Phase Out US Commitment to "Defend Taiwan"
May 15, 2006
Hu Jintao and George W. Bush
The quasi-conservative, quasi-libertarian Cato Institute has reiterated a policy recommendation that every US legislator ought to take to heart. It has wisely recommended that the US phase out its long-standing commitment to "defend Taiwan."
I did not put the words "defend Taiwan" in scare quotes frivolously. I put them in scare quotes for a good reason. To refer to US policy as "defending Taiwan" rather than "aggressing against China" is Orwellian Newspeak.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the US government's motive may have been to "defend Taiwan," rather than to use Taiwan as an expendable pawn in its effort to strategically "contain" China, but no longer.
If the US government's intentions were that benevolent once, they are benevolent no more. Today, right wing think tanks such as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) don't even bother concealing their real motive for aiding and abetting the Taiwan independence movement, the Tibetan independence movement, Falun Gong, and "useful idiots" such as Wang Dan, Wei Jingshen, and Harry Wu.
Their real motive is to use these subversive elements within China as pretexts for economic, diplomatic, and if the opportunity presents itself, military intervention against China. Their real motive is to prevent China from ever becoming an economically prosperous, technologically advanced, First World nation comparable to the United States.
Some Americans, out of a misguided sense of what constitutes patriotism, may be tempted to endorse such strategies. That would be a mistake of the first order, both morally and practically.
Morally, such a malicious strategy of subversion is unworthy of America, a nation founded on the benevolent premise of peaceful trade for mutual benefit, not the malevolent "zero sum game" premise of social Darwinism.
Practically, such a strategy of containment might work against relatively small nations such as Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but they cannot possibly succeed against a nation the size of China.
If US political leaders maliciously attempt to keep a peacefully developing China down regardless, they will only squander America's national strength while transforming China into a resentful strategic rival when it could have and would have become a profitable trading partner.
Below is the Cato Institute article in question, with my editorial comments, both negative and positive.
May 15, 2006
The Bush Administration Snubs Taiwan
by Ted Galen Carpenter
Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.
This article appeared on Foxnews.com on May 12, 2006.
Cato: It was only a few years ago that Republicans castigated the Clinton administration for the way it treated Taiwanese leaders who had stop over visits to the United States during trips to countries that maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan’s official name).
Those criticisms were warranted. Clinton officials treated both current Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian and his predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, as pariahs. During their stopovers, they were prevented from even meeting with members of Congress or the media–much less being allowed to give public speeches. Republicans accused the administration of kowtowing to China, which claims that Taiwan is merely a renegade province.
Comment: Those criticisms were not warranted. If a nation has recognized one political authority as the legitimate government of another nation, it ought to act in a manner consistent with that recognition. It ought not to deviously play one side against the other.
Cato: When it came into office, the Bush administration vowed to treat the leader of a sister democracy with far more consideration. And it did. The reception accorded Chen during his stopovers throughout Bush’s first term was cordial and respectful, despite strong objections from China. Chen routinely interacted with journalists, members of Congress, and public audiences while in the United States.
Comment: "Sister democracy" my foot. One expects democratic universalist tripe such as this from Frances Fukuyama, but the quasi-libertarian Cato Institute ought to know better. Shame on you. As George Washington admonished, "There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard."
Cato: Washington’s reaction was very different, however, regarding Chen’s latest trip in early May. This time, U.S. officials even refused his request to land in New York City for a refueling stop on his way to Central America. Indeed, they indicated that all airports in the United States would be off limits. They did offer to let him stop in Alaska, provided that he have no interaction with the public.
There appear to be two major reasons for Washington’s hostile response.
Throughout his presidency, Chen has pushed the envelope on Taiwanese independence, often infuriating Beijing and heightening tensions in the Taiwan Strait. He also has tended to blind side the United States with his initiatives–most notably with his decision in early 2006 to abolish the National Unification Council and the National Unification Guidelines. That action sent a blunt message to Beijing that Taiwan was not interested in political reunification with the mainland, now or in the future.
