If you need any more evidence that U.S. foreign policy is completely out of control, look no further than Commander-in-Chief Biden’s latest pronouncements regarding Taiwan – which is not a country. That’s right. Not according to the United Nations or the United States government.
In fact, it is acknowledged by both that Taiwan is part of China. Still, since its decision in the 1940s to begin seriously intervening on the side of the corrupt but nominally republican government of Chiang Kai-Shekin his decade-long struggle for power against Mao and his communist peasant guerillas, it has been U.S. policy to prevent the conclusion of the war by communist Beijing reunifying Taiwan with the mainland.
From Eisenhower to Clinton, any saber-rattling by Beijing was met with the same response: a U.S. carrier sailing through the narrow waterway separating the island(s) from the mainland.
After it recognized Beijing’s legitimacy in the 1970s, the U.S. ripped up its prior defense guarantee to the island, replacing it with security assurances akin to those received by Ukraine via the Budapest Memorandum. Officially, the U.S. position was “strategic ambiguity.” That is, it would not say one way or the other whether or not it would intervene militarily in the event of a mainland attempt to retake the island. The tactic, maintained through six administrations and four decades, has now been thrown out the window.
After hinting this past year that he favored military intervention, Biden has now declared openly that the U.S. would militarily intervene in the event of an attack by Beijing
This amounts to a de facto preemptive declaration of war on China whenever Taipei decides.
While one is tempted to say the Senate ought to be consulted and their assent given, so mad for war is Washington these days the administration would no doubt get it.
The strategy of moving to contain China, a slow creep these past years, is now being escalated dramatically. Other economic news announced by the White House the same day as Biden’s unilateral decree gives one to understand the Biden administration will not be risking Congress’ interference in U.S. grand strategy – which apparently amounts to needlessly escalating the single most dangerous point of transitional friction between great powers in the world.
Seeing the need to economically as well as military contain China, the Obama administration worked hard to negotiate the TPP: the largest free trade zone in the world for the next century, with the rules written largely by Washington, it could be used to constrain Beijing’s growing economic might.
When then-President Donald Trump tore up the TPP, China hawks were incredulous: after all, how could someone who wanted to get tough with China do something so obviously counterproductive?
As Thomas Freidman at the New York Times fumed at the time: why go it alone when you could gang up on Beijing?
But no matter. With the announcement of the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework the China hawks and geo-economic strategists have gotten the beginnings of what they wanted. With the war in Ukraine as a backdrop, they will no doubt feel confident they can get the rest.
Most troubling in all of this is whether or not it is even Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan & Co. making these decisions at all. Remember, Obama admitted to being led by the hand, while Trump was beaten into line by Russiagate and a thousand lies and leaks from the departments of State, Defense, and the National Security apparatus. How much of this was Biden being sat down and told what was happening?
Afterall, as the Wall Street Journal broke this fall: Joe Biden was informed upon taking office that the U.S. military had inserted special operators into Taiwan as Trump was leaving office.
It may very well be, as Stephen Walt wrote in his book The Hell of Good Intentions: American Foreign Policy and the Decline of U.S. Primacy, “when it comes to foreign policy, the President is less decider than presider.” But whether it is Biden or the deep state, the future looks deeply troubling.