Thursday, June 21, 2007

Triarchy, State, and Myopia

Chamberlain honestly believed that world peace could be guaranteed by economic prosperity, by ending existing economic difficulties; and he believed that these troubles could be solved by reducing military expenditures and by balancing national budgets. Germany, he believed, would become more peacefully inclined if southeastern Europe were opened to German economic exploitation, thereby ridding the country of the need for a massive army and providing the German economy with a market. This fact has often been minimized in evaluating the years before the war. For Chamberlain practiced appeasement, not out of cowardice or fear, but out of a positive belief that appeasement would open the way to peace for all...
...The appeasers did ignore one important fact: a policy of appeasement could end only with Germany restored to its former strength. --
Keith Eubank, "Appeasement and Appeasers"

By the time Neville Chamberlain came to power in 1937, appeasement had long been entrenched in British Foreign policy. Its roots lay in the 1920s, with a laudable British determination to treat Germany as an equal, redress some of the arguable wrongs of the Versailles treaty, and prevent a breakdown of European relations at a time when there was a much greater fear of Communist Russia. By Chamberlain's time appeasement had ceased to be policy and had instead become a habit, leading, as bad habits will, first, to failure and thence, to tragedy.

This week President Chen announced that the government would put a referendum on the ballot asking the citizenry whether Taiwan should attempt to join the UN under the name "Taiwan." The US State Department, always quick to respond whenever Taiwan's democracy asserts itself, proffered its objections:

An unidentified U.S. Department of State official urged President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to drop his call for a referendum on Taiwan's U.N. bid, drawing both rebukes and words of caution from officials and scholars in Taiwan.

The official with the department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, speaking on condition of anonymity, made his call when asked to comment on Chen's proposal to hold a referendum on applying for U.N. membership under the name of Taiwan rather than the nation's official name.

Speaking on background, the official reiterated that the United States supports "Taiwan's inclusion in appropriate international organizations that do not require statehood for membership," but it would not support Taiwan's quest to join international organizations that require statehood, including the United Nations.

The official also said the U.S. opposed any initiatives that appear to be designed to change unilaterally Taiwan's status, including a referendum on "whether apply to the U.N. under the name of Taiwan."

I was actually pleased by this. On other occasions the US State Department has publicly denounced President Chen for teleconferencing at the National Press Club, held a press conference to attack the government here for restoring the word "Taiwan" to the names of state-run businesses, and criticized Chen for his remarks at the FAPA banquet in Taipei. Here was progress: instead of public criticism, the State Department had opened the door a crack, whispered a condemnation through the mouth of an unnamed official, and then closed the door. No press conference, no egg on the face for making noise about a nothing, no open and strident alignment with Beijing. Just some pro forma objections to Taiwan's democracy in action. Natch. We're used to that....

ESWN pointed the way to the State Department's Daily briefing from yesterday, with another reiteration of its views on Taiwan:

QUESTION: Sean, President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan has spoken of plans to conduct a referendum on whether or not Taiwan should join the UN under the name of Taiwan.


QUESTION: An official in this building gave some background comments yesterday and I'm wondering whether or not you have anything on the record for us.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, I have something for you. We support Taiwan's inclusion, as appropriate, in international organizations that do not require statehood for membership. Consistent with our one China policy, we do not support Taiwan's membership in international organizations that require statehood, including the United Nations.

The United States opposes any initiative that appears designed to change Taiwan's status unilaterally. This would include a referendum on whether to apply to the United Nations under the name Taiwan. While such a referendum would have no practical impact on Taiwan's UN status, it would increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is of vital interest to the people of Taiwan and serves U.S. security interests as well. Moreover, such a move would appear to run counter to President Chen's repeated commitments to President Bush and the international community. We urge President Chen to exercise leadership by rejecting such a proposed referendum.

QUESTION: Could I follow up? A quick follow-up.


QUESTION: Sean, Taiwan is a democracy and 80 percent of the people in Taiwan support Taiwan's membership in the UN. And President Chen is obviously reacting to public demand. What is wrong with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can read this to you again -- (laughter) -- if you want me to. But I would refer to you what I -- the answer I just gave you.

QUESTION: Can I -- can I follow up? There are some in Taiwan and elsewhere that say that there are some UN agencies that it would behoove Taiwan to be a part of because it involves cooperation in the international system and you need Taiwan's help, such as with avian flu or SAARS or other economic types of things where the fact that Taiwan is not a member kind of hurts international cooperation as a whole.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to refer you to paragraph one of what I read. I'll repeat it. We support Taiwan's inclusion, as appropriate, in international organizations that do not require statehood for membership. Consistent with our one China policy, we do not support Taiwan's membership in international organizations that require statehood, including the United Nations.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, so are you willing to forsake issues of international stability to make a point that Taiwan is not a state? I mean, what about instances where statehood is required for membership but cooperation from Taiwan would be vital?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can read it to you again, if you like.