Chen’s behavior has produced rising annoyance in the State Department and even in the White House. U.S. officials have been looking for a way to administer a public rebuke to Chen, and it appears that they found one.
The other reason for snubbing Chen on his latest visit appears to be a calculation that the gesture would increase the likelihood that Beijing would be more supportive of U.S. calls for pressure on Iran in the ongoing nuclear crisis. If that was Washington’s expectation, it is extremely naive. China has an array of reasons for not wanting to antagonize Iran. A U.S. decision to snub Taiwan’s leader is far too limited a concession to sway Beijing’s decision.
Comment: Nonsense. This "explanation" parrots Taiwan Lobby media spin control. Taiwan independence Quislings hope to nudge the US back towards the illegal Chen regime by such indirect condemnation of Washington disguised as direct condemnation of Beijing. Ironically, such charges can only anger the Malevolent Global Hegemonists in the Bush administration, who consider themselves the Masters of the Universe. Any suggestion that Beijing has enough clout to coerce them into snubbing the Taiwan independence nomenklatura in Taipei is considered an affront to their manhood.
Cato: In any case, it is a shabby way for the United States to treat the leader of another democracy. Granted, it would have been improper for the administration to have formally recognized the visit or to have held meetings between executive branch officials and Chen. Washington maintains diplomatic relations with China, not Taiwan, and it does not dispute Beijing’s claim that China is part of Taiwan.
But Chen should have been accorded the respect and consideration given to any other distinguished foreign visitor.
Comment: The "leader of another democracy" who has been treated shabbily is Lien Chan, who won the 2004 ROC presidential election, but whom the Bush administration cheated out of office when it reneged on its promise to support the Pan Blue KMT/PFP alliance's demand for another election.
Cato: Washington’s conduct also smacked of crude interference in Taiwan’s internal political affairs. The treatment accorded Chen contrasted sharply with that accorded Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou, the leader of the opposition Kuomintang Party, during his trip to the United States a month earlier. Ma was allowed to make public speeches and was given very cordial receptions throughout his visit. Those contrasting actions convey a not-very-subtle message that Washington would like to see Ma as the next president of Taiwan.
Comment: Surprise, surprise, surprise. Doesn't Cato, which is supposed to be anti-interventionist, or at the very least, non-interventionist, realize that it is US insistence on having it both ways that leads to damned if you do, damned if you don't dilemmas like this? Cato needs to heed its own advice, cease its mealy-mouthed fence-straddling, and have the guts to commit itself fully to an anti-interventionist, or at the very least, non-interventionist foreign policy.
See: Scrap the Taiwan Relations Act
Cato: The current policy toward Taiwan is the worst possible combination. Washington maintains an implicit commitment to defend the island if China ever decides to use force to compel reunification. That is an increasingly dangerous and unwise commitment–especially as China’s economic and military power continues to mount. [emphasis added]
At the same time, U.S. leaders seem to believe that the defense commitment entitles Washington to meddle in Taiwan’s political affairs, seeking to affect the outcome of the island’s next presidential election in 2008.
A better course would be to phase-out the defense commitment [emphasis added] while showing proper respect for Taiwan’s elected leader. The latest incident suggests that Washington’s policy badly needs re-calibration.
Comment: Finally, Cato puts its finger on the crux of the matter: "A better course would be to phase out the defense commitment."
Phasing out any US commitments to "defend Taiwan" is not merely the "better course," it's the only course.
Never mind Cato's eyewash about "showing proper respect for Taiwan's elected leader." Chen Shui-bian is not "Taiwan's elected leader" in the first place. Lien Chan is the Republic of China's duly elected leader. Showing undeserved respect for unconstitutional usurper and US puppet Chen Shui-bian amounts to showing disrespect for Lien Chan, the Republic of China's actual leader, and the 53% majority of the electorate on Taiwan who voted for him.
See: Taiwan's Stolen Election