Thu, May 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

What war would mean for Taiwan

By Strobe Driver

Assuming that the political situation between Taiwan and China deteriorates to the point of a kinetic exchange, or a “shooting war,” what type of war would take place?

With the aforementioned in mind, we can now turn to “thinking the unthinkable” of China and Taiwan being involved in a total war.

This is without a doubt what occupies strategists most on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and it is a reality that must be dealt with.

Since time immemorial, countries have needed a fighting force, whether to invade the land of another or to defend their own. Taiwan, being an island nation-state, must obviously have a military that is focused on defense. This has been confirmed recently with a doctrinal change of the military from “annihilation of the enemy to prevention of victory” (“Preventing takeover new priority,” April 25, page 1).

Within this change is an understanding that the vast majority of the population is on the “government’s side,” and there is no reason to doubt this assumption based on current statistics — the number of people aged 20 to 39 “willing to fight China” stands at 70.3 percent (“Taiwanese willing to fight China,” April 20, page 1).

A large number of Taiwanese are determined to fight, while China has the resolve to take Taiwan at all costs, which means there is only one conclusion to be drawn: Both nations would become involved in a slog of attrition — a total war.

Therefore, even though people believe an invasion is unlikely, one can only hope that there is an understanding on both sides of the enormous costs involved (“Chance of Chinese invasion slim: poll,” April 24, page 1).

Total wars are generally long and arduous for the belligerents, and have a single zero sum game outcome in which there must be a winner and a loser.

However, surely Taiwan would not have to face the threat of China alone? As with World War II, no discussion about war is complete unless allies are discussed.

As we have seen, the problem with allies is that they do what is good for their country first and what is good for their ally second. French and German forces refusing to enter the “war on terror” in Iraq in 2003 and being derided as “old Europe” by the US is a case in point.

It is interesting to note that 41 percent of Taiwanese have doubts about whether the US would send troops to help defend Taiwan, and considering that Americans feel underappreciated for their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, if isolationism reigns supreme, the unpalatable truth is that Taiwan is on its own (“Chance of Chinese invasion slim: poll,” April 24, page 1).

Notwithstanding the enormity of the challenges that Taiwan faces with regard to a war with China, the stakes for Taiwan would be considerably higher if a war is viewed by the international community as limited and between two regional belligerents. A conclusion of this type would arrest their need to become directly involved.

The best scenario for Taiwan is a war that quickly involves other belligerents, such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, as it would be considered from an international perspective a total war. Then and only then would Taiwan gain some direct input from its allies.

For Taiwan, a war with China would be multifaceted and at times duplicitous.

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