We are living in unprecedented times — from the COVID-19 pandemic, to the supply chain issues that are affecting all aspects of our economy, to the dire consequences of climate change, to the messy pullout in Afghanistan, to the spike in energy prices, to the craziness that has engulfed our politics.
It seems that we are living in a period of crisis-after-crisis-after-crisis.
But there is another potential source of disruption looming on the horizon that will dwarf all others: The spectre of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
So the question is this: If the Chinese decide to invade Taiwan — as they clearly are preparing to do — what should be our response?
We have a few thoughts:
1) The possibility of a military move by the Chinese against Taiwan has been a foreign policy issue for more than 60 years. Nixon and Kennedy debated the appropriate U.S. response should the Chinese invade Quemoy and Matsu, two small islands that belong to Taiwan, but that are within a very short distance (just a few miles) from the Chinese mainland. Kennedy made it very clear that the two islands were indefensible and not worth risking a large-scale war. Quemoy, Matsu, and Taiwan have fallen off our national radar, so to speak, since then, but they are back in the spotlight thanks to the recent Chinese provocations.
2) Although the Chinese government never has been a model of Western-style democracy, there always have been competing factions within the Communist Party. However, to whatever extent the Chinese Communist Party exhibited democratic tendencies within its own ranks, they are a thing of the past thanks to President Xi Jinping, who essentially has established himself as a dictator for life.
From abolishing term limits for his office, to destroying democracy in Hong Kong, to placing a million Uighurs into detention camps, to building up the Chinese military, Xi has abandoned the former model of a China that adhered to some semblance of international norms. The China of today is not the China of even 10 years ago.
3) The recent obsession with Taiwan by Xi is one of those issues that lacks rationality to non-Chinese. Although Taiwan poses no threat to China, there is no room for compromise on Taiwan in Xi’s world-view. But that is what makes it such a potential tinderbox for world peace.
4) Some suggest that a Chinese invasion and takeover of Taiwan would be a prelude to further Chinese military domination in Asia, including So. Korea and Japan. But that’s a version of the Domino Theory that got us into the war in Vietnam. We didn’t understand that the Vietnamese War was merely a civil war. It was our misguided intervention that destabilized the surrounding region, just as we did 40 years later in the Mideast with our invasion of Iraq. Similarly, an American capituation on Taiwan hardly would be a modern-day equivalent of a Neville Chamberlain-style appeasement that would be a prelude to Chinese domination of the Pacific.
5) Do we have a national interest in defending Taiwan? The only plausible reason in this regard is that the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is the largest supplier of computer chips in the world. We all know about the chip shortage. But while a Chinese invasion of Taiwan might make the chip shortage worse in the short term, is TSMC really worth fighting for?
6) On that note, we should keep in mind that an all-out shooting war with the Chinese would result in thousands of U.S. casualties and the sinking of just about every ship we have in the Pacific fleet.
7) Finally, why should the Taiwanese expect us to defend them when they themselves have shown little or no interest in their national defense? As a recent news article made clear, the Taiwanese are a far cry from the Israelis, for whom national defense is an imperative that is taken seriously by every Israeli citizen.
In our view, when you add it all up, Taiwan is not worth shedding one drop of American blood. We shouldn’t let our emotions get in the way of reality. Whatever treaty the U.S. has with Taiwan was conceived in a different world.
But this is 2021, and the present generations should not be bound by something that they have had no part in.