As former speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neill once famously said: “All politics is local.” He could have added that it is especially so in election time.
O’Neill was referring to the need for politicians to appeal to the everyday concerns of their constituents, but it can also be interpreted as meaning that a country’s foreign policies — especially those that, seen from the outside, appear illogical — are also the product of domestic political wrangling. The moment more than one individual is involved in decision making, the political arrow will point back to the domestic magnetic north, even more so in democracies.
At election time, policy decisions are often made so that a certain candidate or political party can benefit from them — or, conversely, to make things more difficult for an opposing party. By creating a fait accompli, an administration imposes new rules by which its successors must abide.
The administration of US President George W. Bush did two such things in recent weeks, and both measures were meant to put the Republican party at an advantage.
First, on Oct. 3, Bush reversed nearly a year of “arms freeze” policy by agreeing, at the 11th hour, to sell Taiwan US$6.5 billion in advanced military equipment, which includes the state-of-the-art AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter, as well as PAC-3 missile batteries and other items. The first two — the Longbow and the PAC-3 — are key.
The Apache helicopter is designed at the Boeing facility in Mesa, Arizona, a Republican state. Boeing’s in-house publication, Frontiers, has reported the city of Mesa tripled in size since the plant opened 25 years ago and is now the US’ 40th most populous city.
The PAC-3, for its part, includes the Missile Seeker, a component built at the Boeing factory in Anaheim, California, while the entire system is designed by Lockheed Martin at its Camden, Arkansas, facility and other industry partners. Arkansas went Republican in the last two elections, and some pundits claim it could be a Tier I battleground state in the coming election.
The arms deal cannot hurt the Republicans, which historically have been closer to the defense industry than the Democrats. While bringing contracts and creating jobs is a sure vote-winner, the deal will also make it easier for future US administrations to continue selling weapons to Taiwan, as a permanent “freeze” would have become the new baseline in Washington’s dealings with Beijing. What Bush did was to resurrect the “status quo” and in so doing give credence to his policy of helping democracies worldwide.
The other Bush decision was the removal on Saturday of North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism to ensure Pyongyang would comply with its pledge to end its nuclear activities. Given North Korea’s history of brinkmanship, Bush and his aides know fully well that the delisting was, at best, a stopgap measure and that Pyongyang will eventually find a new argument to resume its bad-neighbor politics. The move was nevertheless a last-ditch attempt to salvage a process that the Bush administration has invested heavily in since 2003 and to leave a legacy of “accomplishments” that could put the Republicans in a more favorable light — even if the move meant angering Tokyo.
With Bush’s Middle East peace plan going nowhere fast, Iraq still shaky, Afghanistan a mess, the “war” on terrorism an exercise in futility and Wall Street in shambles, Bush and the Republicans needed quick “wins” before the curtain falls on Nov. 4. Taiwan and North Korea provided them.
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
Taiwan is beautiful — no doubt about it. In Taipei, the streets are clean, the skyline is gorgeous and the subway is world-class. The coastline is easily accessible and mountains can be seen in the distance. The people are hardworking, successful and busy. Every luxury known to humankind is available and people live on their smartphones. As an American visiting for the first time, here are some things I learned about the country. First, people from Taiwan and America love freedom and democracy and have for many years. When we defeated Japan in 1945, Taiwan was freed from Japanese rule. In
During a news conference in Vietnam on Sept. 10, a reporter asked US President Joe Biden about the possibility of China invading Taiwan. Biden replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is too busy handling major domestic economic problems to launch an invasion of Taiwan. On Wednesday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a document outlining 21 measures to make the Chinese-controlled Fujian Province into a demonstration zone for relations with Taiwan. The planned measures would expand favorable treatment for Taiwanese people and companies, and seek to attract people from Taiwan to buy property and seek employment in Fujian.
More than 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels and aircraft were detected making incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of National Defense reported on Monday. The ministry responded to the incursions by calling on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” saying that Beijing’s actions could “easily lead to a sharp escalation in tensions and worsen regional security.” Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the unusually high number of incursions over such a short time was likely Beijing’s response to efforts