Showing posts with label military. Show all posts
Showing posts with label military. Show all posts

Friday, March 22, 2019

You can't force patriotism, so stop blaming Taiwanese for not caring enough about the ROC

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The National Interest has some of the best journalism on Taiwan out there (among media sources not dedicated to Taiwan, that is). So as expected, this piece on the questionable capabilities of the Taiwanese military to fend off a Chinese invasion was quite strong - mostly.

I absolutely believe Minnick's concerns are founded, even though for my own sanity I must also believe President Tsai when she says that Taiwan can fend off the first wave of attack, a belief which is widely held. I also have to believe that aid would come after this point (though of course I can't say this with confidence) - again for my own sanity. Not just for the country that is my home, but because my own life as I know it would be over. 


But this point struck me, and I can't let it go without saying something: 


Public lethargy and a lack of confidence in the military has drained the armed forces of manpower and morale. And it is this lethargy, along with the unwillingness of Taiwan’s political elites to communicate this imminent threat to the public, that must be addressed.

Taiwan’s military wants to procure big-ticket items from the United States, but at the same time it has been forced to reduce conscription and training due to funding issues and an apathetic civilian population....

Part of the problem is conscription and a decline in patriotism.

This isn't the first time I've heard that Taiwan is facing a military recruitment problem because of a lack of "patriotism." Concerns that neither training nor pay are particularly good, pensions have been cut, that it's widely seen as a difficult working environment and that military service obligations are to be borne with annoyance if they can't be outright avoided are all valid.

But kvetching about a lack of patriotism?

Dudes, you did this to yourselves. 


I don't mean the Taiwanese in general. I don't even necessarily mean the military specifically. I mean all you people who whine about how Taiwan shouldn't change its name unilaterally, and be very cautious about altering or scrapping juridicial documents like the constitution and symbols like its flag and national anthem (both of which are very China/ROC/KMT-oriented). And all of you who say these symbols are "small differences" and to harp on them is "narcissism". You may be Western or Taiwanese, based in Taiwan or abroad, but all of you and the government you have convinced to retain the name and general governmental structure of the "Republic of China" can look squarely at your own damn selves if you want to know why Taiwanese don't feel particularly patriotic.

Those names and symbols do actually matter, and it shows in how little they inspire the Taiwanese populace.

Why should the average Taiwanese person feel great love for the Republic of China? Especially if that person lived through the worst years of the horrors that uninvited colonial government inflicted on Taiwan, how could there be any great welling of pride when seeing that white sun on a blue sky, that party symbol of the KMT on the national flag? How could the eyes of most Taiwanese well up when they hear their national anthem which references their "party" (the KMT) and is therefore an explicit callback to the era of dictatorship and mass murder? And what kind of dummy do you have to be to expect otherwise?

At best, you'll get deep ambivalence - after all, if the ROC flag is the one people know abroad and it differentiates them from the PRC, that's something - and you should be grateful for even that.  It's hardly deserved. F
eeling some form of conflicted happiness to see that flag or the name "Republic of China" used by international organizations is a kindness - a generous offering. Calling it paltry or insufficient is an insult.

Telling Taiwanese that they ought to feel patriotic fervor for the government that once oppressed them, and its symbols, because they can't realistically get rid of them right now? The same symbols that were (and are) used to try to erase their own Taiwanese identity? When members of the party that introduced those symbols (and that oppression) call disagreement "separatism", threaten people who disagree with death, and seem to care more about China than Taiwan? That's messed up.

Even for those who don't hate the ROC and its symbols, it's a confusing message. We have to fight for Taiwan - or, err, the ROC - um, which claims to be China, but we have to fight against China as the ROC for the future of Taiwan...uh, here, look at this flag that has one political party's symbol on it, which is from China and seeks to supplant your sense of Taiwaneseness, which we're preparing for war against...as China...for your country, Taiwan. 

Yeah, okay. That'll win those youth over!


