Paul V. Kane is a former international security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of government, and a Marine who served in Iraq. His op-ed in today’s NY Times is a stunner. No, really. A stunner.
WITH a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.
He needs to redefine America’s mindset about national security away from the old defense mentality that American power derives predominantly from our military might, rather than from the strength, agility and competitiveness of our economy. He should make it clear that today American jobs and wealth matter more than military prowess….
There are dozens of initiatives President Obama could undertake to strengthen our economic security. Here is one: He should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.
This would be a most precious prize to the cautious men in Beijing, one they would give dearly to achieve. After all, our relationship with Taiwan, as revised in 1979, is a vestige of the cold war.
Today, America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms. The island’s absorption into mainland China is inevitable.
But the status quo is dangerous; if Taiwanese nationalist politicians decided to declare independence or if Beijing’s hawks tired of waiting for integration and moved to take Taiwan by force, America could suddenly be drawn into a multitrillion-dollar war.
There will be “China hawks” who denounce any deal on Taiwan as American capitulation, but their fear of a Red China menacing Asia is anachronistic. Portraying the United States as a democratic Athens threatened by China’s autocratic Sparta makes for sensational imagery, but nothing could be further from reality.
The way this Harvard scholar talks you’d think Taiwan is on an inevitable track to integrate with mainland China. I see it differently; I think they’re going to grow a lot closer, but “reunification” is not in the stars. Not for many years, if ever.
This is an extraordinary piece. The author believes that ditching Taiwan (“slowly and gradually”) will help turn the US around and boost Obama’s standing everywhere. It would, he said, immediately eliminate 10 percent of the US’s national debt (which could well be true.) Taiwan would be a super-bargaining chip, giving us leverage to get China to agree to stop supporting terrorist states and to write off our $1.4 trillion debt owned by China.
The only thing missing from this op-ed: the Taiwanese. I lived there for nearly two years. This “solution” would be met by abject horror, and not just by the Green fanatics. (And not all Greens are fanatics; I know some splendid ones. But I also know a few fanatics. And when I say fanatics….) I know plenty of politically apathetic Chinese who emphatically say Taiwan will never accept being ruled by the CCP. And they really mean it.
Read the whole column. You can’t criticize him for not being bold enough. But does bold equal bright?
Update: James Fallows goes after Kane, and you have to go there.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.