麥克．韓澤克 (Michael A. Hunzeker) 是美國喬治梅森大學安全沙爾政策與政府學院的助理教授以及政策研究中心的副主任。韓澤克畢業於美國加州大學柏克萊分校，並取得普林斯頓大學的碩士及博士學位。他曾於美國海軍陸戰隊服役十五年。
韓澤克跟他的研究團隊在 2018 年 11 月出版了《時間問題：強化台灣的傳統（正規）嚇阻態勢》 的專論 。
我們在 2019 年 3 月底跟韓澤克進行了電郵訪談。他跟我們分享了他們研究團隊對台灣的國防建議，以及在動盪、危機時期，辯論這些議題的重要性。
第二個理由，是我認為我的團隊有一些有趣的想法，可以貢獻出來參與對話。具體而言，最近我和我經常合作的同事亞歷山大．拉諾什卡 (Alexander Lanoszka) 教授， 共同完成了一篇研究美國陸軍在歐洲東北的傳統（正規）嚇阻 (conventional deterrence) 的論文（連結）。在這項計畫為期兩年的研究中，我們注意到愛沙尼亞、拉脫維亞和立陶宛所共同面臨的挑戰和台灣有許多相似之處。在地理位置上，這四個國家隔壁就有一個可能對他們發動攻擊的國家；它們也都和潛在侵略者有著複雜的歷史背景；這四個國家在國土範圍、經濟實力和軍事力量上，也都很難與潛在攻擊者硬碰硬。當然這四個國家還有一個共通點：他們都是蓬勃發展的民主國家。
在 2018 年 1 月前往臺北之前，我們大約花了三個月的準備時間進行背景研究。我們花了一個星期對大眾進行訪談，之後又花了約六個月執行其他研究；在這段時間中，我們針對區域與防衛專家提供的回覆來撰寫和修訂報告。這些回覆十分嚴謹也十分珍貴，因此這份報告絕不是我們急就章胡亂湊出來的東西。
除了我們的軍事專業之外，拉諾什卡教授也是著名的聯盟、核武擴散和混合戰爭的專家。麥特．費（Matt Fay）則是一位經驗豐富的國防預算分析師。艾瑞卡．森．懷特（Erica Seng-White）則是一位剛開始嶄露頭角的輿論研究學者。他們寶貴的觀點，顯然都是值得參與對話的。
最後，台灣必須明確地方式表明其威脅和保證。基本上，台灣需表明：什麼樣的行為將觸發台灣的軍事回應，也需要向中國展示台灣聲稱擁有的能力。這就是為何秘密的軍事計畫和武器，對阻止侵略無益。引用一部美國著名電影的話，「如果你擁有能夠毀滅世界的武器卻秘而不宣，那還有什麼意義？」（the whole point of a doomsday machine is lost if you keep it a secret!）
因此，錢就變成了問題。先進武器非常昂貴，如果台灣的國防預算沒有上限，我們也許會贊成購買大量的柴電潛艦、神盾艦和 F-35 戰鬥機。
因此，我們認為台灣應該改為購買大量的便宜武器，例如水雷、反艦飛彈、無人機和飛彈快艇。單單一艘潛艦或一架 F-35 的成本，就足以購買許多這種廉價武器，這是台灣可以負擔的。水雷、飛彈、無人機和飛彈快艇的體積都不大，可分散部署在台灣全島各個角落，讓解放軍難以發現，也無法在第一擊中全數盡滅。
即使是便宜、小型的武器，也不代表不能發揮效益。諸如湯瑪斯．漢默斯（T.X. Hammes）等許多精明的美國國防專家都認為，世界正在進行一場戰爭戰法的革命。他說，多年來，世界上最強的幾支軍隊都花費了全部的預算去購買少量的昂貴、先進武器；但是，長程目標定位、微處裡、3D 列印和無人機技術的新進展，代表購買大量便宜武器的陸、海、空軍，將有能力打敗那些堅持以少量、昂貴且技術複雜的武器作戰的敵人。
最後，我和團隊不認同台灣年輕人「軟弱」或不願面對戰爭的說法。我們認為如果年輕人擁有可信的武器和訓練，他們是願意從軍並挺身而戰的。而我們也認為，與其使用一些無用的防禦方法，我們建議組織襲擾式（hit and run，打帶跑）攻擊，並讓在鄉士兵在他們的家展開游擊戰，比較可能贏得這些年輕人的認同。
您的建議集中在兩個概念上（對於一篇四萬字的專論而言，我這樣歸納恐怕過於簡化）：第一，「避免直接對抗和決戰」，也「不尋求掌控任何戰場」的替代戰法。第二，您強調可靠的國土防禦和地面作戰的價值。您的第一項建議，和我們一般大眾習慣聽到的「堅守崗位，戰至最後一兵一卒」的「防衛固守」(resolute defense) 思維相當不同。以您的想像，這種替代戰法會是什麼樣的型態？我們又能在這樣的作戰中達成什麼目的？
戰車在這種作戰行動中有角色可以扮演。然而，我們團隊認為大型主力戰車（例如 M1 艾布蘭 Abrams）並不是最好的選項。
雖然這些戰車擁有全球最好的裝甲防護和光學目標定位裝備（這要看美國售台的版本），但這些戰車體積太大也太重（超過 60 噸），因此在台灣許多狹路或無數小型橋梁通行時將遭遇一些困難。主力戰車在「近距離」海岸防衛戰鬥或可發揮作用，但在後續的地面作戰中將可能變成累贅。由於大型主力戰車只能在主要道路和大型橋梁上行駛，因此很容易被當成目標並摧毀。
在第五章中您寫道：「靠我方犧牲是贏不了不對稱作戰的，讓對方犧牲才是不對稱作戰的致勝關鍵。」(“You do not win an asymmetric war by dying. You win it by getting the other side to die instead”)，我們該如何進行不對稱作戰訓練？
Should Taiwan prepare for war? How does deterrence work? What makes for a credible defense?
Michael A. Hunzeker is an assistant professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and the associate director of the Center for Security Policy Studies. He graduated from UC Berkeley and holds a PhD, MPA, and MA from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He also spent 15 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve.
