McCain Is Better for Taiwan?

I received an invite in my office email box on Thursday from the Republican Party of the US:

"Dear Friend, we are pulling together Americans from across Asia to show support for Senator McCain and help him raise the funds he needs. Can you please pass this message to an American who might be interested? I hope you can join us. We are a bit behind in the polls right now, but still have a very good chance to win the presidency in the upcoming election."

The letter goes on to invite me a US$1,000-a-plate dinner here in Taipei (not gonna happen, not even for NT$1,000-a-plate) to raise funds for McCain. When I wrote back and explained that I'm undecided (actually, I'm pulling for Nader, but see this as pretty much doomed), would be voting in the battleground state of Ohio and would appreciate hearing McCain's stance on the Taiwan Relations Act, meaning the "consideration of 'any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States' but does not mandate that the United States intervene in these situations" (see Wikipedia et al), I received a link to the Washington Post: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/10/07/mccain_urges_more_weapons_for.html

In it, McCain urges that the US also kick in F-16s and submarines. By coincidence, I was just this evening listening to Keith Olberman mock McCain for this stance. According to Olberman, McCain is only doing so because he has an advisor on the payroll of a Taiwan lobbying firm. I enjoy Olberman (he's kind of a Rush Limbaugh for the middle) and usually prefer the Democrats to the Republicans for the few issues I can tell them apart on. But when it comes to Taiwan, I don't. Instead, I wonder how the Dems can be so soft on China. Another thing that interests me is how "foreigners" here in Taiwan who are generally supportive of Taiwan can also support this party. I know what the argument is:

1. As fanatics go, Sarah Palin is as scary as they come
2. Iraq
3. Bush
4. International Relations (this party actually scoffs at the UN)
5. National Healthcare
6. And so forth

But I can't help feeling that "foreigners" in Taiwan who back the Dems are saying this: what is going on in the US still trumps anything I feel about Taiwan. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about with Michael Turton and something he posted on his lively and informative blog. This is a very good Taiwan blogger: http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2008/05/obamas-letter-to-ma.html

Normally, Turton rips anything anti-Taiwan. When the speaker is Obama, however, he is uncharacteristically mum. Let's just run over a few of the points from the Obama letter to Taiwan's President Ma or, as he prefers to be called, Mr. Ma, that Turton posted. I want to talk about them for a moment because when it comes to Obama and his Taiwan policy, the candidate gives me pause:

a.) "Your inauguration also holds promise for more peaceful and stable relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, in no small measure because you have extended the hand of peace and cooperation to Beijing."
Does Obama mean "cooperation" or "collaberation"?

b.) "Your election is the latest step in consolidating a democracy that has advanced over the last two decades."
This is true, but Obama should remember that democracy is the last thing Beijing is interested in.

c.) "It is important for Beijing to demonstrate to the people of Taiwan that the practical and non-confrontational approach that you have taken towards the Mainland can achieve positive results."
Bullshit. Beijing will have Taiwan one way or another, and at the end of the day will have its democratization dismantled. Then there's that old argument, namely, by referring to China as the "Mainland" there is another China off the "Mainland".

d.) "I support the "one China" policy of the United States." I can name a lot of people here in Taiwan who do not. If you love it so much, Mr. Obama, then why not support a "one China policy" that includes the US. There are, after all, a lot of Americans of Chinese descent. Simply put, you just don't have the right to force something like that down the throat of a sovereign nation.

e.) "We should continue to provide the arms necessary for Taiwan to deter possible aggression." Give us our F-16s and subs then.

I still haven't decided who I'm going to vote for. I know that McCain, with his cold war mentality though not good for the world, is good for Taiwan. If I do vote for Obama, I'll have to rethink how I pose my support for Taiwan. I'll probably have to say that a more peaceful world, with an America that doesn't aggravate but rather respects its different countries with their different points of view is good for everyone. I'll need to say violence like what we're seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan never solves anything. Then I will have to agree that I am a hypocrite.


Anonymous said...

Does a practical and non-confrontational approach mean that Taiwan should not seek international space?


Patrick Cowsill said...

Yeah, but I think Beijing doesn't see it as seeking but competing, and that the international space cannot be separate. As I see it, Taiwan will keep drifting hopelessly along. Eventually, people will even see getting into the UN or WHO as a province of China as something to be proud of.

Kerim Friedman said...

Get a grip. A less confrontational foreign policy is good for everyone. Brinkmanship hasn't done much for the US, why would it help Taiwan? And don't forget the long history of Republicans supporting the most repressive elements of Taiwanese society. They care about weapons contracts because they represent states with large military contractors, not because they genuinely care about Taiwan. And I doubt Sarah Palin knows the difference between Taiwan and Thailand - assuming she's heard of either.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I think I have a grip. I'm not arguing with you when it comes to Palin. And in fact I admire Obama and have been supportive.

