Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Adm Blair, Obama's Intel Guy, Testimony on Taiwan

A friend passed me this:

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SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
UNITED STATES SENATE
Questions for the Record for Admiral Dennis Blair
upon nomination to be Director of National Intelligence
January 22, 2009

QUESTION: A number of negative comments about United States policy towards Taiwan have been attributed to you in the past—I believe at one time, you referred to Taiwan as the “turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations.” Since you retired, however, you have consistently spoken and written about the importance of the Taiwan Relations Act as a solid foundation for American policy in the region. You have also said in recent years that you believe that that policy is good for both Taiwan and China. What is your view on U.S. policy towards Taiwan?

Answer: It is absolutely incorrect that I ever referred to Taiwan itself as the "turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations." Whoever gave this account to the press was maliciously attempting to portray me as a supporter of China at the expense of Taiwan. I did in fact use the too-colorful phrase "tossing a turd in the punchbowl" in a closed meeting in 2000, but the phrase referred to a specific action by a former Taiwanese government that had been taken without consulting the United States, that had led to a confrontation between the United States and China that neither had sought, and that did not benefit Taiwan. My characterization referred to a single, specific action by the Taiwanese government, certainly not Taiwan itself.

I have never made negative comments about United States policy towards Taiwan in the past. I have stated opinions about statements and actions of particular American officials and administrations which I believed to be inconsistent with American policy, but I have always believed and stated that the Taiwan Relations Act is a solid foundation for American policy towards Taiwan. When I was CINCPAC, I took my specific responsibilities under the TRA seriously, and since I retired I have continued to believe and say that this legislation provides a sound basis for U.S. policy.

QUESTION: If confirmed as the DNI, how do you intend to shape intelligence collection priorities in this region?

ANSWER: If confirmed as DNI, I intend to place a priority on both China and Taiwan. As the TRA states, it is American policy that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means. American intelligence must understand the prospects and opportunities for a peaceful progress so that we can reinforce it. On the other hand, American intelligence must provide warning of a potential crisis or conflict in China-Taiwan relations so that we can take timely and well informed action.

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Sorry, I don't know what 2000 event he refers to. Blair has been widely painted as a panda hugger, and the first question appears to be a softball question designed to elicit a refutation of that claim.

UPDATE: Some excellent comments below.

14 comments:

Carlos said...

"Peaceful" isn't the same as "democratic." Don't mind me if I remain skeptical.

Raj said...

Blair has been widely painted as a panda hugger

Who doesn't like the idea of hugging a panda?

Michael, if you mean Blair has been widely painted as hostile towards/disinterested in supporting Taiwan that's fine. But whether he is also "pro"-China is not necessarily relevant to how he feels about Taiwan, surely.

Taiwan Echo said...

Admiral Dennis Blair: I did in fact use the too-colorful phrase "tossing a turd in the punchbowl" in a closed meeting in 2000, but the phrase referred to a specific action by a former Taiwanese government that had been taken without consulting the United States

Yea, Taiwan is part of USA.

Anonymous said...

The DPP smears any critic by equating any criticism of the DPP with being anti-Taiwan. Blair said CSB threw a turd in the punchbowl, the DPP claims Blair said Taiwan is a turd in the punchbowl. Jackie Chan said CSB is a joke, the DPP claims Chan said Taiwan is a joke. The truth is that Blair and Chan and many other DPP critics, have a long history of friendliness towards Taiwan.

Michael Turton said...

The issue is not whether Blair himself is "friendly" toward taiwan, but whether the policies he adopts are. Panda hugging is generally not good for Taiwan, but I remain optimistic.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"Jackie Chan said CSB is a joke, the DPP claims Chan said Taiwan is a joke."

Anon, wow! This is way to funny and ironic to pass up. So, so was your comment some kind of meta-joke?! You must think the people that read this blog are just a bunch of chumps that will just eat up your outright lies.

Jackie Chan said that Taiwan's 2004 presidential election was a joke. How did you manage to make that into him saying CSB was a joke? I don't want to have to say the obvious, but you claim the DPP twists Chan's words to their advantage but you do what you claim to hate?

Ha-ha. Hope to see more of your comments.

Arty said...

The issue is not whether Blair himself is "friendly" toward taiwan, but whether the policies he adopts are. Panda hugging is generally not good for Taiwan, but I remain optimistic.

I am sorry, US policy shouldn't be friendly to anyone except us, the USA, and of course, our values but we haven't been upholding our values for awhile.

Yea, Taiwan is part of USA.

No, but look at the map, and you will realize that you are pissing off two largest nations on both side of you. If you don't want to talk to China, you better listen to the US. Of course, keep it up, China will just eat you alive. I find it amazing that usually people who live on little islands, sometimes have the largest EGO (Japanese's too).

Raj said...

You remain optimistic? Hehe, and I thought you were saying how the Obama administration was going to be all status-quo. :)

So in what way are you optimistic?

Anonymous said...