In November 2018, Mr. Hunzeker and his team published A Question of Time: Enhancing Taiwan’s Conventional Deterrence Posture (link). In the conversation below, he shares with us their recommendations for Taiwan.
This email correspondence took place at the end of March 2019 and has been edited for clarity.
Click here (link) to read the Chinese translation.
NSF Your research raised some critical questions about Taiwan’s current defense posture, and how we might want to rethink our strategy (or implement what we say is our strategy). But, before we dive in: of all the security issues globally, why did you — an academic sitting in DC — decide to study Taiwan’s defense? How did this project come about?
MAH There are two reasons I decided to recruit a team of scholars and practitioners to study this important issue.
First, I was increasingly convinced that the conversation about Taiwan’s defense needs was not receiving enough attention here in the United States.
I also thought that it could benefit from a ‘fresh,’ outside perspective — one that challenged prevailing assumptions, orthodoxy and recommendations. Without a doubt, a relatively small number of smart, hard working government officials, scholars and analysts have dedicated their careers to understanding the challenges associated with deterring conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Their work is extremely important. Yet I also believed that the same, relatively small group of experts has been working on the same sets of questions for so long that there was a real risk that the conversations and debates were now occurring inside of an echo chamber.
These issues and questions are too important to remain on the margins. What happens to Taiwan has the potential to impact everyone in America. Taiwan is a thriving liberal democracy. It is an important partner in the global economy. It is a possible flashpoint in the U.S.-China relationship. And the United States has a legal obligation to help Taiwan with its security needs, ambiguous though these commitments might sometimes seem.
So in my mind, it was important to bring a new group of experts into the conversation. At the very least, I hoped it might inject new ideas into an old discussion. At best, I wanted to inspire more American students and analysts to join in this critical debate. New ideas are a good thing, not something to avoid.
