Tai­wan should take its mil­i­tary more se­ri­ously

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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