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Freedom Is on the March?

President Bush loves to say that "freedom is on the march." From the second presidential debate this year:

President Bush: Freedom is on the march. Tomorrow, Afghanistan will be voting for a president. In Iraq, we'll be having free elections, and a free society will make this world more peaceful.
Of course, as was pointed out in the first debate:
Senator Kerry: As George Will said the other day, "Freedom on the march; not in Russia right now."
Yes, it's true that 146 million Russians are substantially less free than they were four years ago. But we need a strong ally in the War on Terror, so we barely say a word about President Putin. Besides, 25 million Iraqis are more free than they were four years ago. Well, as long as they stay indoors. And bolt the doors. But I'm picking nits here.

Anyway, as long as we're watching nations slip from democracy to placate our supposed allies in the War on Terror, why not Taiwan? We need the help of the Chinese when it comes to North Korea, and Taiwan is a real thorn in China's side. Let's not let the fact that they're a vibrant democracy get in our way. After all, there are only 22 million people in Taiwan, but China has 1,286 million people. We have to look at the big picture here.

Oh, sorry, I forgot: the US apparently signaled a major shift on Taiwan this week while no one was looking. At least no one in the US. It would seem the Taiwanese and Chinese were looking. From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

US signals policy shift on Taiwan

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has expressed support for the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China, in an apparent shift from the previously agnostic American policy on the island's future.

And in what could be a rebuttal of recent claims by Taiwan's independence-leaning President, Chen Shui-bian, Mr Powell said that Taiwan does not possess "sovereignty as a nation".

Bruce Jacobs, a leading Taiwan specialist at Monash University, said the remarks indicated a distinct change from the previous American position. "It may not be intentional, but it is a shift," Professor Jacobs said from Taipei. "If I were a leader here, I would be pretty concerned," he added.

And from an AP story:

Secretary of State Colin Powell has angered Taiwanese officials and lawmakers by making unusually strong comments denying that the island is an independent nation and suggesting Taiwan should unify with China...

According to a State Department transcript, Powell told Phoenix: "There is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy." ...

Rebuking Powell without mentioning him by name, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian told visiting former South Korean President Kim Young-sam on Tuesday that the island is a separate nation.

"Taiwan is absolutely a sovereign, independent nation. It's a great nation, and it absolutely does not belong to the People's Republic of China. That is the present situation, that is the reality," Chen said....

Taiwanese Premier Yu Shyi-kun made a terse response to Powell's comment. "Taiwan is a sovereign, independent nation. This is reality," Yu told reporters Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Mark Chen told lawmakers that Powell used "heavy language" that left "a deep impression" on Taiwan. He also complained Washington didn't warn Taiwan that Powell would depart from long-standing policy.

"They (America) hope that we'll try hard not to give them any surprises. They've really dropped an extremely big surprise on us," said Chen, adding that Taiwan had asked for explanations from U.S. officials in Washington and Taiwan.

Powell's statement seems both immoral and clumsy to me. It's immoral in that we're selling out a long-time ally simply to appease its larger neighbor in order to gain its continued help on other issues. It's clumsy in that it could easily worsen the situation. By driving Taiwan into an ever-smaller corner, we may well be fueling sentiment there for declaring independence.

Can the Bush team get anything right? Anything?


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I saw Powell's comments in a story buried in the news somewhere and was appalled. I'm astonished that this hasn't become a larger issue.

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