A couple of bipartisan moments

Just wanted to mention a couple of interesting tidbits today:

  • PoliticoMA and State House News Service are both reporting that Elizabeth Warren would be more than happy to support Scott Brown, whom of course she ejected from the Senate, should he be Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  She believes he will pour his heart and soul into serving our veterans and she will go to bat for him.
  • Meanwhile yours truly may have found a point of agreement with Trump.  Apparently he spoke on the phone today with the President of Taiwan.  Rachel Maddow and the foreign policy establishment are freaking out about it, and who knows where this will ultimately lead, but I have long thought we should recognize the Taipei government as the legitimate government of Taiwan.  This should in no way change that Beijing is the legitimate government of the mainland, but China doesn’t get to tell us whom we do and do not recognize.

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35 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Scott Brown has a heart and a soul to pour out?

    Who knew? I think Sen Warren is thinking about those little containers of flavored creamer that you pour into your coffee.

  2. You view on Taiwan is unrealistic...

    …given the long intertwined history with the mainland. Recognizing Taiwan as a separate govt would very much change our relations ship with Bejing. If the island of Manhattan sided from the US, would you argue that China recognizing the new “govt” of Manhattan would not (and should not) impact US relations?

    • Big differences

      Nice parroting Beijing false equivalence. The closer analogy would be if the CSA not only successfully broke from the USA, but ALSO claimed jurisdiction over the North. Taiwan is the original post-WWII government, is more democratic, and the reality on the ground for decades now. I’m more sympathetic to independence from authoritarian regimes without representation than I am representative and free countries (and the CSA was if anything over-represented thanks to the slave power). I’m not saying relations won’t be impacted and if Beijing wants to recall their ambassador over it I guess that’s their prerogative. To be clear, I would NOT recognize any jurisdiction Taiwan might claim to have over the mainland because that likewise has not been the reality. What I am saying is I couldn’t give two hoots what Beijing thinks. For good measure we should very publicly and obnoxiously host the Dalai Lama at a state dinner too. I just feel that the nation on whose soil was fired the “shot heard round the world” should be first in line to defend other independence movements from unfree regimes. I still haven’t gotten over how little consequence China faced from the global community for what happened in Tiannamen Square in 1989.

      • Taiwan, the Dalai Lama . . .

        . . . and Palestine makes three.

        • Just saw on FB today...

          …I think via CNN, that President Carter has called upon President Obama to recognize Palestine before he leaves office. In this case I’m not sure we’re there as I remain skeptical of the two-state solution.

  3. Trump severely undermined our relations without realizing it

    I find nothing good to celebrate there. I don’t see it leading to a peaceful resolution but making such a thing less likely. A good friend from undergrad is working with her husband in Taiwan and the country is on edge after this. This really empowered the wrong people there while helping the hardliners in Beijing.

    • Tough

      I certainly don’t want an all out war, but for me this is a matter of principle (two principles as a matter of fact). First, the US foreign policy should always have the goal of making the world safe for democracy, and second our foreign policy should never be held hostage by another country.

      • please explain

        Please explain why you think it is good to let Taiwan’s KMT PM think she has stronger support for her party’s quest for independence. I have never met a person with any experience in China politics who thinks it is a wise idea to encourage Taiwan to toughen up. Why do you think so? You may have some experience there that we do not know of, so it would help us if you share it.

        I spend a few months each year in SE Asia, a small bit of it dealing with PRC muscle flexing, and I have never heard anyone think the US should encourage Taiwan to think of bucking the One China Policy. We cannot even deal with the PRC’s island making. We certainly should not be encouraging the KMT PM to think she has US support in her party’s independence agenda.

        Otherwise your post just smells like the knee-jerk anti-China politics of Trump. You might want to read an article or two like this one in the NYTimes


        Or you could read the Foreign Policy pice from Saturday which includes a line apropos your comment

        Observers unfamiliar with U.S.-China relations could be forgiven for wondering at all the fuss.


        • You're getting your parties confused

          The KMT (Kuomintang) AKA the nationalist party, is pro (eventual) unification. The current president, Tsai Ing-wen, is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, which favors (eventual) Independence. The KMT is the long time governing party, while the DPP only won their first legislative majority this year.

        • It may be kneejerk...