The second reason is that I thought my team had something interesting to contribute to this conversation. Specifically, my colleague and frequent collaborator, Professor Alexander Lanoszka, and I had recently completed a study for the United States Army on conventional deterrence in Northeastern Europe (link).
Over the course of working on that project for the better part of two years, we noticed a number of parallels between the challenges facing Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the ones with which Taiwan is wrestling. All four countries are literally next door to a state that might one day attack them. All four countries share a complex history with their potential attacker. All four countries lack the geographic size, economic power and military strength to go toe to toe with their potential attacker. And, of course, all four are thriving democracies.
There are also important differences, to be sure. But Alexander and I believed that the similarities were striking and relevant enough that they might help us think about Taiwan’s challenges and opportunities in new ways.
How much time did your team spend on this project? The Taiwan problem has been the subject of many analyses. What made you think that you could bring something new to the table, given the limited time you and your team had to study the issues? (Sorry for being direct!)
This is a terrific question and I’m really glad that you asked it.
We spent about three months doing background research to prepare for our trip to Taipei in January 2018. We spent a week ‘on the ground’ conducting interviews. And then we spent roughly six months doing additional research, writing and revising the report after receiving invaluable critical feedback from regional and defense experts. So this report is very much not something that we hastily threw together at the last minute.
It is also important to point out that although my team and I received a grant to cover our travel and research expenses, we received no personal or institutional financial compensation for our work. We truly spent months working on these questions because we believed they were important and not because we stood to gain anything from it. In fact, all of us worked on this while still doing our full time day jobs!
The fact is that my team and I will be the first to admit that we are not Taiwan experts. But again, we think this is a feature, not a bug — which is a very American way of saying we think that our status as ‘outsiders’ is a strength, not a weakness. I must be frank: the conversation surrounding Taiwan’s security needs and options here in the United States has grown a bit stale. It can only benefit from more voices, ideas and opinions.
Moreover, I genuinely believe that my team has a unique perspective and set of experiences to bring to bear on the problem. It is true that we are not regional experts. But four of us are combat veterans. Two of us are retired military officers. Two of us graduated from U.S. military academies. Two of us have served on both active and reserve duty (in fact, one of us worked on this report on the back of a ship while deployed as a reservist). Two of us have previous experience serving with — and training — members of Taiwan’s military. We also represent a genuine ‘joint’ military perspective, since our team members have served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, respectively.
Beyond our military expertise, Professor Lanoszka is an established scholar of alliances, nuclear proliferation and hybrid warfare. Matt Fay is an experienced defense budget analyst. And Erica Seng-White is an up and coming scholar of public opinion. It stands to reason that these are valuable perspectives worth adding to the conversation.
Regional expertise and local knowledge are of course essential. Our goal is not to ignore or replace such perspectives. But as I like to tell my students, bullets and missiles don’t care about culture and history — they have a logic all their own.
The subtitle of your monograph is “Enhancing Taiwan’s Conventional Deterrence Posture.” In Taiwan, we use the same Chinese term for ‘conventional’ and ‘traditional,’ and it carries a negative connotation particularly in the defense context (Taiwan’s fixation on conventional platforms comes to mind). Can you explain to us what you mean by “conventional (traditional) deterrence”?
This is another great question, because you highlight an important difference in how the term is used and understood in Taiwan and in the United States. By conventional deterrence we mean something very specific, which is to say we are specifically focusing on deterrence options that do not include nuclear weapons.
So when we use the term conventional we are not only referring to ‘traditional’ weapons and platforms. In fact, we think that Taiwan should seriously consider shifting away from ‘traditional’ weapons — things like main battle tanks, advanced fighter jets and large submarines — in order to free up money so it can buy large numbers of truly asymmetric capabilities: weapons like anti-ship missiles, naval mines, air defense assets and even guerrilla warfare units.
Why do you exclude nuclear weapons from consideration? Isn’t that the ultimate (and perhaps only real) deterrent?
