"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time ... Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."
These were the words of Neville Chamberlain spoken Sept. 30, 1938, 61 years ago.
The "peace with honor" he referred to was an agreement he had reached with the Fuhrer of Germany, Adolph Hitler, that stated that all cross-channel issues would be resolved by peaceful "consultation."
In retrospect accepting Hitler's word that all cross-channel issues would be resolved by "consultation" appears absurd. However, at the time, the British people did accept Hitler's word and did, in a sense, go to sleep.
This historical episode has some interesting lessons for us here in Taiwan.
On the face of it there are some interesting parallels. Great Britain is an island nation, as we are. Across a narrow channel of water was a growing military threat. The same holds true for us across the narrow Taiwan Strait.
Germany was a totalitarian state that although it claimed no expansionist interest did in fact invade and conquer it's neighboring nations. The same can be said for China.
Britain was unsure of what the US' position would be in the event of war with Germany. Many in England thought the US would not intervene. Taiwan has the same questions regarding the US position in the event of a war with China.
There existed across the English Channel a clear showdown between a ruthless totalitarian state and an island democracy. As there is today across the Taiwan Strait.
The British people wanted peace, which is understandable, as do the Taiwanese people.
The British people hoped for the best and assumed that some solution short of direct war could be obtained from Nazi Germany. Likewise the Taiwanese people hope for the best and assume that direct war with China can be avoided.
The British people's hopes and assumptions were wrong. Nazi Germany used the agreement with Chamberlain simply to buy time, strengthen their military and attempt to isolate Britain from the international community.
Here in Taiwan, we must ask ourselves, are our hopes and assumptions regarding China wrong. If they are, we must rethink our approach.
While the KMT government urges us to "go slow, be patient" are we in fact simply giving China time to strengthen their military and isolate us from the international community?
On the face of it, the answer is absurdly obvious. It is critical to understand that this "go slow, be patient" approach which Taiwan has adopted is a KMT creation, a KMT doctrine.
People in Taiwan seem to frequently forget a very, very important fact about the KMT.
The KMT have a proven track record of simply taking all the wealth from a nation that they could steal and carry and then walking out on that nation when the situation became dangerous.
That is precisely what the KMT did 50 years ago in China.
According to the respected military publisher, Janes, China will have technological military parity with Taiwan by 2005; five years hence.
The people of Taiwan do not have much time to decide exactly how they will proceed. And any reliance on KMT leaders to "stick with Taiwan through thick and thin" is nonsense.
The KMT and its leadership will simply transfer their great wealth somewhere else and walk out on this island, leaving the Taiwanese people to their fate.
The KMT have never done anything else. Accepting President Lee Teng-hui's (
Fifty years ago, when the situation became untenable, the KMT left hundreds of thousands to die at the hands of the Communists.
When the situation here in Taiwan becomes untenable, the KMT will do exactly the same. The KMT has not changed in 50 years. That needs to be kept in mind when considering the wisdom of accepting a KMT solution of "go slow, be patient."
In fact the KMT does not now, nor have they ever, had the long-term interest of the people of Taiwan as a concern.
So what is the solution? That is for the people of Taiwan to decide. But for the people of Taiwan to make an intelligent, informed decision they must be awake.
The people of Taiwan must not, as the people of Britain did; "go home and get a nice quiet sleep."
Brian Kennedy is a member of the boards of Amnesty International Taiwan and Taiwan Association of Human Rights.
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