Why Not Proliferate?

 

I’ve been following the news about the Summit and the discussion on this thread, and there seems to be quite a difference of opinion. Not only about the wisdom and utility of the Summit and its outcome, but about our role in the region in the first place. Some of the Trumpier commenters say — and I have a certain amount of sympathy for this view — that keeping American troops in South Korea at this late date is both provocative and expensive.

It’s certainly the latter, and one of my great long-term fears is that like so many empires before us, keeping the Pax Americana over so much of the globe will eventually exhaust us financially. It is straining us now, and part of the “America first” theme on which Trump was elected was the notion that we should, first and foremost, take care of our own.

Yet we’ve made commitments to countries like Japan and South Korea. Good countries. Friends. With decent governments and important economies. Countries that it is in our interest, as well as theirs, to see continue to survive and prosper as democracies. And they are in close quarters with a 1.4 billion-person strong, nuclear-armed dictatorship in China, and that’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re also in close quarters with a poor, desperate, and possibly insane nuclear-armed North Korea. So abandoning our commitments would be a massive betrayal, and might genuinely be catastrophic for our friends. We’ve gotten ourselves into this. Can we get out?

The obvious answer is that both South Korea and Japan can defend themselves, given a little time and perhaps some help from us. The weapons that make the evil, hellish regime in North Korea unremovable would make South Korea and Japan safe from aggression as well. At least as safe as our guarantees can make them. Development of those weapons is well within their technological and economic capacities.

Why don’t they have them? Because we’ve asked them not to and they’ve signed up to a now 50-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty promising not to get them. I guess my question is, is it time to reconsider that treaty? Has a treaty that did some good and made some sense in a five nuclear power world outlived its usefulness?

Sort of like gun control, it seems like the good guys are disarmed by it (because they follow the rules) but the bad guys are undeterred. North Korea was once a signatory. Iran remains one. And you want leverage with China and North Korea in a negotiation? Tell them enough is enough — we’re going to help their historic adversaries become nuclear powers and keep them under our nuclear umbrella just long enough for them to join the nuclear club.

I fear the only reason we’re not doing this is that we become wedded to ways of thinking that become outmoded, and we fail to re-evaluate as circumstances change. Maybe a non-nuclear South Korea made sense in a world where North Korea was non-nuclear and the cost and time to develop were much greater than it is today. Does it still?

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Cato Rand: Does it still?

    Interesting question, and one that should be asked.

    • #1
  2. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    There is one country you left off your list – Taiwan. Without nukes, Taiwan doesn’t have a prayer.

    • #2
  3. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Nukes aren’t really even the biggest problem. Artillary is the problem. There is just SOOO much of it.

    Basically, everybody dies in the first quarter hour of conflict, whether or not nukes are involved.

    • #3
  4. Mendel Member
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    I’ll piggyback on what Guru said.

    Since we can deliver nukes (almost) anywhere in the world within about 30 minutes, there is little practical difference between Japan and South Korea having nukes and our providing them a guarantee that we will counterstrike should they be attacked by nuclear weapons.

    The real question is how to prevent or counter a conventional attack by North Korea.

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Yet we’ve made commitments to countries like Japan and South Korea.

    The vast majority of the world’s computer memory comes from Taiwan. RAM, ROM, storage media, etc.

    It is not in China’s best interest to nuke Taiwan. China wants Taiwan, but it wants Taiwan intact.

    • #5
  6. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    I don’t think you appreciate the sentiment in Asia regarding a nuclear armed Japan. Japanese behavior before and during WW2 was such that the very idea of a nuclear armed Japan could precipitate War.

    • #6
  7. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Yet we’ve made commitments to countries like Japan and South Korea.

    The vast majority of the world’s computer memory comes from Taiwan. RAM, ROM, storage media, etc.

    It is not in China’s best interest to nuke Taiwan. China wants Taiwan, but it wants Taiwan intact.

    or…. china just wants tiawan gone because they are still technically the legitimate government of china. Its not always good when your deposed governments reside in exile.