We do not consider nuclear weapons because we think that in Taiwan’s case, nuclear weapons would invite the very threat that it wants to deter.
I agree that a credible, nuclear arsenal can deter aggression in theory. But if Taiwan tried to acquire nuclear weapons, it would face some very real obstacles.
The first obstacle is time. Experts think it would take Taiwan at least a year or two to design and build a nuclear weapon.
Which leads to the second obstacle: detection. Taiwan tried to develop nuclear weapons twice before. The United States detected both programs and pressured Taiwan to shut them down. And this occurred while Taiwan was still under authoritarian rule. It is hard to imagine how a vibrant, transparent and democratic Taiwan could keep such a program secret for a year or more.
The risk of detection leads to the third obstacle: China’s red lines. China will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Taiwan.
If we put all of these obstacles together, it seems likely that China will detect a Taiwanese nuclear program and would respond with military force long before Taiwan could design, develop, test and field a viable nuclear weapon.
I think this is a good time to clarify what you mean by “deterrence.” This word is used often by American and Taiwanese defense analysts, but we appear to have different understandings and views of what actually deters.
When my team uses the term deterrence, we are referring to attempts to convince a potential aggressor not to change the status quo by threatening to impose unacceptable pain on the aggressor if it tries. In other words, we can think of deterrence as drawing a line in the sand and telling the other side that it will pay an unacceptable price if it tries. If we apply this definition to Taiwan, we mean convincing China not to attempt to force unification on Taiwan against Taiwan’s will.
Building on generations of deterrence scholarship in the United States, we also believe that Taiwan must meet a number of prerequisites if it wants to deter aggression.
Here in Taiwan, officials articulate the idea that while a traditional (conventional) weapon or platform may not be useful in combat, we need it for its deterrent value. Submarines and tanks are often cited as examples of such requirements. On the other hand, you just talked about capabilities such as anti-ship missiles, naval mines, air defense assets, and even guerrilla warfare (let’s get to this later). Can you try to bridge this gap for us?
We respectfully disagree with officials who think that submarines and fighter jets can deter even if they are not useful in combat: We think this argument ignores the basic logic behind deterrence.
There are two basic ways to deter: deter by punishment and deter by denial.
“Deterrence by punishment” means threatening to retaliate to aggression by imposing unacceptable pain. For Taiwan to credibly deter by punishment, it would need to be able to convince China that it could impose unacceptable pain after an invasion or a major attack has already occurred. This probably requires nuclear weapons, which are problematic for all the reasons I already discussed. Or it will require a massive arsenal of long-range precision missiles that Taiwan could be reasonably sure would survive a preemptive strike.
And I do mean massive. Pinprick strikes are unlikely to exceed China’s pain threshold, especially if the CCP has already made the decision that it is willing to go to war over Taiwan. So Taiwan would need an arsenal that is so large that it could use it to achieve nuclear-like levels of destruction. Either way, deterrence by punishment is risky, because it forces Taiwan to wait for China to unambiguously cross a red line before retaliating. And by then it might be too late.
This leaves Taiwan with “deterrence by denial.” Unlike deterrence by punishment, which involves retaliating, deterrence by denial means convincing your adversary that you can prevent your adversary from accomplishing its goals on the battlefield at an acceptable price. As Thomas Schelling puts it, deterrence by denial means inducing your opponent not to attack by making his or her military operations so painful or costly that they will be convinced not to bother trying in the first place.
We think deterrence by denial is a far more credible and plausible way for Taiwan to deter China. But this means that Taiwan’s military weapons and platforms have to be useful in combat. Maybe if Taiwan had an unlimited defense budget it could afford to buy some weapons for purely symbolic purposes. But Taiwan faces some very challenging budget constraints, and so we think it has no choice but to focus its scarce defense resources on genuine warfighting capability.
To be clear: deterrence by denial does not mean that Taiwan has to be able to defeat China in a war. But deterrence by denial does require Taiwan to have enough combat capability to convince China that waging a war will be unacceptably costly. And we think the best way to do this is to focus on buying large numbers of cheap, highly survivable weapons.
