Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Washington Times: Taiwan Must Defend Itself

The Washington Times published a Commentary by Justin Logan today on Taiwan's need to defend itself:
The reason it has the luxury to do so, according to Taiwan expert James Mulvenon, is Taiwan's belief in a "blank check of military support from the United States."

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has not convinced Taiwan it does not have a blank check from the United States. By refusing to put adequate force behind the negotiations over the special budget, the administration has conveyed it is prepared to endure indefinite Taiwanese procrastination. Without more serious U.S. pressure, Taiwan's government may continue to de-emphasizing defense spending, even as it greatly increases its social spending.

Unfortunately Logan's expert fundamentally misreads the situation. The Pan-Blues oppose the weapons purchase not because they have faith in the US to defend Taiwan, but because they support Beijing and not Taiwan -- they oppose it because because it helps Taiwan defend itself. If Washington implies that it won't defend Taiwan, then the KMT will be delighted. More pressure on Taiwan will only backfire -- after all, Washington will be pressuring the government to pass a weapons budget, which it would love to do but can't because it doesn't control the legislature (does Washington ever notice basic facts of this nature?). If Washington really believes that the problem is a communication problem, then "communicating" with "Taiwan" won't solve the problem. Washington needs to focus on the cause of the problem: the intrasigence of the Blues, and the fact that the weapons packaged does not contain weapons that are an easy sell.

Realistically the subs are useless to Taiwan; what we need here are at least another 400 high powered fighters plus copious quantities of spare parts and ammunition. It is difficult for even supporters of the weapons purchase to make a reasonable case for the purpose of the subs when they are three times more expensive than the usual world price, and will arrive spread out over many years, rendering their deterrent impact impotent. If the US was really serious to the defense of Taiwan (as opposed to envisioning Taiwan as an allied corps under US command with responsibilities in an overall strategic situation determined by US, not Taiwanese, needs) it would sell us weapons we could use now. Like fighter-bombers.

The second problem Washington must face is that the problem is not President Chen and the pro-democracy cohorts. Washington is so used to thinking of Taiwan's independence movement as problem to be solved that it cannot actually perceive it as an opportunity to be grasped. This is not entirely Washington's fault; as its information sources are colored by Blues, and it perceives Taiwan through Blue lenses. Many analysts now in the mid and upper echelons were trained on texts written by pro-KMT writers during the 1970s and 1980s. For many years the KMT's grip on Washington was as good as anybody's. Hence one of the most frustrating aspects of this situation for those of us in Taiwan and watching it outside, who are free from this instituational bias, is getting the US to see what is right in front of its eyes: namely, that the DPP is eager for cooperation with it and opposed to China. Whereas the KMT supports China and has already attempted to call down Chinese intervention once, in the staged demonstrations last year after the KMT suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Presidential elections. Which of the two parties is more likely to provoke a war?

What Washington needs to do is not "communicate" with "Taiwan," but send a credible emissary to the KMT and the PFP, the two pro-China parties, that they need to mend their ways. They need to be sat on, hard, or they are going to provoke a war with China, a war that the DPP has studiously avoided, and that the US can ill afford now, with its broken army, broken budget, and divided population.

Further, the pan-Blue obstructionism is not simply a fact of weapons procurement. It is taking place up and down the government -- one of the pan-Blue's goals is to prevent the DPP from governing Taiwan to the extent it possibly can. The weapons purchase is hardly the only legislation desperately needed and ruthlessly held up -- one thinks also of the Control Yuan and water policy, to name only two. The Blues are out to destroy a free and independent Taiwan. Washington needs to understand that the weapons deadlock cannot be broken until the Blues make a general decision to terminate other legislative blockades. Washington needs a functional and growing Taiwan, if its containment strategy against China is going to be pursued. For the sake of that alone, the Bush Administration needs to get someone over here with the credibility and clout to convince the KMT (not "Taiwan") that they are going down the wrong path.

Hence, Logan's statement....

The administration seems to be turning up the heat. Edward Ross, a senior Pentagon official, gave Taiwan a stern warning last week. Mr. Ross told Taiwanese defense officials at a meeting in San Diego that, "We cannot help defend you if you cannot defend yourself." While that was a helpful measure, there are a number of additional tactics the administration could use if Taiwan continues to refuse the special budget.

...focuses on the wrong target. It is not "Taiwan" that is refusing the special budget. It is the pro-China parties. Warnings like this one cited by Logan...

But if Taiwan cannot reach a consensus on the nature of the Chinese threat, the Bush administration may want to point out -- as Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican, did recently -- that blocking the special budget "tells the United States... that Taiwan's leadership is not serious about the security of its people or its freedom."

....simply show that the speaker has no understanding of the situation. If Rep. Simmons wants to pass along the warning, he needs to show up here and break some KMT heads.

Please.

UPDATE: Logan's blog; scroll down for the article.

UPDATE: Richard Halloran has a Commentary in the Japan Times today that profiles the US Pacific Command's view.

After studying Taiwan's defenses, the U.S. officers said, the admiral has urged Taiwanese forces to acquire more strictly defensive weapons. Those include missiles for aerial interceptors, ground-based antiaircraft missiles, attack helicopters and mines to defend the beaches against amphibious invaders, and transport helicopters to move troops against invading paratroopers.