    • #7
  8. Mike-K Member
    Mike-K
    @

    It seems an obvious point that Kim inherited this. It is the family business. He was educated in Switzerland, a difference from his father and grandfather. Maybe he would like to have those hotels and beach resorts and the factories and the electricity.

    How does he get there ? Maybe this is his chance.

    Idi Amin ended up in Saudi Arabia after he was run out. A friend of mine once sat in a sauna with him in Saudi. Who wants to be in Saudi ?

    Let’s see what happens. Kim has to deal with his generals who probably run the place.

    • #8
  9. Locke On Inactive
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Since we can deliver nukes (almost) anywhere in the world within about 30 minutes, there is little practical difference between Japan and South Korea having nukes and our providing them a guarantee that we will counterstrike should they be attacked by nuclear weapons.

    There’s a big difference. Nukes that we own will be used (or not) according to our views of our own interests. Hypothetical nukes owned by Japan or SK would use according to their views of their interests.

    The OP asks a fair question.

    • #9
  10. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Yet we’ve made commitments to countries like Japan and South Korea.

    The vast majority of the world’s computer memory comes from Taiwan. RAM, ROM, storage media, etc.

    It is not in China’s best interest to nuke Taiwan. China wants Taiwan, but it wants Taiwan intact.

    China has no intention of nuking Taiwan. And agree they want Taiwan intact – or as intact as they can get it. They have every intention of taking it, however, and are building towards that. Just look at the chain of islands and look at its buildup in naval strength.

    If Taiwan doesn’t want to be taken, the only way it can prevent it is if it has nukes to prevent a Chinese invasion.

    • #10
  11. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Mendel (View Comment):
    The real question is how to prevent or counter a conventional attack by North Korea.

    Easy. Leave lots of food out in the open so they troops will stop to eat and then counterattack.

    • #11
  12. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Locke On (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Since we can deliver nukes (almost) anywhere in the world within about 30 minutes, there is little practical difference between Japan and South Korea having nukes and our providing them a guarantee that we will counterstrike should they be attacked by nuclear weapons.

    There’s a big difference. Nukes that we own will be used (or not) according to our views of our own interests. Hypothetical nukes owned by Japan or SK would use according to their views of their interests.

    The OP asks a fair question.

    That is why De Gaulle built his force de frappe – he never believed the Americans would risk New York for Paris.

    • #12
  13. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Japan is a peculiar case because of its role in World War II and its resulting turn to pacifism, which is encoded in their Constitution. Shinzo Abe is having trouble even getting a Constitutional amendment to simply acknowledge the existence of Japan’s military (whose mission is strictly limited to self-defense).

    I can understand why, in the immediate aftermath of the war, both the victors and the Japanese themselves (who had suffered under their militaristic government) would want the country to take that route. But a couple of generations have now passed, and I don’t think we need to worry about Japan as an imperialistic power again. I do think it makes all kinds of sense for Japan, a prosperous nation with much to protect, to be able to defend itself fully. Whether you’ll ever persuade the Japanese electorate to turn away from pacifism, though, is another question.

    And I can’t imagine that you’d ever convince Japan to have nuclear weapons. Its status as the only country that was ever the target of nuclear weapons is too powerful an influence. But I don’t think that’s necessarily relevant; I think it’s a mistake to assume that only nuclear weapons can defend you against an enemy that has nuclear weapons.

    • #13
  14. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Yet we’ve made commitments to countries like Japan and South Korea.

    The vast majority of the world’s computer memory comes from Taiwan. RAM, ROM, storage media, etc.

    It is not in China’s best interest to nuke Taiwan. China wants Taiwan, but it wants Taiwan intact.

