Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review: Bernard D. Cole's Taiwan's Security

Soon after coming to power in 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) launched a massive reorganization of its defense system, starting with the civilianization of the services, a reorientation of its defense posture and attempts, so far largely unsuccessful, to move from compulsory service toward an entirely volunteer army. Democratization, meanwhile, has imposed restrictions on the military — on budgets, for example — that hitherto had not existed. While in the long run these efforts will likely lead to a more professional and accountable military, the road there can be a difficult one for service members who see their budgets get cut, the number of troops dwindle and their equipment become older.

In isolation, these problems and challenges would not pause an existential threat to the nation. But in Taiwan's situation, with China accelerating the modernization of its military without the barriers set by the checks and balances of a democratic system, this period of reorganization leaves it comparatively weakened and therefore more vulnerable to an attack by China. Furthermore, Taiwan's long guarantor of security, the US, is locked in the Middle East and shows no signs of soon extricating itself from the mess it has created there. This means, among other things, that a US intervention on Taiwan's behalf cannot — and should not — be taken from granted.

All of these, and more, are explored in Bernard D. Cole's Taiwan's Security, which I reviewed in the Taipei Times today. Readers can access the full review by clicking here.

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