Thursday, March 10, 2011

A post-US Pacific?

Australian magazine The Diplomat asked me earlier this week to comment on a recent special commentary by Rupert Hammond-Chambers, President of the US-Taiwan Business Trade Council, on the future of US security guarantees to Taiwan and the North American giant’s involvement in East Asia. Jason Miks’ account of our exchange is available here.


mike said...

"‘A slightly pessimistic mood appears to have descended upon the US government, as if we’ve already entered a post-American century..."

Michael - your use of the passive voice there was overly charitable. This administration is deliberately choosing non-action in respect of freedom, or democractic values or human rights abroad; and at home it is choosing not only to avoid the issue of unsustainable debt, but to maintain domestic spending commitments as if this issue doesn't exist. Shakespeare:

"The fault, Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings."

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

@Mike: I see your point, and I don’t necessarily disagree with you. However, despite the official policy line in Washington, one should note that there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes which would appear to go counter to preferences in DC. On Taiwan —— and this something people are unaware of, unless they’re actually involved in it — there are lots of US government and quasi-government officials doing substantial work here, and I suspect that some of them could not do this without official blessing from some government agency in Washington. I know this because I’ve met a number of them. For one, the US military presence in Taiwan is at an all-time high, something that rarely gets reported.

In all, whatever Obama’s policy may be, the picture is a little more complex, and certain segments of the USG have not given up on Taiwan, or human rights and the other causes you mention. In the end, I guess this means we must be careful to distinguish between “official” policy — the signaling, if you will — and actual implementation. That said, I fully agree with you that Washington’s signaling has been worrying.