Friday, February 16, 2007

John Tkacik: Defense = Offense

John Tkacik, a Heritage scholar and longtime supporter of the Beautiful Isle, had a Valentine's Day commentary in the Taipei Times that argued for provision of more "offensive" weapons to Taiwan:

The State Department fought hard against selling Taiwan the production technology for the IDF fighters in the mid-1980s, and battled against the Pentagon's push to sell F-16s in 1992.

In 1992, France sold Taiwan 60 Mirage 2000-5 jets, long-range fighters with a heavy bomb load -- clearly an "offensive weapon."

But as a French official told me in 1992, "the government of France believes that any weapon system sold to a country of 17 million to confront a country of 1.2 billion is a `defensive' system."

Although US President George W. Bush made an exception to this policy in 2001 by approving the sale of conventional submarines to Taiwan, a defensive-arms-only mindset still seizes US and Taiwanese policy-makers.

At the moment US State Department policy is to serve China's demands rather than US and Taiwan interests on the Taiwan issue. In fact, the Taiwan office in the State Department is under the China Desk, a clear indication of State's misguided priorities. Sad.

Meanwhile, Tkacik notes:

China's civilian and military chiefs need not fear that Taiwan will be able to inflict similar damage on China because Taiwan does not have offensive weapons.

Even now, China's leaders can launch offensive missiles at Taiwan for intimidation purposes and the only cost to Beijing is the cost of the missile.


This is all to say that Taiwan has no deterrence against China. As things now stand, China can attack Taiwan without having to calculate possible losses to a Taiwan counterstrike.

Hence China's military calculus of attack is based solely on the cost of the equipment.

The diplomatic cost-benefit is also minimal as more and more countries accept that China has a right under international law to use military force in its own sovereign territory.

Obviously Taiwan needs a capability to strike back at China. In strategic parlance in both business and the military, if I can strike at your homeland and you can't strike at mine, then in the long run I will always win, since each of your losses occurs in a core area whereas mine are merely peripheral losses of systems that I can always purchase more of.

Note this tidbit:

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) made exactly this point in 1999.

Lien said that Taiwan must establish a credible deterrent by developing a long-range ballistic missile force to convince China "that it should not dare to attack Taiwan."

At the time, Lien said China's missile threat made it imperative that Taiwan strengthen its anti-missile early warning, target acquisition and interception capabilities.

Lien said a Taiwan "second strike" capability was the only way to guarantee security.

Seven years later, Lien's words have proven prescient.

But now, Taiwan's legislature -- particularly the pan-blue camp -- cannot even pass a defense budget, much less agree on what weaponry to include in it.

I've long argued that Taiwan should bristle with missiles, especially cruise missiles. Although I admit to being disconcerted at finding myself in agreement with Lien Chan.....

Regrettably Tkacik, like all US public commentators on the weapons purchase, fails to forthrightly confront the key role of the US in prolonging the agony. Until the cost of the submarines falls to world price levels, instead of its current level of three times world prices, the legislature will have a strong point in its favor. Too, the US has refused to permit Taiwan to co-manufacture, and refused to give Taiwan the license for the designs of the submarines it is paying for. Politicians from both sides in Taiwan have been angered by the unreasonable and irrational US stance on the issue. Further, US officials in Taiwan have done a poor job of communicating the need for the weapons to the public (I hope somebody translates Tkacik and publishes it in the Liberty Times and China Times). Consequently, one hears all the time about the overpriced, outdated weapons we want to sell Taiwan, an erroneous position I have even run into in foreigners who should know better.

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