Monday, June 8, 2009

A New Definition of National Defense: Peace and Democracy

A New Definition of National Defense: Peace and Democracy
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 8, 2009

Recently, two military developments have made the news. These have underscored changes in the national defense posture. The first is that no live firing exercises have been held at the Fangshan Artillery Base for the past two years. The other is that the "Han Kuang Military Maneuveurs" will allegedly be renamed the "Cheng Chun Military Maneuveurs," and will be response to natural disasters or terrorism.

The first impression such news leaves one is that national defense has become more relaxed in attitude and less aggressive in substance. The live fire Fangshan Military Maneuveurs have allegedly been discontinued due to opposition from fishermen. The military estimates that the cessation of the Fangshan Military Maneuveurs has affected 15 air defense combat exercises. How serious is this? Is this the full exent of its impact? No solutions have been found for the past two years. Does the changed purpose of the military maneuveurs represent an overly optimistic assessment of the cross-Strait situation? Should this be a cause for concern?

Over the past sixty years, the national defense posture has undergone major changes. Why we are fighting and for whom we are fighting has changed with internal and external developments. The era of "Retaking the Mainland" and "Destroying the Communist Bandits," is over. The subsequent strategy of "seven tenths politics and three tenths military affairs," and the "Reunify China via the Three People's Principles" national defense posture remains unchanged. But cross-Strait hostility since the lifting of martial law has diminished. We no longer speak of a "Communist Rebellion." But on the other hand, cross-Strait hostility fluctuates. It is sometimes relaxed and sometimes tense. Because we failed to establish a new national defense posture, the Chen Shui-bian administration's "New Centrist Path" failed. The "Rectification of Names and the Authoring of a New Constitution" political project was revived. This left the armed forces of the Republic of China at the mercy of advocates of formal Taiwan independence, wondering what are we fighting for, and whom we are fighting for? This was a contradictory, dangerous, and confusing situation.

This confusion over the national defense posture has manifested itself in another form under the Ma administration. Over the past year the two sides have engaged in across the board exchanges. Direct flights have been established. Mainland tourists have visited Taiwan. No upper limit Mainland investments on Taiwan have made the daily headlines. Taipei has proposed a policy of "win/win" and "live and let live." Beijing has stressed its "framework for peaceful development." This situation has had a different impact on the national defense posture. Namely, how many troops do we need? Do we need additional arms purchases? What kind of military procurements do we need? We must engage in a completely different way of thinking. In particular, we have yet to resolve the national defense riddle of whom are we fighting for and what are we fighting for. This national defense dilemma, has remained unresolved since the lifting of martial law 21 years ago, and has manifested itself in different ways.

The affairs of the Republic of China Minister of Defense are virtually cross-Strait affairs. The Republic of China's national defense posture is undergoing fundamental change. Military confrontation has become democratic political and economic exchange. Cross-Strait issues are dealt with using democratic and economic, rather than military means. This national defense posture is consistent with the larger interests of the public on Taiwan. It reflects public expecations regarding democracy. Moreover, it goes hand in hand with the "framework for peaceful development" advocated by Beijing. In fact, today's relaxed cross-Strait situation is a kind of national defense achievement. Military factors have been downplayed. Economic and democratic factors have been emphasized. This will be our national defense posture for the forseeable future.

Nevertheless, the Republic of China needs to maintain a certain level of military defense. This is a symbol of its sovereignty and an expression of its democracy. It is also an essential bargaining chip in cross-Strait and international negotiations. The quantity and quality of military armanents may not be that difficult to determine. But what we are we fighting and whom we are fighting for remain questions that are difficult to answer but which must be answered.

Two new factors have emerged in national defense planning. First, cross-Strait trade, close cultural exchanges, and an atmosphere of reconciliation have diminished antipathy toward the CCP and the perception of the CCP as Communist rebels. That is why we no longer speak of the "Communist Rebellion." Secondly, the conscript military is now volunteer military. Troops no longer join the military out of national duty. They join the military in the capacity of government employees. These two new factors have had a major impact on the question of what we are fighting for and whom we are fighting for.

The military can be downsized. But national defense awareness must not be diminished. The cross-Strait situation has evolved. The national defense posture must be revised. The Republic of China's military defense is no longer for the purpose of "Counterattacking the Mainland and Eradicating the Bandits." Instead, it has a more fundamental and more important function. It must act as the guarantor of cross-Strait peace and the defender of democracy.

We may have a smaller military in the future. But this ought to be a "small is beautiful" military. If it is able to fulfill its self-proclaimed role as the guarantor of cross-Strait peace and defender of democracy, its officers and troops will feel a sense of honor, a sense of responsibility, a sense of direction, and a sense of idealism.

We must struggle on behalf of cross-Strait peace. But just in case, we must know what we are fighting for, and whom we are fighting for.

2009.06.08 03:21 am











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