    Which is why they are actively building and training the capability to carry out an amphibious and airborne invasion (with, of course, various saboteurs and special operations people waiting on the ground.) The operational range of current US carrier based aircraft is fairly short, which has helped the Chinese develop the capability of denying access to the waters around Taiwan (submarines and anti-ship missiles) for a wide enough radius to seriously impede the USN’s ability to defend Taiwan. That would be the case even if the Obama era cuts and sequestrations hadn’t reduced the USN’s ability to project power in multiple regions. Why, we have until 2020 before the PLA Navy pretty much reaches parity with the USN – particularly within 1000 miles or so of the Chinese coast – and it’ll be 2030 before the PLAN has substantial superiority to the USN. So no big deal. We’ve got plenty of nukes to use against China, right?

    It’s a good thing that the Chinese don’t have allies or assets elsewhere that could tie up American carrier battle groups to coordinate with a PRC attack on Taiwan.

    Heck, the USN is likely going to be involved in piracy suppression off Venezuela for a while, so that’s one probable call on the USN’s resources already.

    • #14
  15. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    Japan is a peculiar case because of its role in World War II and its resulting turn to pacifism, which is encoded in their Constitution. Shinzo Abe is having trouble even getting a Constitutional amendment to simply acknowledge the existence of Japan’s military (whose mission is strictly limited to self-defense).

    I can understand why, in the immediate aftermath of the war, both the victors and the Japanese themselves (who had suffered under their militaristic government) would want the country to take that route. But a couple of generations have now passed, and I don’t think we need to worry about Japan as an imperialistic power again. I do think it makes all kinds of sense for Japan, a prosperous nation with much to protect, to be able to defend itself fully. Whether you’ll ever persuade the Japanese electorate to turn away from pacifism, though, is another question.

    And I can’t imagine that you’d ever convince Japan to have nuclear weapons. Its status as the only country that was ever the target of nuclear weapons is too powerful an influence. But I don’t think that’s necessarily relevant; I think it’s a mistake to assume that only nuclear weapons can defend you against an enemy that has nuclear weapons.

     Rationally, and of course rationality has little to do with politics, Japan’s experience with nuclear weapons should teach it that it must have a nuclear deterrent. 

    • #15
  16. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Perhaps we do have an inordinate fear of nuclear weapons. But I believe that the primary impetus for restricting their spread even among trustworthy nations like Japan, Germany, South Korea, Canada, etc. is the view that the more independent opportunities for use that you have the higher the likelihood over time that they will be used. To go off of the gun analogy, the more guns there are the higher the likelihood a gun will be used. It is just simple logic and math. For many things the cat is out of the bag as it were. I’m not sure what we should expect if this particular cat should be set loose. It is hard to imagine it being all that salutatory. 

    I also wish to address the argument of the cost of Pax Americana. The only effective way to reduce that cost to us is not to bring troops back to the US. In fact most countries that host US troops do quite a lot to subsidize their deployment there, and so I believe that it is cheaper to maintain troops in South Korea than here at home, not only that but you have to factor in the opportunity cost of redeploying them from the US to theaters in the Pacific. Putting that all aside the real way to reduce the cost of our defense commitments is to reduce our overall military force not change their deployment structure. If we do not have to maintain forces for defending Europe, Korea, Japan, etc. and redeploy back to the continental US we can afford to cut back out military dramatically. Our only two neighbors are peaceful and considerably smaller. 

    A retreat from our security commitments means we must allow our military to atrophy. The savings will be substantial, and probably given the rapacious need of baby boomers for their social security and medicare that is what we will do. I think we will come to regret it in the end. As we essentially gut our posture of deterrence.

    • #16
  17. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    One Trident II missile with its’ 14 independently targeted warheads from a US submarine would be all you need to devastate North Korea. If the North Korean dream is to try and unite the Korean peninsula with conventional forces that dream died when they went nuclear.

    China and Russia both see North Korea as a nation that can act in their interests to destabilize the Pacific. You can be sure that their concern will deepen if the US does manage to have a closer relationship with North Korea.

    Kim Jong Un knows that you cannot be in charge of a country where the rubble is bouncing. The Iranians present a different problem. The Iranian clerics have an apocalyptic vision that includes coaxing the Mahdi out of the well that he’s hiding in to bring about the world domination of Shiite Islam.

