Taiwanese find comfort in the roar of F-16s

This is a guest post from a reader in Taiwan. The writer’s views don’t necessarily reflect my own (personally, I wouldn’t call the PRC “Communist China” anymore), but the piece sheds light on what must often be going on in the minds of many people living in Taiwan today.

The roar of F-16s practicing drills in Taiwan is deafening, reassuring
by Dan Bloom

f16.jpg

Chiayi Cit, Taiwan — The apartment where I live in Chiayi City in
southern Taiwan is just a few kilometers away from one of the
country’s Air Force bases, with F-16s practicing take-off and landings
almost seven days a week, and flying high above the Chianan Plain with
ear-piercing roars. I don’t mind the sound of the military jets taking
off early in the morning or even at night, because I know that
Taiwan’s Air Force is playing a vital role in the nation’s defense.

But the daily sound of the F-16s from the nearby Air Force base remind
me of my childhood in Massachusetts, during the old days of the Cold
War between the U.S. and the USSR, because my parents’ home was close to an important American military base for massive B- 52 bombers and other kinds of military jets. As a teenager in the 1960s, I knew that
if Russia attacked the USA mainland, this local Air Force base —
Westover Air Force Base, it was called — would be main target of
Moscow’s missiles and bombs, and I sometimes had nightmares about an imaginary Cold War attack.

My father, now a retired doctor, used to make medical rounds at
Westover Air Force Base, and occasionally he asked me to accompany him in the car during the drive to the base. When he would go inside the base to check on some injured or sick airmen, I would stay in the car, reading a book or doing my homework, and gaze out at the huge military aircraft on the runways.

When I hear the F-16s in Chiayi whizzing by, sometimes in single plane
against the blue sky and sometimes two or three or four planes flying
together, I remember those old days of the Cold War in my hometown in
Massachusetts, and I think to myself: “God forbid a war should ever
break out between Taiwan and China! Chiayi City will be one of the main targets, of course!”

I don’t think there ever will be a war between the two countries, but
I am not a military expert or a diplomat or an anylyst for Jane’s
Defence Weekly. I just live here, work here, mind my own business, hope for the best, cheer Taiwan on!

But some people think there could be a war someday between Taiwan and China, and that Taiwan is immensely unprepared and ill-equipped.
Wendell Minnick, writing for Jane’s Defence Weekly, recently wrote
that, in his opinion as a military analyst, “Taiwan’s air force has
enough munitions to last only for two days in a war with China.” Ouch.
Two days is not a very long time to try to win a war.

Minnick goes even further in his observations, opining that if Taiwan
remains unprepared and under-equipped for a future war with communist China, Taiwan will be “raped” by Beijing if a war ever does break out. He actually used that word — rape — writing that as things stand now, in terms of this nation’s military preparedness, munitions and equipment, “in a war with China, China will rape Taiwan.”

I hope that the Air Force base in Chiayi County will not become the
Westover Air Force Base of my childhood, and I have faith that the
governments of Taiwan and China will make peace someday, rather than
war, although one must await the democratization of the PRC and the
collapse of the Communist Party of China before that ever happens.

In the meantime, on any given day in quiet, agricultural Chiayi, where
large farms predominate along with rural temples and rice paddies, one
can hear the roar of the locally-based F-16s taking off and flying
overhead on their regular practice runs. The sound of the roaring jet
engines is both noisy and reassuring, because I know that the young
men piloting these sleek, powerful planes are practicing in order
defend their homeland, if it should ever come to that, and that is
always a good thing.

Let’s hope good sense comes to the leaders of communist China someday soon, and the sooner the better. No Taiwanese military pilot wants to buy a “one-way ticket” to China, as Jane’s Defence Weekly
characterized the cynicism that sometimes prevails among defense
analysts.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

Yeah, I prefer butchers of Beijing over Communist bullies. Seems more fitting, don’t you think?