The ROC is a system on life support. It's around because of the threat of war if Taiwan were to dismantle it, and perhaps a small (but rich and influential) class of people who still think it is a government worth keeping around. It's around because the allies Taiwan hopes for in the event of war tell Taiwan it has to be this way so as not to "anger China".

That's a recipe for declining patriotism; who, beyond that core of diehard ROC fans, could summon up much more feeling for it than one feels for their annual gynecological exam? (Or for the guys, whatever it is you get examined every year that is important to do but uncomfortable.) Necessary for continued health, but not exactly inspirational. 


Like an ice-cold speculum, the white sun on a blue field and everything it stands for just does not engender the sort of emotional connection to a place, system governance and set of social values that underlie an urge to join the military.

So for the military to be pushing that same old "ROC! ROC! Let's fight for the ROC!" patriotic blargle...yeah, it's not going to work. They could try harder, they could make it swisher, they could give their recruitment drives higher production values. They could just plain offer better pay, benefits and working conditions. But if the population is not too keen on the ROC, all but the latter is just not going to work.

Or, worse than an ice-cold speculum, it is about as inspirational as this, um, "song" trying appeal to supporters of Wu Dun-yih.

Please don't come in at this point blaming the Taiwan independence activists for this state of affairs. Yes, it's true that in social conditions where most people think of themselves as "Taiwanese" and the country they live in as "Taiwan", to say that "Taiwan can never be 'free' with the ROC around" makes it more difficult for people who love Taiwan to feel great patriotism when Taiwan is called the ROC. 


But...

a.) They're right, even if that truth is neither convenient nor realistic (and deeply confusing to people who don't know Taiwan well, so please stop saying it to them - just stick to the digestible "Taiwan is already independent and they just want to stay that way" and let's not air our dirty laundry in front of the white people, 'kay?)

b.) The average Taiwanese person thinks the hardcore independence activists are a bit nutty, even if they fundamentally agree with the message. From my experience, your average person who doesn't follow politics too deeply does want Taiwan to maintain its autonomy but they think the folks to take to the streets all the time are...going overboard. So their message probably isn't the reason for the greater societal apathy.

c.) This outcome was inevitable. Anyone with eyes and ears can see that the ROC is waning, it's propped-up, it's nothing to feel great emotion for (and was frankly never that great, even when it was the government of China). It's just natural not to feel particularly moved by symbols that are pushed on you and disconnected with how you actually feel about your country and society. 


If the Taiwanese military wants to build a sense of patriotism that will lead to wider recruitment, Minnick is right that it first needs to communicate the true depth and nature of the threat to the public. Folks calling for better careers in the military are likewise correct.

But they also have to quit pretending that the old ROC rah-rah can work. It can't. It's dead.

I know most of the military leans blue and that the ROC's name can't be safely officially changed right now, but the youth are Taiwanese, not Republic of Chinese. Naturally independent. They'd probably fight for that, but you have to couch the message in terms of the country and society they know, not what the government is forced to say at the higher levels.

That is, appeal to the desire to fight for Taiwan, and stop leaning on symbols that, if they don't inspire bitterness and emnity over the ROC's dictatorial and murderous past, are simply dead. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Come for the nudity, stay for the underpants: a book review of Lost Colony

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Come for the nudity. Stay for the underpants.


Drunken German traitors. Bum-waving Swiss farmers releasing streams of foul expletives. A missionary in dirty underpants. Naked swimmers, a Chinese general who (probably) had syphilis, slaps, mad rages, racist colonial caricatures getting all up in each others' grills, a two-timing translator/con-man, fire ships and booby traps (no actual boobies it seems, though). A war whose outcome may have been decided on the relative discipline and adaptability of each side's leaders, or on what technology and food supplies they had...or maybe it was just the weather.

These are the colorful details that illustrate Tonio Andrade's meticulous historical account of the defeat of the Dutch colony in Formosa by another kind of colonizer - Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga). Well, sort of - calling it "a meticulous historical account" is actually doing Lost Colony a disservice, although it could easily pass muster as an assigned text in an academic setting. It's also a rollicking good read.