Officers in the Pacific Command headquarters have suggested that the arms package featuring offensive weapons, including the diesel-electric submarines and destroyers that Bush officials offered to sell Taiwan in 2001, be allowed to fade away. It has languished in Taipei's legislature due to opposition by the majority Nationalist Party.


Maybe US officials ought to get on the same page, eh? Quit lecturing Taiwan when they themselves have no idea what they want....and re the discussion that MeiZhongTai and I had a while back on Taiwan's less-than-competent military:

The U.S. officers said Fallon would like to see better coordination among ground, sea and air forces in Taiwan, long a source of criticism by American military offices. Similarly, he has instructed his staff to find ways to coordinate U.S. and Taiwanese operational planning. Several uniformed U.S. officers have been assigned to the quasi-official embassy in Taipei to work on that project.

8 comments:

Red A said...

I'm happy to see them mention mines, since I posted about those only a few days ago at MeiZhongTai. Mines are cheap and effective and could easily be made in Taiwan with no need for import.

I'd also be building shaped charged IED's and advertising for local militias to form in the event of a war. If only to get international media attention. "Taiwanese volunteers in IED wargames" would have to be a headline somewhere.

and while I know fighters seem like a great idea, does Taiwan have enough pilots and training to use hundreds more? I'll be honest and say I don't know.

Red A said...

Oh, and yes, I agree the Pan-Blues are not interested in defending Taiwan at this point.

Suggested reasons:

1. If we can't have Taiwan, then the DPP can't either.

2. Corruption opportunities better now from China than USA.

3. Actual belief in unification. It's just plausible.

rmdazwdv said...

I never heard of this Washington Times until I moved to Taiwan. Is it not true that they have a very small circulation, and are owned and subsidized by Rev. Sun Myung Moon? Their articles seem to consist of twisted lies and spin. Granted, I'm not that excited about the NYT either, but still...

Anonymous said...

U.S. View of Taiwan's Future.

FYI

http://www.ncafp.org/projects/NEasia/2001clough_usview.pdf

Michael Turton said...

Yes, WashTimes is a moonie paper. It's fairly propagandistic, but not as bad as Fox.

Sun Bin said...

"The Pan-Blues oppose the weapons purchase not because they have faith in the US to defend Taiwan, but because they support Beijing and not Taiwan "

only partially true. there are good and legitimate reasons to oppose this particular arms deal (i think you also agreed that there are more effective ways to spend this amount of money), although that might not be PFP's real agenda.

I think pan-blue just wanted to show the US that only they can coop with the US (not DPP), and they might support it (in some other disguise) when they are in power. i.e. after losing 2 elections, pan-Blue is now afraid of being marginalized in the eyes of US. in this sense "Other sides" argument for 'true independence' does have a point.

If there were no DPP, CCP would become pan-blue's biggest enemy (such hypothetical scenario will never happen as DPP will continue to be the most influential force in TW)

Jing said...

"namely, that the DPP is eager for cooperation with it and opposed to China. Whereas the KMT supports China and has already attempted to call down Chinese intervention once, in the staged demonstrations last year after the KMT suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Presidential elections. Which of the two parties is more likely to provoke a war?"

I'm confused as to what type of logic you used to come to this conclusion. The KMT/PFP are concilliatory towards China and may possibly support unification. The DPP are antagonistic towards China and advocates independence. Thus the KMT is somehow more likely to provoke the war because China has explicitly said it will take military action if Taiwan declares independence.

Does the world run backwords in your neck of the woods in Taiwan? Cause in my eyes, with the KMT in power the political situation across the straights becomes much more stable and conciliatory. I think your fear is not so much of actual conflict across the Taiwan straits, but rather that Taiwan will be annexed by the PRC.

Michael Turton said...

I'm confused as to what type of logic you used to come to this conclusion. The KMT/PFP are concilliatory towards China and may possibly support unification. The DPP are antagonistic towards China and advocates independence. Thus the KMT is somehow more likely to provoke the war because China has explicitly said it will take military action if Taiwan declares independence.

In a situation like this it is probably a good idea to look at actual behavior rather than words.

Does the world run backwords in your neck of the woods in Taiwan?

Since the DPP has been in power, it has carefully avoided doing anything that might cause a war. Since the KMT has been out of power, it has at least once staged demonstrations in the hope of provoking Chinese intervention. It has also opposed the arms deal in an attempt to weaken Taiwan. A weak Taiwan makes war more likely.

I have this strange habit of looking at the actual behavior of people, rather than at their words. Which of the two sides is the only one that has taken positive action to bring about a Chinese invasion? The Blues. Until the Blues renounce their policy of China-at-any-cost, I will continue to argue that they are the real problem.

Life gets real easy if you live in the reality-based world. That's the world where the KMT is busy cooperating with Chinese authorities to destroy democracy and independence in Taiwan.

Cause in my eyes, with the KMT in power the political situation across the straights becomes much more stable and conciliatory. I think your fear is not so much of actual conflict across the Taiwan straits, but rather that Taiwan will be annexed by the PRC.

Why yes, that's right. That is my fear, and the fear of everyone else I know. I'm confused as to why you think that is some great conspiratorial secret that you've exposed.

Michael