Wed, Feb 28, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Randall Schriver on Taiwan: The 228 Incident and American perceptions

By Randall Schriver

Have we adequately redressed the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II in camps such as Manzanar as a result of Executive Order 9066? Do Native Americans feel proper respect has been paid to the many that suffered in campaigns such as "The Trail of Tears" (the forcible removal of Cherokees from their land which resulted in thousands of deaths)?

To this day there is debate in the US as to whether more should be done to compensate descendants of American slaves.

Americans tend to be ahistoric in orientation where current policy matters are concerned. We stand apart from most of the globe in this respect. US policymakers are much more focused on the future than on the past. This partly explains the priority the US places on democracy abroad. There is a security rationale to be sure (democracies tend not to go to war with one another). But US officials also believe democracies are best positioned to ensure protection of human rights and political freedoms of those that have experienced significant repression in the past. In essence, this is saying: "While we can't change the terrible things that have happened in the past, we can help secure brighter days in the future."

Where does this leave us? Clearly Americans should care about the tragic events of 228. And US policymakers certainly should care.

I applaud the efforts of Taiwanese and Taiwanese Americans who are determined to see that we remember the past, and that we are informed by those events as we endeavor to produce wise policies for today's challenges.

However, Taiwanese leaders must also understand that their own policy choices will be evaluated by not the Americans they wish they had but by the Americans they have.

The very necessary work of healing old wounds in Taiwan must proceed. But Taiwan's leaders should advance their agenda of historical rectification with a realpolitik appreciation for international spillover.

Randall Schriver is former US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and a founding partner of Armitage International.

also see story:

Randall Schriver on Taiwan: US-Japan pact matters to Taiwan

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