Respect the ROC
Time and again, in meeting after meeting, one hears the following refrain from American policy experts when talking about Taiwan: "If they aren't serious about defending themselves, why should we risk our blood and treasure to help them fend off a Chinese attack?" The proximate cause for this and similar remarks is that Taiwan has not yet purchased a major package of military systems offered in 2001 by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. That package includes eight diesel submarines, 12 P-3 submarine-hunting planes, and several batteries of PAC-3 anti-missile missiles. The delay is all too often used to convey the impression that Taiwan is free riding, counting on U.S. carriers and jets (and of course American sailors and airmen) to deter China rather than relying on its own efforts.
There has been so much attention paid to this one weapons package, at this blog and elsewhere, that many sinologists are accusing the ROC of free-riding--a charge which is clearly not the case. The ROC military is a potent fighting force that the people of Taiwan can be proud of.
While there is plenty of blame to go around, the least guilty party in finalizing the purchase has been the Chen administration. Although the Bush team should be lauded for approving the sale of systems that had been denied by the Clinton administration, it was always unrealistic to think Taiwan could absorb $30 billion worth of new weapon systems in a short period when its procurement and acquisition budget has historically averaged $400-500 million a year.
I don't know that the cost is the problem. While the weapons are certainly expensive, recent KMT hijinks leads me to believe the KMT takes their opposition role more seriously than their legislating one.
[T]he idea that the Chen administration is not serious about defending Taiwan is largely a tale told by sinologists and American government officials who would like an excuse for the problem of Taiwan to just go away.
Don't get caught in this delusion. Recognize the commitment of the government and the military to defense of the island (and the KMT determination to ensure that doesn't happen).