Wall Street Journal
Defense of Taiwan
China go to war to retake Taiwan? China's leaders have repeatedly
indicated that they would sacrifice economic and political
ties with the rest of the world to prevent the island from
drifting permanently from the motherland. The potential
for the Taiwanese and U.S. militaries to deter any Chinese
decision to use force is of course crucial, but it's only
part of the go or no-go equation.
Korean War began largely because of a miscalculation that
the U.S. wouldn't come to its ally's aid. So it's important
that the U.S. send clear messages about its commitment to
honor obligations. The U.S. decision not to sell Taiwan's
navy several Aegis destroyers could therefore turn out to
be a bad strategic decision, even if the military rationale
as it does after a series of political moves to appease
China on Taiwan, it raises doubts about American willingness
to take even mild risks to defend a young democracy. This
will hurt morale in Taipei and increase the chances of miscalculation
say at the outset that American military experts do seem
to be getting a good grip on the problem of defending Taiwan;
a recent Pentagon report highlighted many weaknesses in
the island's military. The question is whether the U.S.
has the political will to fix them.
problem is mainly isolation. The Taiwanese brass haven't
adopted best practices from what the U.S. calls the "revolution
in military affairs" because they haven't had access
to the training and exchanges given other U.S. allies. Command
and control is weak, and interservice rivalry hampers joint
operations. A large conscript army saps resources that should
go toward modernizing the navy and air force as well as
retaining competent technicians and professional soldiers.
agree that Taiwan still has a technological edge over the
mainland militarily, but that will be disappear unless U.S.
policy changes. China is developing a blue-water navy that
will be able to blockade Taiwan's ports and bring the economy
to its knees. It has about 200 solid-fuel ballistic missiles
deployed along the Strait, and is producing 50 to 70 more
each year. These could be used to wipe out the island's
airfields unless missile defense is upgraded.
should the U.S. do? There is room for disagreement about
individual weapon systems, especially when as costly and
complex as the Aegis ships. But the U.S. very much needs
to address the dangers of a missile attack or a naval blockade.
That means committing to sell the latest Patriot missile,
the PAC-3, when introduced. It means providing the tools
of antisubmarine warfare, such as the P-3 Orion plane and
persuading other countries to sell diesel submarines to
important, we should end the isolation of the Taiwanese
military. The House passed the Taiwan Security Enhancement
Act to correct this. The Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command,
Admiral Dennis Blair, has said that the act doesn't let
him do anything more than is possible now, and it throws
an unwelcome spotlight on the relationship. But this suggests
that the U.S. military has been lax in using the available
opportunities for exchanges.
of course there is the matter political will. Some officials
in the State Department and White House seem to think meeting
U.S. obligations to help Taiwan defend itself means "provoking"
China, and so shouldn't be attempted. But it is Chinese
threats and missile deployments that provoke; countering
them with defensive weaponry is the only response that Beijing
otherwise allows the risk of war to ratchet upward. Some
of Beijing's generals believe that if given the resources
to force Taiwan into submission, China would be able to
spend a decade riding out any storm of protest. So far,
Beijing's more rational leaders have prevailed because they
can point to the U.S. commitment to Taiwan's defense. If
that commitment wavers, the calculus changes. Korea should
have taught the U.S. that the fastest way to bring war is
to cause potential aggressors to miscalculate the odds.
But then maybe they don't read history anymore in the White