‘Never’ a wake-up call
President Ma Ying-Jeou’s (馬英九) statement that “we will never ask the Americans to fight for Taiwan” will serve as a wake-up call to everyone who refuses to live under communist rule (“KMT downplays Ma comment,” May 3, page 1).
The pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) media has painted Ma’s statement as both proper and candid. This is because, they said, whether to fight for Taiwan or not is a US decision that will be made solely with US interests in mind. Therefore, if it doesn’t align with US interests, the US will not help even if Taiwan kneels and begs. On the other hand, they said, if Taiwan’s future does fall in line with US interest, help from the US will come even when Taiwan is not asking. Thus, they concluded that Ma’s “bold” statement will be rendered a non-issue in the end. Clearly, people who either made or accepted this line of argument failed to understand the true meaning of “allies.”
Taiwan and the US have been military allies since the Korean War, and, contrary to common belief, Taiwan has not always been on the receiving end of US aid in this alliance.
Between 1959 and 1974, Taiwanese pilots flew the famed U-2 spy plane for the CIA and the US Air Force. At the cost of 10 lives, Taiwanese pilots provided invaluable reconnaissance over hostile areas including China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Laos.
From 1962 to 1975, and with the CIA’s backing, the Taiwanese Company “Air Asia,” based at Tainan Airport, was the largest air service center in East Asia, servicing all US Air Force aircraft deployed in the region.
During the Vietnam War, the Taiwanese Air Force secretly operated a cargo transport detachment to assist the US and the South Vietnamese. Taiwanese involvement in Vietnam included a secret listening station, special reconnaissance and raiding squads, military advisers and civilian airline operations.
Even after Washington switched diplomatic ties to Beijing, Taiwan’s ally status remained. In 1979, a war between North and South Yemen prompted the US to ship 12 F-5E planes to North Yemen. Since no one in North Yemen knew how to fly the F-5E, the US and Saudi Arabia arranged to have 80 Taiwanese pilots plus ground crew and anti-air defense units sent to North Yemen.
Over the years, Taiwan has faithfully performed her duties as a US ally. Therefore, why is it not proper for Taiwan to ask the US for help in the event of a life-threatening emergency? President Ma’s statement only serves to prove that he is either a president without a spine or a Chinese mole planted in Taiwan.
It would be interesting to learn how Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would have answered the same question if she were in the same spot. I sincerely hope her answer, if she were to give one, would be significantly different so as to give Taiwanese voters a choice between in the year-end elections.
San Diego, California
Contrary to what politicians try to make us believe, the greatest challenge facing Taiwan, like all other countries, is not achieving economic growth. It is dealing with the numerous global crises that face mankind as a result of our unsustainable over-exploitation of nature’s resources. Scientists worldwide agree that unless we fundamentally change the way we live, produce and consume, we will destroy our planet. This is going to happen sooner rather than later, because although the facts are well known, our governments do not face up to the challenge.
A recent statement from Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) shows that, like all administrations before it, Taiwan’s current government has not realized what is at stake and prefers to think in the same old ways that brought us all into the mess we are in today.
“You cannot just look at one part of the picture,” Wu said in the debate about a piece of unspoilt land in Taipei that is in large part going to be transformed into a commercial and residential area (“Author Chang to inspect site of Munitions Works,” May 12, page 2). “If Taiwan preserved all its wetlands, would it be able to develop the economy or create employment opportunities?”
By putting short-term economic growth above sustainable development and conservation, Wu is committing the cardinal mistake so common among politicians and big business. A responsible government should prioritize the preservation of what unspoilt land remains because such land is a limited and valuable resource.
Once we manage to destroy enough of it to tip the balance and destroy the natural systems that depend on it, the impact on our lives and well-being will be even greater and “developing the economy” will be the least of our worries. Wu’s idea of economic growth just means further exploiting Taiwan and its environment without caring about the consequences.
Taiwan’s entire west coast, including the Taipei basin, has already been overdeveloped in the last few decades to the extent where there is hardly any unspoilt land left. It is a landscape of concrete, roads and factories that is as shocking to foreign tourists as Taiwan’s mountains are awe-inspiring.
Instead of sealing and “developing” even the last few hectares of unspoiled land, the government and corporations should be legally forced to use other areas for their construction projects. There are thousands of hectares of former factories and industrial wasteland that can be used, often in central locations with existing road networks.
However, that would mean there may not be so much money to be made by big businesses. As Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源) pointed out (“The hypocrisy of Hau Lung-bin,” May 11, page 8), the government plans in Taipei not only to hand over nine hectares to Academia Sinica for a biotech research park, but also 57 hectares to corporations for the construction of offices, labs and luxury residential housing. There is a lot of money to be made and one can only wonder how far that fact influenced the government’s decision.
Our children and grandchildren will have to deal with the catastrophic consequences of today’s unsustainable politics. Looking back, they will point out what went wrong and they will blame politicians like Wu for making the wrong decision. Those responsible will be long gone, but they will have left behind a heritage of irresponsibility, greed and short-sightedness.
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