Saturday, April 25, 2015

Taiwan’s All-Volunteer Force Pains: There’s a Way Out

Taiwan’s politics are proving ruinous for the country’s national defense. Here’s what needs to be done 

If there is one subject that should never get sucked into the morass of Taiwan’s electoral campaigns, it is national defense. Irrespective of ideology or political preferences, politicians should always seek to transcend party politics and work together to ensure that the island-nation’s armed forces are fully prepared to meet the security challenges that confront Taiwan. However, Taiwan being Taiwan, even national security is politicized, and now a row has emerged over the nation’s shift to an all-volunteer force (AVF), with one side accusing the other of trying to reinstate conscription. 

The sad thing is that as politicians try to score political points ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Taiwan’s AVF program continues to face many challenges. Despite improvements in salaries, service-extension stipends, and slick publicity drives, lower-than-expected enlistment has forced the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to proceeded with a streamlining of the basic force that some critics say may have gone too far. Facing sluggish recruitment in the initial phase of the AVF program, the military was forced to postpone the shift to AVF, first planned for 2015, to 2017, and to reduce the expected active force from the planned 215,000 soldiers to between 170,000 and 180,000, or about 0.8 percent of the population. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here (photo by the author).

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