Don't let that lull you into a belief that it's a light read, though. The book explores some heavy themes, ultimately challenging the old and, to be frank, kind of racist assertion that Western colonial powers won wars because they were more disciplined or had a technological or perhaps tactical edge. (Andrade doesn't call it racist; I'm calling it racist.) The central question is worth asking: if Western powers really had all of these advantages, and that's why they conquered so much of the world, how is it that they lost Taiwan?

Through the story, Andrade discusses and compares the relative merits of Dutch and Chinese warships, military technology (including artillery, weaponry and fortifications) and military strategy. He discusses the evolution of those ships, too, based on weather conditions sailing in the Atlantic and around Africa as opposed to Asia, with its monsoons. Don't think this means that Lost Colony is a boring military history though. It's got military elements - it kind of has to - but they don't slow down the story. Hell, I loved this book, and I'm just not that into military history.

This isn't because I'm a girl who doesn't like Big Manly Weapons because they're So Big and Manly, by the way. I grew up around guns and books on military history and have a healthy respect for firepower used intelligently.

Naw, it's because I'd rather we didn't need militaries at all. Too bad we don't live in that world. Anyway.



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I like...big...guns and I cannot lie
(me & a howitzer from our trip to the Matsu islands)



It's no wonder that writer Joyce Bergvelt chose to novelize it in Lord of Formosa (although Lost Colony was not available to her as a source when she did). I called that fictionalized account "cinematic in scope", and frankly, for a work of non-fiction, so is Lost Colony. Count me among those who say that this story should be made into a film as a way of exporting Taiwanese soft power abroad.

That's all well and good, you're saying, and I love a good story about conniving translator-businessmen and foul-mouthed bum-slappers, but how is historical account about something that happened in the 1600s relevant to my life? 

Well, it's a well-worn adage among those who know Taiwan that the coming-to-Taiwan stories of Koxinga and Chiang Kai-shek share many parallels, which invites consideration of the present day seeing as the Republic of China has still unfortunately not given way to the Republic of Taiwan. I'm not going to talk about that, though, because everyone does. I'm more interested in how Andrade's telling of what happened when the military apparatus of a Western country met an Eastern one, and what that has to tell us about Taiwan's biggest foe. 


The Art of War figures heavily in the narrative as well - and in fact, when hearing about the various axioms Koxinga was known to employ in practice, I could not help but think of the current tactics of the Chinese Communist Party in trying to convince the West that it is not an ideological foe - when it absolutely is - and bring Taiwan to heel. 

By the time I got to the end, Andrade seemed to agree with me:



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"Today, a Chinese regime rules Taiwan"...I think I officially have an intellectual crush on Tonio Andrade.
Freddy's still my guy in the end, though. 


After all, as Andrade notes, just because we think the West as a military advantage over China in terms of both technology and numbers - the US spends several times more on its military than China does - that doesn't necessarily mean we will win a potential future war. Frederick Coyet (the last colonial governor of Dutch Formosa who lost the war with Koxinga) had plenty of advantages - Renaissance fort architecture, big ships carrying heavy artillery that could sail at a closer tack against the wind than Chinese war junks, a potential alliance with Koxinga's enemy, the nascent Qing dynasty, and advice from Chinese defectors. For several potential reasons explored in the book, including a false belief in the superior discipline of his troops and his failure to listen and adapt, he lost anyway. We might too, and it's more than just Taiwan at stake.

Lost Colony tells its story with a remarkably clear-eyed look on the past. In much of Taiwan and parts of China, when Koxinga's conquest of Taiwan is discussed, there's an undertow of a sort of ethnic pride that one of their own (I suppose) kicked out the red-haired foreign colonizers. 


