Washington’s Missing China Strategy
To Counter Beijing, the Biden Administration Needs to Decide What It Wants
The defense of Taiwan remains at the heart of the issue of China. The recent initiatives of Peking and Washington, and the impending presidential visit, have inspired hopeful speculation. Discussion has centered on formulas for recognition and entry into the United Nations. Our alliance with the Republic of China on Taiwan has been given less consideration, and its implications are optimistically avoided. But our security relationship with Taiwan-in particular the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954-dictates certain diplomatic solutions and precludes others. Definitive choices will have to be made, and illusions of entertaining contradictory positions will have to be abandoned. If the consequences of our defense arrangement are not grasped, and the problems not deliberately resolved, the expectations that have been aroused may be unfulfilled, and the United States may proceed to underwrite a new order in East Asia that offers at best a tense military equilibrium and perpetual American involvement in the political evolution of the region.
Two inquiries are in order: one into the logic, the other into the facts. The logic is that alliance with Taipei and relations with Peking are mutually exclusive. And the facts are that our military support is unnecessary for the immediate defense of Taiwan, and the island in turn is unnecessary for the security of the United States and its regional interests. Therefore, the military value of Taiwan is not a sufficient reason for upholding the indefinite partition of China. Yet the consequences of ending the alliance would be more significant than is generally appreciated, for it would not only signal abandonment of the containment of China but threaten the concept of collective security.
Our defense relationship with Taiwan is integral to the question of recognizing the governments and states of China. Each diplomatic alternative has specific implications for the status of the treaty and the territory to be defended:
(1) One China (Taipei). This stance implies no change in our treaty arrangements. It does not discourage the nationalists' occupation of the Offshore Islands, which confirms their claim to sovereignty over more than the province of Taiwan. (We have recognized the Government of the Republic of China as "legitimately occupying and exercising jurisdiction over Taiwan and the Pescadores." This modality has permitted Taipei its pretensions, while allowing us to deal with Peking.)
(2) Two Chinas. Juridical acknowledgment of two governments, each sovereign in its territory, would be a profound change. Such an attitude is noncommittal as to nationalist control of the Offshore Islands as long as this does not prejudice the security of Taiwan. It is compatible with the Mutual Defense Treaty, but begs the question of whether Taipei would acquiesce.
(3) One China/One Taiwan. This formula differs from Two Chinas in suggesting the secession of Taiwan rather than the partition of China. It also differs in its military and political consequences. It implies that Taiwan must relinquish the Offshore Islands since they are not part of the province. It also implies our support for self-determination. This end- state would be compatible with the defense treaty, though it is difficult to imagine how we could arrive at it.
(4) One China (Peking). This position affirms the territorial integrity of China but recognizes the verdict of the civil war. The Offshore Islands would be an internal problem. In some recent discussions, Peking has ignored our defense treaty with Taiwan, stimulating the hope that we might conveniently retain it But the alliance would become an illegal compact with an appendage of China that would have recognized no international status, and the resolution of this contradiction could not long be postponed.
The choice among the formulas of recognition is also a choice between two competing principles of international law. (1) The Government of the Republic of China has been in effective and continuous control of Taiwan and the Pescadores since 1945. It would be inconsistent to ignore this same demonstration of effective control that commends our recognition of the People's Republic of China as the government of the mainland. (2) On the other hand, we have historically tended to respect the territorial integrity of states in general and the theoretical unity of China in particular (notably in the Cairo Declaration of 1943 and President Truman's statement of January 1950). It is within this tradition that we might-as did Britain in 1949, after the removal of the nationalist capital from the mainland-simply withdraw recognition from Taipei and extend it to Peking. One virtue of such a procedure is that it chooses among governments and avoids a redefinition of states.
