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When Will the Realists Get Real?

3:20 PM, Mar 2, 2011 • By GARY SCHMITT
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As for Taiwan in Glaser’s account, it is unrealistic as well to think, absent U.S. support, that the Taiwan issue will go silently into the night. Poll after poll in Taiwan makes it clear that the vast majority is not interested in unification with the mainland, and most Taiwanese think of themselves as a distinct, self-ruling people. Taiwan, in short, will not accept unification without a fight. And if there is a fight, does anyone really think the U.S. will stand passively by as a democratic state is pummeled into submission by its autocratic neighbor?  Presidents and scholars of a realist bent can kid themselves now that the U.S. would never believe it worth the price to come to the defense of Taiwan, but, if we are debating now whether to provide military assistance to the counter-Gadhafi forces in Libya—forces we know little about and for a population we’ve had only the most minimal of association with—imagine a situation in which an American president attempts to ignore an incredibly bloody and devastating attack on an island consisting of 24 million democrats, whose manufacturing base is critical to the global supply chain of our modern economy, and that is geographically vital. We went to war in Korea for a whole lot less.

No, the most sensible policy response to China’s rise is to reinforce our position of political and military leadership in the region, create new strategic relations with other rising democratic powers in the region (such as India and Indonesia), and attempt to rebalance the military equation across the Taiwan Strait after more than a decade-plus worth of slippage as a result of Clinton, Bush and now Obama administration inattention to the growing Chinese military build-up. Drawing a red line for China at Taiwan, backed by superior military power, is the best and most realistic way to prevent a conflict no one wants. 

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