The Global Firepower Web site has published the World Military Strength Rankings for this year. Among the 137 countries in the list, Taiwan is ranked 22nd, representing combat capabilities that are quite strong.
There is a considerable gap between Taiwan and the top five countries on the list, a difference that is often ridiculed by opposition politicians, who say that defeat would be all but certain if Taiwan had to cross swords with a big military power.
Little do they know that when comparing military strength among nations, there is a crucial determining factor that is often overlooked by people in general, but is considered very important by big Western powers — the extent of corruption in military affairs.
In theory and in practice, corruption hurts economic growth and can shake an administration’s foundations.
Among all government departments, corruption in connection with military affairs has the greatest negative effects because it can cause financial loss and, more seriously, jeopardize human lives, as it affects soldiers and the public.
This is why all advanced Western countries, without exception, view stamping out military corruption as an administrative priority for fear that severe corruption would make military officials susceptible to enemy coercion.
Corruption also increases motivation for departmentalism and self-interest in military departments.
If that is the case, deploying and coordinating combat forces during wartime becomes more difficult, and might even lead to the intentional creation of obstacles, which would weaken a country’s military strength and make any investments in military equipment futile.
A uncorrupt military cannot be maintained solely through psychological warfare education or moral persuasion. The implementation of a comprehensive anti-corruption system by a dedicated unit that focuses on all major issues long-term is required.
This effort should be directed at all five major aspects of national defense — personnel, finances, political, military operations and procurement — to eliminate corruption in such a way that units and individuals would not dare, want to or be able to engage in corrupt behavior.
In the Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index in 2015, a global analysis of corruption risk in defense establishments conducted by the non-governmental organization Transparency International, Taiwan was listed in “Band B” — low corruption risk — among 14 other countries, including Japan, Singapore and Australia.
Given that there were only two countries — the UK and New Zealand — listed in “Band A,” Taiwan’s achievements in military effectiveness and rooting out corruption are remarkable.
On-site evaluations are being conducted around the globe for this year’s Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index.
Over the past few years, Taiwan’s national defense anti-corruption units and other relevant government agencies have been focusing on corruption in the military.
Hopefully, high-level government officials will continue to focus on military corruption on a long-term basis. This is the invisible foundation upon which the nation’s military power can be strengthened.
Tsao Yao-chun is a researcher with Transparency International-Taiwan, a supervisor at the Kaohsiung Society for Management of Technology, and an external expert on anti-corruption index evaluations of government at the Ministry of National Defense.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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