Thursday, June 27, 2013

So what if Taiwan funds AEI? A response to The Nation

Taiwanese pilots pose in front a F-16 at Hualien AFB
The Nation misses the mark with an article that attempts to draw a link between funding of a think tank and support for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan 

A June 25 article in the left-leaning The Nation claims to have unearthed what could only be described as a nefarious conspiracy of “secret foreign donors” involving the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s de-facto embassy in the U.S., and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington-based think tank. 

At the heart of the article is the argument that at the time that AEI — “one of the Beltway’s most consistent advocates for the sale of advanced fighter jets to Taiwan” — was advocating for arms sales to the island, the Taiwanese government was showering it with US$550,000 in contributions, making Taipei its fourth-largest donor in financial year 2009. Furthermore, we are told that AEI had “never publicly acknowledged” the donations. (TECRO told The Nation that it was simply facilitating a donation that a Taiwanese University had made to AEI). 

Drawing from various excerpts from articles and papers written by researchers at AEI (including some published in The Diplomat), and using techniques that, truth be told, border on guilt by association — e.g., mentioning former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s (the Left’s version of Lucifer) ties to the institution — the rest of the article endeavors to raise questions about the independence and integrity of the institute. “To what extent have they consulted with the Taiwanese government?” it asks. Those are perfectly legitimate questions, and we’re all for transparency in the funding of research institutions — especially when it comes from abroad. The problem is that the article’s claims are based on two assumptions that belie a poor understanding of the think tank world and, more importantly, the maddeningly complex workings of U.S.-Taiwan relations. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. (Photo by the author)

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