Monday, May 08, 2017

Everyone panic: Trump Administration becomes a normal US Presidential Administration

Searching for a way out....

Yeah. This has all happened before. Remember when Bush Lite declared...
President Bush, offering a more explicit commitment to Taiwan than his recent predecessors, said in a television interview broadcast today that if the island came under attack from China, he would order ''whatever it took'' to help Taiwan defend itself.
We all know what happened. By Bush's second term he was trying to suppress Taiwan on behalf of China, to accomplish some transient thing or other. Because traditional US policy on China is to make permanent concessions to address transient issues. Yay!

We begin this way with every Republican President.

So it is hardly surprising, in retrospect, that the arms deal for Taiwan, originally slated for an April announcement, is now waiting on the launch pad...
The relatively small sale to Taiwan — worth just more than $1 billion — was set to go in late 2016, but the Obama administration never pulled the trigger. After some early pro-Taiwan signals from President Trump, including a phone call with its president, most Taiwan watchers expected the new administration to move the package forward quickly. Now, administration and congressional officials say, the deal is stalled due to a lack of administration consensus and the fear that angering Beijing could complicate Trump’s top Asia priority: solving the North Korean crisis.
Once again, a classic of management of Washington by Beijing: fear of Beijing's anger makes Washington shrink from necessary action. Always, Washington must give up its freedom of action, lest Beijing react. *sigh*

It wouldn't be surprising to me to learn that China has fomented this trouble with N Korea because it knows it can get concessions from Washington for doing nothing while giving the appearance of doing something. It's pretty obvious to many of us watching that Beijing isn't going to help the US, partly because it doesn't want to, partly because it can't, and partly because Washington is dangling the possibility of Ultimate Stupidity in front of Beijing -- War with N Korea. That would complete the trifecta of Chinese victories in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“What is it? Is the king dead? Has an enemy landed in Narnia? Is it a flood? Or dragons?”

Peter Enav, ever pessimistic, asks: Can Taiwan Survive Donald Trump? To wit:
Today, however, ties between Washington and Taipei seem to be at their lowest ebb since 2006 or 2007. That was when President George W. Bush agreed to act as a Chinese sub-contractor in pushing back against Chen Shui-bian’s pro-independence policies. It’s not so much that President Trump has anything against Tsai personally; it’s more that he is so entranced by the authoritarian leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, so much so that he now appears to see Tsai as a dispensable nuisance on the road to a far bigger prize — the strategic neutralization of a nuclear-armed North Korea, which threatens the United States.

Unfortunately for Tsai and for Taiwan as a whole, it has taken her far too much time to pick up on this — if indeed she even has. The clearest indication of this came in late April when she told an interviewer from the Reuters news agency that she was, in theory, open to another telephone conversation with Trump. In doing so she irresponsibly opened herself up to a Trumpian rejection, which predictably came — in another Reuters interview — less than 48 hours later.
Tsai did not "open herself to a Trumpian rejection." There was nothing else she could say, as I've noted before. The problem was that she answered the question in good faith, when the whole thing was a set up by Reuters to create just this situation. Someone on her media team should have nixed that question as soon as it was asked.

The short answer to Enav's question is yes, of course. We survived Nixon's sell out, the switch in recognition, Clinton, Bush's about-face and rejection of needed weapons sales, and Obama's neglect and weakness. We will survive Trump as well.

The reasons are simple, and Enav in his call for closer relations with Japan puts his finger right on them: Taiwan is part of a web of issues, which includes Japan. Trump cannot give up Taiwan without also selling out Japan (and also Phils). Everyone who does geostrategy and of course, the DC foreign policy establishment, knows that. That is why Enav also recommends Tsai cultivate them. She should also be pursuing enhanced relations with key congressional leaders on foreign affairs.

So here we are, Trump is doing what Obama and Bush and Clinton did before him: sending people to nibble around the edges for Taiwan's "international space" while delaying and denying arms packages and other needed real and symbolic items. This is all very normal for a US president. It is disappointing because many people expected a bit more from a Republican Administration, including this writer.

Indeed, if it were not Trump, it would be ho-hum. It is only interesting because of the terrifying prospect of Jared Kushner's influence on foreign policy -- the Washington Post reported on his latest antics: hawking visas to Chinese investors, banana-republic style -- and because of Trump's bizarre failure to staff key positions in foreign policy as well as his apparent desire to cash in on his position by cozying up to China.

As Enav notes, another issue is Trump's supposedly unusual embrace of authoritarian leaders. This is also normal in an American president, see Reagan and Iraq, Bush/Obama and the Saudis, etc. The ominous thing for many observers is that current Sec of State Tillerson seems to have given up on human rights as an American value. Traditionally that was a source of support for Taiwan...

For the nonce, we will simply have to grin and bear it. Those weapons will find their way here eventually. The geostrategic situation isn't going to shift tectonically in the next couple of years.

For the long term? Well, we are heading towards war out here. That will wreck everyone's plans, and render moot pieces like this.

And on our current course, nothing will survive Trump's climate policies.

So no, Taiwan won't survive Trump.
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John Groot said...

Hi Michael, I am Groot!

I was somewhat mystified by your statement: "That would complete the trifecta of Chinese victories in Iraq and Afghanistan." Not here for an argument, but could you possibly provide a brief explanation and/or links when you have the time?

Much obliged!

Anonymous said...

Trump is a minor issue. Taiwan military has too many high level turncoats:

Taiwan major general suspected of handing missile secrets to China

No wonder US dose not want to sell F-35 to Taiwan.