Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Letters:

US not a good model

Would someone care to explain Taiwan's unshakeable admiration of all things American?

Last week, we had Arthur Li's bizarre suggestion that Taiwan should be voluntarily occupied by the US (Letters, Aug. 15, page 8). His history is incorrect, incidentally -- the US did play a significant role in liberating the Far East from Japanese occupation and gave money to the KMT after 1946; Chinese troops did much of the fighting and Taiwan was unequivocally returned to Chinese rule (that is, to the KMT government) at the end of World War II. The US cannot claim sovereignty.

Then on Monday, we had Chen Ming-chung's fawning praise of American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paal and his blind faith in American-style democracy (Letter, Aug.18, page 8). A few pages back from Chen, we get a glimpse of why the US really needs Taiwan: like many small, threatened nations, it can be easily pressured into buying weapons, one of the main props of the US economy ("Pan-blue criticize special budget," Aug. 18, page 4).

We learn that the US is "offering" to sell Taiwan outdated and barely-functional Patriot missiles, along with some submarines which would serve nicely as cannon-fodder in the event of a Chinese invasion (the Chinese navy fleet outnumbers Taiwan's by a factor of about 50). As well as making a pleasant new bulge in US coffers, the payments for this equipment would crush Taiwan's recovering economy just enough to keep export prices low without causing complete devastation. A win-win situation, some might say.

Taiwan needs to face two uncomfortable facts. First, that there is no defense against invasion from China except dialogue and negotiation. Taiwan is a very small country. An attack from China with ballistic or short-range missiles could destroy it completely in a matter of hours. However, it's unlikely that China would do such a thing: Taiwan's advantage is its economy, not its location, so an invasion would be via a massive ground attack. In either case, missiles, aircraft and ships would simply prolong the inevitable.

Taiwan is actually following the completely sensible route of universal conscription, ensuring that a landing army meets enormous resistance. The government would do well to enhance this system following the Swiss model, instead of buying high-tech junk from the US.

Second, Taiwan must defend itself against the US. Many countries -- not just Taiwan -- owe the US a debt of gratitude for its assistance during and after World War II. That debt has been paid many times over. Taiwan especially should never forget that during the past half-century the US laid waste to half of Asia with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons with no justification except political paranoia.

Li's ugly assertion that "conflict between the US and China is inevitable" may be true, but a war of that magnitude would probably be the greatest tragedy in human history, and Taiwan should not choose to be part of that.

The US has achieved many great things. She has also committed great atrocities (I wonder, for instance, how many Taiwanese people know the recent history of Nicaragua) and achieves her economic power not by enlightened management but by exploitation, price-fixing, political manipulation and indiscriminate arms-dealing.

For those Taiwanese who have never been there, but have heard stories of this far-off land of plenty: if you aspire to a life of obesity, a two-hour commute to work, 155 channels of cable TV and a president who talks like Homer Simpson, then the US is for you. I don't believe Taiwan should try to be like the US.

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