The general public would expect that what actually deters our adversary is what is ultimately driving our defense planning: what we buy, how we use them, and how we train. But in Chapter Four, you mention interviews with senior Taiwanese defense officials who said – I’m paraphrasing here – that the reason to buy advanced, expensive, shiny platforms is to bolster the public’s morale, and to reassure the public, even if these items would have limited war-fighting capabilities. Can you highlight briefly for us: why do you believe that some advanced weapons would be of little use?
Yes, I will try to be brief! Thankfully, I think my really long winded answer to your previous question sets the stage for a relatively short answer to this one.
The answer boils down to one word: Money. Advanced weapons can be useful. But Taiwan cannot afford enough of them to credibly deter China. After all, China is really close to Taiwan. China has a large inventory of missiles, more troops, more ships and more jets than Taiwan. And Chinese weapons are quickly closing the gap in terms of quality as well. All of this means that if China ever decides that it wants to attack Taiwan, it will almost certainly start by launching a preemptive strike that uses missiles, special forces units and cyber attacks to deliver an overwhelming ‘knock out blow’ to Taiwan’s military.
So the only way for Taiwan to convince Chinese leaders that the PLA cannot prevail on the battlefield at an acceptable price is to buy so many weapons that China will worry that it cannot destroy most of them in a first strike; and that enough Taiwanese weapons and units will survive to still fight PLA invasion units.
This is where money becomes the problem. Advanced weapons are expensive. If Taiwan had an unlimited defense budget, we would probably agree that it should buy lots of diesel submarines, Aegis-like surface ships, and F-35s.
Unfortunately, Taiwan does not have an unlimited defense budget. So it cannot afford enough of these expensive, exquisite, advanced ships and jets to amass a large inventory that it can guarantee enough such weapons will survive a first strike.
Therefore, we think Taiwan should instead focus on acquiring large numbers of cheap things – weapons like naval mines, anti-ship missiles, drones and missile boats. Taiwan can afford to buy many of these weapons for the cost of a single submarine or F-35. Mines, missiles, drones and missile boats are small enough so that Taiwan can also disperse them around the island so as to make it hard for the PLA find and destroy all of them in a single blow.
And just because a weapon is cheap and small does not mean that it is ineffective. Many smart defense experts in the United States — people like T.X. Hammes — think that the world is in the middle of a revolution in how wars are fought. He says that for years the best militaries in the world spent all of their money buying small numbers of expensive, advanced weapons. But new advances in long range targeting, micro-processing, 3D printing and drone technology mean that armies, navies and air forces that buy large numbers of cheap weapons will be able to defeat adversaries who insist on fighting with small inventories of really expensive and technologically complex weapons.
It seems that what these officials are really expressing is the belief that, first, the “worst-case war” won’t happen: China can just buy Taiwan or squeeze us politically and economically; China needs to win the hearts and minds of the local population, so won’t do anything to inconvenience our civilians, much less risk killing them. And second, that Taiwan stands no chance on its own: we’re outnumbered and outgunned; we have no will to fight, as evident in the decision to abolish conscription.
The implication is that there won’t be a conflict — or much of one — so we might as well spend on the shiniest toys for open houses and photo ops. And maybe, if the US sells us the most exquisite weapons, it’s a signal that US will backstop Taiwan’s defense: the US won’t want to risk losing the first island chain.
Clearly you find the above views to be problematic. But until we adequately answer these questions — Is war possible? And if so, does Taiwan stand a chance on our own? — we can’t have a productive conversation about our defense policy.
My team and I hope that war will not break out in the Taiwan Strait. But we wrote this report because we think that war is possible, and that an inadequate deterrence posture actually makes it more likely that China will one day consider using military force.
We also agree that China prefers to ‘win’ without fighting. It is using — and it will continue to use — economic and political tools to try to compel Taiwan. We do not want to downplay these important challenges.
