Former defence chief touts civilian defence force: Ukraine’s will to resist the enemy a lesson for Taiwan

Taiwan’s former defence chief (Chief of General Staff), Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, said that if Taiwan had a civilian territorial defence force it would make the Chinese Communist Party think twice about launching an invasion of the country, citing the example of Ukraine, in an interview with Liberty Times Network today, October 7.

Lee, who currently serves as a senior research fellow of the Washington-based Project 2049 Institute, said that Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, and Russian troops in armored vehicles reached Kyiv early in the war. However, Ukraine managed to repel these forces with anti-armor weapons. Now, seven months later, Russian troops are demoralized and facing a counterattack by the Ukrainians.

Lee believes that the Russo-Ukrainian War has made Taiwanese people pay more attention to Taiwan’s security, and highlighted the importance of not only asymmetrical combat power, but also the effectiveness of the will to resist the enemy exemplified by the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force.

Lee suggested that if Taiwan were to establish a homeland defense force, an invading communist army would have to face the regular army and armed militia after landing. This, Lee said, would complicate the CCP’s battle plans and reduce the chance they would dare to commit military forces.

Lee made an analogy, saying that if the small man looks scared, the big man will more likely raise his fist; but if the small man looks like he is not afraid, even to the point of being beaten to death, the big man may also consider that even if he wins the fight, he may suffer a broken arm or leg. A serious injury could affect the quality of his life in the future, so he would probably reconsider launching an attack in the first place.

Chief of General Staff, Admiral Lee Hsi-ming with President Tsai Ing-wen.
Admiral Lee Hsi-ming served as Chief of General Staff from 2017 to 2019. Picture: Presidential Office.

Referring to his recently published book, The Overall Defense Concept: An Asymmetric Approach to Taiwan’s Defense, Lee said that the objective of his book is to show how to prevent war. To prevent war, you must know how to defend yourself and win the war: In this way you can deter the threat.

Lee also cited the example of Afghanistan, saying that although the Afghan government army was much stronger than the Taliban on paper, as soon as the US military withdrew, the Afghan military collapsed. “It is obvious that the will to resist the enemy will determine success or failure,” Lee said.

Lee concluded that if Taiwan can establish a homeland defense force, lifting age limits, and allowing people to participate voluntarily, the government could invest in small drones, anti-armor rockets, grenades, other weapons, and motor vehicles to supply the militia. Once the communist forces landed, they would have to contend not only with the regular defence forces, but with an armed militia everywhere. This would make it more difficult for the communist army to formulate an effective battle plan. “Would they dare do this?” Lee said, adding that if we can really form an armed militia it would truly constitute a resilient force.

Lee pointed out that he has been putting forward these concepts for a long time, but he is a little disappointed that he has not received any response from the government. If they think his ideas are wrong, they should debate it and offer a better method, he said. Noting that pacifists may criticize him, and some may say his method will lead to people’s death, Lee said that to just think that nothing will happen, and to do nothing, is not good for Taiwan.

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