Ignoring Taiwan at Our Future Peril
Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
In July 1960, a post-independence crisis in an African ex-colony threatened a military confrontation between two nuclear superpowers - the United States and the Soviet Union. The African country was the former Belgian Congo, renamed Zaire and recently re-renamed Democratic Republic of Congo. With President Eisenhower's approval a nuclear-armed U.S. aircraft carrier at anchor off Senegal was ordered to maneuver off the Congo River in case Nikita S. Khrushchev sent Red Army troops to Leopoldville to help Patrice Lumumba - remember? - the then Congolese prime minister, later assassinated. I was there for the Christian Science Monitor alongside Arnaud de Borchgrave representing Newsweek. And we knew we were covering a big, big world news story.
In 1997 a civil war in Zaire-Congo raged on for many months and, let's face it: Nobody really cared. The Congo problem was humanitarian, not political. What could possibly happen in Zaire to trigger a world crisis? Nothing.
Today little wars, civil wars, so-called low intensity conflicts dot the world landscape - in Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Afghanistan, Brazzaville, Sikhs in India, Sudan, Basques in Spain, the Irish Republican Army, Kurds in Iraq, Liberia, onetime Yugoslavia. None of these conflicts seem to mean very much because the Cold War is now over, confrontations are a thing of the past. These conflicts are of interest primarily to the State Department's duty-bound geographical desks and to CNN's Christine Amanpour.
But before we become too complacent about the peaceful state of the world and stifle a yawn about Hong Kong's seemingly dismal future, I would like to suggest it will not be long before the United States will have a real confrontation with the only remaining empire in the world, the People's Republic of China. And it will not be about what may happen in Hong Kong.
The Sino-U.S. confrontation will be over Beijing's unswerving determination that, come what may and at whatever cost, Taiwan must become part of mainland China with no ifs, ands or buts. And if the Clinton administration has a policy on Taiwan that comprehends communist aggression against that democracy I do not know it. And one big reason why there is no realistic policy about Taiwan is that the U.S. military is no longer prepared for even one major contingency.
Professors Frederick W. Kagan and David T. Fautua of West Point have described in overwhelming detail (Commentary Magazine, May 1997),the catastrophe that has befallen U.S. military preparedness. Today's Army could not field the force that won the 1990 Gulf war against Iraq. …