Magazine December 20, 2021, Issue

The United States Should Not Defend Taiwan

Background: Xiamen, Fujian Province, People’s Republic of China; foreground: Kinmen Islands, Taiwan (An Rong Xu/Getty Images)
Options to deter or respond to Beijing exist, but war shouldn’t be among them

The United States should not fight a war with China over Taiwan. And in the hope of preventing a conflict, it should not commit itself to Taiwan’s defense beforehand. While remaining outwardly ambiguous, it should presume against becoming a belligerent.

This is so for two reasons. The issue is too dangerously war-prone. And while Taiwan’s fate matters, it does not matter enough for U.S. security interests to justify such a great risk. A conflict with China in this matter would likely inflict the very damage that proponents of fighting fear.

Before saying more, my thanks to Elbridge Colby for our exchange over

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Patrick Porter — Mr. Porter is a professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, in England.

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