Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Thinking through the US’ ‘closer ties’

By Strobe Driver

Japan experienced a 200-year period of isolation due to internal divisions, and having “no friends” eventually meant that powerful nations could opportunistically demand what they wanted and gain the upper hand without having to compromise.

Japan’s isolationist mentality — whatever the domestic reasons — did not allow it to have a say in its future once the US Navy entered Edo Harbor. Taiwan not having diplomatic allies would render it vulnerable to other political blocs — especially those encouraged by China. The nation’s ability to successfully navigate out of a crisis would be severely curtailed.

Such commentary suggests that Taiwan could “hold out” against Chinese aggression. This, too, warrants examination, albeit briefly.

The “holding out” scenario is riven with difficulties were China to mount an invasion. What would such a scenario entail?

Extrapolating the “going it alone” scenario yields the harrowing and horrifying possibility of Taiwanese fighting a complex and ongoing war. Taiwanese and the nation’s surviving military would be forced to engage in symmetrical force-on-force warfare, which would involve significant destruction of infrastructure and resources.

Even in limited wars, the best outcome for a nation is to wage an ongoing political awareness campaign, even while being at war. It is not only military allies that matter, as a war comprises peaks and troughs in fighting, it is also diplomatic and political allies that matter during, as well as after, a conflict.

The more allies a nation has, the better the overall outcome, whether it becomes the victor or the vanquished. To adopt a “so what” attitude toward allies and potential allies is not the right path to take, especially in an increasingly globalized world.

Notwithstanding the lessons to be learned from Japan succumbing to greater powers and about the leverage that powerful actors can apply when proving a point, why has the issue of the Taiwan Travel Act initiating “closer ties” with Taiwan been disregarded as a primary point of contention?

Although the US initiated “closer ties,” it also included Taiwan at the first opportunity in a raft of tariffs aimed at China. The economic well-being of Taiwanese fabrication and steelmaking businesses — and therefore the nation — has been shifted to the periphery at best, and completely discarded at worst. The nation’s businesses use Chinese metals to produce goods, which means that it cannot be excluded from the trade war.

Commentary in the Taipei Times has suggested that the trade war is going to get worse, saying that any trade war “will only lead to the US strengthening its defense cooperation to counter an invasion by China” (“Trade war looming over Taiwan,” March 28, page 8).

Therefore, it beggars belief that the US would not consider Taiwan to be worthy of some form of “special consideration” based on its geo-strategic, political, regional and fiscal merit. It is at this point that other factors come into play.

With the angst associated with a Trump administration, its unenviable record of missed opportunities in the diplomatic sphere — with as many as 40 unfilled ambassadorships — and the chaos that is ever-present in the US White House, there is no doubt that the US, according to US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, wants Taiwan to have the means to “protect itself against Beijing’s aggression” (“US lawmaker urges action on Taiwan,” April 3, page 1).

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