After World War II and the Cold War, many countries decided to transform their compulsory military systems into all-volunteer forces. Once a national emergency has passed, it makes perfect sense to professionalize the military and avoid relocating manpower from other sectors.
Despite President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) insistence that it has always been his goal to have a professional military, the move toward an all-volunteer army began during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration. The DPP soon realized, however, that if it were to achieve this objective, it would have to make the military as attractive and competitive an employer as the private sector. Without substantially higher salaries, opportunities for advancement and a defense university network, the dream of having a professional military of the size the government wants — up to 200,000 — will be hard to achieve.
The implication is that the military could find itself with the worst of both worlds — manpower and budget cutbacks without the dividends of a professional force. Acknowledging this, the DPP revised its plans for a purely professional military and settled instead for the more modest goal of a semi-volunteer force. In the process, it kept the necessary balance and force level to ensure that defenses did not suffer in the face of the Chinese military’s doctrine of taking Taiwan by force if necessary.
Drunk with illusions of peace or naive in its assessment of Beijing’s intentions, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government does not seem to understand the implications of military cutbacks. While Ma has said he wants a professional military within four to six years, we have yet to see what his government intends to do to attract young Taiwanese who stand to make much more money with far less risk in the private sector. A sense of national duty and pride can serve as an alternative to a high salary, but with the series of cutbacks the KMT government has announced in recent months, it is difficult to imagine how morale within the ranks cannot have been undermined, which will have an impact on the military’s ability to recruit. No one will seek a career in a sector that seems headed for the dustbin.
Estimates show that it would cost billions of NT dollars to professionalize the Taiwanese military. The defense cuts announced by the government make it difficult to imagine that it fully understands the challenges of creating an all-volunteer force.
Another worrying development is the KMT’s announcement over the weekend that it wants to dispose of the Combined Logistics Command, whose role, among other things, is to increase the use of automated information systems, improve the management and production of inventory throughout the military and conduct armament appraisal and testing. It also has a long history of cooperation with the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology in developing various weapons systems, including artillery, small arms and night-vision monitoring systems.
Ditching the command would send yet another message that Taiwan is unwilling to do what it needs to ensure its defense, or that it is on its way to capitulation. Without the proper domestic institutions to develop military equipment, Taiwan’s military would become even more dependent on other countries, but would have less money to acquire those systems.
With every day that passes, our military grows less capable of defending the nation against an opponent that is gaining in strength.
An old Latin adage reads: Si vis pacem, para bellum. Translated it means: “If you wish peace, then prepare for war.” This adage has many variants and claims to authorship, but what is most important is its message for a peaceful Taiwan. Why should Taiwan prepare for war? The reasons are many and obvious. Certainly, such preparation is not because Taiwan wants war or is a warlike nation. Instead, the answer is found in its neighbor, China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a one-party state, is ambitious and troubled — and that combination makes war a viable option,
Unless Hollywood movies like Greenland, Deep Impact, and Armageddon have predictive powers and a rogue space rock is heading our way, stopping Chinese Communist Party expansionism is likely to prove the single most challenging and dangerous problem of our lifetimes. How can the United States, Taiwan, and other liberal democracies prepare for and prevent attacks from China? How can Washington bolster Taipei’s confidence when it doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a real country and, so far, lacks the political will to make major adjustments to its ossified China policy and Taiwan policy? How can Taiwan make itself heard on the world stage when
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As a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, I frequently get asked how quickly the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might overrun Taiwan if it invaded before 2040. My answer is that the PLA will not be able to take over Taiwan within that time frame, because the more eager the PLA is to complete the task in a short period, the more likely it would fail — and fail big. Having a slim chance of winning is what keeps the PLA from taking action. From time to time, some PLA leaders or keyboard fighters make threats — one of the