          …but it’s kneejerk pro-democracy of the Wilsonian model. I don’t doubt that this fraught and I’m not claiming experience, but there are few things I feel more strongly about when it comes to foreign policy principles.

          • Dude

            christopher, you’re really out there on this one.

            Although I’ve lived in four countries, and visited at least 27 countries on five continents, I don’t know much about foreign policy. Here’s what I think:

            1. I think it’s really complicated. Few things are more deep and complex than love of one’s own country and culture, and boy does culture vary in different places.

            2. I think the State Department and other involved in US foreign policy on an official basis know a hell of a lot more about this than me, and are always on the lookout for new ways to improve diplomatic relations in an effort to grow peace.

            3. I think that the State Department does far more good than harm.

            4. Unlike Presidents Obama, W Bush, Clinton, H W Bush, and so forth. I don’t think that Donald Trump believes those first three things.


            Given all of that, the idea that Trump is right on this one particular thing seems unlikely. If it was a good idea, it was a good idea four years ago when President Obama was reelected, yet he didn’t do it. Nor did he the first time he was elected, nor any of the presidents before him.

            So maybe it works out. Or maybe we’ll never really understand all of the ramifications to the US, China, Taiwan, the region, military actions, trade actions, and so forth.

            • Well, to be clear...

              …I certainly would not have handled it the way Trump did. First, I would wait until I actually WAS President before messing around with our foreign policy. Second, I would bring others into the discussion such as experts and allies about the best way to accomplish it. Third, of course, is that I would not be doing it for the sake of expanding my business interests.

      • now watch what happens, Christopher

        Now watch what happens in China/Taiwan.The PRC won’t take on the US as it is too complicated. I am guessing that within the week the PRC puts a move on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands: increased warship presence, or an announcement about atoll building, shipping lane restrictions or oil exploration.

        BTW, the PRC won’t see this as an anti-Trump issue. A lot of the PRC establishment wanted Trump to win as they think that he will be easier to deal with than HRC, who actually knows about south Asia and is tough on policies that did not make it into the ten year old college text books that teach Americans about international relations. Platitudes about making the world safe for democracy mean shit in the real world.

        • I know China won't take it lying down...

          ….but neither should we. IF there is an actual shooting war we better make darn sure they fire the first shot. Maybe it’s time we MAKE platitudes (such as the first couple of paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence) mean something. This doesn’t mean going to look for trouble and we should maintain full relations even with governments we don’t like, but the principles in the DOI were intended to apply to “all men (sic)” and not just Americans. If we cannot at least acknowledge that as part of our heritage and political DNA we might as well ask Britain to take us back.

          • Prescription for suicide

            The idea of semi-intentionally sliding into a shooting war with China strikes me as suicidal. I see any number of ways to lose, and nothing to win. Suppose they do “fire the first shot” — so what?

            Your final sentence strikes me as overly broad. We certainly welcomed European help (especially from France) during our war of independence from Britain. On the other hand, we took quite a different stance when our southern states attempted the same towards us.

            It seems to me that there is precious little history to support the bellicose posture you apparently advocate, especially given the striking differences in culture between both parties in the China/Taiwan dispute and ourselves.

            What is your view of a successful outcome of the scenario you describe, and what benefits do you see for America or the world?

            • I don't want a war...

              …but as what I thought was the only remaining superpower our decisions to recognize or not should not be dictated to by other countries. If I sound a little nonchalant about it, it’s basically my way of saying damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead (but if no torpedoes come I won’t complain either).

              I’m confused as to the relevance of your point about welcoming European help, without which we probably would not have won. Likewise if Taiwan wants actual independence and our help achieving it we should be willing. There is a big difference between our separating from the British Empire and the CSA’s attempt at secession. In the former we were colonies with no representation in Parliament and rights only to the extent that the British deigned to give us. Our authority to govern our internal affairs was limited as well. OTOH in the latter scenario the southern states had the same authority as northern states to govern internal affairs and they had equitable representation (and even more than that given the slave power) in the federal government.

              In my view a successful outcome is quite simple. We and other nations, along with international bodies such as the UN, recognize separate governments for the mainland and Taiwan. They recognize each other’s governments within the territory they currently hold, but do not claim any jurisdiction over each other. They work together when the common good requires as neighbors should. The US would be able to work and talk openly and honestly with both nations as they do any other nation, and possibly be able to broker any disputes which may arise.

