American Values in Dire Straits

High anxiety in the Taiwan Straits following Republic of China (ROC) President Lee Teng-hui’s "two nations" challenge to the People’s Republic of China raises the question: How should patriotic Americans respond to the Taipei-Beijing confrontation?

The answer is: Americans who revere our heritage of freedom and independence must have the courage to defy 1990’s political correctness and uphold core American values – by politely but firmly refusing to intervene, regardless of one’s sympathies.

As George Washington stated in his Farewell Address of 1796: "The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. . . . ‘Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign World."

Condensing Washington’s 18th century idioms into bumper sticker-ese: "trade with either, side with neither."

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Relations Act, which should have gone the way of the Berlin Wall, is exactly the kind of pernicious "permanent Alliance" with a "portion of the foreign World" the Father of our Country urged us to steer clear of.

Washington was hardly alone. His resolute opposition to foreign intervention was shared by all the Founders. Neither he nor the other Founders intended any exceptions to be made for Kosovo or Taiwan.

As James Madison put it, "it has been the true glory of the United States,” in “fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality . . . to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations,” and “to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities." Thomas Jefferson concurred, declaring that the foreign policy of a free society has to mean “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship, with all nations – entangling alliances with none." "Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe." Ditto Asia.

As John Quincy Adams, author of the Monroe Doctrine put it, "America… does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

Why exactly were the Founding Fathers so unanimously and unambiguously opposed to "proactively" exporting American values beyond our shores? Did they not want liberty to prevail all over the world, not just in America? What was their problem anyway? Were they too shortsighted or selfish, as the nomenklatura of the New World Order seem to imply, to understand the value of "making the world safe for democracy?"

The answer to all these questions is a resounding "No." The Founding Fathers were cultured cosmopolitans who devoutly hoped that liberty would triumph the world over. And no, their foreign policy prescriptions have not been rendered obsolete by jet travel and the Internet, because their soundness was not predicated on specific technologies. Rather, their strategic vision was grounded solidly in their grasp of fundamental human nature, which has evolved little since 1796, however we might wish otherwise.

The Founders, powdered wigs and all, were infinitely more "hip" than we give them credit for, and understood something our smug modern politicians do not. They understood that to yield to the powerful temptation to "do good" abroad carries an enormously expensive and hidden price tag: the loss of our own liberty at home.

They understood that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," that handing the political class the power they demand to impose "benevolent global hegemony" on the rest of the world permits them to impose a malevolent domestic dictatorship on Americans at home.

They understood, as too many well-intentioned Americans today do not, that once we compromise the safeguards against domestic tyranny written into our own system of law, no matter how compelling the rationale, we will rapidly cease to be the nation others once considered worth emulating. We would instead soon resemble the very nations we so confidently set out to "reform" and "enlighten."

Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, along with South Korea and West Germany, demonstrated capitalism’s clear superiority to socialism. Democratic reformer Chiang Ching-kuo’s Taiwan, which witnessed the repeal of martial law and the enfranchisement of "native" Taiwanese, demonstrated that economic reforms are the harbinger of political reforms.

Lee Teng-hui’s "New Taiwan" on the other hand, demonstrates that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Lee Teng-hui is a corrupt Marcos/Duvalier-style petty despot who has shredded Taiwan’s Constitution, modeled by ROC Founding Father Sun Yat-sen on our own American Constitution. Acutely aware of China’s susceptibility to backsliding into de facto monarchy, Sun took the added precaution of dividing the ROC government into five, not three branches. Not that it did any good. Lee Teng-hui, whom Newsweek gullibly anointed "Mr. Democracy," merely nullified all constitutional constraints on his executive powers in four stages over nine years, including the power of impeachment, and now simply does whatever he damned well pleases.

Lee is an "elective monarch" who finances his personal dream of a "Republic of Taiwan" with hapless Taiwan taxpayers’ dollars, even though the government’s own surveys show that over 80% of the Taiwan people oppose Taiwan independence. Lee’s headline grabbing offer of US$300 million in foreign aid to Kosovo was merely the latest in a string of outrages. Lee consulted no one, not even the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s equivalent of our Congress, constitutionally charged with funding government.

All three major broadcast television stations on Taiwan are owned by Lee Teng-hui’s KMT party machine. So are several of the Chinese and the two leading English language newspapers. The pro-reunification opposition is banished to cable TV or "outlaw" radio, where they survive only if they do not criticize Mr. Democracy too harshly. A hilarious and popular "McLaughlin Group"-style panel show called Dianfu Xinwen ("Underground News") was forced off the air recently for making Lee look like a buffoon.

The Founders adamantly opposed foreign entanglements even when they harbored no doubt whatever about the worthiness of foreign lobbyists’ causes. Try to imagine the vehemence of their opposition to so-called Taiwan "independence" when the Taiwan separatist leadership’s commitment to America’s republican ideals is more than a little suspect?

America, the "world’s only remaining superpower," has troops stationed in 144 foreign nations around the globe. Today the sun never sets on the American Empire. Back home however, Posse Comitatus is a dead letter, and the smart weapons used against Saddam and Milosevic to "make the world safe for democracy" have been used to exterminate dissident parishioners of a rural Texas Protestant sect, including two dozen unarmed children. As John Quincy Adams warned, America has become "the dictatress of the world" but is "no longer… the ruler of her own spirit.” Our Founding Fathers’ worst fears have come true.

Americans must summon up the backbone to resist the moral guilt-tripping of the Gauleiters of the New World Order. We must uphold Madison’s wise and principled admonition to exclude "foreign intrigues and foreign partialities" by staying the hell out of the ongoing Chinese Civil War in the Taiwan Straits in 1999, just as China refrained from siding with either the Union or the Confederacy during the American Civil War in 1861.

As a first generation naturalized American I am all too aware that my patriotism is presumed suspect by many China-haters in Congress simply by virtue of my race and my national origin. Never mind that I am from Taiwan – that didn’t help Lee Wen-ho – and currently live in Taipei. Never mind that my parents live in Taiwan too. Never mind that, like Joe Sobran and Jude Wanniski, I was a Cold Warrior slightly to the right of Richard Nixon. I know by advocating policies which appear "soft on communism" red flags (pun intended) will go up in the fevered minds of China Threat theorists determined to "go abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

I could keep my mouth shut and my head down. But genuine patriotism demands that Americans defend the ideals of our Founding Fathers, and speak up for what is authentically American, and not meekly acquiesce, like "good Germans" or "good Japanese" in the 1930’s, to the mainstream consensus while our nation continues its downward slide into imperial decadence.

Americans must have the guts to flatly reject any attempts by foreign lobbyists, fellow travelers, and domestic politicians in the service or on the payroll of either Taipei or Beijing to draw America into what Washington termed "controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns.” We must do so without hesitation and without apology, because contrary to what is politically correct in 1999, unyielding adherence to James Madison’s "most scrupulous impartiality" and "sincere neutrality" is the fullest and most genuine expression of enduring American values. It is late in the day, but not too late to save our republic.