Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wants Versus Needs

Taiwan definitely needs new F-16 fighters and submarines. President Ma even says so, repeatedly:

Taiwan on Sunday said it was still pursuing its bid to buy eight submarines and dozens of F-16 fighters from the United States despite warming relations with former arch-rival China.

The Taipei-based China Times reported Sunday that Taiwan had decided to accept a US proposal of just four conventional submarines to help expedite the arms deal which has been in limbo since 2001.

Taiwan has two in operation and two museum pieces barely fit for training purposes in port. On the surface, a request for four puts Taiwan up on what they have and no more than equal to what they had. But of course, China's navy is now far more powerful meaning that getting more submarines is necessary for Taiwan's defense. Especially if half the subs are knocked out in port by some of those missiles that the Chinese bizarrely deny are pointed at Taiwan (tip to Mad Minerva). So having eight may merely guarantee that three or four can be at sea at any one time to actually fight.

The View from Taiwan in that post also rightly wonders if Ma really wants those weapons despite his requests. I must say that when I heard Ma recently bringing up the issue of America selling him fighter planes and subs, I wondered that, too. Specifically, I wondered if he really wants submarines since we don't make conventional submarines. I know we are supposed to figure out how to find a builder since countries that build them are too afraid of angering China to sell Taiwan any subs, but I don't see that happening. Why not just ask about the F-16s which we do build and see if Taiwan can get Russia to sell Taiwan subs,an option I've mentioned before.

The reason could be that Ma wants to tie something he doesn't want but can get from America (F-16s) with something he neither wants nor can get from America (subs), and so ensure he gets neither planes nor subs. The fact that Taiwan needs both is not relevant, apparently.