September 17, 2007:
despite increasing threats from China, has allowed its military strength to
shrink. Fifteen years ago, Taiwan was spending $9.7 billion a year on defense.
Adjusted for inflation, that's over $14 billion today. But the current defense
budget is a third less than what it was in 1992. And that would be even worse
had it not been for a big boost this year. The basic problem is that enough
Taiwanese, and the legislators that represent them, believe that the U.S. will
protect Taiwan, and refuse to spend a lot of money on training and new weapons.
The result is that attempts to increase the defense budget have been blocked,
delayed and just not implemented, for over a decade. The thrifty Taiwanese are
not going to get alarmed until the U.S. begins making obvious moves away from
defending Taiwan. Pessimists might say that has already begun, given American
military planners concern about Taiwan's ability to even hang on until U.S.
forces can arrive. Officially, however, the U.S. is still committed to
defending Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. And as long as that attitude
survives, Taiwan is committed to spending as little as possible on its own