Criticism of an article by George Washington University professor Charles Glaser in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine was evident yesterday, as rebuttals to his article were published in two influential publications.
Writing in The Diplomat, James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, both associate professors of strategy at the US Naval War College, said that ceding territory to land-hungry powers was a “morally bankrupt enterprise” that can only represent a temporary fix.
In an article titled “Will China’s Rise Lead to War? Why Realism Does Not Mean Pessimism,” Glaser said that to avoid a costly arms race between the US and China and to ensure Beijing’s cooperation on a number of disputes in Asia, Washington should accommodate Beijing by backing away from its security commitment to Taiwan.
Glaser further said that when a power has “limited territorial goals,” meeting those demands might not lead to further demands, but rather reduced tensions.
“But buying peace with land has been tried many times before — with ephemeral results at best,” Holmes and Yoshihara wrote of Glaser’s grand bargain in their article “Getting Real About Taiwan.”
Glaser’s position is based on the view that “structural forces” in the Asia-Pacific region are limiting friction between major powers — in this case, the US, China, Japan and India. As such, Washington and Beijing should be in a position to reach arrangements through mutual concessions, a position the authors appear to agree on.
“The United States should make every effort to enlist China as co-guarantor of the international system over which it has presided since 1945 — a system that benefits all stakeholders in globalization, including China and fellow Asian nations,” Holmes and Yoshihara wrote.
While Washington should not pay any price for an Asia-Pacific entente, Holmes and Yoshihara wrote, “Glaser apparently would. He terms Taiwan a ‘less-than-vital’ US interest. In international relations-speak, that means an interest for which the United States shouldn’t fight.”
“The island and its residents — US friends of long standing — would be the most obvious casualty of this effort to create a new normal in East Asia,” they wrote, adding that sympathy for stricken friends aside, morality should not be the only consideration for the US.
“It’s far from clear that trading the island away would stabilize broader Sino-US relations or Asian security,” they wrote. “Taiwan has long served as a literal and figurative cork in China’s bottle, riveting Beijing’s attention on the cross-strait stalemate while complicating north-south movement along the Asian seaboard and access to the Western Pacific.”
Uncorking that bottle, Holmes and Yoshihara wrote, would effectively free up resources for China to pursue “broader regional aims” and thereby increase tensions in the region.
“Japan and South Korea would feel the effects once Beijing stationed naval and air forces on the island, turning their southern flank and imposing control of adjacent seas and skies,” they wrote. “All Northeast Asian nations depend on the seas to convey imports and exports to and from their seaports … absolute control of China’s economic lifelines equates to a stranglehold over the maritime-dependent Japanese and Korean economies.”
The authors said that Seoul and Tokyo would find little solace in the US nuclear umbrella and would likely respond by building up their own militaries, thus adding to risks of contact and friction in the region.