to be provocative, such as the HF-2E land attack cruise missile.

And why is the Obama administration continuing to stiff arm the Ma administration’s request for F-16 C/Ds? One reason may be because they have the range to hit targets deep inside China (and it's worth noting that a selected number of pilots have "one way tickets," meaning they know they may not be coming back after hitting targets, at least with their fighters). In some ways, the Ma administration seems to be going back to the old Hau Po-tsun approach to defense investment – publicly highlight a pure defense strategy, but throttle up low key investments that can hit China where it hurts. These guys are velvet glove - soft exterior but hard at the core.

Keep up the fight, Michael!

hawk21 said...

As a veteran, I've been dealing with the Republic of China military for a long time. There's no other foreign group of military officers and men that deserves American respect and admiration as the ROC on Taiwan. Ask any former CIA guy, US Army helicopter pilot with service in Vietnam, or military advisor who has worked with the ROC military, and they'll tell you the same.

Despite treatment these days as pariahs, the ROC military is as loyal, committed, and true friends as they come. As Kissinger said in his memoirs, "No government less deserved what was about to happen to it than that of Taiwan."

How many ROCAF pilots lost their lives over China supporting CIA operations? What kind of balls did it take for treetop helicopter missions in Vietnam? Not true at all on Taiwan support for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Chen would have sent special forces into combat if given the chance. Instead, the ROCs dedicated well over $100 million in assistance in kind in support of US operations in Afghanistan. Engineers were on ground. Communist China promised support and failed to live up to it. And Bush never said thank you to Taiwan. Taiwan has also supported US ops in Iraq in their own way.

The ROCs can take a crap sandwich and make a gourmet hamburger. Shouldn't prejudge or underestimate one of America's oldest and most loyal friends until you've work with them.

Andrew Chen said...

While it is true that many people in Taiwan are feeling helpless by the eventual encroachment from China I couldn't disagree more with Readin assessment about the nature of Taiwanese people.

Consider this, that Taiwan has been singled out by just about every country in the world for any armaments purchase you might as well call it a treatment of arm embargo. They were forced to operate the ancient F-104 fleets and destroyers left over from WW2 until the mid-90s. As matter of fact even today they are still using submarines left from the last War with no hope of upgrade in sight. And the same limitation apply to technology transfer as well it is next to impossible to get anything done without China stepping on their toes every step of the way.

There is no international support on their sense of sovereignty, no media on both the conservative and the liberal leanings to speak on their behalf. Those of us who watched the US media that dabbled on Taiwan's last presidential election you'd notice that they reported the candidates mainly in the context of reaction from China, and eschewed for the most part their platforms or even who their constituency are. No recognition of sovereignty also means little leverage of signing equal trading agreement with other nations.

This long history of purposeful neglect in relation to the rest of the world has not only warped the locals sense of self-identity but it has also caused many top talents drain since many able-bodies simply picked up and left behind what must have felt like a God-forsaken place. I myself am one of the expatriates.

Now think about what Taiwan has attempted and achieved despite all the apparent roadblocks that keep it from becoming a thriving Chinese nation of liberal democracy. When we discuss this issue of US security interest in the Far East, or more specifically the strategic "islands of first defense" against a communist regime of China, it is utterly hypocritical to blame Taiwan for its lack of determination to play the part without looking at US and her western allies for their long history of neglect and ambivalent attitude toward the place.

Anonymous said...

As much as it pains me to say, at the end of the day I think many Taiwanese think it's just not really very CONVENIENT to have to do crazy stuff like put your life on the line to protect a crony democracy. History has scarred many psyches with the lesson that there is no nation or leader worth dying for.

If it gets to the point where war is the only solution (any war, not just Taiwan), then you've already lost anyway. Downing sticks and going home at that point is the only sensible decision - anything else is simply cowardice.