Douglas Paal was director of the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) from 2002 until early this year. On July 13, he spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington to an audience of policymakers concerned with the Taiwan issue.
In reflecting on his time here, Paal made a number of observations which demonstrated his incisive knowledge of Taiwan, although -- perhaps due to time constraints -- he failed to raise the core issue in each instance.
For example, Paal touched on how Mainlanders discriminated against ethnic Taiwanese (85 percent of the 23 million population), tried to destroy local language and culture and persecuted and executed dissidents. He did not mention the 228 Incident, in which at least 20,000 Taiwanese were massacred by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), or the murder of dissident Lin I-hsiung's (林義雄) mother and twin daughters after the Kaohsiung Incident.
Paal praised the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership for not stirring up the past through "rancorous legal proceedings or truth commissions" after gaining power in 2000.
The problem is that ethnic cleavage and bitterness persist to this day because there has not been admission of guilt, let alone an apology, from the perpetrators.
After World War II, the German people reflected on and properly atoned for the atrocities committed by the Nazis. The KMT's position is: Let's forget the past and concentrate on the future.
Paal rightly criticized Taiwan's media for its lack of investigative journalism. He could have pointed out that Taiwan's print and electronic media are dominated by pro-unification journalists who bombard the public every day with pro-China, anti-US and anti-Taiwan propaganda. Many media outlets are now under Hong Kong ownership and the government appears incapable of stopping the infiltration of Taiwan's media by Beijing's agents.
Paal described Taiwan as a ballot box democracy still lacking in "an invisible element that helps a democracy reduce its disadvantages and enhance its advantages."
He was too polite to say more.
The main problem with Taiwan's nascent democracy is that the KMT and the People First Party (PFP) lack the sense of fair play which is essential to the institutionalization of democracy.
The pan-blue opposition has never accepted its defeat in the 2004 presidential election. It continues to undermine and paralyze the DPP administration through its majority in the Legislative Yuan. It has tried to enact laws to usurp the powers of the executive.
After failing to impeach President Chen Shui-bian (
The leaders of the KMT and PFP promote unification with China. Through their pilgrimages to Beijing, they have in essence pledged their allegiance to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Taiwan's democracy is in grave danger because the disloyal opposition willingly works with Beijing to subvert Taiwan's democracy and sovereignty from within.
Some of Paal's comments sounded facetious. He said: "Today, the PRC and US articulate their [common] interests in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region."
Of course, the PRC would prefer to annex Taiwan peacefully, through internal subversion, and its soft "united front" strategy is proving quite effective with the capitulation of the KMT and the PFP to China.