TAIWAN MUST DIVERT huge amounts of its people’s money to spend on weapons, US war strategist Elbridge Colby said yesterday. “I honestly don’t get why Taiwan isn’t spending 10% or more of its GDP on defense,” he wrote.
Ten per cent or more?
For comparison, most countries spend about 2%, or less, and the United States, famed for its over-spending on the military, spends 3.7%.
Also crucial to know: Taiwan is facing huge domestic problems. The island has been hit by its worst drought in 50 years. There has been water rationing to homes and farmlands. There have also been electricity blackouts.
So why should Colby call for a massive diversion of Taiwanese people’s money to purchase weapons? It would be a disaster for farmers, ordinary householders, and industry.
Well, the first thing to note is that Colby is closely tied to the arms industry. He has worked for the Pentagon, was United States Assistant Secretary of Defense from 2017-2018, and wrote a book discussing the advantages that his country could get from provoking conflict over Taiwan.
In May 2020, he co-wrote an article with A. Wess Mitchell in the Wall Street Journal saying that “Beijing was cruising to global domination” so the U.S. needed a new strategy based on “maritime and aerospace power.”
The Wall Street Journal article was puzzling – all serious students of China know that it does not export its political system to other countries. (In fact, it doesn’t even insist on it in its own territories, creating “special economic zones”, “special administrative zones” and “autonomous regions” and so on.)
So why were Elbridge and Mitchell pushing the line that the world’s most populous country wanted “global domination” and more “aerospace power” was needed?
FUNDING FROM ARMS MANUFACTURERS
Eli Clifton, a writer in Responsible Statecraft, pointed that the Wall Street Journal had omitted to include the rather crucial fact that the authors “are both employed by institutions that receive considerable funding from weapons manufacturers”.
When Clifton examined the organizations that Colby and/ or Mitchell were involved with, he found that donors included Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Boeing and DynCorp.
Paul Triolo, an Asian tech specialist, pointed out that Taiwan that more money might not be the answer. “I wonder if if could be because there is no military solution to the problem?” Tiny Taiwan can’t win a war against huge mainland China — especially since the west has shown that its policy is to donate guns but decline to put troops in place.
Other commentators pointed out the simple fact that such an increase was impossible. If you raised military spending to 10 per cent of GDP, this would eat up most of the government’s annual public spending budget and the taxpayers would inevitably revolt. The opposition party, the KMT, would get in.
The KMT is more focused on the rights of the people it governs, and is much more forward-looking than the DPP, which operates as an arm of the US government and has a short-term focus.
For people wanting less tension in Taiwan, an attempt to raise weapons spending may bring about a positive result for the island — but not in the way Colby thinks.