The Corner

Island for Sale, Listed at $1 Trillion

A goofy NYT op-ed today suggests we cut all ties with Taiwan if the ChiComs forgive the $1 trillion–plus we owe them. While it’s not the same kind of nonsense we’ve come to expect from most of their regular columnists, it is nonetheless pretty silly. It’s not like I have a romantic attachment to the Lost Cause of Chiang Kai-shek, but do we really want to reinforce the idea (after Ben Ali and Mubarak) that it’s dangerous to be our friend? And even taking the op-ed on its own terms, it doesn’t make sense. First of all, it’s hilariously oversold, so hyperbolic that some editor should have said something. Here’s the lede:

With a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.

Really? Forgiving less than 10 percent of our debt isn’t going to “correct the country’s course” or “preserve our children’s future” — we’ll rack up another trillion in debt in no time if we don’t reform entitlements. That’s the challenge, and there’s no easy fix.

Also, the author’s contention that such a deal would “open a clearer path for the gradual, orderly integration of Taiwan into China” is hilarious. The author warns that

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.

I also have no desire to go to war over Taiwan and think we need to make clear we’re not going to do that (though, unlike the author, I have no problem with our continuing to sell them arms, something the ChiComs have no business objecting to). But does anyone think that a sellout deal would have any result except a declaration of independence by Taiwan? They’d figure at that point that they had nothing to lose, causing the ChiComs to react and then we might indeed get drawn into a war.

Our Taiwan relationship is indeed a holdover from the Cold War and one we’d be better off without. But among Cold War holdovers, it’s more like our military presence in Korea, where a similar radical change could lead to catastrophic violence, than it is to NATO, which has outlived its usefulness and whose dissolution (and the closure of our bases in Germany and Italy) would not lead to that kind of disruption.


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