The Dutch are no longer hated in Taiwan, per se - their colonial rule was so short-lived, involved such a small slice of Taiwan, and happened so long ago that it would be odd if they were - but Koxinga is seen by many as a hero. To be frank, it's a way of thinking I also find common to the Western left: of course someone like Koxinga would be the "good guy", relatively speaking. He was Chinese, Taiwan is Chinese (it's in Asia, anyway - same diff to a lot of Westerners), and Western imperialists were, and are, evil.

Western imperialism was and is evil, of course. Imperialism sucks. But this doesn't make Koxinga a comparatively "good guy" or a "hero". He was a warlord too - a colorful, brilliant warlord, to be sure - but still a conquering colonizer. The Chinese in Taiwan at the time were immigrants, not native inhabitants, and Taiwan subsequently became a settler state. Of course, your average Westerner probably has no idea who Koxinga was, but the big-picture implications of this kind of thinking are troublesome. Andrade understands this, I wish more Westerners (and Asians) did, too. He tells the story without picking sides. He made a case that we shouldn't dismiss the history of Asian military technology, training and strategy, while pointing out objectively who seemed to have advantages in what areas. 


Andrade ends on an ominous note: the seventeenth century, when all of this took place, was one of the most tumultuous in human history, in part because of a spate of climate change that started wars, decimated populations and caused governments to be overthrown.

The climate change facing us in the twenty-first century, he notes, is likely to be several orders of magnitude worse than that. How will we face it? 


Don't let all that doom-and-gloom scare you off, though.

There's also the aforementioned cursing Swiss bum-shakers, drunkenness, nudity, a fair number of references to testicles (one person got a cannon-ball shot straight through his) and a missionary in dirty underpants. There was a surprisingly detailed account of exactly how and when the Dutch, holed up in Fort Zeelandia, could go to the bathroom, and how often body parts got blown off by enemy fire in the process.

Read it because it's serious, but also read it because it's fun. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Taiwan's Future Hinges on the Little Things

Here are some things I am not an expert in:

Military/defense
Tech
Arms sales
Intelligence
A lot of other things
Most things, actually

But an interesting theme - to me, the non-expert, at least - seems to run through several Taiwan-related news items that touch on these topics these days.

We have the always-great Tanner Greer, writing about how Taiwan can win a war with China. Sure, China's got a bigger army, a bigger budget, a bigger country, and is all around just bigger. But in order to actually win a war with Taiwan without getting trapped in a protracted battle (or before help for Taiwan can arrive), Greer argues that it would need to take Taiwan and strong-arm the population into docility within two short weeks.

That's a very small window of time, and it is not at all clear that China could accomplish it.

What stands in China's way?

The places where the PLA could land in Taiwan amount to a few beaches on the west coast. None of them are friendly to incoming assault.



There are only 13 beaches on Taiwan’s western coast that the PLA could possibly land at. Each of these has already been prepared for a potential conflict. Long underground tunnels—complete with hardened, subterranean supply depots—crisscross the landing sites. The berm of each beach has been covered with razor-leaf plants. Chemical treatment plants are common in many beach towns—meaning that invaders must prepare for the clouds of toxic gas any indiscriminate saturation bombing on their part will release. This is how things stand in times of peace.

As war approaches, each beach will be turned into a workshop of horrors. The path from these beaches to the capital has been painstakingly mapped; once a state of emergency has been declared, each step of the journey will be complicated or booby-trapped. PLA war manuals warn soldiers that skyscrapers and rock outcrops will have steel cords strung between them to entangle helicopters; tunnels, bridges, and overpasses will be rigged with munitions (to be destroyed only at the last possible moment); and building after building in Taiwan’s dense urban core will be transformed into small redoubts meant to drag Chinese units into drawn-out fights over each city street.


Each of these hurdles is a very small thing, but strung together, each one buys Taiwan a little more time, getting it a little bit closer to that two-week window in which the war stops being a certain victory for China and becomes a massive quagmire. It is to Taiwan's advantage, not China's for this to happen. If China overwhelms Taiwan and pushes on it a tense, authoritarian 'peace', the bombings will stop. But Taiwan will be finished. There will be no fighting back - only dying. If you thought the White Terror was bad, wait until you see what China is capable of. Oh wait, we already know.

