[ LETTERS ]

Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 8

‘Weekend warriors’

The Ministry of National Defense has initiated a “weekend warrior” program. The participants attend training at a military base two days per month, as well as an annual exercise — all in all 29 days per year — under the same rules that apply to soldiers on active duty.

Although the original plan was to enlist 400 people, the final result was 211, with the first group that signed up consisting of a mere 26 people. In short, the results fell short of expectations.

Who knows how many “weekend warriors” showed up last Saturday?

Most of the planned program for these reservists entailed education, training and simulation games. The lack of practical exercises creates a lot of blind spots.

The training is over in two days, without the reservists even getting used to the environment. How is this training going to convert into practical fighting skills?

Moreover, technology is continually advancing, which means that equipment keeps changing, whereas new weaponry requires a long period of instruction and practice.

In addition, if volunteer soldiers and officers outrank active servicemen, whose orders should subordinates follow? If commanding officers do not issue clear instructions regarding such situations, troops could receive conflicting orders, with the resulting problems affecting operations.

By focusing on reservists, the ministry is trying to convince demobilized soldiers to return to the military. However, with the military streamlining policy all but gone, this is just an attempt to improve the numbers. Even if the number of soldiers increases, will there be a corresponding improvement in their quality?

The ministry should give serious consideration to how the “weekend warrior” program is implemented, lest it fail to achieve the expected results.

Wu Chung-yi

Chiayi County

US reform as a model

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that constitutional amendments in Taiwan are a “bottom-up” undertaking, and that “majority public opinion” is necessary before any such changes are introduced.

Tsai’s comments are sure to please many people, and her heart seems to be in the right place. However, she is not fully accurate about these issues, and her remarks do not necessarily reflect the best approach.

The US is a country with extensive experience in constitutional reformation, having amended its constitution 27 times (six amendments failed to be ratified). In certain respects, the US process of amending its constitution corresponds to Tsai’s ideas.

In addition to procedures whereby the US Congress obtains a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House, the Congress can convene a national convention with the cooperation of the legislatures of two-thirds of the states.

From there, an amendment must be ratified by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states or by state-ratifying conventions in three-quarters of the states.

With such state collaboration and participation in the ratification process, “the people” of the US are involved in constitutional amendments — at least in terms of state or national conventions, less so in terms of the legislatures.

Ultimately, constitutional amendments are very much a government activity and procedure, not one in the hands of “the people.” The US does not require a “majority public opinion,” and it has amended its constitution many times without reference to this.

To be sure, it is not a “bottom-up” process, but rests almost entirely in the hands of national-level governors.

In this sense, it is a “top-down” process, which is what Americans expect and fully approve of. These are, after all, the “experienced people” taking part in revising the national code, as Tsai says.

Tsai concludes by saying that amending the Constitution is like “making a garment that must fit the person’s needs.”

This seems simplistic. I do not like thinking of such important changes being similar to making a shirt and a pair of slacks.

I would instead submit that such changes are like an operation on a living body (the “living Constitution”), thereby acknowledging a given dynamism and also referring to the sense in which the Constitution can and must change and be “cured” over time.

One source I referred to discussed the idea that a “living Constitution” may best embrace the multiple functions of constitutional interpretation — text, original intent, structure and resolution, standard and doctrine, morals and ethos.

In turn, some say this view must be associated with the idea that contemporary society should be taken into account when making constitutional changes.

Here, then, is seen Tsai’s “public opinion” — and I would certainly agree that this should be considered. (Tsai also suggested that cross-party negotiation would be required, and this of course would be necessary — but again it is in the hands of the “governors.”)

In the end, although the people will have their say in conjunction with these methods, governments and “experienced people” are the essential actors in the process being discussed — as expected and endorsed by the people.

David Pendery

Taipei