Nancy Pelosi’s Utterly Reckless Election-Season Gambit

We don’t know how it could have been any clearer than this warning from Chicom mouthpiece and ultra-hawk, Hu Xijin. Prior to America’s other senile leader putting herself in harms’ way by touching down in Taiwan today, Xijin let loose a volley of histrionics that left little doubt as to where Beijing stood:

"If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion," Hu Xijin of Global Times wrote on Twitter. "The [Chinese military] has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction. If ineffective, then shoot them down."

For want of doubt, an official Chinese spokesman chimed in shortly thereafter:

At a daily press briefing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated China’s opposition to Mrs. Pelosi’s visiting Taiwan……No matter for what reason Pelosi goes to Taiwan, it will be a stupid, dangerous and unnecessary gamble," Ms. Hua said. "It is difficult to imagine a more reckless and provocative action."

She got that right. Pelosi has now completed an utterly "stupid, dangerous and unnecessary gamble", and for what earthly purpose?

Mainly to provide obeisance to the dead hand of history, we’d say. Indeed, there is no more egregious case of the latter than Washington’s 75-year obsession with the political status of Taiwan.

Yet the latter is a geopolitically irrelevant piece of island real estate the size of Maryland that has everything to do with US domestic politics and nothing whatsoever to do with the safety, security and liberty of the American homeland.

So let’s start with the facts. The Chinese supremacists of the Middle Kingdom through the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) considered Formosa a pile of mud inhabited by savages and of no interest to China’s rulers. But when the Spanish and Portuguese colonized parts of the island, the successor Qing dynasty did an about face, expelling the Europeans and establishing administrative control over the territory from 1683 onwards.

The latter included the welcoming of Han and other Chinese settlers on Formosa, such that by 1811 an estimated 2 million Chinese immigrants had settled on the island. For all practical purposes, therefore, by the end of the 19th century today’s Taiwanese society and economy had become an integral part of China.

But that’s when history took a fateful turn that has everything to do with Beijing’s current hysteria about Pelosi’s blatant provocation. To wit, the Qing government was humiliated by defeat during the 1895 Sino-Japanese War and forced to cede Formosa to Japan in a one-sided peace treaty.

Moreover, for the next 50-years Formosa became the industrial and military launch pad for Imperial Japan’s relentless and ruthless expansion into China and southeast Asia generally, including the occupation of Manchuria and Korea. By the height of the the Allies’ WWII battle against Japan, in fact, Taiwan became known as the "unsinkable aircraft carrier" that enabled Japan’s brutal attacks on China’s main cities.

Accordingly, a major provision of the Cairo Declaration of 1943, which established the Allies war aims in the Pacific, was the return of Formosa to Chinese control. And from the viewpoint of Chinese patriots, nationalists and communists alike, the very idea of Formosa being controlled by a hostile foreign power became a "never again" line in the sand.

As it happened, Formosa was returned to China under a United Nation’s mandate at the end of WWII. The only question which remained was who would rule the mainland and therefore Formosa too – the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek or the communists under Mao Tse-tung.

That question was settled with the communist victory in 1949, and that should have been the end of the matter. But by then the Cold War was turning red hot and the out-of-power Republicans, egged on by the Luce publishing empire and the so-called China Lobby, waged a vicious "who lost China" campaign that ultimately degenerated into the McCarthy witch hunts and America’s equally foolish participation in the Korean War.

Stated differently, had Washington possessed the sense to recognize that Mao’s red totalitarianism was destined to become a social and economic basket case that posed no threat whatsoever to America’s security, the status of Formosa would have never mattered. In that event, Washington could have allowed Chiang Kai-chek’s band of butchers and bandits to whither on the vine on their island redoubt and eventually disappear from the face of history.

In fact, without continuous, fulsome US diplomatic, military and economic assistance, that is exactly what would have happened during the long-decades of the brutal Kuomintang dictatorship after 1950. And America’s security would have been no worse for the wear.

