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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Defense drills should include public

Defense drills should include public

The annual civil defense drill was held in Taipei on Thursday, with participants simulating responses to natural disasters and war. The Taipei Fire Department said the exercises emphasized air raid evacuation, distribution of supplies, prevention and control of infectious diseases, and disaster rescue, the Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

CNA cited Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) as saying that this year’s drills involved a scenario in which the military would be unable to provide assistance with those measures. The drills involved rescuers, volunteers, members of civil defense units and reservists, as well as 144 active and reserve alternative service members. A civil defense program with annual exercises helps ensure Taiwan’s readiness in the event of a conflict with China, but the government should expand the scope of the program to include members of the public.

One of the advantages Ukraine had in its defense against Russia’s invasion was having so many civilian volunteers. Civilian involvement in defense is even more crucial in Taiwan, where, unlike Ukraine, evacuation might not be possible after the start of a conflict.

As an island, Taiwan would struggle to evacuate — and it is widely believed that China would impose a blockade around the nation, preventing vessels and aircraft from getting in or out. While Taiwan might receive military assistance from the US and other countries, it would need to rely on itself in the initial period. In such a contingency, the better prepared the public is, the less likely people are to panic, and the more capable they would be to assist with logistical and emergency responses. If able-bodied members of the public could assist with defense operations, Taiwan’s chances would be even better.

United Microelectronics Corp founder Robert Tsao (曹興誠) in September last year donated NT$1 billion (US$32.64 million) to the Kuma Academy, which offers courses on cross-strait geopolitics and strategy, invasion scenarios, disinformation and first aid. Tsao has vowed to train “3 million people in three years” and 300,000 “marksmen” for a civilian militia. Kuma has thousands of people on its waiting list, and demand for airsoft gun training courses at Camp 66 in Taipei has increased, Foreign Policy reported on Dec. 19 last year.

The government should do more to help meet this demand. It could provide weapons training courses to the public without the need for active or reservist training enrollment. It could also encourage public involvement in the civil defense drill, requiring employers to provide paid leave for those who wish to participate, and holding the drills more frequently.

Such training does not need to be limited to adults. The government could introduce subsidized first aid, hand-to-hand combat and weapons training courses to students in high school and university.

The military should do more to make conscription more meaningful. A CNN report on Feb. 20 cited six conscripts as calling mandatory training “outdated, boring and impractical.”

“In our company, we had more than 100 assault rifles, but only slightly more than a dozen could be used for shooting practice,” one conscript said. Outdated bayonet training and the memorization of slogans still play a large part in mandatory service, the report said.

The government must provide more substantial training programs that are useful to scenarios that Taiwanese could actually find themselves in, in the event of a conflict with China. This includes urban warfare, cognitive warfare, cyberwarfare, drone operation, close-range weapons combat and the types of training practiced by the Kuma Academy, and during civil defense drills.

Without useful, meaningful training, the majority of Taiwanese would be ill-prepared in the event of a military conflict.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/05/06

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