Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Forward Progress on the Arms Purchase?

MeiZhongTai posts on the recent announcement by the President that he wanted to see defense spending increased to three percent:

Saturday, President Chen Shui-bian announced that he intended to see defense spending increased to three percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by the time he leaves office in 2008.* That same day, Tseng Yung-chuan, the KMT's Party Whip, indicated the KMT may allow debate of the arms purchases requested by the Ministry of Defense if the administration increases defense spending to three percent of GDP. It is unclear which of these statements was made first.

Taiwan-watchers may recall that that former AIT head and longtime Taiwan expert Richard Bush met recently with KMT leaders to discuss their intransigence on the arms purchase. US decision-makers have also been calling for Taiwan to boost military spending to 3% of GDP. With both the KMT and the DPP suddenly making concessions on the arms purchase, it's pretty clear that this announcement is related to that recent visit by Bush. I'm gratified that Beltway officialdom took my advice to send someone with clout over here to break KMT heads (gratitude for my good advice may be shown by a large deposit in a Swiss bank account with my name on it). MZT adds:

If one thought the move to three percent might still hold the key to cooperation, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou offered a new spin on why the Blues have been obstructing the arms procurement (one really starts to wonder if they have a reason after the numerous changing explanations). The arms must be shown to be appropriate for Taiwan's defense needs and not simply a "cash-for-friendship" purchase. Ma claims this has been the Blue's reason for obstruction all along. I have long worried that the rationale for the purchase offered by Lee Teng-hui and others would come back to bite them and it appears to have done so.

MeiZhongTai is wrong here, I think. The "protection money" argument has not come back to bite its supporters (like this writer). The fact is that it is difficult to respond to the critique that the arms purchase is "protection money" because the remaining weapons in the weapons package are so useless, especially the most expensive ones, the submarines. The Blues, for all that their rationale remains a moving target, are essentially right: the arms package at least strongly appears to be protection money. The US could make that argument disappear overnight simply by offering the island another 300 modern fighters, increased training and cooperation, and copious quantities of ammunition and spare parts, or perhaps other clearly useful weapons -- attack helicopters, anti-ship missiles, and so on -- and deleting the submarines. At the moment, the Blues appear correct and there is no getting around that. In reality, both Blues and Greens agree that the arms purchase is protection money, but they disagree on whether that is a good thing or not. And when both Blues and Greens agree on the nature of reality.....

MZT also points out the KMT spin on the referendum:

Lest one become optimistic and think the impasse is history, Mr. Tseng elaborated on the offer, saying that the Patriot missiles were off the table because in his view, they had been voted down in the 2004 referendum. The Pan Greens will surely disagree with that interpretation of the referendum.

MZT is too kind. My more pompous polemical self can't help but point out that the KMT is lying through its teeth. The referendum was overwhelmingly supported, but failed to get enough votes to make it valid, an entirely different set of affairs than them being "voted down." But then it is redundant to refer to "KMT lies."

Once again, it behooves me to point out that the Blue's real objections are to the Patriot missiles, which are likely to be very useful even though there are not enough of them. The Blues fear them so much that they will not even discuss them. That, more than anything else, reveals who is holding Vader's leash here.


Anonymous said...

The whole "we can't buy missiles because of the referendum" thing pisses me off too ... I would like to point out to any supporter of this reasoning that the other referendum issue that failed was about whether Taiwan should try to talk to China.

Under this logic, the referendum result clearly bans the government from negotiating with China. Oops.

Michael Turton said...

Great point! I'll have to mention that again and again and again!