Taiwan Air Force RoCAF F-16A

US and Taiwan Militaries Doing More Together, but There’s a Catch

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the Americans will be deploying as many as 200 troops to Taiwan to serve in training and advisory roles to Taiwan’s military.

This is a good development. If properly deployed, a hundred or two hundred troops can have a positive, even outsized, effect. Among other things, the Americans can train more of Taiwan’s military or, better said, train Taiwan’s trainers, who will in turn share new concepts more broadly within the Taiwan armed forces.

Why This Is So Important

For starters, Taiwan’s military has had very little meaningful engagement with the U.S. military—or with anyone—for the last four decades. “Combined” training with U.S. forces appears to have consisted of two platoon-sized events between Taiwan Marines and U.S. Marines: one in 2017 and another in 2021.

The predictable result of over 40 years of isolation is that Taiwan’s defense capabilities have languished and almost fossilized. Imagine a baseball team that never plays other teams. It only plays “intra-squad” games with itself. Improvement comes slowly, if at all.

Taiwan’s military needs as much direct exposure to other militaries as possible. And this development is a start.

There’s also a psychological aspect to the Americans spending more time with Taiwan.

Decades of isolation battered Taiwan’s confidence and ability and willingness to defend itself.

So, when Taiwanese feel like they aren’t a friendless pariah—and the Americans are indeed backing them up—it bolsters confidence within the military, the government, and the public at large. This matters as much as the new tactics, techniques, and procedures Taiwan’s military might learn.

What’s Next

Will the number of American troops in Taiwan increase? Possibly. But first things first. Make sure that the first tranche is doing useful things—not administrative work or “ticket punching.”

Hopefully, some of the “new” Americans will get involved in joint planning with Taiwan’s military for future contingencies. Joint U.S.-Taiwan operational planning doesn’t seem to have been a priority to date. If China does something, the idea seems to be to “wing it.”

It will also be useful if a few of the Americans are allocated to help Taiwan improve its military reserve force—which needs all sorts of attention. And some help with Civil Defense would also be in order.

One hundred or two of the “right” U.S. service personnel is better than a couple thousand of the wrong ones.

The “right” ones are those people, of any rank, who have the “magic” when you put them in a foreign environment. “Magic”? They of course know their stuff and can operate without direct supervision; but even more, the locals want to be around them and want to listen to them—and be like them.

There are a lot fewer of these people around than one imagines.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Taiwanese forces (of indeterminate size) are already training in the United States with the Michigan National Guard. This is good news. And reportedly, the numbers might increase to battalion-size (around 600 troops).

It’s important to operate as a fairly large unit when the chance allows—and you also expose larger numbers of troops to a different environment and a new training setting. This is how a military improves. By operating with the Americans, they’ll improve even more.

And since the Pentagon is showing some uncharacteristic initiative, perhaps the Taiwan Navy and Marine Corps will finally be invited to Guam and the Northern Marianas for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training with the U.S. Navy and Marines. Do so, and the Japan Self-Defense Force might even join in.

Read the rest at Epoch Times.

Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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