Misjudging the Balance of Interests in Taiwan

Matthew Kroenig cannot make a case that Taiwan matters more to the U.S. than it does to China, so he tries to make a war over Taiwan into being about something much broader than it would be:

I wouldn’t be so quick to cede the balance of interests to Beijing. The United States and its allies have built and defended a rules-based system over the past 75 years that has produced unprecedented peace, prosperity, and freedom globally. I don’t want to trade that in for a world in which Americans stand by as revisionist autocracies like China gobble up neighbors by military force – or, worse, lose a hegemonic war leading to the end of this order and the rise of a Chinese-led system.

It is not Kroenig’s intention to do this, but this rhetorical move on his part illustrates how potentially dangerous a lot of the talk about a “rules-based order” can be. If you treat the defense of Taiwan as a test case of the US willingness to uphold the entire “rules-based system” of the last 75 years (no laughing, please), you are trying to rig the scales. Kroenig wants us to believe that the UShas to defend Taiwan or risk the collapse of the entire edifice of post-WWII institutions and alliances. This is the bogus credibility argument on methamphetamines.

The US doesn’t have vital interests in Taiwan, and it shouldn’t go to war to defend it. For that reason, the USshouldn’t make an explicit security commitment that would oblige the US to go to war. Kroenig tries to get around this by making Taiwan stand in for the entire global system when it does not. When hawks are forced to make an argument like this, it is always a good sign that the US doesn’t have enough interests in a place to justify going to war over it. One problem with Kroenig’s argument is that the Chinese government can probably see through the smokescreen to realize that US interests in Taiwan are not great enough to risk a war. He thinks that an explicit guarantee would be “helping them not to miscalculate,” but making an explicit commitment is bound to provoke a challenge rather than discourage one.

Half a century ago, hawks insisted that fighting in South Vietnam was critically important to containment worldwide, and they were horribly wrong. For the last twenty years, hawks have insisted that fighting in Afghanistan was essential to keeping the United States safe from international terrorism, and they were horribly wrong. Now China hawks want us to believe that the fate of the entire “rules-based system” hinges on whether the US gets into a war over Taiwan that it will probably lose. What are the odds that their judgment is any better this time? It is the same story every time: invest a peripheral theater with much more importance than it really has and bog the US down in an unwinnable war that it didn’t have to fight.

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Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

End the Failed Regime Change Campaign in Venezuela

Presidents Trump and Biden share the same regime change strategy

  • After Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013, then-Vice President Nicolás Maduro succeeded the late socialist leader, consolidating power amid rampant economic mismanagement and increasing violence and deprivation.
  • Venezuela’s authoritarian slide accelerated under Maduro’s rule. Electoral fraud, crackdowns on opposition figures, and human rights abuses hardened U.S. resolve to apply pressure to change Caracas’ policies.
  • President Trump reportedly discussed using US military force to oust Maduro in 2019 but pursued non-military regime change instead, increasing economic and diplomatic pressure in the false hope the Venezuelan leader would vacate his office.
  • President Biden has continued this policy. The US objective remains: (1) to delegitimize and push out Maduro as the country’s leader and (2) put pressure on Venezuela’s economy to force Caracas into reinstituting democracy.

Continue reading “End the Failed Regime Change Campaign in Venezuela”

Conflicts of Interest: Corporate Press Weaponizes Fictional ‘Havana Syndrome’

On COI #176, Kyle Anzalone discusses the so-called “Havana Syndrome.” Since 2017, the supposed ailment – which has so far not been proven to exist as its own discrete illness – has been invoked repeatedly by deep state and corporate media pundits to demonize US “adversaries.” The Havana Syndrome has no known cause, and its alleged symptoms range from migraines, dizziness, nausea and vertigo, among other symptoms common to countless other existing diseases and disorders. Initially, the Trump administration used the issue to roll back Obama’s diplomatic gains with Cuba. As scientists increasingly suggested the Havana Syndrome could be psychosomatic – or largely a psychological problem rather than physical disease – the MSM spun the Trump administration’s lack of interest by tying the narrative into the broader Russiagate craze. Now, the deep state and corporate press are deploying the unproven theory again to demonize Russia and China, suggesting they are somehow behind the mysterious syndrome. 

Kyle breaks down recent news about Facebook after the Intercept released the social media giant’s ‘blacklist,’ which includes some 4,000 groups and individuals deemed “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” on the platform. Among the blacklisted figures were politicians, writers and various other people of influence. The list helps explain how Facebook suppresses independent reporting on the empire, ensuring certain voices are never heard while elevating others as go-to ‘experts.’ 

Kyle updates recent missile tests by North Korea. As with many previous launches by Pyongyang, the corporate media treated the test-fire as an act of aggression and allowed subsequent coverage to retain the same framing. Washington’s regular joint war games Seoul –  effectively simulating an invasion of the north – as well as its own periodic weapons tests are seldom mentioned in mainstream coverage.

Kyle argues that the US should meet North Korea’s missile tests with diplomacy, noting that South Korean President Moon Jae-in – a vocal proponent for improved inter-Korean ties – is giving Biden an ideal opportunity as he continues to push for an official end to the Korean War, which is formally still underway despite an armistice pact signed in 1953.

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Conflicts of Interest: Is Antony Blinken Pushing Phony Diplomacy?

On COI #175, Kyle Anzalone breaks down Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meetings with the Israeli and Emirati foreign ministers. In the meeting, Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid threatened Iran. Tehran has signaled that it is willing to return to JCPOA talks, and the threats are sure to deter Iran’s openness to dialogue. Blinken suggested the US should encourage more deals like the Abraham Accords to create a pact between Israel and Palestine. However, the Abraham Accords were not peace deals, but rather US payoffs to Muslim states to end their objection to Israel’s apartheid against the Palestinians. 

Kyle discusses Congress considering a bill that transfers legislative war powers to the president. The proposed law would allow the president to determine if the US was to go to war with China over Taiwan. The bill is based on a false understanding of US foreign policy and military strategy. 

Kyle updates US intervention in the Horn of Africa. Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia recently claimed the central government opened a new offensive. In response, the US is considering sanctions against Ethiopia. Biden has also invited the head of neighboring Kenya to the White House. President Kenyatta’s visit came as the World Court decided on a major territorial dispute with Somalia, with the judges largely ruling in favor of Mogadishu.

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