Taiwan's weapons for fighting back are comparatively small, but they could have a huge effect on how such an invasion would go.

Here's another thing that's small - the latest arms package to Taiwan. But Michal Thim proves that it's not the size that counts, it's how you use it:


On the face of it, the content of the latest arms sale does not look particularly concerning to Beijing. The total size of the sale is much less than the US$1.4 billion approved last June....

However, the content of the sale is not the most crucial aspect, although its utility to Taiwan’s air force cannot be overstated. The fact that the sale is just about supply and logistics suggest a change in attitude on the US side.

First, the items were approved on a continuing basis and as needed and available. Second, the Trump administration has not only moved from large bundles every few years to sales on an annual basis, but it may also indicate a move away from bundling orders altogether.

In the past, and especially during Barack Obama’s two terms, the US government came across as too accommodating in trying to navigate relations with Taiwan in a way that would not upset Beijing, and Chinese leaders seized on every opportunity to capitalise.

The result was that arms sales to Taiwan were bundled into large packages and separated by long periods of no activity, though the ever-growing military capability of the PLA warranted a response via robust arms sales, as presumed by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. Something as routine as a supply of spare parts under the logistics agreement became subject to political considerations. Now, Washington may be returning to normal.


Small sales with big impacts. Arms sales on a continuing basis and not bundled into large packages, offered fairly rarely, which China throws a fit about each and every time, are in fact not as good a deal for Taiwan as sales on an as-needed, always-available basis. Nobody - not even China - can keep up the screamy outrage for that long. The more the US sells to Taiwan regularly, the less often China can "raise tensions" (then pretend those tensions rose by themselves, like magic) over it.

Well, actually China probably can do that. But nobody can keep the media's attention with its screamy outrage for that long, and that's really what matters here. If China cries alone in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, did it ever really cry at all?

Also, BOO to South China Morning Post for completely mangling a perfectly good shot at a dirty joke in their overly prolix subheader, and read the whole article to hear about how Europe is entering the Taiwan arms game. Also a small thing with a big impact: the more people we have ensuring that Taiwan can defend itself, the better. The sale may be small but the precedent it sets is huge. 


Here's an even smaller thing: Chinese companies have been hiding chips that enable them to hack into systems around the world into tech they manufacture: 



Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.


It doesn't take a tech expert to see that this is terrifying, and Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley lay out why:



In the three years since the briefing in McLean, no commercially viable way to detect attacks like the one on Supermicro’s motherboards has emerged—or has looked likely to emerge. Few companies have the resources of Apple and Amazon, and it took some luck even for them to spot the problem. “This stuff is at the cutting edge of the cutting edge, and there is no easy technological solution,” one of the people present in McLean says. “You have to invest in things that the world wants. You cannot invest in things that the world is not ready to accept yet.”



Tiny chips, massive problems. If this is what is being found in the US, imagine how much of Taiwanese telecommunications and other digital activities and information China has access to.


There are also small things like port terminals to consider. It seems odd that after a Chinese takeover, the Taiwanese government would allow terminals in Kaohsiung port previously controlled by a small shipping company (Orient Overseas) to be transferred to Chinese-owned Cosco. 

When Chinese state-owned shipping line Cosco Shipping Holdings unveiled a $6.3 billion deal to buy smaller competitor Orient Overseas (International) last year, Orient's ownership of port terminals in the U.S. and Taiwan appeared to pose a potential regulatory obstacle.

Port ownership by Chinese state companies has become an increasingly sensitive topic globally as Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative spurs concerns about whether their control could be leveraged for security purposes.


Given deepening confrontations between Beijing and both Washington and Taipei over a range of issues, it looked doubtful that Cosco would be allowed to take over the assets of Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Long Beach, California, near Los Angeles.

