As former speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neill once famously said: “All politics is local.” He could have added that it is especially so in election time.
O’Neill was referring to the need for politicians to appeal to the everyday concerns of their constituents, but it can also be interpreted as meaning that a country’s foreign policies — especially those that, seen from the outside, appear illogical — are also the product of domestic political wrangling. The moment more than one individual is involved in decision making, the political arrow will point back to the domestic magnetic north, even more so in democracies.
At election time, policy decisions are often made so that a certain candidate or political party can benefit from them — or, conversely, to make things more difficult for an opposing party. By creating a fait accompli, an administration imposes new rules by which its successors must abide.
The administration of US President George W. Bush did two such things in recent weeks, and both measures were meant to put the Republican party at an advantage.
First, on Oct. 3, Bush reversed nearly a year of “arms freeze” policy by agreeing, at the 11th hour, to sell Taiwan US$6.5 billion in advanced military equipment, which includes the state-of-the-art AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter, as well as PAC-3 missile batteries and other items. The first two — the Longbow and the PAC-3 — are key.
The Apache helicopter is designed at the Boeing facility in Mesa, Arizona, a Republican state. Boeing’s in-house publication, Frontiers, has reported the city of Mesa tripled in size since the plant opened 25 years ago and is now the US’ 40th most populous city.
The PAC-3, for its part, includes the Missile Seeker, a component built at the Boeing factory in Anaheim, California, while the entire system is designed by Lockheed Martin at its Camden, Arkansas, facility and other industry partners. Arkansas went Republican in the last two elections, and some pundits claim it could be a Tier I battleground state in the coming election.
The arms deal cannot hurt the Republicans, which historically have been closer to the defense industry than the Democrats. While bringing contracts and creating jobs is a sure vote-winner, the deal will also make it easier for future US administrations to continue selling weapons to Taiwan, as a permanent “freeze” would have become the new baseline in Washington’s dealings with Beijing. What Bush did was to resurrect the “status quo” and in so doing give credence to his policy of helping democracies worldwide.
The other Bush decision was the removal on Saturday of North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism to ensure Pyongyang would comply with its pledge to end its nuclear activities. Given North Korea’s history of brinkmanship, Bush and his aides know fully well that the delisting was, at best, a stopgap measure and that Pyongyang will eventually find a new argument to resume its bad-neighbor politics. The move was nevertheless a last-ditch attempt to salvage a process that the Bush administration has invested heavily in since 2003 and to leave a legacy of “accomplishments” that could put the Republicans in a more favorable light — even if the move meant angering Tokyo.
With Bush’s Middle East peace plan going nowhere fast, Iraq still shaky, Afghanistan a mess, the “war” on terrorism an exercise in futility and Wall Street in shambles, Bush and the Republicans needed quick “wins” before the curtain falls on Nov. 4. Taiwan and North Korea provided them.
Since COVID-19 broke out in Taiwan, there has been a fair amount of news regarding discrimination and “witch hunts” against medical personnel, people under self-quarantine and other targets, such as the students of a school where an infection was discovered. Quarantine breakers are almost certainly on the loose and it is only natural for people to be vigilant. One in Chiayi was found by accident at a traffic stop because his helmet was not fastened. However, those who follow the rules by quarantining themselves should be encouraged to keep up the good work in a difficult situation, instead of being
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator-at-large Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) has said that there is a huge difference between Chinese military aircraft circling Taiwan along the edges of its airspace and invading Taiwan’s airspace. He also said that whether it is US or Chinese aircraft flying along or encircling Taiwan’s airspace, there is no legal basis to say that such actions imply a clear provocation of Taiwan, and asked the Ministry of National Defense not to mislead the public. People who hear this might think that it is not a very Taiwanese thing to say. US military activity in the vicinity of Taiwan
As the nation welcomes home Taiwanese who had been stranded in China’s Hubei Province — arguably one of the most dangerous places on Earth since the novel coronavirus outbreak began in its capital, Wuhan, late last year — problems surrounding the “quasi-charter flights” that brought them back have been largely overlooked. The media used the term to describe the two flights dispatched by Taiwan’s state-run China Airlines because they do not count as charter flights. Taiwanese wanting to board those flights had to travel — most likely by train — more than 1,000km from Hubei to Shanghai Pudong International Airport
As the COVID-19 pandemic spins out of control, many parts of the world are experiencing shortages of medical masks and other protective equipment. I am studying in Washington state, which at the time of writing is the US state that has suffered the largest number of deaths from the novel coronavirus. The week before last, UW Medicine — an organization that includes the University of Washington School of Medicine and associated medical centers and clinics — sent its volunteers an e-mail asking the public to make masks and donate them to hospitals. Attached to the message was a mask donation