Taiwan should take its military more seriously
Since TV personality Janet Lee ( ) uploaded photos of her posing with an AH- 64E Apache helicopter on a military base, a series of allegations has been made against the nation’s armed forces, citing its slack discipline and the preferential treatment apparently granted to some senior officers, among others.
Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng ( ), the deputy head of a helicopter squadron in Taoyuan under the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, was accused of inviting Lee as well as other civilians onto a military base without undergoing proper procedures.
Some were found to have worn a NT$2 million tactical helmet during their visit, while Lao himself had taken a helmet to wear at a Halloween party last October.
Such disclosures have drawn a public backlash, prompting Defense Minister Kao Kuang-chi ( ) to apologize at the Presidential Office along with the seven highest-ranking generals in the armed forces.
As it is embroiled in scandal, this is an opportune time to review the nation’s military.
Separated from mainland China via the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan has remained independent and free from Beijing’s direct influence. The armed forces are the country’s surest guarantee against a Chinese military invasion. The fact that every male citizen is obliged to serve in the military illustrates the pivotal role it plays in guarding the country’s safety.
Unfortunately, military training, morale and discipline appear to have been slipping downward since the R. O. C. government retreated to Taiwan in 1949. The period of compulsory service has been cut from two years to one year. And for those who have served, it is almost a consensus that training nowadays is not as strict as it used to be.
As relations between Taipei and Beijing have softened over the years, the necessity of Taiwan maintaining a robust military force is in doubt. Plus, who would believe that Taiwan could gain the upper hand if a fight did break out with the Middle Kingdom?
In summary, the military lacks confidence. Most youths reject the idea of serving, which they regard simply as “a waste of time.” Some refer to the experience as like serving time in “prison.”
However, without reversing this negative attitude, it is hard to re-instill the military’s confidence and transform it into an effective fighting machine. Any soldier that wears a uniform is representing the country. They are professionals that deserve our utmost respect.
The armed forces, despite their unique codes and isolated nature, should be treated like, and aim to become, a high-standard institution, although public belief is lacking. Any value held by high-performing organizations, such as efficiency and integrity, should be equally applicable.
Many historic figures, such as Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry VII served in the military. Codes of honor, integrity, discipline, the pursuit of excellence, etc. have hammered out great leaders and statesmen.
In Taiwan, it is not the military but academia that draws elite students. It shouldn’t be the case. In the U.S., talented people can also go to West Point. Why can’t the best people join the army in Taiwan? It is such a noble job to protect all civilians.
It is fitting that President Ma Ying- jeou takes up the responsibility to resurrect the armed forces. As president, Ma is also the military’s commander- in- chief. If there are any faults in the military, the president should not evade his responsibility. In fact, he should also consider making an apology to the nation for recent sandals.
Taiwan may not be China’s match right now, but that shouldn’t prevent us from beefing up our military muscle. We shall be reminded that the existence of a strong force is the best way to prevent military conflicts.