The Administration is seeking a version of dual identity for China, both in the United Nations and in relations with Peking, without assuming a definite legal attitude. This quest is expressive of the delicate balance of U.S. interests. On the one hand, state relations with Peking would benefit the United States by (a) offsetting the Soviets in a triangular world power balance; (b) creating the possibility of involving China in future multilateral agreements on arms control and peace in Southeast Asia; and (c) opening China to American commerce. On the other hand, affirmation of the integrity of Taiwan takes account of (a) the tradition of support for the Republic of China; (b) concern for the fate of the Taiwanese people; (c) deference to Japan's interests; and (d) the perception of the strategic value of the island.
But Two Chinas, or One China/One Taiwan, or even Taiwanese "autonomy" within Chinese "sovereignty," underwritten by our continuing military guarantee, is a theoretical compromise, not a practical reconciliation. Two interlocked propositions deserve consideration. The first is that this solution would not work, even if we could get it. Taiwan by itself would not be a stable entity, internationally or internally; it would fundamentally rely on the protection of American power, and it might provoke China to use force against it. The White House might calculate that it can trade on China's anxiety over its northern frontier to drive a hard bargain over Taiwan. But Peking is unlikely, over the long term, to accept any relic of containment or intrusion on its sovereignty. If the enforced separation of Taiwan endured, China might, as opportunity permits, mount probes against Taiwan or the Offshore Islands. (Vietnam may have obscured our memory of the extended and severe Strait crises of 1954-55 and 1958 that brought the United States to the brink of a direct-even nuclear-war with China.)
Even certain advocates of the One China (Peking) solution hope for a graceful integration of Taiwan and the mainland under the mantle of our protective guarantee. But the United States has, since the mid-1950s, tried several times to induce China to agree formally to the renunciation of force in the Taiwan Strait. It has become clear in these discussions that Peking might agree to settle all disputes "through peaceful negotiations," but will not accept any qualification that reserves for Taiwan "the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense." This position might seem inconsistent, but it accurately represents the paradox of Peking's probable behavior toward Taiwan. If the United States were to accept China's historic objectives, then China would not seek to attain them by belligerent means, but would work toward a peaceful or even nominal accession. The preservation of the Mutual Defense Treaty, however, is not in harmony with the renunciation of force. We cannot compel a peaceful evolution of authority on Taiwan.
The second proposition is that we are not likely to reach a Two China solution-attaining our new interests in China while preserving our old interests in Taiwan-because the terms are contradictory. President Nixon, in his foreign policy message of February 1971, denies the incompatibility: "I do not believe that this honorable and peaceful association need constitute an obstacle to the movement toward normal relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China." But in characterizing our alliance-correctly-as "exclusively defensive," he avoids the essential point: that it represents our protection of the integrity of Taiwan, a condition that Peking will not accept. Although the Mutual Defense Treaty itself does not define the legal status of Taiwan or affect its ultimate sovereignty, adherence to the treaty in fact precludes recognition of Peking, even as the government of the mainland only. Of the four formulas, Peking rejects the three that are compatible with the defense treaty; and Taipei rejects the three that allow recognition of Peking. What remains is a choice between the approach to China and the defense of Taiwan.
It is appropriate to review the circumstances and conditions of our security relationship with Taiwan. U.S. responsibility for the defense of Taiwan began with the decision of President Truman, on June 27, 1950, three days after the outbreak of the Korean War, to interpose the Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Strait, protecting the island from the communists and barring the nationalists from offensive actions against the mainland. This was a reversal of his policy of January 1950, which had expressed neutrality toward the determination, even by force, of the issue of Taiwan. In agreements of January and February 1951 and subsequently, the United States undertook to provide military materiel and advice. In September 1952, a U.S. Formosa Defense Command was formed. In February 1953, President Eisenhower "unleashed" Chiang Kai-shek by deleting that part of the mission of the Seventh Fleet that restrained nationalist attacks on the mainland. In August and September 1954, possibly in reaction to the concurrent SEATO negotiations, the communists mounted a series of attacks on nationalist positions on Quemoy and the Tachens, began to mass along the coast opposing the Offshore Islands and Taiwan, and accelerated the construction of airfields near the Strait. To harass and retaliate, nationalist air and naval forces staged heavy raids.
A Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of China, negotiated in Washington during October and November 1954, was signed by Secretary of State Dulles and Foreign Minister Yeh on December 2 and submitted to the Senate for ratification. On November 1, 1954, and again on January 10, 1955, large armadas of communist planes bombarded the Tachens. On January 18, 4,000 communist troops seized the island of Ichiang, off the mainland 200 miles north of Taiwan. On January 24, President Eisenhower requested from Congress a joint resolution authorizing the President to employ United States forces to defend Taiwan, and also the Offshore Islands if in his judgment an attack on them was related to an attack on Taiwan itself. This Formosa Resolution passed the House by 410 to 3 on January 25, and the Senate by 83 to 3 on January 28. The Senate advised ratification of the Mutual Defense Treaty on February 9. During that week, the U.S. Seventh Fleet evacuated the nationalists from the Tachens, which were subsequently occupied by the communists. The Strait crisis lasted until May 22, when an informal ceasefire prevailed. Throughout the period of tension, anxious debates were conducted within our government as to whether the nationalists could defend themselves without our active intervention, and whether we would have to use nuclear weapons against Red Chinese airfields.
Forged in the Korean War and the Strait crisis, our defense arrangement with Taiwan suited Dulles' diplomacy of containment, deterrence and collective security. Also, the Mutual Defense Treaty was a compensation to Chiang for accepting a cauterization of the civil war along its existing territorial division. Other motives were access to Taiwan as a base for U.S. forces and preservation of the nationalist army for possible use on the mainland. The salient points of the Mutual Defense Treaty are: Article II, in which the parties agree to resist "armed attack and communist subversive activities directed from without against their territorial integrity and political stability;" Article V, in which each party "recognizes that an armed attack in the West Pacific Area directed against the territories of either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes;" Article VI, which defines the territory to be defended as "Taiwan and the Pescadores" and "such other territories as may be determined by mutual agreement;" Article VII, in which the Republic of China grants "the right to dispose such United States land, air and sea forces in and about Taiwan and the Pescadores as may be required for their defense, as determined by mutual agreement;" and Article X, which gives either party the right to "terminate [the treaty] one year after notice has been given to the other Party."
An Exchange of Notes on December 10, 1954, postulates that the "use of force [against the mainland from Taiwan or the Offshore Islands] will be a matter of joint agreement." It also provides that "military elements which are a product of joint effort and contribution by the two Parties will not be removed from [Taiwan and the Pescadores] to a degree which would substantially diminish the defensibility of such territories without mutual agreement"-a clause that is interpreted to apply to the nationalists rather than the United States. In addition, the State Department has said that "the Government of the Republic of China is aware that we would not consider ourselves bound by the obligations of the Mutual Defense Treaty in the event of a Chinese Communist attack on Taiwan and the Pescadores provoked by GRC offensive action against the mainland to which we had not agreed." As for the Formosa Resolution, which extends unilateral and discretionary United States protection to "related positions and territories," the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in July 1971 recommended its repeal. The State Department had already notified Senator Fulbright in March 1970 that "in the event of a new crisis in the Formosa Strait, this Administration would not view the continued existence of the Formosa Resolution as a source of congressional authority"-a stipulation that leaves the Mutual Defense Treaty itself as the only authority for intervention.
Let us examine the cost, necessity and advantages of our military position on Taiwan, and the consequences of abandoning it. It has been suggested that our contribution to the defense of Taiwan should be cancelled as part of a program to cut the costs of overseas deployments. An assessment of cost depends on the way one looks at the question. Current United States military expenditures in Taiwan, though not negligible in absolute terms, are minor in comparison with those in other countries on the periphery of China. We have fewer than 9,000 military personnel on Taiwan, of which about 5,000 are involved with the war in Southeast Asia. Before 1966, only 3,700 United States troops were on Taiwan. The Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) has been reduced to under 400. The U.S. Taiwan Defense Command, a subordinate unified command reporting to the Commander in Chief/Pacific (CINCPAC) in Hawaii, is primarily a planning staff, now under 200 persons, and controls no combat forces. Also, our national strategy does not provide ground forces for a defense of Taiwan, even against the largest communist assault; and air and naval forces to be detailed to the area in such a contingency would be diverted from other requirements and therefore are not a marginal expense. Military assistance for fiscal 1972, in all categories, will total $112 million (up from $82 million in fiscal 1971). There has been virtually no economic assistance since 1965.
