Thu, Aug 13, 2009 - Page 8 News List

How can Ma appease the military?

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

When it comes to Washington, Ma has been forced to hedge against the possibility of abandonment while uncertainty remains in the Taiwan Strait.

Over the years, proof of political commitment and good relations with the US has largely come in the form of permission to purchase arms.

If Ma were to suddenly cut off the arms procurement spigot with the US, Washington could react either by increasing pressure on Taipei — especially through US constituents who fear a scenario in which Taiwan becomes part of the Chinese camp in East Asia — or abandoning it altogether, which would have serious ramifications for Taiwan’s ability to defend itself should cross-strait rapprochement derail.

Ma cannot disregard the interests of the military establishment. The key question is: As his powerbase grows and as the military is “cleansed” of what he sees as revisionist elements, will he become increasingly unresponsive to its appeals?

One way to assess this will be to see how the military is reorganized and what conclusions are reached following the corruption crackdown.

Another will be to look at Ma’s pronouncements on military expenditure, and whether words are turned into deeds — in other words, whether weapons are actually purchased and fielded.

J. Michael Cole is a writer based in Taipei.

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