              • I fear you miss the forest for the trees

                The relevance is this:

                - We fought and won the American revolution because we wanted the world recognize separate governments for Britain and the US. We wanted the world to recognize each other’s governments within the territory each currently held, but not claim any jurisdiction over each other. We were willing to work together when the common good requires as neighbors should. Britain had a very different idea. We won. Britain lost.

                - The CSA fought and lost the civil war because it wanted the world recognize separate governments for the CSA and the US. It wanted the world to recognize each other’s governments within the territory each currently held, but not claim any jurisdiction over each other. They were willing to work together when the common good requires as neighbors should. The US had a very different idea. The US won. The CSA lost.

                I’m using your formulation to emphasize that the “successful” outcome you promote is virtually indistinguishable from the outcome sought in our two wars of independence.

                Britain fought tooth and nail to win the revolution. The decision by France to support us was part of the Anglo-French war. Had modern weaponry been available at the time, it surely would have been described as a “world war”.

                My point is that kind of change that you are promoting does not come easily. If such a conflict occurs, and we take sides in it, then we will be enmeshed what is very likely to be a major shooting war.

                Further, you greatly distort my understanding of what Taiwan wants. My understanding, from multiple sites like this, is that Taiwan claims that IT is the “sole representative of the Chinese nation”. Your “successful outcome” is NOT the outcome sought by the government you would have us recognize.

                I don’t know about you. I know that for me, the independence of Taiwan is NOT a hill I am ready to die for, nor am I willing for anybody’s children to die for it.

                • Thank you

                  Really, your explanation in the first couple of paragraphs does make it easier to understand your point, and for the record I HAVE in fact heard the Anglo-French conflict described as a world war, not just our war for independence, but also taking into account the series of French & Indian Wars (Succession Wars in Europe) and Napoleonic Wars. The whole thing arguably didn’t end until the 1815 Congress of Vienna. It is also my understanding that Taiwan would like to be the sole representative of all of China, but my point precisely is that they don’t get to make that claim any more than the mainland does.

              • Christopher: "a successful outcome is quite simple"

                “A successful outcome is quite simple.” Really? Really? Tell me where you have seen that to be the case. Russia’s takeover of the Crimea? Or invasion by proxy of Ukraine? Ask jconway’s fiancé/wife about how easy it has been for the Philippines to keep China from taking over their maritime territory (hint: it has been a complete failure).

                Ask Obama how easy it was to keep Syria from using chemical weapons against its own people after he drew his bright line against it.

                Ask anybody with half a brain how easy it is to get a nuclear power to change their behavior towards nations in their own backyard yet you want to make sure that nuclear China fires the first shot in a war against the US. Why don’t you enlist in the National Guard before you start clamoring for war. Your simple little theory fits in nicely with the Bush/Cheney/Trump philosophy of war, maybe because you have never been to Asia nor been anywhere near a post-war zone.

                The US needs Chinese help in restraining the DPRK. China has invested heavily in African and SE Asian nations to buy their loyalty at the UN.

                Platitudes are not words to live by. Here are the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary definitions of “platitude”

                1. the quality or state of being dull or insipid
                2. a banal, trite, or stale remark

                I hope you won’t take offense if not everyone embraces your membership in that world of dull, insipid analysis.

                • What I meant was that it was an easy question for me to answer.

                  I’m not clamoring for war. I just think we can decide whom to recognize just like in 1979 we decided to change whom we recognize. I actually didn’t realize that was M-W definition of platitude. I think of them as inspiring even if a bit empty and hopeless at times. Regardless of what we call it, I stand by my comment that the opening lines of the DoI are words we should strive to actually live by.

                  • I can forgive your naïveté Christopher

                    It’s unforgivable in a president. The main reason I voted for his opponent was for a steady hand in foreign policy. As bad as Bush was, this was not the kind of blunder even he would have made. It may seem minor to you but diplomacy that has taken years to achieve may have just come undone.

                    Taiwan and China exist in a bizarre existential state where they deny the validity of one another’s government but are major bilateral trading partners with extensive commercial air travel linkages. Yet this is the kind of blunder that could trigger another Taiwan Strait Crisis with President Trump at the helm.