Over the long haul, however, our assistance to Taiwan has been considerable. From 1950 to 1972, the Republic of China will have received military and economic aid, in all categories, of almost $6 billion, a figure exceeded in East Asia only by Korea and Vietnam. But these are "sunk costs," and count as reasons neither for maintaining nor for curtailing our commitment and military posture on Taiwan.
Figures on overt expenditures exclude, however, an important budgetary concern. In the fiscal 1972 defense budget, general purpose forces oriented to Asia will cost $19 billion. If we consider China the source of our Asian requirements, and Taiwan the principal obstacle to a relationship with China that would generate lower requirements, then the real annual cost of our military position on Taiwan is a large fraction of this $19 billion.
In challenging the military validity of our defense arrangement with Taiwan, we must first ask whether our commitment is necessary for the security of Taiwan itself. The worst imaginable threat-a massive communist amphibious invasion-is not likely and would not succeed, according to studies done in the Pentagon in the late 1960s. This would be true even without United States air or naval intervention, and certainly without invoking nuclear contingency plans such as those readied during the Strait crises of 1954-55 and 1958. Peking knows this and has not been building toward such an attack. The communists can airlift only 5,000 troops, and have amphibious vessels for only 30,000 in the first, or assault, wave. There is, of course, the legendary "junk threat;" Red China could, in theory, assemble enough local shipping to carry 350,000 troops across the 100-mile Strait. But even these troops would not be assured of landing. In such attacks the advantage is with the defender by a ratio of 3:1, and there are 320,000 nationalist army troops and 36,000 marines on Taiwan. In addition, the nationalist air force and navy could inflict serious losses on an invading force, both during its staging and its deployment.
An air attack of the communists could pit 1,200 (of their 3,300) light bomber and fighter-attack planes against 350 Nationalist planes and several air defense missile battalions. But the nationalist force could survive such an air assault, since the assault would be impaired by limited payload and time over target; inaccuracy in the face of anti-aircraft fire; dispersion and concealment of targets; and loss of aircraft. A series of air battles might, however, deplete the nationalist air inventory.
Even the island of Quemoy, only a few thousand yards from the port of Amoy, presents the prospect of a bloodbath for an attacking communist force. The nationalists have 65,000 troops on Quemoy and Little Quemoy and have spent the 17 years since the communist bombardment of 1954-55 digging in to indestructible positions, with landing areas thickly protected and armored forces in reserve to defeat attempts to establish a beachhead. In 1949, in their last large-scale invasion of Quemoy, communist forces were repulsed by nationalist armor with heavy casualties. A more promising strategy would be a blockade, as in 1958, when only a U.S. escort for supply convoys saved Quemoy.
The cost and indeterminate outcome of an attack on Taiwan or the Offshore Islands suggest that the Chinese communists would not pursue this course soon, especially when negotiations were in progress with the United States toward recognition and other accommodations. Even much later, Peking would be reluctant to jeopardize years of painstaking diplomacy, court the risk of retaliation and expend large forces in such an adventure.
Is our military access to Taiwan, and its denial to the communists, of significant advantage to the United States? The term "strategic importance" has been lavishly applied, as an absolute property, to many territories or positions. In actuality, however, this attribute is relative to larger national strategies and objectives, which are never absolute but always under review. Taiwan has no irreplaceable military functions and offers no unique strategic advantages, except for a landing on the mainland-a nationalist objective which we do not share.[i]
A commentary on the military value of Taiwan is the fact that until 1966 there was no major American base there, and only one combat unit-a detachment of fighter-attack planes from the 405th Fighter Wing in the Philippines that arrived at Tainan Air Base in 1962 (a second detachment, for air defense, arrived in 1969). In part, this may simply testify to the availability and greater political flexibility of Okinawa; but this only underscores the point that there would always be inhibiting political connotations in a large U.S. military use of Taiwan.
