International relations is a difficult job to manage. You are forced to do and say things that you do not want to do in order to prevent worse evils. I appreciate this problem. I appreciate, for example, the fact that the U.S. does not want to come down unambiguously on the side of defending Taiwan in the case of a Chinese attack. Morally, it is the right thing to do, but it could trigger a nuclear war, and that would be worse. So, even though I don’t like our policy of “strategic ambiguity,” I don’t condemn it.
On the other hand, there are things that a statesman should not say. For example, in response to the recent Taiwanese election, President Biden said, “We do not support independence.” What could inspire him to say that the U.S. does not support Taiwanese independence? Is he so afraid of China that he is afraid even of admitting that the U.S. supports Taiwan, which is democratic and respects human rights, against Chinese threats? Even if we had some sort of policy against explicitly supporting Taiwanese independence, there is no reason to say forthrightly that we don’t support it. He could have said, “The Taiwanese have the right to elect whoever they want, and the U.S. will stand behind them on that.” That doesn’t endorse Taiwanese independence, but it far better from a moral perspective. I can’t see any reason for such a cowardly statement as “We do not support independence.”
Written by dcroxton
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