Is it the case that only when everything goes perfectly can a military exercise be called successful? The answer, I am afraid, is no.
Japan's Self-Defense Force accidentally shot down a plane carrying officers. A US military aircraft snapped a cable-car line in Italy, causing serious casual-ties. The Kursk submarine, the pride of Russia, sank after an explosion in a torpedo chamber. Accidents are almost symbiotic with military exercises.
A number of missiles missing their targets during the recent Hankuang exercises have trig-gered a debate, but exercises are meant to find out problems. An exercise that goes "perfectly" may be problematic.
Take, for example, the US Army's exercises. "Professional" imaginary enemy troops play the opponent's role with the enemy's thinking and war tactics. However, special emphasis is given to the fact that the value of an exercise is not in the outcome, but in understanding drawbacks and encouraging the units under training to improve and grow. Except for violations of exercise rules or obvious human negligence, the personnel are not punished for simple weapon malfunctions or missing their targets.
The intent is obvious. If one merely emphasizes punishing people for deficiencies, then military exercises could become a fabrication contest and will not achieve the goal of identifying and solving problems.
In contrast, the world's attention has revolved around technical issues such as missiles missing their targets and a snapped torpedo wire. What truly deserves attention are key issues such as joint operations and exercise settings because they reflect the military's strategic thinking and planning. But there has been little debate on these issues.
First, strengthening joint operations has become a key area in multiplying combat power. Unfortunately, no concrete results were seen in this regard during the Hankuang exercises. Ostensibly, all three services arrived at same location. The exercise items, however, seemed to indicate that each was fighting on its own. There was a lack of coordinated support and synchronized attacks, which are the soul of joint operations.
As for the exercise settings, they were still unable to break away from the traditional "air supremacy, naval supremacy and anti-landing" thinking. Unfortunately, the linear rules following a prescribed order on the battlefield that were used in the past have been replaced by "non-linearity." A massive change has occurred in staff organization and troops combat arrays.
In the past, for example, one had to break through layers of defense -- like peeling an onion -- before one could bomb the enemy's core targets. Now one only needs stealth technologies or long-range precision munitions to carry that out. Similarly, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) attack on Taiwan will not conform to our military's configured procedure. The military has little to gain from holding the Hankuang exercises in the same model as it has done in the past.
There are no fixed rules in war. Innovation is the one and only way to win a war. As for the Hankuang exercises, it would be unfortunate if the commentators fall into "weapons determinism" in their analyses or deduct conclusions from "the previous war" instead of studying possible trends in future warfare.
In comparison, Japan has proposed "active self-defense" while the PLA, in addition to importing new hardware, is aggressively introducing ideas from foreign armies. For example, a decapitation action with an emphasis on "attacking the heart" could be applied to the Taiwan Strait.
Those on our side who focus on military hardware and adhere to the "tenacious defense, effective deterrence" dictum should pay attention to such strategies.
Lee Wen-chung is a Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Francis Huang