    • #17
  18. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Hang On (View Comment):

    There is one country you left off your list – Taiwan. Without nukes, Taiwan doesn’t have a prayer.

    I didn’t necessarily mean to exclude Taiwan, although that would be provocative at a whole other level. I was just thinking primarily about the countries threatened by North Korea.

    • #18
  19. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Guruforhire (View Comment):

    Nukes aren’t really even the biggest problem. Artillary is the problem. There is just SOOO much of it.

    Basically, everybody dies in the first quarter hour of conflict, whether or not nukes are involved.

    Yes, but nukes are a deterrent. They very likely deter a massive artillery barrage too. Granted there are some notions of proportionality that probably mean they don’t deter certain lower level noxious behavior, like the taking of hostages that NoKo engages in. But they probably deter the leveling of Seoul with artillery.

    • #19
  20. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Mendel (View Comment):

    I’ll piggyback on what Guru said.

    Since we can deliver nukes (almost) anywhere in the world within about 30 minutes, there is little practical difference between Japan and South Korea having nukes and our providing them a guarantee that we will counterstrike should they be attacked by nuclear weapons.

    I think this is wrong. An aggressor who can incinerate American cities can reasonably ask how credible our threat to “go nuclear” over a far away foreign city is. Would, for example, we really fire on Beijing if China nuked Seoul, knowing that LA, DC and New York would be next? I don’t know. Only a handful of people have ever even seriously had to ask themselves that question, and I doubt even they have been sure of what their answer would be if it ever actually came to it. (God forbid.)

    But would South Korean nuclear subs retaliate for that nuking of Seoul by China? China would have to assume they would.

    Whenever you delegate something to an agent with only a derivative interest in the matter, you create the possibility of a principal/agent problem. Our nuclear guarantees are a classic examples. We’ve made them work for two reasons. First, nobody’s really all that motivated to incinerate Tokyo or Seoul (or Berlin or Rome) and second, the retaliatory consequences of guessing wrong about whether we’ll honor our guarantees would be catastrophic for the the (Russian, Chinese, now North Korean) aggressor. In short, we deter because they think we might honor the guarantee. South Korean nuclear weapons would be a similar, but surer, deterrent.

     

    • #20
  21. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    I don’t think you appreciate the sentiment in Asia regarding a nuclear armed Japan. Japanese behavior before and during WW2 was such that the very idea of a nuclear armed Japan could precipitate War.

    I may not “fully” appreciate it, but I’m aware of it. And I’ll even credit it. Imperial Japan was unmitigatedly evil and people are entitled to remember that. But for how long? It was 70-80 years ago. The people involved are nearly all dead, mostly long dead, and certainly no threat now. At some point you have to be allowed to become a “normal” nation again. Japan shows every sign in the world of being a non-aggressor today. There is literally no reason whatsoever to think it threatens its neighbors. Indeed, some of the nuclear armed rogues in its neighborhood are far more likely aggressors than it is. So I just don’t think “they were bad 75 years ago” really answers the question of what they should be doing today.

    • #21
  22. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Locke On (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Since we can deliver nukes (almost) anywhere in the world within about 30 minutes, there is little practical difference between Japan and South Korea having nukes and our providing them a guarantee that we will counterstrike should they be attacked by nuclear weapons.

    There’s a big difference. Nukes that we own will be used (or not) according to our views of our own interests. Hypothetical nukes owned by Japan or SK would use according to their views of their interests.

    The OP asks a fair question.

    That is why De Gaulle built his force de frappe – he never believed the Americans would risk New York for Paris.

    And he may have been right. We’ll never know.

    • #22
  23. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Perhaps we do have an inordinate fear of nuclear weapons. But I believe that the primary impetus for restricting their spread even among trustworthy nations like Japan, Germany, South Korea, Canada, etc. is the view that the more independent opportunities for use that you have the higher the likelihood over time that they will be used. To go off of the gun analogy, the more guns there are the higher the likelihood a gun will be used. It is just simple logic and math. For many things the cat is out of the bag as it were. I’m not sure what we should expect if this particular cat should be set loose. It is hard to imagine it being all that salutatory.

