Thu, May 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

What war would mean for Taiwan

By Strobe Driver

As assuring as it might be, possibly even comforting, to see a photograph of a line of tanks executing a live-fire exercise in Penghu — albeit last year — on the front page of the Taipei Times, the exercise aims to show military capabilities and offer an overt display to anyone thinking of attempting an attack that casualties would be incurred and it would not be an easy task.

This said, the underlying problem with regard to a war — should it happen — is that it would be a complex and multifaceted undertaking on the part of both the invaded, Taiwan, and the invader, China.

With this in mind, it is important to be aware of what comprises war, and should it take place, how it would work.

War is an enormous challenge and one that needs a clinical approach. To do this emotions need to be put aside, as only by actually admitting that Taiwan and China might one day go to war can some truth about what it would entail be found.

Applying relevant historical concepts addresses this issue.

First and foremost, a war between China and Taiwan would most likely be what is considered by strategists a conventional “limited” war. This would involve only the two main actors, at least in the initial stages of the conflict.

Whether it evolves into a larger regional war that involves other belligerents would be determined by the involvement of other nation-states and their overall commitment.

It is safe to argue that a Taiwan-China war would start and remain a limited war, and would also be considered a “conventional exchange,” as both militaries do not have the assets for the war to become non-conventional — one that involves thermonuclear weapons.

There is always a political perspective to war and there is no doubt that it would involve consternation among observer countries, as all wars do. It would be commented upon and gain reproach from major political actors.

One can safely assume that this would include the UN, the EU, Russia, the US and Asia-Pacific nation-states.

However, as the action would be confined, whether any one actor would venture beyond comment during its early stages is debatable.

Historically, when a war does not directly affect other countries, they are often resistant to engage in the problems of others.

In the initial phases of World War II, after Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, those outside the British “Commonwealth of Nations” were not obliged to enter into the fracas.

The US, for instance, considered the war to be a European war — a limited war of Europe’s own making — and even though German U-boats were sinking an enormous amount of British shipping vessels in the Gulf of Mexico from 1939 to 1941, an area in which the US could have easily patrolled to deter such attacks, it stood by and did nothing as it did not want to get involved.

There were many domestic reasons for the US not wanting to enter the war.

Two of the most prominent were that it felt its late entry into World War I had not been appreciated by its allies, and then-US president Franklin Roosevelt also feared a voter backlash from the numerous fascist political parties in the US that supported Nazi Germany.

Both factors played an enormous role in US domestic politics at the time, and it was not until the attack by the Japanese Imperial Air Force on Pearl Harbor that Roosevelt was confident to go to war.

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