ADM Blair's "turd in the punchbowl" comment was made when he was Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Command - CINCPAC. The "CINCs," when they were called that, tended to become politicians, or perhaps even proconsuls in the best Roman tradition. They ruled the Asia-Pacific region. Blair was no exception, and he was probably more assertive than most. The region was his, and due to proximity, he had the best understanding of the situation. He, like his predecessors, believed that only CINCs could develop the kind of special relationships with senior leaders in Beijing in order to keep the peace. However, this kind of outlook - and condescending attitude toward their elected civilian leadership - is what led to Rumsfeld's downgrading them in status. There should be only one CINC - the President. And Blair found this out.

Nevertheless, despite his "I know best" worldview, one shouldn't forget that Blair committed himself to carrying out Bush's "do whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself." Since his departure from PACOM, the operational relationship has suffered. It peaked under his command.

As testimony to his commitment to the US-Taiwan operational relationship, his successor, ADM Fargo, asked Blair to continue to play a central role after his retirement. Blair, as a contractor and head of a major beltway bandit entity (IDA), led the PACOM observer team for every Hankuang exercise between 2002 up until last year. In this position, he would have played a special role in communicating at least back to senior US officials not only his perspectives on Taiwan's operational readiness but also on political issues, since he would have met frequently with Chen Shui-bian, Chiou Yi-ren, etc.

In short, to his credit, Blair has been sensitized to Taiwan, and has at least been there on multiple occasions. On the other hand, the question is whether or not the kind of messianic worldview and "know it all" approach to China/Taiwan that he had when he was at PACOM could color his ability to offer objective intelligence estimates to the President and other senior political leaders. Hopefully, he took away from Taiwan the most important lesson - humility. The more one learns about Taiwan (and China), the more one understands how much one doesn't know.

Anonymous said...

@Arty, what are your thoughts on the US policy towards Israel? Intervention not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but billions of dollars for "allies" all over the world. Intervention in the Balkans? How about environmental policy? If we only look at US self-interest, really, there's no reason to cut down on carbon or anything else.

Red A said...

"The phrase referred to a specific action by a former Taiwanese government that had been taken without consulting the United States, that had led to a confrontation between the United States and China that neither had sought, and that did not benefit Taiwan."

Hmmmm, some action that upset both the USA, China, and supposedly was not in Taiwan's interest. Color me doubtful that this guy will turn out to be a closet TI supporter.

davod said...

Nobody asked Blair about this trip to Indonesia to warn off the Indonesians about training the militias in East Timor (He did he opposite). This guy sound like a loose cannon:

"[...] US officials say that this past April, as militia terror escalated, a top US officer was dispatched to give a message to Jakarta. Adm. Dennis Blair, the US Commander in Chief of the Pacific, leader of all US military forces in the Pacific region, was sent to meet with General Wiranto, the Indonesian armed forces commander, on April 8. Blair's mission, as one senior US official told me, was to tell Wiranto that the time had come to shut the militia operation down. The gravity of the meeting was heightened by the fact that two days before, the militias had committed a horrific machete massacre at the Catholic church in Liquiça, Timor. YAYASAN HAK, a Timorese human rights group, estimated that many dozens of civilians were murdered. Some of the victims' flesh was reportedly stuck to the walls of the church and a pastor's house. But Admiral Blair, fully briefed on Liquiça, quickly made clear at the meeting with Wiranto that he was there to reassure the TNI chief. According to a classified cable on the meeting, circulating at Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, Blair, rather than telling Wiranto to shut the militias down, instead offered him a series of promises of new US assistance.

According to the cable, which was drafted by Col. Joseph Daves, US military attaché in Jakarta, Admiral Blair "told the armed forces chief that he looks forward to the time when [the army will] resume its proper role as a leader in the region. He invited General Wiranto to come to Hawaii as his guest in conjunction with the next round of bilateral defense discussions in the July-August '99 time frame. He said Pacific command is prepared to support a subject matter expert exchange for doctrinal development. He expects that approval will be granted to send a small team to provide technical assistance to police and...selected TNI personnel on crowd control measures."

Admiral Blair at no point told Wiranto to stop the militia operation, going the other way by inviting him to be his personal guest in Hawaii. Blair told Wiranto that the United States would initiate this new riot-control training for the Indonesian armed forces. This was quite significant, because it would be the first new US training program for the Indonesian military since 1992. Although State Department officials had been assured in writing that only police and no soldiers would be part of this training, Blair told Wiranto that, yes, soldiers could be included. So although Blair was sent in with the mission of telling Wiranto to shut the militias down, he did the opposite.

Indonesian officers I spoke to said Wiranto was delighted by the meeting. They took this as a green light to proceed with the militia.."*

Read the rest, it gets better.
Dennis Blair and East Timor

Anonymous said...

So....has BHO and his lackeys set the timeline for handing Taiwan to china?

If so then I wish the death of all democrats.

Arty said...

@Arty, what are your thoughts on the US policy towards Israel? Intervention not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but billions of dollars for "allies" all over the world. Intervention in the Balkans? How about environmental policy? If we only look at US self-interest, really, there's no reason to cut down on carbon or anything else.

I think you just answered you own question. All these actions are solely due to our own interest, and some of them even against our principles. We haven't cut done on carbon emissions; are you smoking something. We are the biggest polluter per capital and we wast about 70% (I think I read somewhere) our food, and we used up 80% of earth resources as 5% of earth population (my number could be a little off but it is something like that).