On July 7, Cosco and Orient Overseas, better known under its operating brand OOCL, said that U.S. regulatory approval had been secured, with the condition that the Long Beach terminal be put into a trust and then sold. Cosco then announced the completion of its takeover on July 27, with no mention made of Kaohsiung.

While there have been no public statements, it is evident that OOCL retains control of its terminal at Kaohsiung, Taiwan's busiest port. OOCL's name remains on signage there and staff in Kaohsiung say nothing has changed.


What happens to those terminals when China grows more hostile toward Taiwan (as it likely will), or otherwise throws a conniption over Taiwan's simply trying to exist? How does it affect Taiwan's economy? 

I don't know, but that people who know these things say it matters means we ought to be paying attention. These terminals may barely register as small pearls in China's massive BRI pearl necklace encircling the world, but they could, in the coming years, matter quote a lot for Taiwan. 

People think big: they think about big bombs, big invasions, big armies.

But the war for Taiwan - and for liberal democratic values in the face of an increasingly expansionist China - isn't going to be won by earth-shaking missiles or massive regiments invading by sea.

It will be won by things as small as a gauntlet of booby traps starting in the Taiwan Strait and ending in Taiwanese cities, as small as whether Taiwan is able to maintain its defensive capabilities with rolling arms sales from the West, or whether we're all laid bare by hidden microchips as small as a number carved on a penny.

When it comes to ensuring a future for Taiwan, in some ways, think small.

Little end note: I just quoted a bunch of really smart men. Everything they say is worth listening to, but really, all men. You probably didn't notice, but I did. Where the ladies at? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Eldritch Memes: the (clear-cut) case for US support of Taiwan

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Memes inside memes inside memes inside memes. A fractal of zombie memes. 

Some issues are difficult and complicated, and have no clear "good" answers. Others are clear-cut. Syria may be complex and difficult, but Taiwan? On that, the path forward is clear.


In recent weeks, talk of further intervention in Syria, punctuated by the recent airstrikes, has inspired countless memes - because you know that's totally an intellectually engaged way of communicating - which now march, seemingly of their own volition, across my Facebook feed. Of course these memes are not really self-propelled: they are shambling digital corpses animated by the clicks and likes of real people. They put on a show of being whole thoughts, but are not.

Because I'm a liberal who hangs around liberals, most of these half-formed wights express disagreement with any sort of intervention in Syria.

Of course, what worries me about these sans-serif haunted-meat memes about Syria isn't so much the question of intervening in Syria. My opinion that is something of a Newtonian liquid: hardening at times but subject to fluidity. I don't know enough about Syria to have a firmer opinion on it. Naw, what scares me is how easily I could see the same memes - possibly with the same pictures and text but "Syria" scratched out and "China" inserted - deployed in the event of US assistance to Taiwan, should it come under Chinese attack. What scares me more is that many of them will originate with the 50-cent troll army, but be animated and marched across Facebook by people like my friends. Good people spreading zombie memes opposing US assistance to Taiwan.

Of course, I won't see these eldritch memes for long, because I'll be dead.

More broadly, they express disagreement with the idea that the US should intervene in any international crisis, ever (though to their credit I can generally assume the people sharing these buzzing demi-thoughts do support strong refugee acceptance and settlement programs). They are isolationists - that's not a criticism, I'm just calling that perspective what it is - usually driven by two key worldviews:

1.) That the US cannot be trusted to do any good, and cannot be supported in any attempt to intervene in any international conflict, given our history of being unable to use our military might for good (at least since World War II), instead using it mostly to advance corporate/money-driven or power-driven interests. The US will never intervene for any other reason than to spread its selfish, people-killing empire.

2.) Intervening in any international conflict would create another quagmire the US cannot afford and will not be able to escape from, and will destroy the country in question in the same way that Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam were left in shambles, to name a few examples.

I won't deal with the first here - I agree with the sentiment to a great degree, yet not when it comes to Taiwan, and that deserves its own write-up. I'll tackle it later. Today, I'm focused on the second.