I'm simply saying that McCain's statement on Taiwan deserves a look, and recognition. Obama needs to be tougher on China - supporting the one China policy is lame when we consider what that country stands for. If standing up to a one China policy for a small democratic country is confrontational, well I don't know what to say. To me, pushing for a one China policy backed up by 1400 missiles smacks of appeasement.

Michael Turton said...

Patrick, your claims about me are ridiculous. Not only did I rip Obama's China/Taiwan advisors repeatedly -- one of my essays was widely circulated on academic email lists -- but I have also pointed out that they are involved with business in China and I have stated that all in all, McCain will probably be better for Taiwan.

That was a while back that I said that about McCain. But the fact is that it is not clear who will be better for Taiwan. It all depends on basic factors such as economic and military strength, and wild cards like who gets what position in the new administrations. If we get one of the "realists" of the Kissinger school behind McCain Taiwan will be sold to China immediately.

The problem is that Olberman is only half right: McCain's advisors are paid by Taiwan. But everyone on both sides is up to their ears in someone's money. The Obama ppl all have connections to China, the McCain neocons have Taiwan connections, and the 'realists' have China money connections. Who guards the interests of the United States? You tell me.


Patrick Cowsill said...

I'm not making very many claims about you (just this one actually); I side with what you blog most of the time. But I wanted to give McCain consideration because I agree with his comments about Taiwan (see his recent "Statement on Taiwan..."), which at the end of the day could come down to what he believes, not what a bunch of snotty-nosed advisors are paid espouse.

"Who guards the interests of the United States? You tell me." What do you mean by this?

Anonymous said...

dude, if you think McCain would fundamentally change US policy towards Taiwan, you are either woefully naive, or you've been marooned on Taiwan for far too long.

Let me put this to you as gently as I can: no one in the US gives a rat's ass about Taiwan. Maybe in your exile you've neglected to keep abreast of US news. There are those wonderful little misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the financial meltdown brought about by greed and avariciousness on an unprecedented scale. We've got other things to worry about.

Do you honestly think McCain would do something to piss off China at this point? It's just political grandstanding, but if god forbid he ever gets into office, he'll be all about the status quo.

The election of McCain will be an unprecedented disaster. If you want a country to eventually come home to, you had better expand your issue base. Face it, a vote for McCain is really a vote for Palin. The guy is 72 years old and refuses to release his medical records.

You should come back and see how badly people are hurting before doing something so inconceivably stupid as voting for John McCain.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I did not advocate voting for McCain. Rather, I suggested that McCain's stance on Taiwan deserved a second look. Then I pointed out that Obama's was not up to speed.

Now, you've written that "McCain would fundamentally change US policy towards Taiwan, [that I am] either woefully naive, or [have] been marooned on Taiwan for far too long." Far too long for what? To see it from thousands of miles away?

I don't see what you're talking about. McCain is simply upholding the Taiwan Relations Act. This does not spell a fundamental change in US policy but rather a continuation, with a few hiccups along the way, of it spanning back to the mid-80s and perhaps further.

I'm not marooned in Taiwan either. I'm here by choice, and don't have plans to leave. I have never suggested anything to the contrary.

Jenna said...

McCain seems like he'd be better for Taiwan, but in reality he's just following current US policy, which has been anything but good for Taiwan.

In short, the Republicans have shown that they have nothing to offer Taiwan and while Obama might not do better regarding this issue, it would be hard for him to do worse.

I do not believe for a second that McCain would send US troops or arms to Taiwan's defense if China were to attack. Obama, despite his weak rhetoric on the issue, might.

That said, I agree with you that the Democrats need to take a tougher stance regarding China.

Voting for McCain because of this one issue (who on earth these days is a single issue voter, unless it's on the economy?) won't accomplish anything.

If elected, he won't produce a drastically better result for Taiwan. It wouldn't even be microscopically better. The real, tangible gains Taiwan stands to make under a McCain presidency are minimal to nonexistent.

Patrick Cowsill said...

I simply said McCain had a better policy on Taiwan. I don't think I urged anyone to vote for him. You might be surprised to find out that lots of Americans are frustrated by two-party politics. One of the main reasons is that besides a few issues, these parties mirror each other. So, it often does come down to voting for a single issue or maybe two, because there aren't many issues to choose from that are different.

Some of the craziest and nastiest Republicans - see Lott or Tancrado - have been huge Taiwan backers. Check it out. Who cares what the reasons are. I'm just saying they've been big Taiwan backers.

Anonymous said...

Even if you vote for Obama for whatever reason, why not hold him accountable for his one China position? It seems people are willing to ignore a lot to support him. I see comments like "Get a grip. A less confrontational foreign policy is good for everyone" as too conclusive. Ignoring the Taiwanese is not good for Taiwan or regional stability. In the long-run, that can't be good for the United States either.

Patrick Cowsill said...

At the end of the day, I am excited about an Obama presidency. I think we should hold him accountable for his "three noes" stance on Taiwan. I don't he'll come around, but it's worth talking about and weird to ignore. I can see by the comments here that people will do just that.