Thursday, April 26, 2007

Warner Warns Taiwan

The good Senator from Virginia, a crusty old school paleocon, yesterday warned Taiwan not to do anything provocative yesterday in a hearing aimed at the new US commander in the Asia-Pacific region:
A leading critic of Taiwan in the US Congress has warned Taiwan not to cause "another problem" for the US at a time when its military is heavily involved in Iraq and elsewhere.

Senator John Warner, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and committee chairman until the Democratic Party took control of Congress in January, warned Taiwan's leaders not to "play the Taiwan Relations [Act] (TRA)."

He was referring to the provision of the Act that commits US forces to maintain a state of readiness to assist Taiwan in case of an escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Warner made the comments during his questioning of the new US forces commander in the Pacific, Admiral Timothy Keating, at a committee hearing that dealt with security issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

It was not the first time Warner has issued such a warning. Last year, when he was chairman, he said that the US might not be willing to aid Taiwan against a Chinese invasion or other hostile military acts, as called for in the TRA, if Taiwan was seen as provoking Beijing.

Several issues are striking here. First, the repetition of the common misconception that the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) somehow obligates the US to act in Taiwan's defense. Section 3 of the Act is very clear in this regard:
SEC. 3. (a) In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 2 of this Act, the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

(b) The President and the Congress shall determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services based solely upon their judgment of the needs of Taiwan, in accordance with procedures established by law. Such determination of Taiwan's defense needs shall include review by United States military authorities in connection with recommendations to the President and the Congress.

(c) The President is directed to inform the Congress promptly of any threat to the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan and any danger to the interests of the United States arising therefrom. The President and the Congress shall determine, in accordance with constitutional processes, appropriate action by the United States in response to any such danger.
Look at 3(c) closely. The Act simply mandates that the President notify Congress of a threat, and that they shall next determine what to do. Taiwan is nowhere involved in the process, and nowhere does it mandate armed response. I do not know if Senator Warner understand this -- it seems unlikely that he doesn't -- but Taiwan cannot "play that TRA" because there is nothing for Taiwan to play. 3(b) says that the President and the Congress shall "solely" make the determination -- in other words, Taiwan is overtly excluded from this process. Nothing in the TRA excludes the possibility of Congress and the President jointly washing their hands of Taiwan while publicly announcing that Taiwan is sufficiently protected. The TRA is simply Congress' way of chucking Taiwan on the chin and saying "Here's looking at you, kid."

Warner's words also remind this reader of the implicit connection between our defeat in Iraq and Taiwan. As long as the US is emptying its treasury and bleeding its military in defeat in Iraq, it cannot pursue a vigorous policy of leadership in Asia. For Asia's sake, we need to wind up that war yesterday. One cannot help but point out, though, that a nation that has been defeated in an unprovoked and illegal war in Iraq (which Warner voted for) is really not in a position to warn other nations not to do stupid, provocative stuff.

The third issue here is the problem of "provocation." Warner no doubt means something serious, like declaring independence (as if!), but it is worth noting, again, that "being provoked" is a policy choice for Beijing, not some visceral emotional reaction that it can't control. Chinese authorities decide whether and how much they are provoked, because they have come to understand that if they have a sufficiently annoyed snit fit, the State Department and other US organs will come to their aid in suppressing Taiwan. "Being provoked" is an important tool of Beijing's -- and now Senator Warner has just publicly informed the authorities there that their policy is a success.


Anonymous said...

Hey Michael, I posted that article on so that other people will be able to see this. This is a very good reason why Taiwan should just ignore both China and the U.S. (especially this stupid administration) and just do what's good for Taiwan.

Unknown said...

Warner just got owned.....

Audrey C. said...

When I read this yesterday, I really got mad. Warner isn't even bothering to hide his contempt for Taiwan, and it's that sort of imperialistic whip-cracking that really makes me upset with the current US administration.

The war on Iraq meant that my home state (Louisiana) was left with a severe shortage of National Guardsmen when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, and now he's trying to bully my home country by saying no aid will come if China arbitrarily decides to bomb the stinky tofu out of it (even though, as you pointed out in the article, the TRA doesn't necessitate defense). I'm being screwed on both cultural fronts!!

Anonymous said...

during the democratic presidential candidate debate last night i thought it was interesting that obama said that our involvement in iraq was making us less prepared in asia (if memory serves me correctly). on a question about allies and enemies, he talked about japan as a staunch ally and said that 'china is rising' and is neither friend not enemy, but a 'competitor'. also on his website in the foreign policy section, he talks about a shortage of personnel in the government trained in Korean, Arabic, and Mandarin. No one else brought up China during the debates.