Even just a cursory brainstorming makes it clear to me that the "it will be a quagmire! We'll never get out! It will destroy the country!" line of thinking is simply incorrect when it comes to Taiwan. It is often true in other circumstances, and my support for Taiwan does not extend to support for what we did in Iraq.

Here are a few reasons why:

There’s a clear good guy and bad guy.  China is the obvious aggressor, a dictatorship claiming a self-ruled, sovereign liberal democracy as its own on specious "historical" grounds and a frankly racist call to ethnicity (they might say "cultural and historical roots" but they really mean that they think Taiwan and China should be the same country because they are ethnically the same). In many other conflicts, there are no clear 'good guys' - look at Syria. There are good people around the world and in Syria who genuinely want something better for their country, but the only players in the war whom we might back, who might be installed as a government, are frankly awful. In Taiwan that's not the case. Our side is very clearly in the right. China wants to not just take Taiwan but delete its freedoms. This isn't "Assad or the rebels, who are also terrible?" This is more like "Europe vs. the Nazis". (The CCP aren't exactly Nazis but the comparison is warranted given their rampant human rights abuses, fascist Big Brother system and straight-up massacres, the comparison is warranted. And who doesn't love punching Nazis?)

What I'm saying is, this is a clear-cut case of dictatorship vs. democracy, self-ruled successful nation vs. expansionist aggressor.

In other conflicts, there was no clear government or path forward after US intervention. Taiwan is a developed democracy (unlike other countries which were turned into a quagmire upon deposing a dictator or junta) with an imperfect but basically successful government. There are clear institutions which, while imperfect, are not horrible and can rebuild. There is no need to replace it - there is no leadership crater left behind. It would be more like Europe rebuilding after WWII than the morass of Iraq.

Unlike in other conflicts, Taiwan actually wants the support. In fact, it's not fair to call it "intervention" - it would be assistance. They can already provide a good amount of military support themselves. Not only does the Taiwanese government want the assurance of assistance, the general consensus in Taiwan is that the people do, too. This isn't Iraq where nobody asked us for help but we barged in anyway, with no real plan. If you are asked for help, you aren't barging in. You aren't intervening. You are supporting and assisting. That's what it means to be an ally.

Taiwan is an important ally, and this isn't about oil. We're one of the US's top trading partners (not as big as China but still essential). We are a bastion of liberal democracy in Asia. We are one of the freest, if not the freest, country in Asia. We are geostrategically important. We are a key global supply chain player, and a lot of global technology runs through us (ever heard of TSMC? Foxconn?). We are ranked the 22nd biggest economy in the world by GDP by the IMF (other organizations don't keep data on Taiwan because China is a jerk about it.) We are developed. We are successful. We have a population similar to Australia's. We do matter. The US economy will take a hit if we go down, not least because we make the chips that run your smartphones. You don't think you'll feel it, but you will, far more than the results of any other conflict.

The US is doing one thing right already. They aren’t just showing up with bombs in Taiwan, nor should they. They are wisely stepping back (well...there’s an interesting discussion to be had here) while peace is maintained. There would only be a question of stepping in if China invaded. Not before. We aren't starting this war, we're stepping in to help an ally if and only if an aggressor attacks. Again, this is the right way to go about being a world leader. 


It's actually the right thing to do. Yes, this makes me worried that the US won't do it. We never seem to do the right thing, at least not in my lifetime and not really in my parents' lifetimes either. But for once, we're on the right side! That's amazing and we shouldn't mess it up just because we've done wrong things before. If you get in a bar fight, feel bad about that and swear off fighting - dude, you still step in if you see someone about to get raped, even if it means a fight. "But I swore off fighting" doesn't put you in the right.

Destruction will happen whether we support Taiwan or not (so will casualties). That destruction will come from China, but it will still be destruction. Staying out of the conflict will not stop Taiwan from being destroyed (and if they want to use nuclear weapons - though I doubt they will - they'll do that regardless of whether the US gets involved). Yes, people will die, but people will die in the event of a CCP invasion, and will die under CCP dictatorship. Do you really think Taiwanese people will sit down, shut up and be force-fed a total lack of political freedom and human rights? 400,000 of us went downtown because we didn't like the way the government passed a trade pact. Take away our actual rights? And expect us to accept this? LOL, no. But if you fight the CCP you die or rot in jail.

