Taiwan Is Next, but Should We Care?
If Taiwan falls to China, it will mark the end of U.S. leadership for global liberty and democracy — and maybe even our constitutional republic.
“Where is Taiwan anyway and why should we care?” It’s likely many Americans ask this question every time they hear or read about Taiwan being China’s next target, and what, if anything, the U.S. should do about it. So for a straight-up answer, let me be clear: If Taiwan falls to mainland China, it will mark the end of the United States as a world military power and as the prime force for freedom and democracy. The end, zilch, nada. And, of course, after the United States is no longer the central force for global freedom and democracy, all bets are off for the future of democracy versus socialism here at home.
Taiwan is a small island state (about 24 million inhabitants) in the western Pacific. There, Chinese nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, took refuge following the fall of China to Mao and the Chinese communists in 1949. Since then, Taiwan has remained a contentious issue for Beijing’s communist government, which has vowed to “reunite” Taiwan with mainland China either peacefully or through force of arms.
But let there be no doubt: Taiwan is one of the brightest lights of freedom and prosperity in the world. Fully democratic, Taiwan routinely holds free and fair elections. Taiwan elected a female (Tsai Ing-wen) as the country’s (yes, I will refer to Taiwan as a country!) president in 2016 and remains staunchly anti-communist. President Tsai was reelected in 2020 with a historically strong majority. Taiwan boasts a significant free market economy, producing the 20th-largest GDP globally — incredible for such a small population. And Taiwan’s per capita income ranks with that of the United States.
A significant majority of Taiwan’s population asserts it will resist and fight any effort by mainland China to militarily force “reintegration” into the communist Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Taiwan seeks strong and stable relations with the United States and, indeed, President Donald Trump talked with President Tsai by telephone following his election as president. Trump was the first commander-in-chief to talk to a Taiwanese president since 1979.
With Hong Kong now securely in its communist pocket, China sees Taiwan as the final roadblock on its way to a fully secure maritime periphery with uninhibited access to the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea. China also views the integration of Taiwan into its communist web as the last step to ending its “Century of Humiliation” between 1839 and 1949. Ending the Century of Humiliation is a central driving force to the Chinese communist regime; the taking of Taiwan must and will happen according to Chinese strategic thinking and policy. So let there be no doubt — China is and will be relentless in its pursuit to subdue Taiwan and make it its 24th province — through peace or war.
Much as the vibrant West Berlin was the symbol of the USSR’s unsuccessful efforts to subdue Western democracies in Europe following World War II, Taiwan is today’s symbol of China’s still unsuccessful effort to fully dominate its vast Pacific maritime regions. Taiwan is the one remaining full-throated rebuke to Chinese hegemony over its eastern littoral, and it stands in the way of China’s unfettered access to the Pacific, and thus the world.
If through “peaceful” reintegration — or the more likely requirement for an invasion — China is permitted to grab Taiwan, the U.S. is finished as the democratic global leader for liberty. If we allow this bastion of freedom and democracy to be crushed, our international purpose, cemented by our victory in World War II, as the global “Shining City on a Hill” will end. And many believe, as do I, with the end of our God-given purpose to lead humanity in the quest for freedom and liberty, our nation’s efforts to provide these same inalienable rights to our citizens will end also. America will fade into history as we tumble into so-called democratic socialism (read: Marxism) with an irreversible era of government domination over individual rights and freedom.
The path to our demise is clear, and the international linchpin is a small band of brave Taiwanese patriots over 7,000 miles from our homeland, all of whom face a communist China behemoth just 100 miles to their west. Parroting General Patton as he responded to cries for help from Bastogne, Taiwan is surely a country worth saving! But it is more, much more, than that. To save Taiwan, and thus ourselves, here’s what we must do.
First and foremost, we must — must — make China fear our military presence in the Pacific. Today it does not. That fear begins with the rebuilding and expansion of our Navy. The threat to Taiwan (and to our allies and friends in the Pacific and South China Sea region) is a maritime threat. Thus, to counter it, we must have a dominant maritime force. Period. Full stop. Make our Navy once again the strongest naval force on the planet. This must be the unambiguous national policy of the Biden administration. President Ronald Reagan once envisioned a 600-ship Navy (we currently have less than 300 battle force ships), and today it must again be our fully resourced national requirement and objective, with innovative combatant ship design and capability.
In this, our Marine Corps must be elevated to our first and foremost over-the-shore land combat force. It needs four (not three) active duty, properly resourced, modernized, fully deployable, and ready Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs), not the under-resourced and over-committed Marine Corps of today.
Second, our Space Force must be brought up to full capability quickly and decisively. Its mission must be to defeat the PRC’s land and orbital space offensive and defensive capacity, including cyber. There can be no compromise here. We must dominate the space domain.
Third, our Air Force must be fully modernized to overwhelm the PRC’s air capacity tactically, operationally, and strategically. This includes our manned and unmanned Air Force aircraft as well as our offensive strategic and deterrent missile capability. To support our potential naval and ground force operations against the PRC, more aggressive forward basing of our Air Force to locations of greatest impact in the Pacific and South China Sea region must be accomplished.
Fourth, the Army cannot be used as a “bill payer” for these requirements. Indeed, the Army is America’s guarantor of freedom, and it is the force of choice for heavy, sustained land combat operations and ultimate land victory. Modernize the Army, fully resource it, and ensure it is ready for deployment. Ensure the Army’s air defense capability can stop the PRC’s medium- and long-range missiles. Reinstitute the pre-Iraq and Afghanistan Army division structures and reassign Brigade Combat Team force multipliers back to division command and control.
Many will say that this is all too expensive. Hogwash. We are piling trillions and trillions of dollars into non-productive social welfare dependency programs at the expense of free market enterprise, self-dignity, and jobs. Build up our Armed Forces with all that money and give people jobs to do it. Another full stop.
In all this, our alliances will be crucial, both formal and coalition. It is so very sad that across the Pacific region, we have but a few truly functioning security alliances (Australia, Japan, South Korea), but no vision for a decisive NATO-like alliance to contain the expansive hegemonic pursuits of the PRC. China has far surpassed the capability and threat we saw from the Soviet Union when we led the establishment of NATO in 1949, so why are we not actively pursuing the establishment of something like a Pacific Alliance Treaty Organization (PATO), which could stand as the military bastion against China? In addition to Taiwan, countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia are all clearly threatened by China. There are more, including potentially someday Russia. And as a price for our continuing participation in NATO, we should ensure our European allies are members of PATO and make them bring their guns with them.
Finally, once our military is on an irreversible path to Pacific region military dominance, we must put forth policy that is unambiguous to China. Any military effort to overthrow or dominate Taiwan will be met with a strong and decisive U.S. response, and the same is true for our allies (PATO?) in the region as well.
All these things can and must be done if we are to continue to reinvigorate and lead the global pursuit for liberty. And they must be done now and with great energy and purpose. Time is short. Our issue today is that we lack the leadership and the will to achieve them. Our security and our future as a free and democratic beacon are the responsibility of our government. Who is our future national leader who will bring all this to the fore, help us develop the national will and purpose to save ourselves, and save freedom and democracy for our future generations? We must — must — elect him or her as our next president, along with a supportive Congress, or our future will most surely be determined by the communist leaders in Beijing. Again, time is short.
B.B. Bell, General, U.S. Army (Ret), is a member of The Patriot Post's National Advisory Committee. He served in uniform for almost four decades, including extended deployments overseas in both peace and war.
- foreign policy
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