Nevertheless, we still focus on the military problem for two reasons. First, we are scholars and military officers who study security and defense issues, so we are not the right people to comment on political and economic challenges. Just like you shouldn’t get medical advice from your car mechanic, it isn’t right for us defense scholars to offer political and economic advice!
Second, we actually think Taiwan’s defense challenges are more pressing issue than its political and economic challenges. Yes, China prefers to use its political and economic tools. But Taiwan already has powerful defenses against such threats. It is a vibrant, transparent democracy. It has a globalized economy. It has strong institutions. Its citizens are intelligent, highly educated, and believe in the democratic process. All of these things help inoculate Taiwan against the insidious threat of economic and political subversion. Which means that we do not think that China is likely to prevail if it relies on economic and political tools alone.
Since Taiwan is a core, national interest for China, there is a very real risk that it will increasingly consider resorting to military force as it comes to believe that it cannot get what it wants peacefully. And for all of the reasons that I have already mentioned, my team does not think that Taiwan’s military defenses are as robust as its social, economic and political defenses.
Can Taiwan “win” on its own? I think this is asking the wrong question. First, deterrence does not depend on whether or not Taiwan can win. It depends on whether or not Taiwan can convince China that Taiwan’s military can make the PLA pay an unacceptable price if it tries to invade.
Second, I also think that if Taiwan does not take drastic steps to enhance its deterrence and defense capabilities, it will almost certainly lose before the United States or other potential partners will have time to intervene militarily. Every U.S. defense expert with whom I have spoken believes that it will take the United States much longer to project decisive military force into the region than most people assume.
So even if Taiwan’s political and military leaders believe that the U.S. will have no choice but to come to Taiwan’s aid, they still have to take steps to ensure that Taiwan will hold out long enough for the United States to arrive. My team and I do not believe Taiwan’s military will last very long if it continues to depend on small inventories of expensive jets, ships and submarines.
Moreover — and this is a very important point — I do not think American voters will support intervening on Taiwan’s behalf if they do not think Taiwan is doing everything in its power to provide for its own defense. The current presidential administration is very worried about allies and partners ‘free riding’ on the United States by under-spending on defense and expecting the U.S. military to bail them out in a conflict. There are also deep debates going on here in the United States about the role that America should play in the world. In particular, younger Americans are increasingly asking why the United States should intervene abroad when there are so many problems at home. My personal opinion is that the United States will continue to stay engaged in Europe and East Asia, but that it will prioritize its efforts on allies and partners that are willing to take the necessary steps to help themselves first.
Finally, my team and I reject the argument that Taiwan’s young men and women are “soft” or unwilling to fight. We think they will be willing to serve and to fight if they have weapons and training that they believe in. And we think that the approach we suggest — one that is organized around hit and run attacks instead of futile defenses; and one that depends on soldiers waging guerrilla warfare in and around their homes; is more likely to be something they can believe in.
Your recommendations center on two concepts (at the risk of oversimplifying a 40,000-word monograph): First, an alternative way of fighting that avoids direct confrontation and decisive battles, and does not seeks to control any battlefield. Second, you emphasize the value of a credible homeland defense and ground-based operations. Your first suggestion is quite different from the idea of “resolute defense” — holding that line, that fight to the last man — that our public is so used to hearing. What would this fight look like, as you envision it? And what could we hope to achieve?
That’s a terrific way to summarize a hundred-plus page monograph!
Yes, we do think that Taiwan’s ground forces play an under-appreciated role in deterring aggression. And we do not think that ‘resolute defense’ is a credible way to fight given the geographic, quantitative and qualitative challenges that Taiwan’s military forces face.
Unlike “resolute defense,” a “denial in depth” campaign starts on the far side of the Strait and continues all the way into the heart of Taipei.
Ground forces are the bedrock on which the entire scheme is built. But the fight really starts with Taiwan forces sending large numbers of long- range missiles and suicide drones across the Strait to begin sinking invasion ships before they leave port and bombers while they still sit on the runway.
