Saving Taiwan means protecting the good

By Steve Martinovich
web posted August 9, 1999

Almost like clockwork, yet another round of saber rattling is being heard from China, this time over a mumbled statement by Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui in July that his nation was on an equal footing with China and that state to state relations should be the norm.

Predictably that earned vague threats of military action by the mainland and when combined with scheduled and massive exercises near Taiwan -- training which would be suited for landing PRC soldiers on her shores -- saw many Americans once again proclaim that any Chinese action should be met with reaction from us.

As it should.

Conservatives and libertarians find themselves in an uniquely odd position these days. Nearly uniformly opposed to NATO's airstrikes against the Serbs this year, they now face charges of hypocrisy over any military action against China if a war were to develop, a distinct possibility considering how entrenched China and Taiwan are in their respective camps and how fast tensions can rise between the two. But while there are similarities between the two respective hot spots, there exist clear differences between China-Taiwan and Kosovo, differences which should propel conservatives and libertarians into the camp which would support Taiwan in the event of trouble.

In Kosovo there were no white hats to save. Neither the Serbs nor the Kosovo Liberation Army was particularly deserving of the west's support, either moral or military. The government of Yugoslavia -- specifically Serbia -- is nothing more than a dictatorship with Slobodan Milosevic running the remnants of that country in the manner of a personal fiefdom while the KLA may be drug and gun running terrorists responsible for hundreds of assassinations and rapes in Kosovo before NATO become their unofficial air force. Repression is the norm in that country, hardly the democratic and capitalist nations we like to think that we'd help out.

Of course, conservatives and libertarians weren't opposed to the bombing of Yugoslavia because it was Yugoslavia, but because the air war was an illegal action by both U.S. law and the NATO charter, a fact glossed over by its supporters and the press. We opposed the war because it was a gross misuse of military assets and goodwill with other nations for the sake of terrorists. It has merely created an untenable situation which will see our troops stationed in Kosovo for years to come.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is a mature democratic and capitalist nation in an area of the world where repression and instability is the norm. Since the takeover of Hong Kong by China, Taiwan may well be the freest market in that area, willing to deal with anyone who will deal with it. Its worth is so apparent that even China allows economic investment in Taiwan, though to a limited degree. And though her help is largely symbolic, Taiwan is our ally in the cause of freedom. Understandably, the people of that nation want to remain free from brutal communism.

Some point out that military action by the United States against China would likely become an all-out war, but even that wouldn't be the end of it all. It is commonly believed that Taiwan by itself would cause major casualties to a Chinese invading force thanks to its well-trained and American-equipped military. With the assistance of the U.S. military it's quite possible to see an invasion by China failing. Though casualties would likely be high thanks to the size of the PRC and its possible use of nuclear weapons -- though it is an area where it is dwarfed by America leading one to believe that China doesn't want Beijing reduced to cinders thanks to unwise use of those weapons -- it is entirely conceivable that an American military could use force against China successfully.

If either of those arguments isn't persuasive -- the low casualty argument certainly applied to Kosovo -- then the philosophical merits of using force, or at least aiding Taiwan with arms, should be to conservatives and libertarians. The reason why we would want to assist Taiwan is because it is the moral thing to do.

There is a difference between nations. Broadly. there are moral nations and there are immoral nations. A moral nation, like Taiwan (which admittedly is far from perfect with its mandatory military service and imposition of martial law until just a few years ago), safeguards its citizen's rights. As Ayn Rand stated in her essay "Collectivized Rights", a moral nation is an agent of its citizens while an immoral nation, like China, is the exact opposite.

A moral nation, her theory goes, has a right to its sovereignty and has the right to demand other nations respect that sovereignty. China, since it uses repression against its own citizens, does not have that right and is not a sovereign nation.

"In the issue of rights, as in all moral issues, there can be no double standard. A nation ruled by brute physical force is not a nation, but a horde -- whether it is led by Attila, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Krushchev or Castro. What rights could Attila claim and on what grounds?," wrote Rand.

As such, allowing a flagrantly immoral nation like China to destroy a moral one like Taiwan would be wrong. It would be allowing the destruction of the good by evil. And being free and moral nations ourselves we have the right to invade China, or by extension, defend Taiwan against China just as the United States did when it supplied arms and material to the United Kingdom when Nazi Germany threatened her.

Of course, we don't have a duty to sacrifice ourselves, but we would be just if we assisted Taiwan either directly or indirectly. The argument of isolationism does have the aura of prudence surrounding it but in the long-term it would be a dangerous course to take. The good must be defended from the evil or one day we may wake up and find all of Southeast Asia under the sway of evil.

Steve Martinovich is the editor in chief of Enter Stage Right.




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