|US Defense Strategy Changes Focus
Reprinted from the Taipei Journal, Sept. 22, 2000
By Floyd Ciruli
Americans are shifting their defense interests to Asia, which is creating a new bipolar strategy and causing the rethinking of many old alliances and doctrines. The last decade has made clear that the Asian economy is critically linked to the world economy, as evidenced through its alternately stimulating and dragging effect on markets and trade.
While the economic power of the Far East has been long known, what is newly visible is the shift of western and especially America's defense strategy toward Asia.
End of Cold War
Recent events give Americans good reason to turn their attention East.
The shift of military interest to the East and creation of a more bipolar strategy includes concern about the Indian Ocean: India's hostility toward China, its independent nuclear arsenal and confrontation with nuclear-armed Pakistan makes the subcontinent a global hot spot.
New Relationships and Defense Doctrines
The welcome reduction of tension on the Korean peninsula also requires rethinking of military strategy as America's role as guarantor of peace becomes less certain. And the long U.S. and Japanese strategic partnership will be transformed given these new forces.
The recent Okinawa G8 conference highlighted these trends, including local opposition to American troops stationed in Japan, Russian proposals concerning North Korea's missile program and a lively debate on America's proposed missile defense system.
The China and Free Trade
The recent debate over permanent trade status for China highlighted the ambivalence Americans feel toward China. While a slight majority of the public in most polls supported the concept of trade as a mechanism to reform nations such as China, when asked specific questions about China's human rights record or its labor practices, public opinion shifted to opposition of free trade with China.
Although there remains a bi-partisan elite consensus that trade is the best tool for building democracy, there are significant opposition forces. Groups on both the American left and right have converged to oppose free trade and China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Ernesto Zedillo, who is credited with finally bringing democracy to Mexico's moribund party system, articulated the human rights alternative when he rejected the "theories that say a country can prosper only with economic freedom."
Taiwan and Military Action
Colorado opinion is scattered among a range of possible responses on the question of defending Taiwan from military attack by China. About a third (37%) of Douglas County voters believe the U.S. should defend Taiwan against China either directly or in an alliance. Another 21 percent support providing weapons. But a quarter (23%) favor avoiding all military action and prefer either condemning China or doing nothing at all. Seventeen percent haven't formed an opinion.
Question: Communist has told the island of Taiwan that unless it begins negotiations to unify with the mainland, China will use force to take control of the island. What should America do if China attacks Taiwan with military force?
Women are much less supportive than men of taking military action to defense Taiwan. Sixty-five percent of men favor taking some military action (i.e., use force or provide weapons), compared to only 51 percent of women. Democrats (28%) and Republicans (29%) are similar in their support for the U.S. to defend Taiwan with an alliance, but more Republicans (14%) than Democrats (5%) support using American troops as a first resort.
There is considerable research on the conditions that must exist in order to justify the use of force, including a clearly indenified enemy guilty of serious acts against American interests and allies. So far, little has been done by American policy makers to justify use of military force. Hence, while Americans now see China as the major threat and Taiwan as the flash point, they do not have a commitment to use force if necessary to stop military agression.
But, due to the economic importance, the large number of tension points and the growing domestic political constituency especially in America's Pacific rim states, China and other Far East Asian nations now have an important and urgent roll in American policy making. This bipolar outlook is the defense news at the start of the decade.