Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 18 News List

With friends like the US State Department, who needs enemies?

Bruce Herschensohn, a former US presidential special assistant, argues the State Department constitutes one of the main threats to Taiwan's democracy


Herschensohn rightly points out, as well, that a state is not independent if it must seek permission to set its own policies. Though a "free" nation, Taiwan isn't independent, and this is largely the result of years of ambiguity and moral equivalence in Washington and continued saber-rattling in Beijing.

Discarding all the critical thinking he reserves for the State Department, Herschensohn abjectly believes Bush's quixotic claims that the US, under his guidance, is on a historic quest to "liberate" the peoples of the earth. In fact, he does not shy from including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as part of that program. Bush's vision is therefore taken for granted and the reader is led to believe that Washington's policies on the Taiwan Strait would be all the more moral and constructive if only the State Department would be a team player and echo the president's views. Herschensohn should perhaps be reminded that the State Department reached one of its lowest point in years when US Secretary of State Colin Powell yielded to the pressure of the executive and delivered his Feb. 5, 2003, speech on Iraqi WMD at the UN Security Council, another reviled institution of Herschensohn's.

But Herschensohn has more to say about divisions. In fact, he sees Taiwanese disunity as hampering Taiwan's chances of success. Stunningly, Herschensohn moans about the fact that only the CCP is presenting a united front on Taiwan, while the US is divided, not only on the Taiwan Strait issue but also on the "war on terrorism."

The contradiction could not be any starker: in a book titled Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy, Herschensohn laments the divisions and multiplicity of voices emblematic of democracy and seems to say that the US would be better off if only all those dissenters in the US would shut up and rally behind the president.

Aside from failing to provide solutions, Herschensohn says it would be better if the "status quo" he so reviles could be maintained, at least until the US has won and rid itself of the distraction of the "war on terrorism." However precious Taiwan's democracy, Herschensohn respectfully requests that leaders in Beijing and Taipei refrain from acting in such a way as would precipitate a crisis. The problem with this argument, aside from the fact that it is the very kind of non-policy he spends 180 pages lamenting, is that the "war on terrorism" is an open-ended commitment with no end in sight, and perhaps none possible.

Taiwan and China will not wait. History does not stop while Washington wages its wars.

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