If Taiwan wishes to adopt the Israeli model by conscripting men and women for military service, it would have to return to the era when it was under the leadership of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). To adopt the US model, the government would have to demonstrate political courage and change the public’s impression of the military by turning serving in it into an honorable, devoted and professional occupation.
Coming up with the slogan “It’s up to us to save our country,” young people might be hot-headed in their political ideals, but not necessarily in their actions. They are also exposed to stereotypes against the military from their parents: low salaries, unpromising prospects and an arduous working environment. Further, the government does not yet have a policy to manage and operate modern arms.
Former US secretary of defense Mark Esper has called on the government to extend the four-month mandatory military training for conscripts to at least one year to demonstrate its resolve to defend the nation.
The four-month military program in earlier times could not be considered proper training, but more akin to a summer camp, where conscripts count down the days until they get out. Surprisingly, military reform did not receive a backlash from young people — the target group of the policy — but excoriation from Legislator Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), a prominent pro-China figure.
As a retired general, Wu has been embroiled in several political controversies, including leading the so-called “800 warriors” in a series of protests over pension cuts in 2018 and listening to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) speech in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
However, the KMT has treated him as a role model and assigned him a seat as a legislator-at-large. Maintaining a pro-China stance, Wu has capitalized on the situation to again propose “avoiding war through peaceful means” by pandering to China and distancing Taiwan from the US.
Even though KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) has touted the party’s close ties with the US, Wu has accused Washington of hiding a malevolent and selfish agenda, including planning on using Taiwan as a pawn to undermine China.
If Wu really wishes for peace, then he should call on Xi to give up his ambition first. China has always been the one ruffling feathers, while Taiwan merely seeks to defend itself and the US tries to maintain the “status quo.” Democratic countries seek to engage in a fair competition with communist countries. If China gives up seizing Taiwan by force, then it might avoid any form of attack or undermining.
When Chiang vowed to reclaim China after his retreat to Taiwan, the US only promised to help defend Taiwan to prevent another war by thwarting Chiang’s plan of recovering the lost “mainland.” In a democratic system, Taiwan’s most pressing issue has been about self-defense, not counterattack. The US’ supply of weaponry and support in diplomacy and national defense are all measures to avoid a war.
Taiwan would have a selfish agenda if it does not take action to boost its military strength and only rely on the US for defense. It is ludicrous for Wu to lambast the US for “biting Taiwan, the hand that feeds it.”
The purpose of self-defense is to ensure the survival of one’s country. Not putting up a fight in face of an invasion does not mean avoiding war, but rather raising a white flag.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Rita Wang
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