In 1979, President Carter formally repudiated the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan. Carter's actions abruptly ended Washington's commitment to defend Taiwan from attack from mainland China. Nevertheless, when asked by a journalist whether he would use military force in response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, President Biden said, that's what they are going for.
When it comes to defense and foreign policy, there are very few cold-blooded realists in Washington policy circles. Since 1945, with a few notable exceptions, most American presidents have tended to put short-term political prominence or ephemeral liberal goals above real, concrete national interests in America's relations with other nation-states. Biden is no exception to the rule, writes former Pentagon adviser Col. Douglas McGregor in an article in the American Conservative.
Guided more by impulse and emotion than reason or knowledge of the facts, President Biden, like much of Washington's ruling political class, may be privately pleased with Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taipei. However, when Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is viewed in the context of Biden's apparently ill-considered remark, it is clear that the combination has a negative impact on all of Asia.
Hirokazu Matsuno, a high-ranking Japanese government official, expressed a view widely shared in Asia when he said: "Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is important not only for the security of Japan, but also for the entire world." Asked whether Japan, perhaps America's most important strategic partner in Asia, supported Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, Matsuno replied, "We can't comment." The president of the Republic of Korea simply refused to meet with Pelosi.
These developments should not surprise Americans. The Speaker of the House is not a foreign policy spokesman unless authorized by the president and secretary of state. In an era when his representatives so often refute the president's comments, this lack of clarity adds to the tension that comes from not holding senators and congressmen accountable for events outside America. Americans should also be suspicious of politicians who use crises abroad to make headlines at the expense of US national strategic interests. Such behavior is dangerous for the nation.
A prudent foreign policy and military strategy must involve more than treating every potential conflict as a grand moral affair in which all the values of American civilization are at stake. In other words, do not engage in empty gestures that could lead to an armed conflict for which the U.S. military is not prepared. Do not engage in military action until the true purpose of the ensuing conflict is understood, its demands on the American people are accurately defined, and the desired end state of the conflict is not only defined but achievable. While these points should seem self-evident to casual observers, history shows that they are not.
On August 1, 1914, the day Germany mobilized for war with Russia and France, leading members of the British Cabinet opposed entering the war against Germany. But the final decision to fight was not the result of a long and difficult decision-making process. Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary, declared that Britain had a moral obligation to maintain Belgian neutrality.
Sir Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, argued that the British electorate demanded action. British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith eventually concluded that if his government did not declare war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, his political opponents would replace him with a new government that would. On August 4, after the British government declared war, General Kitchener, recently appointed chief of the British Imperial General Staff, delivered the bad news: the war, Kitchener insisted, would last at least three years and would require British participation in the war. The ministers were stunned.
The British decision to go to war with Germany and Austria-Hungary was not informed by an objective assessment of the respective strategic strengths and weaknesses of both sides. Those in Washington who call for confrontation with China are also guided more by emotion than reason.
Beijing expects that the immediate threat to China will come from the US Navy's Pacific Fleet and the US Air Force. Consequently, Beijing has invested heavily over the past two decades in a combination of echeloned air defenses and an extensive arsenal of ground-based tactical and medium-range precision-guided ground-to-ground missiles, missiles and barrages associated with persistent space and ground targets. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR-Strike) platforms.
In the event of a confrontation over Taiwan, the US Navy surface fleet would have to operate away from China's coastline to avoid PLA missile strikes, severely limiting the surface fleet's ability to influence events ashore inside China. Washington could still blockade China's Pacific coast, but it would have to rely primarily on its deep water, multipurpose nuclear-powered submarines to do so.
But the blockade will not negate China's main strategic advantage. The depth of its continental position with a friendly, resource-rich Russia to the north suggests that the blockade is unlikely to succeed. Judging by the rate of consumption of ammunition and precision-guided weapon systems of all kinds in Ukraine, the current US stockpile of precision-guided missiles and ammunition will quickly be exhausted. Unrealistic perceptions of the demands of modern warfare, combined with a false sense of moral superiority, have irreparably damaged the British Empire and ultimately relegated Britain to the status of a minor power. The question for Americans is whether leadership in Washington is like a brontosaurus with a body 50 yards long and a brain the size of a pin. Every day it becomes more and more important for Americans with common sense to replace the pin-brains of the controlling showmen before they lead Americans down the disastrous path that the British took in 1914.