Mon, Aug 15, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Let's hope China evolves

By Dan Bloom

The house where I live in Chiayi is just a few kilometers away from one of the country's major air force bases, with F-16s practicing take-offs and landings almost seven days a week, and flying high above the southwestern plains here with ear-piercing roars.

I don't mind the sound of the military jets taking off early in the morning or even at night, Saturday and Sunday mornings, too, because I know that Taiwan's air force is playing a vital role in the nation's defense.

But the daily sounds of the F-16s from the nearby air force base remind me of my younger days in my native Massachusetts, during the old days of the Cold War between the US and the USSR. My home there was close to an important US military base for massive B-52 bombers and other kinds of military jets.

As a teenager, I knew that if Russia attacked the US mainland, this local air force base -- Westover Air Force Base, it was called -- would be one of the main targets for Moscow's missiles and bombs, and I sometimes had nightmares, like many people in those days did, about an imagined USSR attack.

My father used to do some part-time work at Westover Air Force Base, and occasionally he asked me to accompany him in the car during the drive to the base. When he would go inside the base. I would stay in the car, reading a book or doing my homework, and gaze out at the huge military aircraft on the runways.

When I hear the F-16s in Chiayi whizzing by, sometimes a single plane against the blue sky, and sometimes two, three or four planes flying together, I remember those old days during the Cold War in my hometown in Massachusetts, and I think to myself: "Let's hope that a war would never break out between Taiwan and China! Chiayi would be one of the main targets, of course!"

Personally, I don't think there will be a war between China and Taiwan, but I am no a military expert or analyst for Jane's Defence Weekly. I just live here, work here, mind my own business, hope for the best and cheer on Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

But some people think there could be a war someday and that Taiwan is immensely unprepared and ill-equipped. Wendell Minnick, the correspondent for Jane's Defence Weekly, recently wrote in the Taipei Times that, in his opinion, "Taiwan's air force has enough munitions to last only for two days in a war with China."

Two days is not a very long time to try to win a war, if it ever comes to that.

Minnick went even further in his observations, writing that if Taiwan remains unprepared and under-equipped for a future war with communist China, Taiwan will be "raped" by Beijing if war does break out. He actually used that word -- "rape" -- writing that as things stand now, in terms of this nation's military preparedness, munitions and equipment, "in a war with China, China will rape Taiwan."

I hope that the air force base in Chiayi County will not become the Westover Air Force Base of my youth. I have faith that the governments of Taiwan and China will make peace someday, rather than war, although one must await the democratization of the People's Republic of China and the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party before that ever happens.

In the meantime, on any given day in quiet, rice-paddied Chiayi, where large farms predominate along with rural temples and roadside betel-nut huts, one can hear the roar of the F-16s taking off and flying overhead on regular practice runs.

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