Monday, November 17, 2008

Richard Bush on Obama Policy

The CNA carried an account of Richard Bush's speech at a gathering of the Taiwanese American Association in Washington DC. Bush, a longtime Taiwan specialist with the US government whose work on Taiwan both academically and policywise has generally been excellent, is likely to have a strong say in Taiwan policy under Obama, and may end up with a position at AIT at some point. The CNA reported:
An American expert familiar with Taiwan affairs said Sunday that he believes the incoming U.S. government led by President-elect Barack Obama will continue policies aimed at pushing for closer relations between the United States and Taiwan.

Richard Bush, senior fellow and director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, as well as a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, made the remarks at a gathering of the Taiwanese American Association in Washington, D.C.

Bush, who was also one of Obama's election campaign staff in charge of diplomatic policies, was honored at the event with an award for his distinguished contributions to U.S.-Taiwan affairs over the past several decades.

In May, Bush attended the inauguration in Taipei for Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou as a member of the U.S. government delegation and he is widely regarded as a likely point man in handling cross-Taiwan Strait affairs in the Obama administration.
This is pretty much boilerplate -- the Obama Administration foreign policy is going to look a lot like previous American foreign policies on Taiwan. I don't know anyone educated who thinks an Obama Administration is going to be good for Taiwan, but at least it isn't going to be a shipwreck. Bush said that the Taiwan-US relationship is a two-way street, and Taiwan needs to take US priorities into account, a dig at the Chen Administration's foreign policy. Bush did say, however, that the Obama Administration is committed to fostering good relations with Taiwan.

The problem is in this paragraph:

Bush urged Taiwan to maintain an opposition party that is efficient in monitoring the administration, describing such a party as a crucial element in the maintenance of a democratic system.

If our foreign policy leadership really believes that a functional opposition is important, then why did they go to so much effort to attack the DPP during the campaign on the referendum, which not only was not going to past, but would have no effect if it did? Dozens of George Bush Administration officials spoke out on that, including Secretary of State Rice. Nor can Richard Bush and the Obama team avoid the mud on their face; they have written approvingly of this campaign.

To put that stain on US diplomacy in perspective, let me remind the reader of this. For the better part of five years, the KMT-controlled legislature blocked the special budget for the arms purchase. While the DPP was certainly not blameless, the KMT was primary obstacle to the passage of the arms bill. Sure, US officials came over a couple of times, but even when Ma Ying-jeou demonstrated his devotion to US interests by promising to pass it but then doing nothing, US officialdom maintained silence. There was criticism of "Taiwan" on the issue, but rarely did anyone point to the KMT as the source of the problem.

In other words, when the DPP proffered a pointless referendum that affected nothing and could never pass, even the US Secretary of State came out to serve China's interests on that one, but when the KMT blocked billions in cash to US corporations and American workers for weapons Taiwan desperately needed, our foreign policy establishment gave a whine, a moue, and a little what-have-you shrug. Did the Hon. Condoleeza Rice ever speak out on the behavior of the KMT? Why, after four years of blogging on this stuff, am I still asking questions like that?

The irony is even thicker because Bush said at the gathering Taiwan should build a sensible, credible deterrent on defense. Good thing US officials were all over that referendum instead of wasting time publicly criticizing the KMT at the Secretary of State level for not buying needed weapons!

Simple fact: the US followed a policy that was intended to weaken the DPP -- a pro-US party, whatever you may say about their incompetence -- and lever the pro-Beijing Ma Ying-jeou into the Presidency. Now suddenly foreign policy experts lecture Taiwan on keeping the opposition strong.

Probably should have thought of that sooner, eh?

UPDATE: Obama announced that the Deputy White House Chief of Staff will be Monica Sutphen, who has some Asia in her background, and is in the firm of Stonebridge International along with several other Obama Asia people -- said firm being a consulting firm that does business with China.


Anonymous said...

As those of you with representatives in the US start crafting your letters (I implore you all to do so), try to keep in the back of your mind how your audience will frame them.

I have seen too many letters from concerned US citizens and Taiwanese Americans directed at US representatives, trying argue from the standpoint of Taiwan's interests and what is good for Taiwanese ("foreign") people...along with rainbows and puppy dog idealism.

US representatives are going to be thinking about US strategic and economic interests, interests which are often cold and cruel to foreign countries and peoples.. (except in the case of Israel).

So make sure you are appealing to how US policy has made things worse for Taiwan and how that ultimately makes things worse for the US. How American support for the KMT has been a driving force in the KMT's new confidence to embark on a very Bush-like style of governance that may have far reaching implications in the security of East Asia and how that can affect US economic interests blah blah blah... Always have the US angle in mind. Lay as much responsibility for this mess at the US doorstep to get your reps to see it as "their" problem too.

I think the democratic congress wasted a good couple of years when they could have used a strong stance on Taiwan to teach Bush a lesson on keeping the legistature involved in major foreign policy decisions, much like the history with the TRA. Chances wasted.

Anyway... get those letters sent.

Anonymous said...

"Anyway... get those letters sent."

and attach large check.

Anonymous said...

Man, if only Michael Turton was in charge of foreign policy, I'm sure China would have already granted Taiwan independence and the evil KMT would never have been elected.


Urging Taiwan to buy arms was a shot at the KMT in the legislature. People knew it when it was said.

Of course, the USA doesn't want Taiwan independence so they oppose any bullshit referendum that presents that in any weak format - no matter what. Sorry DPP, but that's the situation.

And again, in the final analysis of why the DPP lost big in the last election, the US position on stupid little referendums or arm sales were not important. Chen Shui-Bien was the reason.

p.s. After seeing how fast the "pro-USA" KMT could switch sides, some skepticism of the DPP as "pro-USA" would be in order.

Raj said...

Clinton for Secretary of State - good thing/bad thing/doesn't make a difference?

Michael Turton said...

I didn't say that the US position was important in the election. What I called attention to was that US policy clearly favored the party inimical to US interests, whether or not it was effective.

Considering that Obama's Asia team consists basically of Stonebridge International + Richard Bush, it's all pretty much moot...


Dixteel said...

"Urging Taiwan to buy arms was a shot at the KMT in the legislature. People knew it when it was said."

You assume too much. Do people actually know? When I talk to some Taiwanese about these things they have no clues what so ever. If I don't follow the news and I don't even know the situation in the Legislature (a lot of Taiwanese are like that), when I hear what the US said on some radio when I drove to work, I would assume the US blame both KMT and DPP...I would even think DPP is to blame more because it's DPP's Chen administration in charge, if I don't think about how the political system actually work. That's a problem I found among people in Taiwan...they ignore some facts and thus come to wrong conlcusions, and KMT knew how to use it very well during their election compaign.

"p.s. After seeing how fast the "pro-USA" KMT could switch sides, some skepticism of the DPP as "pro-USA" would be in order."

So whatever KMT do DPP do? What kind of logic is this? Their structure, history, mentate, etc...are all different. I would say more so than the difference between Rep and Dem of the US. Some people even say KMT and CCP of China have more in common than KMT and DPP.

Yes, KMT (especially the top echolon members of KMT) has switched side from US to China. But to people who actually know some KMT history and have some knowledge about the party, it's not a big surprise and there is a natural flow of logic behind their motive. The US government has to see that otherwise whatever their policy is will be off the mark, and can be harmful to both Taiwan and the US. Remember, 228 incident can be partially blamed on the US government and military's lack of understanding about KMT.