QUESTION: No, that won't be necessary. Thank you.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Other then WHO, which I think is the example that most people are familiar with, what other organizations are there -- UN agencies?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to the answer I've given.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: China's Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo would participate -- U.S.-China Senior Dialogue with Deputy Secretary Wednesday and Thursday. Yesterday, the State Department put out announcement, say they were -- they may discuss North Korea and Sudan. I'm just wondering if Taiwan -- the referendum campaign or the general Cross-Strait issues was on the agenda.

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. I'm sure that the Chinese side will likely bring it up, and we'll let you know if they do.

McCormack's formulation is that Taiwan is not a state -- indeed, the State Department's Taiwan Desk is under its China desk, and if you search the State Department website, you will find Taiwan listed as part of China --clicking on Taiwan the interactive map of Asia brings up the China website. The "One China" policy as practiced by the State Department has become, in effect, a "No Taiwan" policy. The US State Department has defaulted to a pro-Beijing position on the Taiwan question, under which moves by Beijing to undermine the Status Quo are ignored, while moves by Taiwan to assert its identity are attacked.

Therese Shaheen, formerly head of the officially unofficial US representative office here, AIT, writing at the American Enterprise Institute, noted of the State Department:

Today, the bureaucracy makes decisions by self-policing an unstated policy of "nothing goes." One recent example: In May, the U.S. National Press Club hosted a discussion with Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian by video link. U.S. officials at the desk-officer level concluded that it would undermine policy to attend this public event, reasoning that Mr. Chen's appearance was intended as an attempt to circumvent restrictions on senior Taiwan officials visiting Washington, D.C.

But the lack of interaction goes beyond one-off, questionable decisions such as that. Military officers at the one-star level or above, or the civilian equivalent, are not permitted to meet in Taiwan with their counterparts. While there is serious contingency planning at high levels on both sides, senior U.S. planners and decision makers do not interact with their Taiwan counterparts. The dialogue instead is conducted by proxy at lower levels of government.

Even simple meetings are less frequent in recent years. As late as 2003, State and Defense Department officials--albeit at the mid-grade deputy assistant secretary level--were permitted to meet regularly with senior Taiwanese officials including the foreign minister outside of Washington, D.C. That contact no longer takes place. At the highest levels, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship would have to get much closer to even describe it as "arms-length." No cabinet-level officials have met their Taiwanese counterparts since the Clinton administration.

Today the Taipei Times revealed just how far State is going on behalf of Beijing:

A visit to Taipei by a senior US official to commend Taiwan for its progress in fighting the global sex trade was blocked at the last minute by State Department officials in charge of Taiwan and China policy, sources told the Taipei Times.

Staff at the department's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Bureau, furious after the official praised Taiwan for its improved role in blocking the smuggling of women, children and workers into the sex trade and labor slavery, prevented him from coming to Taipei next week, the sources said.

The official, Mark Lagon, who was recently tapped by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be her senior adviser on human trafficking, was to leave the US this weekend on a five-nation trip to Asia.

While there was no objection to the other destinations -- Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore -- bureau officers managed to get the department to scotch the stop in Taiwan.

The bureau staff, who have long been considered anti-Taiwan and pro-China by many supporters of Taiwan in Washington, were annoyed by Lagon's comments last week when introducing the department's annual global human trafficking report.

In his comments, Lagon praised Taiwan for its role in breaking up a major ring smuggling women into the US and elsewhere for prostitution, and contrasted it with China's dismal record in the global sex trade.

Read it carefully. Lagon, a Jeanne Kirkpatrick protege and PNAC baby, was vilified for praising Taiwan while condemning China. Because of this, State Department officials prevented him from coming to Taipei to say nice things about our progress in human trafficking. Observe that China had not made a public noise about this visit. State's response was entirely its own.

Appeasement is not a bad idea, but it must always be seen as a policy, as a tool controlled for accomplishing specific ends. But for State, appeasement has ceased to be policy. Instead, it has become habit. It is something that happens now automatically when it comes to Taiwan, just like sorting the mail or taking out the trash.

State's hostility to Taiwan has not received the glare of publicity it deserves. Au contraire, President Chen and the DPP suffer repeated condemnations, at home and abroad, for allegedly spoiling relations with the United States. But the fact is that the Chen Administration cannot be expected to make relations click when the organization primarily responsible for the US side of Taiwan-US relations is the biggest impediment to them.

This event also points to another looming problem in American foreign policy: the only group with a positive, pro-active China policy are the NeoCons, and they are all over the China issue. They love Taiwan, not for itself, but, with a few exceptions, as a way to strike at China. In 2008, the Democrats will probably take the White House -- and they have no China policy.

And State will still be in the habit of appeasement.


Anonymous said...

"In 2008, the Democrats will probably take the White House -- and they have no China policy."

I'm not really quite sure about that one now. China may not be on the forefront for Democrats, but China both economically and militarily (buildup) is already criticized by the Democrat-majority Congress, many of who have anti-China leaders like Nancy Pelosi for example.

But I do see your point in which some "hit at" China in order to get back at China or something.

I don't know, but I have a feeling the Dems may do something a little different here or ANY party for that matter once Bush LEAVES.

Anonymous said...

Why not have Taiwan become a commonwealth of the United States?
15% of the population already are in favor.