Mil­i­tary all-vol­un­teer sys­tem faces un­cer­tainty

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

The mil­i­tary has drawn crit­i­cism with its latest an­nounce­ment that it will con­tinue to draft able-bod­ied males into the Armed Forces as a re­sult of dif­fi­cul­ties im­ple­ment­ing the vol­un­teer sys­tem.

The na­tion had thought that dur­ing the tran­si­tion to the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of an all-vol­un­teer force in 2017, con­scrip­tions into the mil­i­tary would be re­placed by al­ter­na­tive ser­vices in other gov­ern­ment bod­ies, such as po­lice and fire de­part­ments.

But the mil­i­tary has now bro­ken its prom­ise by plan­ning to draft some of the con­scripts (those born be­fore 1994) into the Armed Forces next year to make up for a short­fall in troops.

The mil­i­tary has had dif­fi­cul­ties meet­ing its re­cruit­ment goals since start­ing the shift. One of the main rea­sons is clearly a lack of mon­e­tary in­cen­tives for a job that re­quires a lot of sac­ri­fices: sol­diers are sup­posed to come un­der strict dis­ci­pline; they don’t have the kinds of free­dom that or­di­nary cit­i­zens en­joy; and their jobs are in­nately dan­ger­ous with death and in­jury taken for granted dur­ing war.

Vol­un­teer sol­diers in Tai­wan may be of­fered salaries higher than or­di­nary work­ers in civil­ian jobs, but the sums are ap­par­ently not high enough to con­vince peo­ple to join the mil­i­tary and make those kinds of sac­ri­fices.

Tai­wan’s Armed Forces have been down­siz­ing be­cause in mod­ern war­fare, sheer num­bers may no longer be im­por­tant.

But the down­siz­ing may not be enough to free up the ex­penses needed for the vol­un­teer sys­tem. If the mil­i­tary does not sharply cut its troop num­ber from the cur­rent size of well over 200,000, we don’t see how it can fur­ther raise the salaries to at­tract vol­un­teers, granted that the na­tional de­fense bud­get is un­likely to see sig­nif­i­cant in­creases.

Aus­tralia, a coun­try with a much big­ger ter­ri­tory than and a sim­i­lar-sized pop­u­la­tion to Tai­wan, main­tains an all-vol­un­teer force of well un­der 100,000. Bri­tain has an ac­tive force of about 150,000 troops.

Of course we can’t com­pare dif­fer­ent coun­tries’ armed forces sim­ply in terms of troop num­bers, be­cause they may have dif­fer­ent de­fen­sive needs. But Tai­wan’s mil­i­tary should learn how other coun­tries man­age with smaller num­bers of troops, and whether there are things the coun­try can learn from.

The mil­i­tary down­siz­ing re­flects changes in Tai­wan’s de­fen­sive needs over the past few decades although its main en­emy is still sup­posed to re­main the same: China.

When mil­i­tary ten­sions were high across the strait dur­ing the Cold War era, Tai­wan con­scripted all able-bod­ied male adults to a two-year ser­vice in the forces. As ten­sions eased, the mil­i­tary con­scrip­tion was cut to one year dur­ing the last decade.

De­spite the im­prov­ing re­la­tions across the strait, the threat from China re­mains. With China keen to in­creas­ing its mil­i­tary might — as we shall soon see in a mas­sive pa­rade — Tai­wan must spend its de­fense bud­get wisely.

The plan for the vol­un­teer sys­tem now re­quires all males (born in 1994 and af­ter) who are not join­ing the forces vol­un­tar­ily to un­dergo mil­i­tary train­ing for four months in­stead of do­ing ac­tive ser­vice.

The mil­i­tary is ar­gu­ing that the na­tion mis­un­der­stood the plan for the mil­i­tary restruc­tur­ing; the Armed Forces are still main­tain­ing a mixed sys­tem of vol­un­teers and “con­scripts,” be­cause all able-bod­ied males will still have to ful­fill their mil­i­tary obli­ga­tion as de­fined in the R.O.C. Con­sti­tu­tion.

The mil­i­tary says it is there­fore not break­ing its prom­ise by con­tin­u­ing to draft males into the forces next year.

Although the mil­i­tary has main­tained that it will honor its prom­ise that males born in 1994 and af­ter will not be drafted and will def­i­nitely only be re­quired to re­ceive the 4-month train­ing, peo­ple are skep­ti­cal.

If the re­cruit­ment of vol­un­teers con­tin­ues to fail to meet the tar­gets, it won’t be in­con­ceiv­able that the gov­ern­ment will again break its prom­ise.

And the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate has cre­ated fur­ther un­cer­tainty for all young peo­ple who have not served in the Armed Forces or re­ceived mil­i­tary train­ing.

The Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party, whose leader, Tsai Ing­wen, stands a good chance of be­com­ing pres­i­dent, says it will in­tro­duce a re­vised ver­sion of the vol­un­teer sys­tem. It re­mains to be seen how much the DPP, if it be­comes the rul­ing party, will re­vise it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.