Friday, September 16, 2005

Only Greens Need Arms?

There seems to be a new argument making the rounds about the arms purchase proposed by the Ministry of National Defense and supported by the Pan-Greens. The general thesis is that Taiwan only needs a potent military force if it is planning on declaring independence. Were it true, this would go a long way toward explaining why the Pan-Blues have been blocking the arms purchase.

Sun Bin's post on "Taiwan's Defense Options" offers two alternatives:
Taiwan has 2 defense options:
  1. Plan on declaring independence, and prepare for a war. In this case perhaps $15bn of weapon will not be enough, not even $150bn

  2. Quietly maintain the status quo, do whatever it like of self rule, even preach democracy to the mainland, just don't declare independence. There will not be a war, and hence no need to get into an arms race. From CCP's perspective, their focus is on economic development. The last thing they want to see is a war, or even an arms race.
Sun Bin offered similar comments to a previous MeiZhongTai blogpost.

The underlying assumption seems to be that Taiwan doesn't need a strong military unless it is planning to declare independence. While James Soong would seem to agree, I'm not as trusting. First of all, independence is only one of many tripwires that China has laid. China has also promised to 'intervene' if:
Taiwan makes a military alliance with a foreign power, there is internal turmoil in Taiwan, Taiwan gains weapons of mass destruction, or Taiwan refuses to negotiate on the basis of "one China". (Recently, the PRC warned that if the situation in Taiwan becomes worse and spirals out of control, they will not look on "indifferently.") [source]

While a few of those reasons are entirely within Taiwan's control, Beijing is reserving the right to attack the island if it doesn't like what happens on the island (internal turmoil) or it gets bored (no movement on 'one China'). So it seems that even if one could trust a prospective enemy saying there won't be a war (you can't), it still isn't time to scream "Peace in our Time" from the rooftops.

Even if the PRC and ROC were at peace and could be assured that the peace would continue for the foreseeable future, Taiwan would still want a formidable military force to allow diplomatic negotiations with foreign powers from a position of strength. Taiwan has recently used its navy in a show of support for Taiwanese fishermen in disputed waters--something that did not involve China in any way. If Taiwan and China were to negotiate on any issue, be it independence or fruit exports, the relative hard and soft power of the two nations would come into play.

It is only natural that a state keep as potent a military force as it can reasonably afford. Taiwan needs these weapons. The Greens don't need them. The Blues don't need them. Taiwan needs them. To deny the country the weapons it needs to defend itself and bargain, in order to further your party's political bickering is petty and dangerous.