Friday, February 22, 2013

A new definition of military success

A Ching Kuo IDF in flight
Once we reassess what Taiwan can accomplish militarily and combine this with domestic factors in China that mitigate against massive military campaigns, Taiwan’s defense prospects no longer seem so bleak 

 Nobody’s sure exactly when the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait shifted in China’s favor, but in recent years it has become increasingly clear that in the unlikely event that the two countries decided to slug it out, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would have a definite, if not overwhelming, advantage.

That reality — China spends at least 10 times more on defense than Taiwan — has had a tangible impact on troop morale in Taiwan, leading many to conclude that the nation would surrender the moment the first Chinese combat aircraft screamed above their heads. This, in turn, has encouraged a small number of academics and government officials abroad to conclude that since it has already “lost,” Taipei ought to strike the best deal it can before Beijing loses patience on “reunification” and decides to use force to settle the matter once and for all.

Related to such perceptions is the argument, again made by some experts, that the US, Taiwan’s principal guarantor of security and the source of its modern weapons, should cease arms sales to Taipei, as their impact on Taiwan’s ability to change the outcome of a war would likely be marginal at best, while causing damage to relations between Washington and Beijing (some of the major forces behind efforts to end US arms sales to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act are members of the so-called “Sanya Initiative,” which serves as a platform for exchanges between retired US and Chinese military officers).

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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