The US can’t fight China for Taiwan, but it can help Taiwan make China think twice about starting a war

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that US Special Forces and Marines had secretly been training Taiwanese troops on counter-invasion tactics.

On Friday, the semi-official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, the Global Times, warned the presence of US troops in Taiwan will accelerate “preparations for military actions” and that once “war breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, those US. Military personnel will be the first to be eliminated.”

In combination with the recent increase in the number of Chinese warplanes flying into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, this latest development continues a trend of rising tensions between the United States and China over the flashpoint of Taiwan.

As I have previously written in these pages, there is virtually no scenario in which the US fights a war with China that we don’t come out severely harmed; in a worst-case scenario, we stumble into a catastrophic nuclear conflict.

Before a crisis is thrust upon us, there is a clear imperative for the White House to consider the ramifications of being drawn into an unwinnable war. Of even greater importance, the US should identify non-kinetic means to protect our country, its security, and future prosperity in the event of a Taiwan crisis.

Fortunately, there are viable alternatives to war that could see our security strengthened vis-à-vis China. Unfortunately, few in Washington are interested in these more prudent solutions.

Secretary of the Navy Carols Del Toro gave a lecture to the midshipmen of the Naval Academy on Tuesday in which he said it is the Navy’s “ultimate responsibility to deter [China] from what they’re trying to accomplish, including taking over Taiwan.”

The secretary is essentially seeking to make the US armed forces the de facto security force for Taiwan. Under no circumstances should that aspiration become US policy.

Del Toro isn’t the only one who thinks we should commit to defending Taiwan, however, as a growing chorus of leading voices call for just such a policy change.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler cosponsored the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act which would authorize “the president to use military force to defend Taiwan against a direct attack.” Such provocation would make war more, not less, likely. Meanwhile, the promise of US protection would perversely incentivize Taiwan to do less for its own security.

My colleague at Defense Priorities, policy director Benjamin Friedman, argued on Thursday that instead of leading Taiwanese authorities to believe the United States will…

 

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