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Are Americans Prepared To Fight A Nuclear War Over Taiwan?

1945, By Doug Bandow, 25 May 22,

The consequences of a U.S.-China war over Taiwan need to be understood: A president suffering from an occasional case of verbal diarrhea about political infighting is an embarrassment. A president repeating loose comments about international affairs is dangerous.

For the third timePresident Joe Biden declared a new U.S. policy toward Taiwan, only to have his officials insist that nothing has changed. That might mollify the public, but other nations, especially the People’s Republic of China, aren’t fooled.

On his trip to East Asia, intended to convince friends and allies that Uncle Sam can walk and chew gum at the same time, the president’s statement roiled the region. When asked if he would defend Taiwan, he responded “yes,” adding that “it’s a commitment we made.” His words circled the globe at warp speed, appearing to yet again repudiate the policy of “strategic ambiguity,” by which Washington refused to clarify its position toward a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Since the Carter administration dropped diplomatic ties with Taiwan, legally the Republic of China, and recognized the PRC, America’s defense ties with Taipei have been ambiguous. Washington retains unofficial diplomatic ties with the island state and is committed by law to sell the latter defensive weapons. However, Taiwan enjoys neither a defense treaty, as possessed by Japan and South Korea, nor any other formal military commitment. Making U.S. policy a straightforward “maybe.”

The Strategy of Strategic Ambiguity 

In theory, the uncertainty and possibility of forfeiting U.S. support are supposed to deter Taipei from recklessly challenging Beijing. At the same time, the PRC is supposed to avoid taking military action, lest Washington decides to intervene. Voila, America achieves the best of both worlds. However, the opposite result also is possible. The Taiwanese might believe eight decades of cooperation in war and peace mean the U.S. would intervene on the former’s behalf. And the Chinese might decide that no rational American president would risk Los Angeles for Taipei.

In fact, strategic ambiguity looks like an excuse to avoid deciding. As long as policymakers need not give a clear yes or no, they need not clearly decide yes or no. And they can simply hope the contingency never arises.

China is Not Ambiguous About Reunification

However, this strategy is becoming increasingly untenable. There is no sign of an imminent Chinese military action, but noted by the Quincy Institute’s Michael Swaine: “this possibility cannot be discounted over the longer term if present trends continue.” Beijing’s patience appears to be diminishing:……………….

of the many possible lessons of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the most important for Xi might be the importance of a quick victory.

…………………….   Is America Ready for Strategic Clarity?

However, the American people should be consulted, starting now, Admitted Rep. Michael McCaul, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I don’t know how many Americans would want to go to war over a tiny island they know nothing about,” he said. And if they fully understood the cost of defending Taiwan from China – the possibility of conventional defeat and nuclear disaster – they might firmly oppose doing so.

………………………….  Alas, fighting the PRC over Taiwan would be nothing like America’s recent military experience. Iraq and Afghanistan were cakewalks compared to high-intensity war against the well-armed and highly motivated People’s Liberation Army, generously stocked with missiles and an expanding nuclear arsenal. At its worst, air and naval combat between the U.S. and PRC would take Americans back to World War II’s Pacific war, which surely no one wants to relive, with a possible nuclear twist if such weapons were used against America.

And Beijing appears ready for war, if necessary, though that certainly is not its preference. …………………………………

In short, the American people could find themselves risking national bankruptcy and destruction to confront this one contingency: defending Taiwan from China.

The more than 23 million people of Taiwan deserve to set their own destinies. They have created a democratic policy, market economy, and vibrant society. However, risking their homeland is a high price for Americans to pay, too high. War with China means personnel killed, planes downed, ships sunk, and bases bombed. War with China also means the possibility of nuclear-tipped missiles hitting American cities. And even a U.S. victory likely would be transitory, as China could retreat and prepare for another round, rather like Germany between World Wars I and II.

Better to seek a regional modus vivendi, which ensures that Taipei eschews claims of independence and military relationships with other nations, while Beijing reduces military threats and affirms peaceful reunification. 

Washington also should consider the lessons of Ukraine: arming and training Taiwanese forces, preparing global sanctions in response to an attack, and developing asymmetric military responses. The goal should be to put the greatest responsibility on Taiwan while raising the price more for China than for America.

The president’s inability to control his mouth is dangerous. Failing to consider the full consequences of war with China over Taiwan is worse. And expecting Americans to accept without debate the costs and risks of full-scale combat with the PRC is a political crime. The Biden administration should address all three issues before the Taiwan Strait becomes the world’s latest crisis. https://www.19fortyfive.com/2022/05/are-americans-prepared-to-fight-a-nuclear-war-over-taiwan/

May 26, 2022 - Posted by | Taiwan, USA, weapons and war

1 Comment »

  1. America is a psychotic, dysfunctional country. Too bad it’s not transitioning to.survivability.

    Comment by Cricket Green | May 27, 2022 | Reply


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