In fact, the two air operations that we established since 1966-expanding on our treaty right to use nationalist facilities in the common defense-are entirely devoted to support of the Indochina war. In 1966 the first contingent of the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing arrived at Ching Chuan Kang Air Base to inaugurate an intra-theater air transport facility that ultimately employed 64 C-130s to ferry food and supplies to our forces in Vietnam. This facility was regarded simply as a convenient alternative to our crowded bases in the Philippines. It is now declining, along with the reduction of our troop level in Vietnam. In January 1968 we based the 4220th Air Refueling Squadron, with 21 KC-135 tanker aircraft, at Ching Chuan Kang, to refuel B-52s on bombing runs to Indochina from Guam and Okinawa. With the covert encouragement of American military officials, the nationalists have extended and strengthened the runways at Hsinchu and one other air base to accommodate B-52 operations as a possible alternative to Okinawa.
The United States maintains the 327th Air Division headquarters in Taipei, as a satellite of the 13th Air Force at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. This headquarters supports all United States air operations on Taiwan and coördinates American with nationalist air activities over Taiwan and the Strait. Bases on Taiwan have served as the point of origin of aerial surveillance, manned and unmanned, along the coast and over the mainland. Cryptological intelligence is collected and processed at the large installation at Shu-lin-kuo Air Station. The minor portion of this intelligence is relevant to the security of Taiwan itself; the remainder can be replaced through other locations or technologies. A very small number of the tactical nuclear weapons we keep in the Pacific is stored on Taiwan. The Defense Department has proposed that the President authorize the removal of larger numbers of nuclear weapons from Okinawa to Taiwan. But this unlikely proposal is founded on the marginal rationales of convenience and cost-effectiveness and is not strategically compelling.
It can no longer be argued convincingly that the very existence of the forces of the Republic of China-equivalent to 21 army and 2 marine divisions-immobilizes large communist forces in the opposite provinces of the mainland. A rough examination of the deployments of the People's Liberation Army reveals that the 28 divisions in the three military regions opposite Taiwan represent only the average national distribution, and the 25 additional divisions in the adjacent Canton and Wuhan military regions represent only slightly more than the average. In any case, even if the nationalist threat pinned down disproportionate forces, the beneficiaries would be the Soviets.
The possible use of nationalist forces in an Asian war, other than a conflict over Taiwan itself, is now almost totally illusory. Though very minor special units (such as a 31-man psychological warfare team) were sent to Vietnam, and some covert operations have been revealed, the repeated requests of CINCPAC for the dispatch of a light division or engineer unit were denied by Washington. The political disadvantages of reintroducing nationalist troops onto the mainland weighed against the tactical contribution.
Of course, Taiwan might become more valuable if we lost the use of Okinawa. But any circumstances in which Japan denied us the use of Okinawa would also be circumstances in which our commitments to Korea and Japan would themselves be inoperative or pointless and would therefore not require Taiwan as an alternative. And in a larger sense, the conditions that might justify the need for either Okinawa or Taiwan would be obviated by the same change in our China policy that caused us to give up our military position on Taiwan.
The importance of Taiwan to "the integrity of the island barrier in the Pacific," though not perceived by General MacArthur in 1949, became a dogma during the Eisenhower administration. But the barrier concept is no more than a geographical gestalt, and does not stand up to specific military analysis. The same factors that inhibit China's ability to invade Taiwan itself, or even the Offshore Islands, militate against China's use of Taiwan as a base to threaten the Philippines or Okinawa. Evocative metaphors must yield to a sober appreciation of the practical difficulties of moving a decisive quantity of men and firepower over several hundred miles of ocean, holding captured ground against counterattack, and supplying and protecting forces in the face of air and naval attack. The physical recovery of Taiwan would leave China far short of the threshold for aggression against neighboring islands.
If we were to abandon our defense arrangement on Taiwan, what would be the effects on the pattern of regional security? There are two aspects: the efficacy of deterrence, and the will and allegiance of our allies, particularly Japan.
The Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of China is typical of the deterrent alliances fashioned by Secretary Dulles in East Asia. In his argument for the treaty before the Senate, he identified two purposes: " (1) It would give the Chinese Communists notice, beyond any possibility of misinterpretation, that the United States would regard an armed attack directed against Taiwan and the Pescadores as a danger to its own peace and safety and would act to meet the danger. . . (2) It would provide firm reassurance to the Republic of China and to the world that Taiwan and the Pescadores are not a subject for barter as part of some Far Eastern 'deal' with the Chinese Communists." These alliances were not designed to contribute net strength to the United States or to furnish positions strategically advantageous to the protection of other allied territory. They were designed, rather, to demarcate the border with the communist world. The demarcation itself, the equipping of indigenous forces, and the threat of massive retaliation were elements in the stabilization of large and important areas. Thus, the alliance with the Republic of China shielded territory of arbitrary value with a minimal expenditure of American resources and an unidentifiable gain in American security. But the "pactomania" of that period was not irrational. Since, under that concept, an infinitely extensive area can be defended with the same infinitely extensible means, each pact costs nothing and produces at least fictive gains.
Conversely, terminating our alliance with the Republic of China would not impair our defense capability either in limited or general war, increase our defense burden or diminish our security. As for the effect on deterrence itself, two factors cancel each other out: annexation by Peking would be encouraged by the withdrawal of our support, but the use of force might be less indicated as Taipei's morale deteriorated.
A thorough realignment of our relations with China and our military situation on Taiwan would accelerate the disintegration of our treaty system in East Asia. Lesser allies, such as Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea, might seek an accommodation with Peking and hedge hostile relationships with other regional states. Some, inspired by other ambiguous American behavior, have already begun to explore such arrangements. But such an eventuality would be less than a disaster. After twenty years, the alliance system may have fulfilled its basic and limited purpose; either the nations on China's periphery have used the protection and assistance well, or they probably never will. It may be time for them to adjust to their communist neighbors and to China's irrefutable ascendancy. And after giving $40 to $50 billion in subsidies, we are entitled now to question the further value to us of our East Asian connections. Most clients appear as interminable military aid recipients. The argument that military assistance is a substitute for direct U. S. deployments begs the questions of whether our clients' security is parallel to ours and whether our continuing patronage is consistent with a new orientation to Peking.
A retrograde American move in Taiwan might put serious pressures on Japan. In contrast with the lesser allies, Japan-it is asserted-might react not only by distinguishing its foreign policy objectives more sharply from those of the United States, but by accelerating its conventional rearmament, acquiring an independent nuclear capability, giving up the security treaty with the United States, and asserting more control over contiguous areas, especially Korea and Taiwan. In the Sato-Nixon communiqué of November 21, 1969, the Japanese Prime Minister threw a protective shadow over Taiwan: "The maintenance of peace and security in the Taiwan area [is] a most important factor for the security of Japan." Subsequent official statements have been more portentous. Japan's increasingly active role could inhibit our diplomacy in the area.
The Administration's moves toward China do not override, but advance, its larger design for East Asia. The President's 1971 foreign policy message contemplates a quadrilateral balance, with China, the United States, Japan and the Soviet Union as countervailing participants, and a buffer of lesser states, including an independent Taiwan, sponsored by the United States and Japan. This pattern is represented as a stable situation in which the United States, with modest effort, could preclude any dominant West Pacific competitor. Containment is not ended, but transformed into something more multiple and complex. But would this state of affairs be durable and profitable for the United States? Taiwan itself could unhinge the architectonics: either internationally, as China becomes more confident, effective and impatient; or internally, if a Taiwanese movement-perhaps with Peking's active sympathy-challenged the present Chinese overlordship. The Administration's manipulation of power in East Asia might indeed produce an equilibrium, but at the cost of continuing American liability and recurrent crises.
