December 03, 2003

Bending Too Far

In A Hypothetical Scenario I speculated that the administration is caught in a bind where it thinks it needs a bigger army but isn't sure it could get one authorized through the current Congress while trying and failing would have bad consequences worldwide. I further speculated that State has been tasked with tamping down crises until a new Congress is elected that would be more friendly to the idea of a troop buildup.

This is a delicate dance. There are two sweet spots. The first is to take the diplomatic temperature and find that no action need be taken. The second (and less favorable one) is the temperature taking exercise results in an assessment that a temporary round of appeasement will stave off precipitous action until we can get out of our military bind.

There are several dangers in the exercise. The first is that we think no action is necessary but problems are bubbling under the surface and will explode because we misread the situation. The next is that we rightly read that action must be taken but we throw too small a bone, not properly saying 'nice doggie' well enough as we reach for the proverbial stick. The next major danger is that we give the store away, unnecessarily compromising our national interests. The final danger is that we give so much away that we not only compromise our interests but give the impression that we are abandoning them entirely, encouraging instead of discouraging action exactly when we cannot subtly respond with conventional forces. This last is what many thought was the diplomatic sin we committed right before Saddam invaded Kuwait.

One of the potential hot spots that needs securing is Taiwan. Patrick Belton notes an article over at the Project for the New American Century protesting proposals coming out of the State Department that seem to rise to the level of dangerous cravenness.

It is unacceptable not only for an actual invasion to take place but for the US to give such a green light. Communists are famously prickly about democracies minding their own business. They can manufacture a provocation out of thin air if they desire. To say that the US will not militarily respond to an invasion if the PRC is provoked by Taiwan is to say that the US will not militarily respond to any invasion. This is not only shameful, illegal, unconstitutional, but also profoundly dangerous.

The people of the United States would not stand for it. The President of the United States could not withstand the domestic firestorm and no matter what prior statements came out of State would react militarily. The PRC must be made to understand that and must also understand that if the conventional response available to us via our uncommitted troops would be insufficient, we would go nuclear. Anything else would just add to the general view propounded by its enemies that the US does not stand by its allies and its security guarantees are worthless.

Update: Of the two authors of this proposed US policy shift, only one (Doug Paal) comes from State. The other (James Moriarty) is from the NSC. The main point of bending too far remains undisturbed.

Posted by TMLutas at December 3, 2003 12:49 PM