Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Marquand on Arms

Robert Marquand of the Christian Science Monitor has a piece in today's paper on Taiwan's proposed arms purchase.
In a bid to rally Taiwan's flagging independence forces, President Chen Shui-bian's New Year's resolution seems to be provoking mainland China with a push announced this week to buy US arms, including eight submarines and a dozen sub-hunting aircraft.

A couple of questions come to mind:
  • Are "indepence forces" really flagging?
  • If it is a New Year's resolution, shouldn't it be somehow different from what he did last year?

While I liked some of his previous work, Marquand really starts off this article on the wrong foot. He then continues by discussing China's arms build-up (obviously aimed at Taiwan). Since when is defending one's country against a growing threat a provocation? I understand the idea of the security dilemma as well as the next guy, but this is ridiculous. Having a 55 submarine force (China) is okay, but trying to acquire eight submarines is a provocation? Can someone explain this to me?

He spends the rest of the article offering alternatives to the current arms deal of submarines, sub-hunting aircraft, and missile defense batteries.
Instead of spending huge sums on a diesel-electric sub that would take at least a decade to deploy, for example, they point to other measures that could be taken, including hardening airfields, buying antiaircraft missiles, and protecting electronic systems needed in a fight. Instead of procuring expensive and vulnerable warships, Taiwan could buy mines that would deny the Chinese Army an easy landing on island beaches.

While he makes some good recommendations (many of which have been made here before by commenters) I guess my concern is that after his opening, I'm not convinced he has Taiwan's best interests at heart.
His finale:
Another reason the Pentagon now balks at advanced weapons to Taiwan: Worry that they would slip into the hands of China's Army.

I notice Marquand has no attribution attached to that sentence. I'd be curious as to the origin of that sentence. Is it Marquand's own editorializing?