    I also wish to address the argument of the cost of Pax Americana. The only effective way to reduce that cost to us is not to bring troops back to the US. In fact most countries that host US troops do quite a lot to subsidize their deployment there, and so I believe that it is cheaper to maintain troops in South Korea than here at home, not only that but you have to factor in the opportunity cost of redeploying them from the US to theaters in the Pacific. Putting that all aside the real way to reduce the cost of our defense commitments is to reduce our overall military force not change their deployment structure. If we do not have to maintain forces for defending Europe, Korea, Japan, etc. and redeploy back to the continental US we can afford to cut back out military dramatically. Our only two neighbors are peaceful and considerably smaller.

    A retreat from our security commitments means we must allow our military to atrophy. The savings will be substantial, and probably given the rapacious need of baby boomers for their social security and medicare that is what we will do. I think we will come to regret it in the end. As we essentially gut our posture of deterrence.

    Part of the reason for my thesis is the belief that this cat is – unfortunately – essentially out of the bag. Rogue regimes have nukes, or will soon enough. NoKo does. Iran will. Pakistan (though not rogue now it could become so any minute) does. Saudi (in the same league as Pakistan) will when Iran does. I almost think we really just need to start thinking about a post-NPT world because it’s kind of here and definitely coming.

    I fully acknowledge your concern about proliferation resulting in greater likelihood of use. I don’t see how that can be denied, other than the logic of deterrence, which is still no guarantee but which has worked pretty well.

    One other consideration, which is weird but which I think matters, is that 1945 is a long time ago. Few people alive today have any real memory of what a nuked city looks like. I think that memory has given a lot of power to the taboo against use and I fear that we have generations rising to power the world over who are pretty ignorant of history. That, as much as anything, keeps me up at night.

    • #23
  24. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    So I just don’t think “they were bad 75 years ago” really answers the question of what they should be doing today.

    I don’t think the attitude of Japan’s neighbors is the most important factor preventing them from becoming a nuclear state. They don’t want to have nukes, or even a real military. Their embrace of pacifism is deeply rooted. You’d have to get a constitutional amendment, and the support just isn’t there.

    I suppose if the U.S. withdrew its protection of Japan, and they had no choice but to defend themselves, that might change. But that would be an awfully dangerous way to proceed.

    • #24
  25. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    So I just don’t think “they were bad 75 years ago” really answers the question of what they should be doing today.

    I don’t think the attitude of Japan’s neighbors is the most important factor preventing them from becoming a nuclear state. They don’t want to have nukes, or even a real military. Their embrace of pacifism is deeply rooted. You’d have to get a constitutional amendment, and the support just isn’t there.

    I suppose if the U.S. withdrew its protection of Japan, and they had no choice but to defend themselves, that might change. But that would be an awfully dangerous way to proceed.

    I don’t think the Europeans want to defend themselves either. In both cases it’s a big ugly pain and it costs a lot of money that could be spent on turning the places into big comfy retirement homes, if the Americans would just continue doing the defense job for them. But I’m just not sure we’re going to be able to forever. At some point, they might have to come out of their comas and become adult nations again, painful pasts notwithstanding.

    • #25
  26. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    The Taiwan of 1980 or 1990 might have developed a nuclear deterrent. Not today’s. For one thing, nobody in Taipei pretends any longer that they’re the Chinese government in exile, and neither does anyone else. For another, they’re ethnically linked to the mainland. Few Asian countries have any reluctance to kill threatening strangers; Taipei and Beijing are kin. Taiwan looks across the strait and what they see isn’t as terrifying as the China of Mao or Deng. They see that after 21 years of Chinese rule, Hong Kong is thriving. 

    What Taipei wants isn’t a restoration, but independence on a practical, workaday level. They’re likely to get a tacit deal: concede that they’re Chinese in return for a free hand. 