June 23, 2005 @ 10:26 am | Comment

Well, that seems kind of harsh. I mean, they’re not communist anymore, but they aren’t really butchers anymore, either. I don’t mind words like authoritarian or tyrannical or repressive, but “butchers” is a bit much.

June 23, 2005 @ 10:53 am | Comment

The TM mothers and fathers of those shot dead as well FLG’s recently murdered by torture Ms Gao and the relatives of everyone murdered by the government in between might disagree with you on the butcher’s tag.

June 23, 2005 @ 11:08 am | Comment

Hey, I’m very critical of the CCP, as you may know. I don’t defend them very often. But tarring them with the blanket description of “butchers” is stepping into dangerous territory. All governments have blood on their hands, I’m afraid. There are ample instances of butchery by the US, by Saudi Arabia, by Israel, by Argentina — by everyone. How do we set the standards for what constitutes a “butcher government”? And when does the title wear off? (Because practically no one was more of a butcher than Chiang Kai Shek.) I just think its better to use moderation in our language because words can carry into deeds.

June 23, 2005 @ 11:13 am | Comment

Michael, why do you not count the killed innocent villagers during the VN War, why do you not count the killed school children during the Panama invasion, why do you not count the innocent Iragi citizens who have been arbitrarily thrown into the Abu Ghraib and humilated there, why is a part of your brain so emotionally drenched in adrenalin while another part so assuredly shut down?

June 23, 2005 @ 11:24 am | Comment

Leo, before you wet your little pants, just remember we were talking about China above, not America, Iraq, Panama or whatever other country you wish to randomly choose. As far as I can see it was a little chat about whether it was appropriate to label the CHINESE govt ‘butchers’ or not—-it’s dead easy if you concentrate really, really hard.

Ok, Richard, I can see the point you’re making there. Fair call.

June 23, 2005 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

The question for me is not: Is it appropriate to call the Chinese government “butchers”?

The question for me isn’t : Is it appropriate to call anyone “butchers”?

My question is: Is it constructive in anyway to call anyone “butchers”?

June 23, 2005 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

Even when you have a figure who deserves it, I think such rhetoric is easily misused for propaganda purposes. See GW Bush and “Axis of Evil,” “Butcher of Bagdhad,” etc., for examples.

June 23, 2005 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

[disclaimer: sorry to jump in Leo, but this is pertinent to a discussion I was having with Laowai earlier elsewhere.]

no michael, you need to concentrate.

to call a government “butchers” is to use figurative language.
it is sensationalist and implies action that is extreme: not just very hardcore, but isolated, unusual, remote.

which is why it is perfectly rational for someone responding to put the PRC actions into the context of other governments’ actions.
by doing so one may show that PRC actions are not so isolated, unusual, remote, but perhaps more common.
doing so deals with your use of the word “butchers” head on, perhaps correcting the implications that the word carries with it.
it also grounds the discussion back to the real word rather than high flying rhetoric (again — why use figurative language when plainer language will do?).

(by the way context shouldn’t necessarily detract from moral judgement, that’s a cheap escape trick)

anyway, I feel a china-bashing homily coming on… and I know how much my fellow guests here enjoy listening to me preach!

June 23, 2005 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

KLS is the new Mark Anthony Jones.

Too late, I conceded the point following Richards above remark.

June 23, 2005 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

Michael, yes, I remember you are talking about China. But when I widen my memory, why does your utterance sound so absurd?
And, why should I wet my pants? Are you human or dinosaur?

June 23, 2005 @ 1:53 pm | Comment

And now, why don’t we get back to discussing the F-16s over Taiwan…?

June 23, 2005 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

KLS – I agree with your estimation of overly dramatic language.

Still, there are a few things that grate against my sense of justice. Rwanda, Tiananmen, Nanjing, Apartheid, Iran-Contra, the Bush administration’s constant denial of Global Warming, etc.

