Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Defence Of The Island

The purchase of the Patriot missile system is militarily misguided. Patriot missiles rely on radar, which China is more than capable of disabling. What’s more, a sizeable, sustained missile attack against a key installation — such as the naval base at Zuoying (左營), Kaohsiung City — would overwhelm any Patriot system assigned there for protection.

Says Paul Deacon of Kaohsiung in the Taipei Times letters section today - alongside my piece below.

I am not a military systems expert, but my understanding was that China's radar-jamming capabilities lie primarily with their aircraft (e.g. the J-10). If this is true, then that simply underscores the importance to Taiwan of maintaining air superiority over the Strait and jamming their command & control on the ground.

Of course, it is surely true that a sustained ballistic missile attack on Zuoying would overwhelm the PAC-3 system due to its' short range (in that respect, Lockheed Martin's THAAD system looks a better option), but were this to actually happen, there is the very serious question of whether, and with what level of commitment, U.S. and Japanese forces would intervene.
As these systems are very expensive, and Taiwan could never buy enough to counter every single Chinese missile, the money could have been better used for measures to withstand a prolonged missile barrage than to shoot them down.

Like what?
However, if the Chinese are upset at the prospect of Taiwan arming itself with such a defensive capability, and given that cross-strait relations are — we are told — much improved, the solution would seem to be for China to dismantle its 1,500 missiles aimed at Taiwan, at a stroke making redundant the need for the Patriot system and showing good faith toward a people it claims are its compatriots.

Nice, but naive - and I'm sure Paul Deacon knows it.

If there is to be any real hope over the long term, then it must lie with the epistemic power to recognize the condition of individual freedom as essential for successful living. That applies on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the mere existence of two centralized States does not at all exhaust the number of obstacles to achieving this.

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