Monday, April 25, 2005

New American Militarism and the Taiwan-China "Disagreement"

Just read this interesting article today in the Asia Times - "The New American Militarism" by Andrew J. Bacevich.

His depiction of the US Military Machine is pointedly underscored by the statistics:
Since the end of the Cold War, having come to value military power for its own sake, the United States has abandoned this principle and is committed as a matter of policy to maintaining military capabilities far in excess of those of any would-be adversary or combination of adversaries. This commitment finds both a qualitative and quantitative expression, with the US military establishment dwarfing that of even America's closest ally. Thus, whereas the US Navy maintains and operates a total of 12 large attack aircraft carriers, the once-vaunted Royal Navy has none - indeed, in all the battle fleets of the world there is no ship even remotely comparable to a Nimitz-class carrier, weighing in at some 97,000 tons fully loaded, longer than three [US] football fields, cruising at a speed above 30 knots, and powered by nuclear reactors that give it an essentially infinite radius of action. Today, the US Marine Corps possesses more attack aircraft than does the entire [British] Royal Air Force - and the United States has two other even larger "air forces", one an integral part of the navy and the other officially designated as the US Air Force. Indeed, in terms of numbers of men and women in uniform, the US Marine Corps is half again as large as the entire British army - and the Pentagon has a second, even larger "army" actually called the US Army - which in turn also operates its own "air force" of some 5,000 aircraft.
To put this into perspective; here in Australia our Naval air forces consist of less than 50 helicopters! That's right, helicopters, not aircraft. We are talking about a small sub-section of the military that is orders of magnitude more equipped than their Australian equivalent, and arguably any other nation's equivalent. Why does America need all this firepower? Does it anticipate fighting a global war on multiple fronts, not against some ambiguous terrorist group operating from caves and slums, but against other nations?

The US-China tension over Taiwan has been growing of late, and it seems that the pro-Independence factions of the Taiwanese are not doing anything to soothe matters. For instance, there is this little beauty in the Taipei Times:
At a seminar organized by the Taiwan New Century Foundation on ways of participating in the WHO, foundation president Chen Lung-chu (陳隆志) said the prospects for Taiwan's WHO bid this year are better than in the past because China might soften its attitude somewhat to try to quell the international flap that has ensued after its enactment of the "Anti-Secession" Law.

Taiwan, however, should not accept any name that suggests it is a part of China for membership in the WHO; rather, it should insist on a name that reflects its status as an independent country separate from China, Chen said.
Ok, let me get this straight - despite China's enactment of a Law intended as a clear message to Taiwan not to persue an Independence agenda any further, it will now "soften its attitude somewhat" over a further symbolic "slap in the face" by the WHO simply because it copped a bit of rhetoric from the international community (no doubt inspired by US efforts )?!?

Personally, I'm wondering who this Taiwanese think-tank is funded by. In any case, maybe Taiwan will be rejected yet again by the World Health Assembly (the article mentions this would be the ninth attempt). Or maybe the WHA will choose to accept Taiwan's application this time around? For some reason?

The following article in the Indianapolis Star outlines the situation:
The immediate challenge for the U.S. is Taiwan. We officially maintain a "one-China" policy, and for years we have made clear our readiness to defend Taiwan against Chinese invasion. China has responded by building up its capacity to launch a military strike, and in March it passed an "anti-secession" law, pledging to respond to any Taiwanese move toward independence with military force.

The U.S. retains an edge, but China now has about 700 missiles on its coast pointed at Taiwan, and this number is growing.

Since World War II, the U.S. has been the dominant power in East Asia and the Pacific. A rising China could challenge that leadership. Already, China's military presence and influence are growing in the South China Sea and parts of Southeast Asia. As China's need for oil and gas grows along with its economy, the Chinese might be more willing to assert themselves in Asia and beyond.
Is Taiwan going to be the "trigger" that ignites a US-China military conflict? Hard to say at this point, but if there is an economic collapse in the US and China is blamed, the tensions over Taiwan are going to move toward boiling point.
Bush also said China's growing economy was partly to blame for rising US gasoline prices.

"My view of China is that it's a great nation that's growing like mad. That's one of the reasons why Americans are seeing over US$2 gasoline, because demand for energy in China is huge. And supply around the world hasn't kept up with the increase in demand," he said.

Bush described U.S. ties with China as a "very complex and good relationship" and said he intended to keep it that way, but said Beijing should welcome religious movements, for example.

"I'm constantly reminding China that a great society is one that welcomes and honors human rights, for example, welcomes the Catholic Church in its midst, doesn't fear religious movements," he said.

"We expect there to be peace with Taiwan," Bush said.

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