Why Taiwan can’t copy Ukraine’s civil defense blueprint

The following article went live on The Diplomat website today. 

Ukraine’s successful deployment of Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) has brought renewed focus to the possibility of creating a similar military reserve in Taiwan. Yet, much of this discussion has ignored the constitutionality of such a move.

A March 15 commentary in War on the Rocks by former Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China Armed Forces Lee Hsi-Min and academic Michael Hunzeker put forward the case for a “stand-alone service under the aegis of the Ministry of National Defense (MND).” The authors state that Ukraine’s experience “suggests that popular resistance has merit and might be the difference between Taiwan surviving an assault from the mainland and succumbing.”

Because of the MND’s decision to adopt a U.S.-style operational reserve approach, Lee and Hunzeker say that incorporating TDF into the MND’s current reserve reforms will not be possible. They further observe that “Taiwan’s existing patchwork of militias and civil defense groups” will provide neither a deterrent to a Chinese invasion nor meaningful resistance to an occupation by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces.

However, in calling for the establishment of TDF under the MND, the authors – and others who have echoed their views – are ignoring a crucial point: As things stand, the MND cannot simply greenlight such a force.


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