Blogs: The Skeptics

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Arm Taiwan, America. But Don’t Defend It.

The Skeptics

Enabling Taiwan to defend itself is the best way out of this conundrum. So long as the residents of Zhongnanhai value prosperity and stability, they have reason to avoid costly conflict. No arms sales would enable Taipei to defeat a determined PRC in war. The former’s objective, however, should be deterrence, not victory. “The idea is to complicate China’s scenarios, to make them pause, to get them to think twice before they attack,” explained Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. The higher the price any PRC government would pay for attempting to coerce Taipei, the less likely it would try to do so. Continued patience would remain good sense.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be costs to the U.S.-China relationship as a result, but they are worth bearing. There’s likely diplomatic turbulence. In the past military meetings have been suspended, though only temporarily. There could be economic retaliation, though the threat seems overblown: defense companies are barred from supplying the PRC and sanctions against civilian sales would hurt the PRC as well.

Taipei will face a continuing difficult challenge in maintaining its independent international existence. Washington should establish a more routine weapons transfer process. Doing so would offer a form of strategic certainty short of war which would better protect Taiwanese security and advance American interests.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image: Flickr/John Y. Can. 

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The Taliban's Return Is the Opposite of 'Victory'

The Skeptics

Enabling Taiwan to defend itself is the best way out of this conundrum. So long as the residents of Zhongnanhai value prosperity and stability, they have reason to avoid costly conflict. No arms sales would enable Taipei to defeat a determined PRC in war. The former’s objective, however, should be deterrence, not victory. “The idea is to complicate China’s scenarios, to make them pause, to get them to think twice before they attack,” explained Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council. The higher the price any PRC government would pay for attempting to coerce Taipei, the less likely it would try to do so. Continued patience would remain good sense.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be costs to the U.S.-China relationship as a result, but they are worth bearing. There’s likely diplomatic turbulence. In the past military meetings have been suspended, though only temporarily. There could be economic retaliation, though the threat seems overblown: defense companies are barred from supplying the PRC and sanctions against civilian sales would hurt the PRC as well.

Taipei will face a continuing difficult challenge in maintaining its independent international existence. Washington should establish a more routine weapons transfer process. Doing so would offer a form of strategic certainty short of war which would better protect Taiwanese security and advance American interests.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image: Flickr/John Y. Can. 

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