Richard Halloran, a US journalist covering national defense and security issues, yesterday urged the government and the military to improve communication with the public to encourage support for the proposed US arms acquisition budget and build consensus on defense against China.
"Unlike autocracies, democracies go into and win a war only when the public supports it. For example, the US failed in the Vietnam War because many US people were against it," Halloran said at a media seminar in Taipei to discuss the relationship between the military and the public in democracies.
"In democracies, the government and the army should offer the public more information about what their countries are doing, and gain the public's support on defense policies," Halloran said.
"Simply put, the more communication, the better," he said.
When asked to comment on concern about what would happen if China uses military action to threaten or attack Taiwan, and the possibility of taking over Taiwan using psychological warfare tactics, Halloran said "the Taiwan government should generate some political strategy to make people support the country and its defense policies, and this would break the illusion of China taking over Taiwan easily."
He said that he is under the impression that the US government and Congress are impatient about the delays in concluding the proposed arms purchase from the US.
Saying that many Americans now think that the US has been spending too much money on national security and the war on terror since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Halloran said that many of his countrymen are now also asking, "Why should we pay for Taiwan's security? If you Taiwanese do not care, why should we be worried about that?"
Halloran said that, for the sake of its security, Taiwan should do more to defend itself and maintain the support of the US.
Halloran is currently a columnist writing articles mostly on Asian-US relations for publications including the Taipei Times, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Japan's Sankei Shimbun, Singapore's Straits Times and The Washington Times.
He is a former defense and military correspondent for The New York Times, for whom he covered the Pentagon, US Congress, defense studies and US forces in the field.