Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain public statement on F-16s

Some good news on the F-16 front, as John McCain makes a public statement. It is refreshing to see one of the candidates talking about one of our most important foreign policy challenges, China....FT has the call:

John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, on Tuesday urged the Bush administration to reconsider a decision not to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.

The White House last week unveiled a proposal to sell $6.5bn (€4.8bn, £3.7bn) in arms, including Patriot missiles and Apache attack helicopters, to Taipei. While the move angered Beijing, the package did not include the F-16 Falcon fighter jet, sought by the Taiwanese, or submarines.

Mr McCain, whose support in the presidential race has been hit by the US financial crisis, tried to paint the possibility of F-16 sales as good for the economy, in addition to being necessary for Taiwan to deal with China “from a position of strength”.

“These sales ... would help retain America’s edge in the production of advanced weaponry and represent a positive sign in these difficult economic times,” the Arizona senator said.

“We should seek co-operative and productive relations with China that proceed in a spirit of confidence, and we should promote the improvement of cross-strait relations ... However, we should understand that the possibility of productive ties between Taiwan and China are enhanced, not diminished, when Taipei speaks from a position of strength.”

Both campaigns have been pushing the Bush Administration to do the right thing on the weapons. I hope Obama will avoid partisan politics on this one and come out in support of the F-16 sale as well. Meanwhile, Ian Williamson has some snarky commentary in the Guardian on the Bush Administration's utter hypocrisy and incompetence:

The Bush administration has refused to sell the F16s that it had earlier promised to Taiwan but never delivered in order to punish Chen Shui Bian, the former president, and his party for wanting to declare independence from China. The majority of Taiwanese no more want to come under Beijing than the Kosovars want to go under Belgrade, but the Bush arms freeze had left Beijing to assume, and no one from the administration has contradicted it, that the US agreed with the PRC's own rigid definition of the One China Policy.

Indeed, Admiral Timothy Keating, the commander of the US Pacific Command, admitted this summer that they had consulted with Beijing about arms for Taiwan, and the state department recently sent out a kow-towing memo to its embassies abroad on how to avoid upsetting the Chinese this Friday by keeping a very low profile at the ROC national day receptions around the world. No wonder the commissars for the Middle Kingdom had become used to accepting obeisance and tribute from the foreign ghosts.

The reference to the Kosovars is there as a reminder that the Bush Administration supported independence for Kosovo but denies it for Taiwan. Williamson also observes how advisers for both sides are deeply intertwined with Washington's money machines....

Of course, with all this electoral rhetoric about supporting democracy, one wonders about the degree of American cooperation with one of the least democratic regimes outside Riyadh, not least when contrasted with the lack of support for a democratically elected government in Taiwan.

We did see democracy at work in Washington, where John McCain supported the full arms package going to Taiwan, but one has to wonder how principled a stand it was when his neocon adviser Randy Scheunemann had had in his lobbyist's portfolio not only Georgia, but also Taiwan and Lockheed Martin, purveyors of the Patriot missiles and F16s. Will the policy change if Beijing makes an offer?

This is not merely a McCain team flaw, Mr. Williamson. One could add that nearly all the people who advocate "engagement" with China are connected to business interests there. Hank Paulson, whose piece in Foreign Policy advocating "engagement" I discuss a couple of posts below this one, is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, a firm that does a rousing China business.

No comments: