Free media and democracy are not bargaining chips

Gotta agree with Arch Puddington at Freedom House: Worst idea of the year: Selling out on Taiwan

He was reacting to an article by Paul V. Kane in a Nov. 10 New York Times Op-Ed piece: To Save Our Economy, Ditch Taiwan.

Kane starts off his piece with an argument that U.S. strength comes — or should come — from only our military might:

[Pres. Obama] needs to redefine America’s mindset about national security away from the old defense mentality that American power derives predominantly from our military might, rather than from the strength, agility and competitiveness of our economy. He should make it clear that today American jobs and wealth matter more than military prowess.

This is a powerful statement and even more so from a man who served as a Marine in Iraq.

But he forgets that what also makes America great is its commitment to democracy and its willingness to support democracies and democratic forces.

This is the point that Puddington takes: A democracy like the United States should not toss a fellow democracy under the bus to placate a dictatorship:

What would Israel or the Baltic countries think of the United States after it had tossed a vulnerable ally into the maw of a large authoritarian neighbor? Major allies would also take notice, and their reactions could be both costly and unpleasant for the United States. It is worth mentioning that Japan is close behind China as the second-largest foreign holder of U.S. debt. Taiwan itself is high on the list.

I further have to agree with Puddington that placating Beijing will only strengthen the hardliners and “would only embolden such leaders to press their advantage.”

Kane, on the other hand, sees the move as one to weaken the hardliners: “[It]would undermine hard-line militarists who use the Taiwan issue to stoke nationalist flames, sideline pro-Western technocrats and extract larger military budgets.”

By dumping Taiwan, Kane argues, the U.S. could help China save $500 billion in defense spending aimed at Taiwan by 2020.

I am not sure I want to help China save money on defending itself from Taiwan so it can put its money into other more aggressive expenditures. (Besides, there is absolutely NO threat to China from a Taiwanese invasion.)

Kane adds that dumping Taiwan would move the Beijing leadership to be more open to U.S. efforts to deal with North Korea and Iran.

“It would be a game changer,” he states.

Yes it would be. It would signal that the United States is willing — for short-term domestic reasons — to dump a democratic regime with all the rights and liberties shared by the American people, in favor of a dictatorship.

Freedom House Rankings of Political Freedom

I am pretty sure that is what the American people want. And I am damned sure that is not the legacy any U.S. president wants.

I was in Taiwan in the early 1990s when democracy was just taking hold. It was a shame that the U.S. media did not cover the soft revolution that took place there. (There were no U.S. news organizations in Taiwan by that time, they were all in Beijing. And the editors back in the States were pre-occupied with the fall of the Soviet Empire. They could not be bothered with the goings on in a small island state. I know, I tried to sell the story to a number of U.S. papers.)

Despite being ignored by most of the rest of the world, the Taiwanese kept moving forward with their democratic process. And by 2000 (I think), Taiwan became the first Chinese-speaking entity in 5,000 years to have a peaceful change in political leadership by popular vote.

In the process of building a democratic government, the Taiwanese built free and independent outlets.

Free elections. Free press. Free speech.

These are not things to give up to pay down the debt.

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Filed under China, International News Coverage

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