Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A corrective of sorts

For all its support for liberty and democracy, the Taipei Times has, over the years, run a great number of op-eds written by specialists from American conservatives and right-wingers whose connections to the defense establishment cannot but taint their views and diminish their credibility. In opinion piece after opinion piece, writers like John J. Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation, or Kurt M. Campbell, CEO of the Center for a New American Century, to name but two, have relentlessly argued a highly paranoid perspective on China’s military, unflaggingly called for a robust militarization of Taiwan and Japan (always contingent on and preparing for the worst-case scenarios) and unwaveringly provided arguments for US primacy through military means. From China’s less-than-transparent modernization of its military to its potential acquisition of aircraft carriers to a military budget equivalent of US$45 billion that, if we are to believe them, is in reality thrice that, these writers and others have adopted a realist, zero-sum take on regional matters, one that shows absolutely no promise of resolving tensions across the Taiwan Strait and that can only but increase the risk of something going wrong, some mistake being committed, which could very well engender catastrophic results. By banking on military deterrence alone, these writers and the decision-makers they influence are only making the problem worse by adding complexity and firepower. Of course, I strongly suspect that these pundits’ connections to right-of-the-spectrum think tanks and the defense industry play a large part in their understanding (or misunderstanding, I should say) of the situation in North East Asia, in that they are part of a system whereby its adherents enrich themselves by (a) painting a grim picture and (b) selling weapons to give the illusion that it will solve problems. Once one digs a little into the matter, it soon becomes clear that these supposed friends of Taiwan are anything but.

The fact that today’s edition of the Taipei Times contains an op-ed that I wrote on the subject gives me some relief, as it shows that by allowing me to articulate a position that goes counter to the general, pro-armament view found in its opinion pages, its owners are not merely puppets of the US military-industrial complex. Visitors to The Far-Eastern Sweet Potato will realize that this piece, A regional arms race is no answer, is a shorter and revised version of the May 10, 2007, posting titled “How the US is sparking an arms race in North East Asia.”

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