To ensure its existence, Taiwan’s military, with US help, must deter war with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and, if deterrence fails, win the war. Taiwan’s war planners envision that China would seek to achieve the annexation of Taiwan through conquest and occupation of the island. Hence for Taiwan winning the war means foiling the PLA’s mission of successfully invading and exerting physical control over Taiwan. Taiwan must think about fighting the PLA with a flexible mind. A typical war of attrition with the PLA is a losing proposition. Facing a stronger adversary, embracing an effective asymmetric defense posture and incorporating tactical asymmetric capabilities could compensate for Taiwan’s disadvantages on paper and prevent the PLA from getting boots on the ground.
Taiwan’s military must retain the ability to defend itself and strike back after the PLA conducts its missile, air-strike and cyber campaigns. Principles of force preservation including mobility, camouflage, concealment, deception, electronic jamming, operational redundancy, rapid repair and blast mitigation must be adhered to. Robust force preservation must sustain Taiwan’s capabilities beyond the first phase of a full-scale PLA attack.
Making deterrence effective, as pointed out in part 1 of this series, is based upon raising the price of a Chinese attack. This requires a strategy very much like Air-Land Battle, but with some twists. In Air-Land Battle we sought to isolate the first echelon from follow on echelons. The same must be true in Taiwan. The Taiwan military capability to survive the first attacks and defeat an invasion on the beaches must also have a deep attack component—the ability to attack second echelons in the water and in staging areas on mainland China. It is this demonstrated ability to conduct deep strikes that must be survivable in the Chinese initial onslaught and then able to attack critical deep targets while the defense of the beaches is going on. These deep strikes might also include missile launch sites and airfields. True isolation of the beach battle allows the Taiwanese forces to not have to fight severely outnumbered in the most important battle—the battle on their own territory.
Realizing that Taiwan has said that it will never strike first, however it is in the same situation that Israel has found itself in and must consider pre-emption under certain circumstances. Disrupting a Chinese effort to stage for its initial assault could be better than having to defeat it on Taiwanese beaches. The acquisition of such a capability might be difficult as the acquisition could in fact cause the Chinese to attack sooner rather than later. It is this deep strike capability that is critical for a successful defense that could constitute a pre-emptive capability. Isn’t deterrence a cruel and difficult game?