Of course, many PLA ships and jets will survive. Yet once they start to sail and fly across the Strait they will then run into Taiwan’s mini-submarines, missile boats and, of course, more drones. Closer to the shoreline, PLA ships will run into mines (which are especially effective, because there are only a few beaches suitable for landing operations) at the exact same time that hidden and dispersed ground units begin firing long range artillery and anti-ship missiles at them. Then, as the landing craft begin making the final assault, ground troops will hit them with shorter-range anti-armor rockets, artillery and machine gun fire.
The biggest difference between ‘denial in depth’ and ‘resolute defense’ is that denial means that Taiwan’s ground troops should not stand and hold their ground once the first PLA troops make it ashore.
Instead, we suggest that Taiwan’s ground troops start to conduct a series of fighting withdraws. By this we mean that Taiwan’s ground units should hit the invasion force to impose casualties and to slow it down, and then pull back to a new position further away from the beach.
The idea is to repeat this process for as long as possible. And even if PLA units manage to ‘break into’ Taiwan’s cities, they will quickly find themselves bogged down by guerrilla units fighting for their homes and their families.
Ultimately, we are not in favor of trying to mount a decisive battle on the beach, because we think that plays to China’s strengths. This is because decisively defending means that Taiwan will have to mass ground forces. But massed ground forces will offer an easy target for Chinese aircraft and missiles. It is better to stay dispersed and hidden.
Although dispersed and hidden ground units cannot decisively thwart an invasion force, they can slow it down. And slowing the invasion force down buys time – time for the United States and other partners to mount an intervention.
Of course, the entire point of deterrence is to convince China not to attack in the first place. We think Chinese political and military leaders are more likely to attack if they think they can deliver a quick, knockout blow against a small Taiwanese military organized around a few jets and ships, and which will mass its soldiers in and around the beaches so as to be sitting ducks for long range missiles and bombers.
We think China will worry a lot more if they think they cannot win a quick victory and will find themselves fighting a prolonged conflict that drags on long enough for the United States and its allies to intervene.
Since you mention “ground forces as the bedrock,” I must ask for your thoughts on tanks. How might they fit into your concept? This program is controversial in Taiwan.
Tanks could play a role in these kinds of combat operations. However, my team and I do not think that large main battle tanks, like the Abrams, are the best option. Although they have some of the best armor and targeting optics in the world (depending on which version the United States is selling), they are so large and heavy – over 60 tons – that they will have problems navigating many of Taiwan’s narrow roads or crossing Taiwan’s countless small bridges. So main battle tanks could have a role helping out with the ‘close in’ coastal defense fight. But they will probably be a liability in the subsequent ground fight. Large tanks can only drive on main roads and big bridges, which will make them easier to target and destroy.
We think that Taiwan’s ground forces might be better off relying on small, lightweight armored vehicles. They are lighter, faster and more maneuverable. They can be modified to carry rockets and missiles in addition to cannon. They will be easier to hide. Many can carry their own small team of soldiers for protection. And they are cheaper.
In Chapter 5, you write: “You do not win an asymmetric war by dying. You win it by getting the other side to die instead.” And how would we train for this fight?
We admit that it will be a lot harder to train ground troops to conduct denial operations than it is to prepare them for resolute defense.
Denial in depth requires units to be small, fast and flexible. Large units will move too slowly and will be too easy to target and destroy.
But in order for small units to conduct hit and run attacks, the army must empower and train lieutenants and captains, not colonels and generals, so that they can make critical decisions about when to fight and when to pull back.
These kinds of changes are hard, but we think young Taiwanese men and women are more than capable of handling it.
Aggressive, realistic training is key.
Your second idea is also quite refreshing. We rarely hear analysts talk about the ground phase of battle, because the assumption has long been that the fight will be lost once the PLA is able to land its first soldier on Taiwan (“Why send our boys — and girls? — to die unnecessarily”). This would suggest that either your proposals are unrealistic, or our defense community is missing a critical piece in our thinking. If I may put you on the spot: which is it?