The cancellation of our security arrangement with Taiwan would involve a wide pattern of deliberate moves. For example:
(1) After preliminary soundings favored the probability of an agreement, the United States would publicly announce that it had decided to enter talks with Peking that would lead to our recognition of Peking as the government of one China, and that we would accept a status for Taiwan within the Chinese state.
(2) We would concurrently declare that the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taipei would not be consistent with this formula of recognition and exercise our right, under Article X of the treaty, to give one year's notice of termination.
(3) Within the year, we would withdraw all United States military forces from Taiwan and dissolve the U. S. Taiwan Defense Command and the Military Assistance Advisory Group.
(4) We would immediately cancel all military assistance to Taiwan, remove items from the pipeline, suspend commercial sales of military equipment and prevent the further transfer of advanced technology.
(5) At the United Nations, Washington would move to seat Peking in the United Nations and related organizations, and would favor Peking's occupancy of the permanent Chinese seat in the Security Council.
(6) In its strategic planning for the Pacific, the United States would begin to take a mid-Pacific posture. We would move progressively to neutralize the military effects and obligations of our alliances with Korea and Thailand and convert these relationships into associations for economic and technical assistance, political consultation and cultural exchange.
Such a reversal of policy in this situation would have transcendent significance for our international role. First, it would imply a renunciation of the Dulles syndrome of containment, treaties and counter- ideology. Second, it would suggest an alternative American disposition toward the balance of power. In East Asia, in particular, instead of an intricate and strained quadrilateral array of great nations, we might accept a looser system. Third, our removal of force from Taiwan, this extreme outpost in the Western Pacific, would indicate the adoption of "second chance" military strategies. Threats do not develop with the speed of modern communications-a misplaced analogy used to rationalize the need for large ready forces and alert forward defenses. We could allow ourselves time to see if China is "expansionist"-impatient with the prospect of regaining its former province by some brand of politics rather than raw force, or unsatisfied with the restoration of its historical territory. There might be a decade-as in the case of Japan in the 1930s-for us to discern and react to Chinese intentions.
Fourth, an abandonment of our defense commitment to Taiwan would mark a revulsion against the seductive logic of deterrence-a concept that was given a new lease on life as the keynote of the Secretary of Defense's posture statement for fiscal 1972. A premise of deterrence is that strength of will can be a substitute for material military power; the reputation for supporting commitments is a vital element in this model. Unfortunately, the ultimate extension of deterrence is its ultimate perversion: the less valuable the interest, the more necessary it becomes to honor it.
Finally, abrogation of our alliance with the Republic of China would prefigure a repudiation of the obsolescent wisdom of collective security. Collective security has rarely attained its pure form, occasioning full and automatic response, for such an obligation would compromise the essential of national sovereignty, the prerogative of staying out of wars.
At stake are two antithetical principles. One is the stern stricture of John Foster Dulles, the architect of the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of China: "There can never in the long run be real peace unless there is ... the will and the capacity to use force to punish an aggressor." The other is the gentle irony of U Thant: "The idea that . . . war can be used ... to counter aggression and secure the peace seems now to be rather impractical."
To conclude, the military advantages of our defense arrangement with Taiwan are dispensable and should not govern our approach to China. But we are not impelled by budgetary pressures or immediate danger to reduce our position on Taiwan. The decision rests on the larger effects: (1) the bearing of our alliance with Taipei on our diplomacy toward Peking; (2) the consequences of a political realignment for the people of Taiwan; (3) the impact of abandoning this treaty on our alliance structure in East Asia, and particularly on Japan; and (4) the implications of our choice for the future attitude of the United States toward the international system. The last factor, though the least urgent in the immediate decision, may deserve to be the most influential.
[i] This judgment holds despite the ambiguous participation of our Special Forces for almost ten years in joint commando exercises with the nationalists that seemed designed for operations on the mainland of China. Also, our military assistance reflects only the concepts of air and ground defense of Taiwan and air and sea control of the Strait in order to foil an amphibious attack or permit the resupply of the Offshore Islands-though the concept has been stretched to encompass the provision of fighter-attack aircraft capable of bombing mainland airfields.