From your posts, I detect a rather high level of cynicism and dissmissiveness over my posts, which is fine. I’m not a champion of justice, as such, but I try my best to help the unfortunate and dispossessed. If you’re still worried about my over-exaggerating China’s problems over the rest of the world, my site details some of the charities I give to, as well as other, perhaps more moderate discussions which you may enjoy.

June 23, 2005 @ 4:29 pm | Comment

I’m no China expert, but it appears to me that the military improvements taking place within the PLA are geared to achieving an ability to project and sustain their forces across the Taiwan Strait. They obviously have some way to go, but once that capability is achieved, I would not rely on warm feelings of brotherhood to stave off the inevitable. China will absorb Taiwan eventually, by mutual agreement or force. That much is written, as T.E. Lawrence might have said.

June 23, 2005 @ 8:29 pm | Comment

It maybe deafening, but much less reassuring. Just look at the fact: the Chen Shuibian government is soliciting support for its new round of arms purchasing from the US, by promising Taiwan youth that they no longer need to be mandatorily drafted.

Seems to me Taiwan lost its willingness to fight for its survival. Flying Tiger from the other side of the ocean is their only rescue. Or can they bet on that, this time?

June 24, 2005 @ 4:46 am | Comment

Hi Laowai, dismissive certainly not, cynical perhaps a little in that I guess I’m a bit less idealistic than you.
I did say my above comment was pertinent to the discussion we were beginning on that other post … but I wasn’t laying down the gauntlet to you again! … just finding an excuse to jump in really, the butcher thing was pissing me off.

June 24, 2005 @ 3:03 pm | Comment

Not hard to be less idealistic than me, I suppose. ๐Ÿ™‚

June 24, 2005 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

bellvue, I’m not really disagreeing with you, however, it’s true to say that Taiwanese forces are not the Cold War, anti-communist, take-back-the-mainland KMT fanatics that they were.

Perhaps a smaller, leaner and better-equipeed, volunteer army is what Taiwan needs. The future of the Taiwanese Armed Forces is heading towards Aegis/Patriot missile defence on the one hand and offensive ballistic missile deterrants on the other.

I would like to see Taiwan come fully under the US anti-missile sheid as Japan will in 2006.

Still, I must just add that China is a paper tiger and despite the threats and political power of the army, china would be crazy to try anything against Taiwan.

Too much to lose, like, er, everything.

From what I’ve read recently

June 25, 2005 @ 1:04 am | Comment

Martyn, we’d better treat China as a real tiger, to be on the safer side. I certainly wish you were right, and Taiwan will be shieded by TMD/NMD/whatever. However, I’m not even sure if Japan enjoys such protection.

When you talk about “a smaller, leaner and better-equipeed, volunteer army” you may be thinking of IDF. Pentagon expected the samething, but when they visited Taiwan, it’s reported they saw a military of banana republic, instead of IDF.

June 25, 2005 @ 5:21 am | Comment

Yes, treat China as a real tiger is the only option available I suppose. You’re right to pick me up on that.

China simply can’t afford to launch a war against anyone never mind Taiwan, certainly not now or anytime soon anyway. I don’t mean afford as in economic terms, I mean the export-driven economy is approx 40% dependant on foreign capital, if that stops, particularly suddenly, then China stops.

Any Chinese government would have to be already on the brink of collapse before they even dared to ponder a war with Taiwan.

Half the reason why they bleat, howl, whine and generally stamp and shout like a 2-year-old child over Taiwan is because that’s the only thing they can do. Does anyone really think they’d put so much effort into all these threats and abuse if they really meant even a fraction of what they say?

If Taiwan could be even 20% as proficient as the IDF I’d be satisfied.

Agree that America is exasperated with the state of the TW armed forces, particularly their unwillingness to take the china threat seriously. However, cut them a bit of slack because the traditionally KMT-dominated army is slowly changing so as to reflect the new Taiwan of Taiwanese-ness and general rejection of China. It’ll take a bit of time.

We also need more time for the KMT to utterly destroy itself and become even more irrelavent than what it is now!

June 25, 2005 @ 8:46 am | Comment

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