Monday, November 13, 2006

How US Internal Politics Helps Drive the Arms Purchase Fiasco

The following was posted to TaiwanFocus. The writer is an expert in US-Taiwan military relations.


At risk of beating a dead horse, and just to support your argument, I found moderate Republicans in the Bush Adminstration, just as Colin Powell and Ambassador Armitage, to be ardent supporters of Taiwan.

On the other hand, it is not necessary true that people like Rumsfeld and some on his staff really care much about Taiwan. I know Rumsfeld, before he stepped down, didn't care much for China, that's for certain. But because, based on my understanding, he viewed Taiwan as a lost cause, then the island isn't worth much.

Then, there is nothing that made me angrier than the stunt they pulled on the submarine issue. In this case, while castigating the KMT, DPP, or whoever for not taking defense seriously and not passing the special budget, the Pentagon, especially the dominant factions of the US Navy, with at least the implicit consent of Rumsfeld, was working to undermine the deal by making it such a bitter pill to swallow. I have heard some ex-State and White House people they couldn't believe that Rumsfeld was allowed to get away with undermining a Presidential-level assurance to assist Taiwan in its acquisition of diesel electric submarines.

There was, and continues to be, a lot more to this defense budget issue than meets the eye. For example, 130 out 225 LY [Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's Congress - MT] members, in a petition to CSB, said in clear terms that if there is no local role in the program, then they wouldn't pass the budget. This was 2002. Then, in 2004, Rumsfeld's office, in a move approved at the Deputy Secretary level, sends a letter to the Minister of Defense saying there will be no role for Taiwan industry in the program. Plus, forcing the LY to appropriate the full US $11.7 billion budget, before even knowing what design would be involved, runs counter to US defense acquisition regulations (Congress only appropriates funds for construction after certain
milestones have been met, such as a critical design review).

The submarine program, which to me is the #1 priority for deterring PRC military action, is continuing to be choked until today. After a great campaign by Rob Simmons (R-CT), Pat Kennedy (D-RI), and a few others, it forced the Pentagon to play fair by adhering to US Federal acquisition regulations and breaking it into phases. However, the Pentagon, supposedly Taiwan's best friends, denied Taiwan any intellectual property rights to the design, despite Taiwan taxpayers paying at least US $360 million for it. And continuing to insist that Taiwan industry would have no role. When people in the KMT/PFP opposed the submarines, calling the program "kaizhe jungou," they have a point -- many I know are aware they were getting screwed.

IMHO, Taiwan should screw the Pentagon, and work directly with US industrial partners to do local manufacturing, based on US industry being able to obtain export licenses. If anyone in the Pentagon opposes it, one should remind them that President Bush did make a commitment to assist Taiwan in its acquisition of diesel electric submarines. And I am willing to bet that if a program is domestic, then the chances of KMT/PFP blocking it would be pretty slim -- who could vote against creation of jobs and income in Taiwan, as well as technology spin-offs to support economic development, such as fuel cell technology and hybrid electric engines (both good sources of clean energy).

Then there's the issue of the 384 PAC-3 missiles, which the US Army and the Pentagon desperately want to sell to Taiwan -- at US $4 million apiece. I wouldn't assume that this push would be out of the kindness of the Pentagon's hearts or genuine concern for Taiwan's defense. While not the only driving factor, the Taiwan buy was needed to drive down unit costs in the US Army's initial production run of the missile in 2002/2003. When it didn't get the buy, it really pissed senior officials in the Pentagon off, so many have said screw Taiwan. Plus, since the Bush Administration, at least in the first few years, was in a bitter struggle over getting adequate funding for its own missile defense program in the 10s of billions of US$, Taiwan's moving forward on missile defense was critical -- as a symbol in an internal US debate. If the country -- Taiwan -- that faced perhaps the greatest ballistic missile challenge in the world didn't move forward on missile defenses, such as PAC-3, then it strengthens the arguments of opponents of US missile defense, such as the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Rambling again....enough for now. At least the Democrats didn't tease Taiwan by approving submarines, then quietly undermine the whole program by what I call "death by bureaucracy."


Clearly the local and international media both have been massively guilty of underreporting the foundational problem of US intransigence in the deal. I think at this point the KMT would continue blocking the deal no matter what, since if they wait less than two years, they are likely to own both the Presidency and the Legislature, and thus collect all those nice kickbacks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this guy actually knows Rumsfeld?

Is there some way that the casual internet surfers can read more of this expert's views on the arms sale issue? I am very curious of his opinions....

By the way, I thought the deal was passed in part?