Altruistic or interested?
In a short piece published in the Taipei Times on Feb. 27 I raise the question as to whether the segment of US academia that has “seized” the Taiwan Strait issue is doing this out of a fundamental belief in the value of democracy or rather for more obscure reasons, such as the belief (originating from that same sector) that no power should ever be allowed to challenge the US militarily, which in the present case would mean using Taiwan as part of a strategy to encircle and contain China.
Is the militarization of the conflict — selling Taiwan,* Australia, Japan more US-made weapons, or encouraging those states to further develop their defense trade industries — the answer to the problem, or should there be more focus, perhaps by another segment of the US diplomatic/defense/intelligence/academic sector, on diminishing Beijing’s perception that all help to Taiwan is but a cynical use of the terms democracy or freedom to contain it, especially when those very same states openly chastise Taipei for seeking to hold a referendum on joining the United Nations?
Arguably, as some have pointed out in response to my article (many thanks for that), the “hawkish” or “conservative” think tanks are no monoliths, and even among those circles there is disagreement on the road taken when Taiwan is concerned. Which is a good thing. Nevertheless, given the reputation of those think tanks in the wake of the disaster in Iraq and the fact that as with every institution dissent among the ranks will unlikely lead to organizational reorientation or policy change, governments such as Beijing that are on the receiving end of the policies promoted my American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and others may be excused for looking at their intentions with wariness, if not paranoia.
As I argue, a balance of “left” and “right” think tanks fighting for Taiwan would present Beijing with a unified front that perhaps would make it a little more hesitant to rattle the saber at Taipei for wanting to retain its democratic system. (Which raises the important question, Why hasn't the American "left," with a few exceptions, shown an equal interest in safeguarding Taiwan's interests?)
Readers can access the full article, titled “But are they really friends of Taiwan?,” by clicking here.
* By means of reference, Canada spends approximately C$13 billion, or 1.1 percent of its GDP on defense, to Taiwan's C$10.5 billion, or 2.6 percent of GDP. Canada therefore spends C$1,302 per square kilometer, while Taiwan spends C$291,800 per square km on defense and is among the top-three, with Saudi Arabia and Israel, buyers of US weapons.