December 10, 2003

Status Quash


In yet another presidential disappointment, FoxNews reported yesterday: Bush Opposes Taiwan Independence.

"We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo," Bush told reporters, "and the comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan" -- referring to President Chen Shui-bian -- "indicate that he may be willing to make decisions unilaterally."

The referendum, scheduled for March 20, would let Taiwan's electorate decide whether the island's government should demand that Beijing remove hundreds of missiles aimed at it and renounce the use of force.

Chen's decision to hold the vote, under a new law that gives him power to call a "defensive referendum" when the island's sovereignty faces imminent threat, is also seen as a means of shoring up his own support as a re-election campaign looms.

Chen is a strong proponent of independence for Taiwan, and both Bush administration and mainland Chinese officials say the referendum is an indirect step toward that.

How good can it be when President Bush and the Communist dictatorship of China share the same negative view of another nation's desire to be free from the threat of tyranny? Having earlier this year said that he would do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan, now Bush is apparently willing to sacrifice Taiwan. And for what? Supposedly, maintaining the "status quo" with the Chinese dictatorship will encourage it to be part of the diplomatic "multilateralist" pressure on the nuke-seeking North Korean dictatorship -- thus maintaining regional "stability."

Sound familiar? These are exactly the same types of arguments used by leftists who were against invading Iraq.

And who is Bush to condemn Taiwan's unilateral actions to protect itself from an threatening nation? Isn't a willingness to act unilaterally, and preemptively if necessary, a fundamental tenet of America's War on Terrorism? It's not as if Taiwan is proposing to invade China -- they just want to vote on a referendum demanding that China promise not to annihilate them. And this represents some kind of evil "unilateralism" to Bush? Ridiculous. Absurd. Hypocritical.

Bush is saying "Do As I Say, Not As I Do," the type of admonishments he occasionally gives to Israel in its war against Palestinian terrorism. We see where that's gotten Israel.

Bush's treatment of Taiwan is disgusting no matter how you slice it but not surprising. This prophetic Jeff Jacoby op-ed from September 2002 spells it all out: Taiwan is not China. (Via Capitalism Magazine)

Sooner or later, Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, will again say something that suggests Taiwan ought to be regarded as an independent country. The communist government in Beijing will again react angrily, rattling its missiles and threatening to attack if Taiwan moves to declare its independence. Washington will again tsk-tsk over Chen's remarks, again reiterate its "one China" policy, and again intone that it opposes Taiwanese independence. And once again, all concerned will breathe a sigh of relief when the status quo is restored and the Taiwan issue returns to the back burner -- assuming it does.

The script is predictable. It is also shameful.

Taiwan is a free republic, a loyal American ally, a guarantor of civil liberties, and an engine of economic freedom. It does not deserve to be treated as an international pariah, or to be hastily shushed when it points out that it is China's political equal, not a rebellious Chinese province. The United States disgraces itself every time it fails to robustly defend Taiwan's right to freely determine its own future. The disgrace is compounded by the fact that the American unwillingness to embrace Taiwan, a sister democracy, is born of a desire to appease China, the world's foremost totalitarian dictatorship.

Though Bush often, in a very mixed sort of way, advocates pro-American foreign policies -- more so than, say, Howard Dean would -- Bush clearly does not apply those same principles to our allies. He apparently thinks there are some short-term benefits to selling out our allies to appease our enemies. But the long-term consequences of such policies are not in America's interests for the same reason that appeasing hostile Arab tyrannies has proven not to be in America's interests. Does Bush need a Taiwanese 9/11 caused by Chinese missiles to understand this?

If we are to come close to winning the War on Terrorism, we need a consistent, principled, uncompromisingly pro-freedom/anti-tyranny foreign policy. The expedient diplomatic abandonment of Taiwan is yet more proof that we do not have such a policy coming from the Bush White House.

Bush first appeared as "Multilateral Man" in this cartoon created during the run up to the Iraq war. Unfortunately it's probably not the last time we'll see him.

UPDATE: Reuters reports: Taiwan Says Vote Still on Despite Bush Warning.

Brushing aside a warning from George W. Bush, Taiwan's president reiterated his plan to hold a referendum alongside elections next March, but said neither independence nor the status quo with China would be at issue.

At least Taiwan is being somewhat defiant. Hopefully the referendum will still demand that China renounce the use of force, but one commentator in the article above says the referendum may be watered down to merely say that "Taiwan is pro-peace."

(Hat tip: Stuart Middleton-White)

Posted by Forkum at December 10, 2003 07:26 AM