As China steadily raises the pressure on Taiwan, curiosity intensifies throughout the world about the likely U.S. reaction in the event of an outright military invasion of Taiwan by the People's Republic.
Successive American administrations have been noncommittal about whether such an event would trigger an American military response of some sort; the relevant agreement between the United States and Taiwan is ambiguous on the point.
But if in such an eventuality the American response was confined to the usual diplomatic remonstrations and no direct combat assistance, it would be rightly seen by the world as a humiliating climbdown by the United States – with devastating fallout additionally for our allies in the region, especially Australia, Japan and South Korea.
It might even be seen as the turning point at which China surpassed the United States as the world's most important and influential country. It would also produce a powerful wave of revulsion within the American population; no matter how firmly attached many Americans may now be to the current faddish wokeness, only the tiny minority of pathological Americophobic self-haters would be pleased to see the United States so overwhelmingly shamed and humbled in the world.
It would be the culmination of President Richard Nixon’s famous invocation of "the pitiful, helpless, giant." The recent Anchorage, Alaska, mini-summit did not convey a sense of confident American responses to wild Chinese invective.
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It is hard for us to be confident that the Biden administration would be purposeful in such circumstances.
It appears to be the only source of confidence in the world that the government of Afghanistan is going to survive the withdrawal of an almost tokenistic 3,500 American armed forces personnel. The U.S. tepid response to the Chinese outrages in Hong Kong, violating its treaty with possibly America's closest and most distinguished ally, the United Kingdom, and the feeble response to the Chinese genocidal activities inflicted on the Uyghurs, are not encouraging.
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The mindset of the senior officer class and recently retired senior officers (many of them now with their mouths in the trough of woke corporations), appears to be much more firmly focused on national self-criticism and monitoring the armed forces for possible inadequate deference to America's ethnic minorities than on the traditional role of the country’s officer class-maximum capability to defend, non-politically, the legitimate national interest of the United States wherever it is threatened. The avoidance of politically active military leaders was perhaps the principal reason that President Thomas Jefferson founded the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Our State Department's recent invitation to the U.N. to monitor purported systemic racism in America likewise does not convey American purpose and singularity.
As a straight military question, a successful invasion of Taiwan by the People's Republic of China would be a large challenge: the passage across the Formosa Straits is four times as wide as the route from the British South Coast to the Normandy beaches. Taiwan has a large and well-equipped and highly motivated Army and Air Force and China would need absolute air AND NAVAL superiority to move the 750,000 soldiers that would probably be required as a minimum, in slow-moving craft, which there is no evidence that China even possess at this point, to beachheads on Taiwan.
It would be inexcusably dangerous for the United States to put Nimitz class aircraft carriers within range of the most destructive Chinese surface to surface missiles, but the intervention of significant numbers of American aircraft, drones and missiles to interdict the sea route for an invasion and contest the sky above it, should be sufficient to prevent a successful assault.
The defeat and failure of such an ambitious and belligerent initiative by the People's Republic would be a much greater humiliation of that country and regime then the United States would endure if it merely shrugged sanctimoniously and allowed it to occur. In all of the circumstances, though we were not entirely agreed in our discussion, but were unanimous that the Biden administration is doing its best to avoid any suggestion of possessing steadfast deterrent capacity.
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China would be taking an appalling risk if it embarked on such an enterprise. After their immense strategic triumph in allowing the coronavirus to erupt into the world and cripple its chief competitors, and their aggressive self-assertion in the South China Sea, we do not feel qualified to discount as impossible that the swaggering leadership in Beijing might take the risk in what, if successful, would be a mighty accretion of Chinese power and influence.
Fox News contributors Bill Bennett, Victor Davis Hanson and historian and writer Conrad Black are co-hosts of the podcast "Scholars & Sense." Join them as they discuss the issues of the day, going beyond the noise and talking points to get to the heart of the matter.
Dr. William J. Bennett is a Fox News contributor and former United States secretary of education (1985-1988) and director of the National Office of Drug Control Policy. He is one of America’s most influential and respected voices on cultural, political, and educational issues. His latest book is a single-edition volume of his acclaimed trilogy, "America: The Last Best Hope (One-Volume Edition)" Thomas Nelson; One Volume ed. edition (October 22, 2019) which tells the inspiring narrative of our exceptional nation.
Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is the author of more than two dozen books, ranging in topics from ancient Greece to modern America. He lives in Selma, California.