'What is the U.S. really selling Taiwan?'
The China Post news staffBut Ma needs to assure the nation — particularly the pro-independence opposition camp — that he will not surrender the nation if the occasion arises.
February 6, 2010, 12:44 am TWN
He needs to play the game of maintaining military balance across the strait.
Such a game does not depend on the number of troops or strength of the weapons on each side of the strait, but is maintained by the ambiguous position taken by the U.S..
For both Taiwan and China, U.S. arms sales represent the possibility of U.S. intervention in cross-strait military conflicts. That is what Beijing has been protesting about.
And Taiwan's pro-independence camp has always reasoned that the U.S. will come to the island's defense if China launches a military campaign against Taiwan.
They argue that the U.S. would not want to lose one of its important partners strategically positioned at China's front door.
That could have been true decades ago. But the world has changed. Would the U.S. really intervene?
Today's world is no longer that of democracy-vs-communism. Taiwan is no longer the die-hard anti-communist regime it used to be.
The sense of security may be false, not only because the U.S. may never come to Taiwan's defense, but also because the island actually lacks the determination to defend itself.
Buying the weapons is not necessarily a demonstration of such determination, although the U.S. government has always insisted that Taiwan needs to illustrate its position by buying the defensive weapons offered to them.
The populace of the affluent island may not really want to sacrifice their comfort and fight a “civil war” with people who share their language and culture.
Discipline among the troops has been a serious problem, and after an aggressive reduction of troops over the past decade, Taiwan's military actually do not have the necessary manpower to maintain daily routines.
Some observers say the air force may not have the pilots to fly F16C/D jets even if the U.S. sells them to Taiwan.
So the weapons systems Taiwan is getting from the U.S. may just be toys, or a Linus blanket that makes us feel safe.