News about the US official who claimed that Taiwan's government could be overthrown in a matter of minutes may have been fabrication or simply an instance of bad journalism, but the truth of the matter is more of this is to be expected in the lead-up to next year's presidential election -- more bad journalism, sadly, and more veiled, deniable threats out of Washington.
Forget about CIA-orchestrated coups d'etat in Iran in 1953 or Guatemala in 1954. As veteran New York Times journalist Tim Wiener writes in his history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes, with roughly half its workforce still trainees in their 20s, the CIA has begun to "abandon the techniques of the past -- political warfare, propaganda, and covert action -- because it lack[s] the skills to conduct them." In other words, in its present state, the agency probably could not even overthrow the principal at a high school in Virginia.
But the US doesn't need the CIA to act upon its discontent with a regime, friendly or otherwise. In fact, beyond covert operations, it has a long history of meddling in the domestic affairs of states -- even allied democracies -- when it perceived that doing so was in its interest. A little known example of this is the 1962-1963 plot by the John F. Kennedy administration to overthrow Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker by launching an elaborate propaganda campaign involving journalists, the business sector and politicians and even dispatching a secret campaign adviser to the opposition in Ottawa.
What had prompted the US was Diefenbaker's opposition, just as the Cold War was picking up steam, to the deployment of a US missile system in Canada. In the end, the pressure paid off, Diefenbaker was knocked off, and Lester Pearson, whom Washington had identified as amenable to their missile scheme, walked into office. The missiles were deployed, and Washington celebrated.
Forty-five years later, as President Chen Shui-bian (
And the theme will be an undeniable one, for it has become obvious that Washington wants the trouble-some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) out of power. Unless its presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh (
The US is an unequaled master at the game and, when it didn't achieve it via the CIA or militarily, it has used its political and economic clout, as well as its conservative media, to interfere in foreign elections and, occasionally, change governments. Ideological opponents, suspected communists, alleged state sponsors of terrorism or would-be nuclear proliferators are not alone in facing the threat of Washington's pressure. As the Diefenbaker example shows us, even its closest, democratic allies can fall from grace with Washington.
But while it undeniably has the means to bring about change in the domestic politics of other countries, what Washington lacks is the foresight that would allow it to fully comprehend the long-term consequences of its actions. More often than not, the coups it engineered ended up creating more misery than good and ultimately proved not to have been in the best interests of the US.
Coup or no coup, everyone could benefit from a little more foresight stateside.
Taiwan is not an orphan nation in need of someone to adopt it. Taiwan is not a foundling nation wandering the streets of the world looking for a home. It is not even a poor waif of a nation unable to take care of itself in that same big, bad world. Finally, Taiwan is certainly not terra nullius, a nationless land that is open and waiting to be explored and possessed by those who dare. Taiwan is a mid-sized, democratic nation that by GDP, profitability, location and even microchip production punches far above its weight in its region and in international commerce.
When analyzing Taiwan-China tensions, most people assume that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) consists of rational actors. Embedded within this belief are three further suppositions: First, Beijing would only launch an attack on Taiwan if it were in China’s national interest; second, it would only attack if the odds were overwhelmingly in its favor; and third, Chinese decisionmakers interpret information objectively and through the same lens as other actors. These assumptions have underpinned recent analyses — including by Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) — concluding that there is no
Do you remember where you were last year at this time? Do you remember what it was like? Here in the leafy suburbs of Washington, D.C., we were in lock-down mode. The streets were bleak and empty. Schools, offices, malls, theaters, churches … all were closed. The essentials were in short supply. Grocery stores rationed the good stuff. Signs read: “One jumbo pack of toilet paper, two cartoons of eggs per family please!” Some days those signs mocked us from barren shelves. It was a lonely and anti-social time. Families and friends had to weigh the rewards of gathering together to celebrate Christmas
US-based diplomatic observers say that interaction between Taiwan and the US has grown in intensity over the past few months, falling short of establishing official relations. Although the interaction is still below the cabinet level because of Washington’s “one China” policy, these observers see a growing propensity in US political circles, across both sides of the aisle, to support Taiwan’s distinct political culture, the outstanding features of which are its vibrant democracy and respect for human rights, along with a thriving economy. The question often debated in academic and foreign policy research circles is whether the US would put boots on