Sun, Jan 02, 2005 - Page 8 News List

The battle is all but lost

By B. Franklin

I'm not sure which is more surprising: opinion leaders like Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒) still repeating the old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lie that the US was responsible for its defeat in the Chinese Civil War, or the Taipei Times giving them column space.

Chin's piece ("US support for Taiwan may not be a sure thing," Dec. 26, page 8) is aptly titled, but the editor should have focused the piece on that theme.

It is true that US support is uncertain. Nations are not like old classmates or lifelong friends who will always stand by one another. Wasn't it British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli who informed Queen Victoria that "nations don't have friends, they have interests?"

That is still true. In the Taiwan Strait, however, the US must deal with competing interests. They wouldn't want a vibrant democracy and capitalist society like Taiwan to fall to a totalitarian, nuclear power. Yet that power is now one of America's biggest trading partners and its best hope for reining in North Korea, short of war.

Adding to the uncertainty of US support is the contention that Taiwan is nothing more than a vestige of a lost civil war, a renegade province that would be better off reunited with its "mother country." This line is being energetically spread throughout the world by China. The UN's refusal to admit Taiwan even as an observer indicates that the propaganda war is being lost. Worse, the Beijing line is being echoed in the US by those who quail at the thought of facing down a nuclear power over a small, faraway island.

Third and most important, the battle for Taiwan's hearts and minds has been lost. This is most obvious in the failure of the Taiwanese to provide for their own defense. A society that won't invest its dollars, let alone its children, to defend itself has no claim to independence, nor to American blood and treasure.

As the Chechens can attest, independence is never presented on a silver platter.

B. Franklin


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