The Future War Over Taiwan
The short-sighted isolationists and the Putin apologists who have been caterwauling about the U.S. support of Ukraine is going to like this a lot less.
Fate has placed Taiwan and Ukraine in similar positions. Both have giant neighbors who once ruled them as imperial possessions. Both have undergone democratic transformations and have thus become an ideological danger to the autocrats who covet their territory. Just as Putin has made the erasure of Ukraine’s sovereignty central to his political project, Xi has vowed to unify China and Taiwan, by force if necessary. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in October that China may be working on a “much faster timeline” for dealing—somehow—with Taiwan. U.S. military and intelligence leaders have pointed to 2027 as a potential time frame for an invasion, believing that China’s military modernization will have advanced sufficiently by then.
Read the entire thing. And then remember this.
On four separate occasions, President Joe Biden has said that the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. Each time, the White House put out a follow-up statement saying that U.S. policy had not in fact changed.
This U.S. policy is known as “strategic ambiguity.” The U.S. has no mutual defense treaty with Taiwan, as it does with NATO allies and countries like Japan and South Korea. For decades, there has been bipartisan consensus that declaring a commitment to defend Taiwan could make a war more likely: Taiwan could trigger a conflict by declaring independence, or China could feel compelled to enforce its “One China” red line. By remaining inscrutable, Washington forces China to consider the likelihood of the U.S. coming to Taiwan’s defense, even as Washington accepts the current status quo. Biden’s statements, however, have not been ambiguous and stand in contrast to his statements before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that the U.S. would not intervene directly.
Even though the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty expired in 1980, the current U.S. policy, officially or not, is that the United States would fight alongside Taiwan to prevent the Chinese takeover of the island. That should not be a surprise considering that Taiwan is one of many countries listed as a Major non-NATO Ally.
The questions are these: will the United States be prepared for it, and will the people of this country have the stomach for another major war in Asia?