Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Five "Concrete Steps"

On the subject of Taiwanese military preparedness as a deterrant to possible PRC aggression in the future, a dismaying occurance over the past decade or so has been the apparent mis-orchestration of military investment (or perhaps the orchestration of military mis-investment). This has happened in two principal ways: irrational procurement priorities and continuous budget cuts. Where the Airforce has requested the purchase of new F-16 C/D models from the U.S., the KMT has blocked all such procurement efforts both in opposition and as ruling party; the procurement of diesel electric submarines - either from the U.S. or from Germany - has been much talked of for years but it has never happened; meanwhile, the purchase of expensive PAC-3 missile defence systems has gone ahead along with the purchase of new attack helicopters and other expensive equipment which would likely be of marginal utility in any realistic defence scenario. At the same time, during the KMT's rule since 2008 the defence budget was cut year on year with the slight exception of this year (next year it is set to be cut once again). One of the arguments made in justification for this - and by President Ma himself - is that Taiwan's "number 1 enemy" is now natural disasters such as typhoons rather than the possibility of military aggression from the PLA.

In a comment at J.M. Cole's blog here, I argued that as much as the KMT leadership deserves censure for the scaling back of military preparedness, the political opposition has unwittingly made it easy for the KMT to find excuses to do so. Having advocated the expansion of the State without any principled limitation, the opposition movement ought not to have been surprised that the KMT decided to divert budgetary resources from military preparedness to other areas such as disaster relief and mitigation.

In a brief response to my initial comment  at J.M. Cole's blog, Michael Turton requested "concreteness". This was likely just an attempt to avoid responding to my charges, but for present purposes I will take it at face value; what could the political opposition do now to attempt to improve military preparedness?

1) As I said in my second comment on that post, switching the objectives and principles of the opposition movement to an overall strategy of depoliticization could achieve a cumulative effect over time; by forcing the progressive withdrawal of the State from its involvement in so many different areas, the opposition could force whichever party is in government to concentrate on performing a limited number of tasks - including military preparedness - without the possibility of diverting resources elsewhere.

2) In supplement to that first point, the opposition could concentrate its efforts on agitating for the repeal of legislation allowing the military to engage in disaster relief and mitigation efforts.

3) The opposition could agitate for a system of transparent taxpayer choice, wherein the taxpayer could make some limited choice as to what proportion of his forcibly extorted income should contribute to which area of State spending; this might force the fracturing of the political parties into single-issue advocacy groups, each attempting to persuade taxpayers to choose one cause (e.g. military preparedness) over another (e.g. higher education). Under such an arrangement, it would be necessary for advocates to communicate to taxpayers more accurate information about the cost-benefit ratios of different types of military asset (e.g. air-to-air [brainfart: surface-to-air] 35mm cannon are probably better value for money than PAC-3 missile systems), and why such things should be prioritized over and above others. The necessity of such arguments could contribute to a greater cultural acceptance of debate and discussion.

4) The opposition could advocate the repeal of the land expropriation act, and other similar powers wherein the State can decide to simply evict people off their own property. An important implication of this stand would be that it would help inure people to protest and resist trespasses by the State against their property - one of the most important and yet curiously under-appreciated aspects of "defence".

5) The opposition could advocate the withdrawal of State funding and control from all institutions of primary and secondary education; there is no reason why market competition in the provision of basic education services cannot thrive in Taiwan, and indeed, the existence and popularity of children's cram schools already testifies to this. Moreover, a move toward complete privatization would make it more difficult for any one actor to engage in systematic political indoctrination (e.g. of the kind recently protested against in Hong Kong).

These are just a few brief sketches which, had I the benefit of good and thoughtful critics, I would expect to be shot down and/or improved in the comments section. I doubt they are "concrete" enough for the epistemic requirments of a Michael Turton, but then... I have my own limitations too.


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