Going to War Over Taiwan and the ‘Gas Tank of Will’

Most Americans have consistently said for years that they do not support going to war to defend Taiwan.

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Benjamin Wallace-Wells profiles Elbridge Colby and discusses his hawkishness on China in a recent New Yorker article. This section was probably the most telling part of the entire piece:

Colby’s response is to try to sever the transformational vision of the forever wars from his own hawkishness – to argue that those were neoconservative adventures, intent on democratizing foreign countries, and that his own realist camp does not envision regime change and does not aspire to remake China. “What really makes me angry, frankly, is the aggressive kind of neoconservatives and liberal hawks. They are the ones that used up that gas tank of will [bold mine-DL],” Colby told me.

It is remarkable that Colby identifies using up the “gas tank of will” in the United States as his chief objection to neoconservatives and liberal hawks. He is not put off by their militarism or the destruction they have wrought, but he is angry at them for making it harder to sell his kind of militarism to the public. Indeed, “he is troubled by whether most Americans will see Taiwan as of sufficient interest to them.”

In fact, most Americans have consistently said for years that they do not support going to war to defend Taiwan. This is one of the more noticeable gaps between foreign policy elites and the public. As the Chicago Council of Global Affairs noted earlier this year in its survey report, “Majorities of opinion leaders across partisan lines support using US troops to defend Taiwan from Chinese invasion, while a majority of the American public opposes doing so, regardless of partisan affiliation.” Public support for going to war for Taiwan has increased since 2014, but it is still only at 41%.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

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.