    • #26
  27. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    I don’t think the Europeans want to defend themselves either. In both cases it’s a big ugly pain and it costs a lot of money that could be spent on turning the places into big comfy retirement homes, if the Americans would just continue doing the defense job for them. But I’m just not sure we’re going to be able to forever. At some point, they might have to come out of their comas and become adult nations again, painful pasts notwithstanding.

    I don’t disagree. I think World War II is far enough in the past that there’s no reason why Japan can’t become a completely independent, sovereign nation, on equal footing with its peers. I just don’t know how we get there, as long as Japan is a democratic nation with a Constitution that enforces pacifism, and an electorate that doesn’t want to change the status quo.

    Personally, I’m hoping Abe is successful in his efforts to amend Article IX, since that would be at least a step in the right direction. But I’m not sure what his chances are.

    • #27
  28. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    The Taiwan of 1980 or 1990 might have developed a nuclear deterrent. Not today’s. For one thing, nobody in Taipei pretends any longer that they’re the Chinese government in exile, and neither does anyone else. For another, they’re ethnically linked to the mainland. Few Asian countries have any reluctance to kill threatening strangers; Taipei and Beijing are kin. Taiwan looks across the strait and what they see isn’t as terrifying as the China of Mao or Deng. They see that after 21 years of Chinese rule, Hong Kong is thriving.

    What Taipei wants isn’t a restoration, but independence on a practical, workaday level. They’re likely to get a tacit deal: concede that they’re Chinese in return for a free hand.

    Hong Kong sends a mixed message. Yes, it’s thriving. But it was before then handover and Shanghai is thriving too. What Hong Kong is not is as free as it was before the handover. The mainland’s power encroaches more every year.

    • #28
  29. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    The Taiwan of 1980 or 1990 might have developed a nuclear deterrent. Not today’s. For one thing, nobody in Taipei pretends any longer that they’re the Chinese government in exile, and neither does anyone else. For another, they’re ethnically linked to the mainland. Few Asian countries have any reluctance to kill threatening strangers; Taipei and Beijing are kin. Taiwan looks across the strait and what they see isn’t as terrifying as the China of Mao or Deng. They see that after 21 years of Chinese rule, Hong Kong is thriving.

    What Taipei wants isn’t a restoration, but independence on a practical, workaday level. They’re likely to get a tacit deal: concede that they’re Chinese in return for a free hand.

    When Communist China went nuclear, Taiwan tried to, but the US muscled them hard to stop them. This is part of that weird, gun control-like irrationality in which you selectively disarm your friends but permit your enemies to become armed. And thereby encourage aggression by your enemies.

    Happily, we looked the other way as Israel armed itself, but that is mostly because Israel at the time had a lot more clout than Taiwan in American politics. The extent to which the Obama administration was able to adopt an anti-Israel policy is ominous, especially given that the Democratic Party has evolved in an even more anti-Israel direction since then.

    • #29
  30. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    The Taiwan of 1980 or 1990 might have developed a nuclear deterrent. Not today’s. For one thing, nobody in Taipei pretends any longer that they’re the Chinese government in exile, and neither does anyone else. For another, they’re ethnically linked to the mainland. Few Asian countries have any reluctance to kill threatening strangers; Taipei and Beijing are kin. Taiwan looks across the strait and what they see isn’t as terrifying as the China of Mao or Deng. They see that after 21 years of Chinese rule, Hong Kong is thriving.

    What Taipei wants isn’t a restoration, but independence on a practical, workaday level. They’re likely to get a tacit deal: concede that they’re Chinese in return for a free hand.

    Hong Kong sends a mixed message. Yes, it’s thriving. But it was before then handover and Shanghai is thriving too. What Hong Kong is not is as free as it was before the handover. The mainland’s power encroaches more every year.

    I don’t disagree, but Chinese conceptions of freedom are not ours. They don’t have a “Live free or die” mentality. Freedom in the Galt’s Gulch, leave me alone American sense doesn’t have much abstract meaning to them. 

    • #30

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