Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: FAPA's misguided pie in the sky

Question: If you are the citizen of a nation that is free and independent, how does it benefit you to agitate over semantics, when the agitation itself endangers your freedom and independence?

This is the fundamental problem that vocal Taiwanese independence activists rarely address.

In a perfect world, you could call a spade a spade and Taiwan would be recognized as the independent, sovereign state that it is. Everyone, including the humorless stiffs in Beijing, would be happy, and we could all go skipping away hand-in-hand into the sunset, with a rainbow overhead and surrounded by a field full of flowers, replete with giggling fat infants playing with puppy dogs.

But we live in the real world. China is a scary, unpredictable place whose leaders care as much -- if not more -- about saving face than they do about improving the lives of their people. They spend billions of dollars on unnecessary weapons with one purpose in mind: becoming a world power. Beijing wants to save face -- China having been a loser for the past 167 years -- on a global scale.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is pretty well off as it is. People here are free to make their own choices and improve their system of government. The country may not be paradise, but people live much better here than they do in China. So Taiwanese can sit back and watch while the Chinese government evolves or dissolves.

But into this reality a fool on a fool's errand intrudes.

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), an influential pro-independence lobby in the US, has announced that it is starting a campaign to make the directors of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) -- the de facto US embassy -- go through confirmation hearings in the US Senate.

To examine this idea, we must set aside reality, after elucidating what that reality is: FAPA's campaign has no chance of success.

The association would have us believe that the "new" Congress is somehow different in its attitude toward Taiwan than the "old" Congress. There is, of course, no evidence to support this conclusion, given that support for Taiwan has never been a partisan issue in the US.

The people who support Taiwan support Taiwan, whether they are Democrats or Republicans. However, very few people support changing Taiwan's status in any meaningful way, because it is just too provocative.

Even in Taiwan very few people support such moves. As US president Dwight Eisenhower once said about another group of delusional activists: "Their numbers are negligible, and they are stupid."

But let us stretch our imaginations to the breaking point and assume that FAPA's imprudent campaign actually had a chance of succeeding. How would it benefit Taiwan?

The short answer is: It wouldn't.

If the AIT director had to go through a Senate confirmation hearing, he would enjoy all of the prestige and glory that comes with having one's personal history ripped to shreds for partisan blood sport, as "real" ambassadors do. How wonderful.

More to the point, it would also mean that the pro-China lobby would have a voice in determining who conducted diplomacy with Taiwan. How does that help anyone?

Taiwan is pretty lucky to have a real diplomat -- AIT Director Stephen Young -- as it is. Most countries get saddled with political cronies whose qualifications are determined by how much money they donated to the US president's campaign fund.

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