Ironically, approximately 25-years later it took the worst of the red-baiters and who-lost-China demagogues, Richard Nixon, to partially correct Washington’s pro-Taiwan mistake. Owning to his historic election year trip to China in February 1972 and President Jimmy Carter’s subsequent abrogation of the mutual defense treaty with the Republic of China on Taiwan in 1979, any legal or moral obligation to defend Taiwan against China lapsed 43 years ago!

So again, that should have ended the matter once and for all. Without Washington’s constant diplomatic support and weapons sales, the post-Kuomintang leaders of Taiwan would have eventually recognized the handwriting on the wall and made some kind of affiliation arrangements with Beijing. After all, a few years later, Maoist economics was officially abandoned and Mr. Deng set China firmly on a path of export-led economic growth. Taiwan would have likely been its most prosperous province.

But the Washington China Lobby remained in business, wrapping itself in a bureaucratic stupidity called  "strategic ambiguity":

Our military posture has been one of "strategic ambiguity." We will not commit to go to war to defend Taiwan, nor will we take the war option off the table if Taiwan is attacked.

What cockamamie nonsense. As Pat Buchanan rightly asks:

We would be risking our own security and possible survival to prevent from being imposed on the island of Taiwan the same regime lately imposed on Hong Kong without any U.S. military resistance.

If Hong Kong, a city of 7 million, can be transferred to the custody and control of Beijing without resistance from the US, why should it be worth a major US war with China to prevent that same fate and future from befalling 23 million Taiwanese?

So, yes, Hong Kong residents may not be as free as they were five years ago and certainly much less so than before the city-state’s reversion to China in July 1997.

But so what? That’s the way the cookie of world history crumbles. America’s security does not depend upon upholding freedom in every distant precinct of planet earth – no matter how loudly the hegemonists, the neocons and Warfare State lobbyists insist.

The fact is, the safety and security of the citizens in Springfield MA and Spokane WA have not been diminished a whit since the 1997 event. That’s because our freedom is the unique product of our constitution, our history, the great Atlantic and Pacific moats and America’s industrial and technological prowess, which makes a foreign invasion of the homeland inconceivable.

Nice as freedom might have been for the residents of Hong Kong previously and for the citizens of Taiwan today, when push comes to shove our liberties do not depend upon who governs these historic provinces of Greater China.  And it is most certainly not the role of desperate, vote-seeking Washington pols like Nancy Pelosi to poke in the eye the rulers of China after they have made it unequivocally clear that political meddling in their backyard is distinctly unwelcome.

So it’s time to un-clench the dead hand of history. Washington policy-makers did not "lose" China back in 1949 because it was never theirs to loose. Nor did America’s security ever depend upon the decades of domestic political machinations over the status of the Chinese province of Taiwan.

At least now the stupidity of the whole affair has been made starkly evident by Nancy Pelosi’s utterly reckless election-season gambit. Her trip had no other purpose than to bolster the Dems’ flagging prospects come November.

After all, at least when the self-confessed warmonger, then Speaker Newt Gingrich, made the Taiwan stop back in 1997 he did so after completing his official visit to Beijing first. The Chinese leaders of the day tolerated his second stop in Taiwan only after he threatened to otherwise skip Beijing on his itinerary.

Even then, the former Speaker recently revealed that Beijing had one precondition for him, which he complied with: Namely, that he wouldn’t fly directly to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland. So after he wrapped up meetings in Beijing and Shanghai, including with senior Chinese leaders, Mr. Gingrich flew to Tokyo and then to Taipei.

Needless to say, a lot of water has gone over the dam of US/China relations during the last 25 years – much of it needlessly un-constructive. So if there was any time for the Washington War Party to exercise a modicum of restraint, now was that time.

Yet America’s crushing $1 trillion per year Empire of global hegemony and intervention would wither and die without constant provocations against foreign adversaries.

And this one was among the most dangerous and shameless yet.

David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.