Sat, Dec 27, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: A Heritage of non-denial denial

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

People from outside Taiwan who support my beloved homeland tend to find themselves in the strangest company.

Leftists and rightists who would gouge each other's eyes out on any other issue frequently embrace to defend Taiwanese self-determination.

Let me qualify that ... and apologize in advance for the crudity of my generalizations. Perhaps I should say that foreigners who are “practical” leftists (eg, human rights and labor activists, church workers on the ground) embrace rightist “ideologues” (eg, pro-defense, pro-conservative values, anti-big government and commiephobes) to defend Taiwanese self-determination.

On the other hand, foreigners who are “practical” rightists (corporate barons, US State Department policy mavens) and leftist “ideologues” (Cultural Revolution nostalgia peddlers, Hugo Chavez and other hopelessly confused or dishonest people) prefer the banquet of largess and hubris that China offers over the less-than-lucrative blasphemy of Taiwanese nationalism.

In the middle, people sit on the fence and are not inclined to believe in very much at all except something that hovers between unenlightened self-interest and family values, neither of which offers much guidance on what to do with cross-strait difficulties.

So you see, dear reader, how odd it is for people to call the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) “right wing.”

For liberals, this is an attempted insult. That is, “The KMT are the bad guys, what with their populism bordering on fascism, repressive tendencies and corporatism, so they must be right-wing.”

But a conservative can say: “The KMT are the bad guys, what with their socialist heritage, big government, contempt for constitutional integrity and collapsible principles that augur panda-hugging, so they must be left wing.”

The truth is that both the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party contain what most people would call leftists, rightists, liberals and conservatives on any given issue, and this means that neither party can be easily placed on a left-right spectrum. The real issue seems to be nationalism, but even beneath that we so often see naked self-aggrandizement calling the shots (don’t get me started on the Taiwanese defection gene). So, when it comes to ideological coherence, things fall apart pretty quickly.

If you haven’t fallen asleep, let me explain why I’m peddling such gibberish.

Not long after last week’s column, I received a series of e-mails from a respected source in the US with knowledge of the workings of The Heritage Foundation, probably the most influential think tank stateside.

Heritage is a very conservative bunch of people. It has a fascinating history that will appall or delight according to your political bent. But one thing is certain: For years it has been home to solid advocacy of freedom from communist thuggery, even when Republican presidents gave up the ghost.

In the past, Taiwan was a US interest mostly because it was anti-communist. Today, things aren’t so simple: the Chicoms and their despised Siamese twin, the KMT, are rejoining at the hip in a manner likely to injure the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese and cripple the integrity of a budding democracy.

Heritage’s most hardline, pro-Taiwan commentator — indeed, one of the most hardline in the US — is John Tkacik (also an occasional Taipei Times columnist), a former diplomat, who has written years of analysis on such matters.

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