Destruction is not the worst possible outcome. Destruction can be rebuilt from. CCP oppression is forever. Think of it more like “do we help Europe kick the Nazis out?” - the non-negotiable is kicking out Nazis, not peace and not preserving infrastructure. Destruction is an acceptable sacrifice. Ask most Taiwanese, and they'd rather have to rebuild roads and bridges than be ruled by the CCP.

Taiwan is better-equipped to rebuild. We are a developed, successful nation. We will need aid for a time, but it will be far more limited. We are not a black hole. We have resources and means. This isn't Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else that has turned into a horror story. Look at what Taiwan did, in the midst of Martial Law, coming off a massive decline from relative pre-war prosperity. We went from "economic basket case" to "Asian Tiger", and under a horrible dictator at that. It won't be fun, but we have the wherewithal to rebuild.

Taiwan wants peace. We give up a lot, not least our dignity, for peace already. The US assisting in the event of a Chinese invasion is an extreme worst-case scenario which Taiwan also doesn’t want. We're the ones who stand to suffer and sacrifice the most, and obviously we want to minimize the pain. It’s not a country of various groups hell-bent on destruction - we have strong democratic norms in place already. Given that the people and government do want peace and can rebuild, intervention could be limited and short. Nobody here wants war, and so we want that war to end. It won't be an eternal horror show of rebels and gangs driving around shooting things up.

The main goal (and the US is actually right this time) is not war but deterrence. What I - and Taiwan - really want is to avoid this whole scenario by convincing China that Taiwan isn’t worth a fight. But we only get that if we can actually make it look like a fight. We only get THAT by allies that pose a real threat voicing a commitment to assisting Taiwan. It’s a fine line but we’ve done it so far. China cannot be negotiated with on this. This is all the CCP understands when it comes to Taiwan.

This is a real situation, not an abstraction. I am not joking when I say I personally could die. It demands real solutions. Nobody here actually wants this to happen but we need to consider what is available to us, not what we’d like. I doubt many Taiwanese actually want to rely on the US for assistance, and many - including many pro-independence and Third Force thought leaders - are just as disgusted by the horrors and excesses of US global hegemony as I am, and my Western liberal friends are. But if China invades and no better option exists, we must take the best one available to us, imperfect as it is. At that point there is no time for ideology or soapboxing: the non-negotiable isn't "but the US is horrible", it's "we are going to die and if the CCP wins it's literally game over." There is no "but we'll protest!" - no, you'll die. There is no "we'll keep fighting" - you will, because that's what Taiwanese do when they want something better - but you will lose and also die. "We'll refuse to be ruled by them!" Yup - I guess the CCP can't rule you if you are dead. "We'll occupy" - and die. If you don't believe me, ask people from Tiananmen - - oh wait, you can't, because they are dead.

(OK they're not all dead, but enough of them are to make my point.)

This is real life, and in real life there is a time for ideology, and a time to look at your real choices and decide what your non-negotiables are. If your non-negotiable is that the CCP can't win - and it really should be - you have to take options you don't like. If your non-negotiable is not accepting aid from an evil hegemon, then congratulations, you're about to be ruled (or just killed) by an even more evil hegemon.

It doesn't have to take away from benefits to US citizens. Really! Our military spending, just from a quick Google, is upwards of $600 billion. China's is estimated to be maybe half that, upwards of $200 billion (not that we actually know anything about China, so this is an educated guess). I am not a military or defense analyst, so I won't belabor this point, but there are a lot of numbers between $200 and $600 billion where we'd still have the best-funded military in the world and still be capable of a stronger military than China. We could cut our budget in half and still have better funding. (If any actual analysts think I'm wrong, please weigh in).