Friday, 1 May 2015

Once More On Deterrence: Railgun Developments & Depoliticization

An interesting little snippet of news I picked up from a William Lowther article in the Taipei Times a week or two ago was that the U.S. Navy plans to test fire a railgun off the coast of Florida over a distance of about 80km - using projectiles fitted with GPS electronics. If those tests are successful, then that is a major step forward.

When I first thought about the idea of Taiwan developing railguns back in 2011, it was as short-range defense weapons that would be virtually impossible to counteract due to their sheer speed. There are several very difficult engineering problems with railguns, the most difficult of which is the task of kitting the projectiles out with terminal guidance electronics that won't be fried by the extreme forces they will be subject to. Apparently, the U.S. Navy already has work underway to begin to solve that problem.

The prospect of railguns using terminal guidance systems is fascinating. It could in principle mean that they could be used as long-range weapons to strike targets hundreds of kilometers away. That in turn would open up the possibility of railguns replacing nukes as deterrence weapons. And mechanisms of deterrence are exactly what the people in Taiwan need if they are to continue to resist Chinese political control.

Beyond this or that weapon system however, I think we in Taiwan need layers of deterrence. Having a capable military, adequately staffed and funded and with a choice of several excellent weapon systems that could inflict serious damage on the PRC is one such layer of deterrence, and a most necessary one. Yet as I have argued previously, Taiwan would do well to adopt a complementary strategy of domestic depoliticization, in which centralized functions and powers of the State strictly unnecessary to the task of collective military defense are either abolished altogether (e.g. land expropriation laws) or given up to the free market and private innovation (e.g. the education system). This might provide several additional layers of deterrence to the extent that it would make the task of governing Taiwan effectively that much harder for the Chinese to accomplish.

In that respect, the sooner the government in Taiwan softens its' stance on homeschooling the better. The sooner they begin to cut the education budget and instead spend the money on developing serious military kit (like AIP submarines), the better. The sooner Taiwan's government starts the process of encouraging the institutions of higher education to rely on private funding entirely, the better. It seems to me that Taiwan's people can have fewer more effective ways of defending their freedom than ensuring the younger generation are no longer ensconced from reality in four-year cocoons of nonsense, and are instead given every possible incentive to think and produce for themselves using only voluntary means of cooperation.

To control people, you have to tell them lies of one sort or another. The only thing that can make the selling of lies more difficult is the common practice of questioning authority - and questioning obedience.

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