The United States is inching toward World War III with China.
All the lights on the dashboard are flashing.
The pivot to Asia proclaimed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Massive arms sales to Taiwan.
The United States Taiwan Defense Command in Taiwan.
The Quad with Japan, Australia and India to encircle China.
The sale of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and augmentation of U.S. Marine forces there.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “in-your-face” gratuitous visit to Taiwan.
President Joe Biden’s repeated threats to attack China if it invades Taiwan.
Harsh economic sanctions against China indistinguishable from the United States economic strangulation of Japan prior to Pearl Harbor.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s summons to deny China access to artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Naming China as the greatest threat to the United States in the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy released in October 2022.
Nearly two centuries of humiliation of China by the West beginning at least with the Opium War of 1842 to make Chinese drug addiction a western profit center. The United States followed with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and a prohibition on the naturalization of Chinese immigrants. The United States betrayed China during the post-World War I Paris peace talks by surrendering Shandong Province to Japan. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles refused to shake the hand of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during the Geneva Conference to settle the future of Vietnam and gratuitously sneered that the two would only meet in a car crash.
Taiwan is the same distance from the Chinese mainland as Cuba is to the United States.
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, we were willing to initiate war if necessary to compel the Soviet Union to remove tactical nuclear weapons from Cuba, including a blockade. Cuba had requested the missiles to deter a planned second United States invasion on the heels of the Bay of Pigs debacle. The USSR blinked and removed the nuclear weapons in exchange for a sotto voce agreement by the United States to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey.
Today, the United States is a vastly greater existential threat to China than the Soviet Union’s presence in Cuba was to the United States in 1962. Why does anyone think China would react less strongly than the United States did in the Cuban Missile Crisis to the U.S. arming Taiwan to the teeth, repeatedly threatening war, organizing the Quad, strangling the Chinese economy and treating the South China Sea as if it were the Gulf of Mexico?
Why would the Chinese accept national security risks that the United States has shown it will not?
United States relations with China are combustible. Only a spark is necessary to ignite a conflagration that could lead to nuclear exchanges and threaten the species with nuclear winter and extinction. Something similar happened before with Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914. It gave birth to World War I, which witnessed 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. World War III could be precipitated by a shootout over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands or the Scarborough Shoal/Huangyan Island.
A war involving the U.S. and China would likely metastasize. According to the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon: “Neither Beijing nor Washington would accept defeat in a limited engagement. Instead, the conflict probably would expand horizontally to other regions and vertically, perhaps even to include nuclear weapons threats — or their actual use. It literally could become the worst catastrophe in the history of warfare.”
In recent years, U.S. war games have generally shown China defeating the United States. One analysis concluded: “The overarching takeaway from participants in the war game: If China invades Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific region will plunge into a broad, drawn-out war that could include direct attacks on the U.S., including Hawaii and potentially the continental United States.”
If a war with China over Taiwan seems crazy, it’s because it is! We have no defense treaty with Taiwan. We have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It has no membership in the United Nations. It is within China’s traditional sphere of influence. It is more than 7,500 miles away from the United States. Its independence is a featherweight to our national security. If China annexed Taiwan, imitating our annexation of Hawaii in 1898, the annexation would not be an existential threat to the United States.
I can already hear the appeasement shouts of “Munich, Munich, Munich” from the multitrillion-dollar military-industrial-security complex. But China is not the Third Reich; President Xi Jinping is not Adolf Hitler. Taiwan is not Czechoslovakia. And the Domino Theory implicit in the cry of “Munich” was discredited by our defeat by Vietnam. It has become a semi-ally of the United States in (SET ITAL) opposing (END ITAL) China. And Japan and South Korea are fully capable of defending themselves against a Chinese invasion.
President George Washington’s time-honored Farewell Address provides the path to extricate ourselves from a war with China over Taiwan: “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.”