If You Live in Taiwan, Time to Worry

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Taiwan needs to worry about American reliability. Unlike Afghanistan, where the United States had committed its forces for two decades, Taiwan has no U.S. forces and no assurance that the United States will come to their defense if attacked by China.

The United States has a bad habit of walking out on its allies and friends.

The list is long. It includes Vietnam and Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran.

In all of those cases, one way or another, the United States, for its own reasons, took a hike.

Obama pulled U.S. troops from Iraq, opening the door to Iran. While the United States has a few thousand soldiers still in Iraq in training and advisory capacities, they’re under siege and it’s unlikely the United States will protect them.

In fact, President Joe Biden has said the United States will end combat missions in Iraq by the end of 2021. Unless U.S. troops are pulled out in the middle of the night, as they were in Afghanistan, they’ll quite possibly have to shoot themselves out while exiting.

Carter let Iran collapse into chaos and refused to support the Shah. Prior to that time, the United States had massively supplied Iran with weapons and military advisors. But when the Shah asked for help, he got none. The collapse of the Shah’s regime, without U.S. backing, was a foregone conclusion.

Nixon let Vietnam and Cambodia go down the drain, trying to cover their tracks with the so-called Paris Peace Accords that required U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Vietnam, a key demand of North Vietnam. South Vietnam hung on for a while, but without U.S. airpower and support, they couldn’t win against a North Vietnamese army supported by Russia and China.

The debacle in Cambodia involved the mass murder of perhaps 2 million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge over a three-year period. Washington could have prevented it but didn’t. The United States was fully aware of what the Khmer Rouge was doing as the flow of starved and brutalized victims flowed into Phnom Penh as the impending collapse gained momentum. (The author was in Cambodia in the last two weeks of the war.)

The United States also let mass murder happen elsewhere, although the United States wasn’t under any specific obligation to intervene. The Rwanda genocide in 1994 took the lives of 1.1 million people in that country.

The U.N. had a peace-keeping mission there (UNAMIR), but because of restrictive rules of engagement and logistical limitations, those forces failed to stop the genocide. Its head, a Canadian named Romeo Dallaire, afterward tried to commit suicide four times.

No one (yet) is saying there’s anything comparable happening in Afghanistan, but the future there looks bleak. Already, there are numerous reports of executions of Afghan army soldiers and many murders.

In Taiwan, a prosperous middle-class, Asian country, there’s a palpable fear of China. The United States is obligated to supply Taiwan with defense materials under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

By Stephen Bryen

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