                    • I do not forgive that as "naiveté"

                      Christopher’s comment that the US is the last remaining superpower is emblematic of everything that is wrong with Trump voters and too many other Americans, Dems included. China and Russia are also superpowers with massive military and economic networks.

                      but as what I thought was the only remaining superpower our decisions to recognize or not should not be dictated to by other countries. If I sound a little nonchalant about it, it’s basically my way of saying damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead (but if no torpedoes come I won’t complain either).

                      Only a person who has not seen a broken or dead body, whether a US soldier in a hospital or an innocent child in a refugee camp, could say they won’t complain when the torpedoes come. One of my more recent projects involved living not far from a city trash dump in the developing world, a place where 500 civil war victims had taken refuge and when I read his words it made my skin crawl. His barbaric language should not be struck from here nor forgiven.

                      “not dictated to by other countries?” This is a bad joke. Since when have the competing interests of sovereign nations not been a negotiation, not a right-wing tag line about US superiority?

                      I have read too much commentary here on BMG trashing Trump voters for being stupid (Christopher himself uses his not-so-clever “DUMB” phrase) to be anywhere so charitable to someone with an MA in pol-sci IIRC

                      When BMG pontificators post really bad knee-jerk stuff, are led to something a lot more substantive as both I and STom tried, and to get a doubling down because our fellow blogger does not feel the need to read the details nor admit to a MEGA-sized F-up, then we are not dealing with naiveté.

                    • Fair enough

                      I try to use encounters with ignorance as a pedogological moment as best I can. I think the “last remaining superpower” business is most troubling. Even the neoconservatives and folks like Francis Fukuyama have walked away from that outdated idea that we were living in a unipolar moment.

                      If anything my old professor John Mearsheimer and his counterpart at Harvard Stephen Walt have been proven correct that we are living in a multipolar moment as unstable as any since the time before the First World War. Now is. not the time to buy into Wilsonian notions of defending democracy at all costs on any shore. Taiwans nascent democracy is largely the result of the opposition Democratic Party asserting ethnic Taiwan interests against the nationalist Chinese represented by the KMT.

                      By accidentally implicitly endorsing their sovereignty, Trump has bypassed the State Department advisors he is supposed to rely on and made a substantial foreign policy change as President-elect without consulting the present administration or Congress.

                      Stability relies on both sides endorsing the existential fiction that the other side doesn’t truly exist. This was actually agreed to in the 1992 consensus where the sides agreed to disagree on who’s “one China” was legitimate. This allows them to trade and meet with one another without having to resolve the long term differences. There can’t be a peaceful resolution that would realistically allow the ROC to claim the entire mainland. That idea should’ve realistically died with the rest of the China lobby.

                      But claiming independence exclusively for Taiwan would trigger a likely military response from the PRC, which almost happened during the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis when President Clinton has to convince the Taiwanese president to stand down from a call for independence. The far more capable Clinton made some minor symbolic mistakes (refusing to issue a visa to ROC President Lee, sending the USS Independence as the lead CBG to deter PRC missile tests) that were diffused.

                      This is potentially worse than that. Worse that Trump seems content to let long time allies like the Philippines move into the Putin/PRC orbit. And South Korea will have instability due to an impeachment trial with their President that might embolden the PROK regime to test the new President.

                    • Point of clarification

                      My comments about being the last remaining superpower were not an endorsement of throwing our weight around to aggressively remake the world in our image, but rather to point out that we are the last country in the world whose foreign policy should be based on what we are afraid another country might do. Am I really the last person left who believes in American ideals of universal liberty and that there was a reason we appealed to “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” to announce to the world our reasons for declaring our independence? I recall being quite frustrated when Clinton talked Taiwan back from independence – what hypocrites that makes us look like! In other parts of the world our lack of consistency on something so basic is exactly “why they hate us”!

                    • I know what you meant and you are still incorrect

                      in the world whose foreign policy should be based on what we are afraid another country might do

                      We absolutely have to care what other countries can do, particularly the only country that can match us warhead for warhead with nuclear weapons (Russia) and our major great power economic and geopolitical rival in the Paciifc (China). China is paradoxically one of our best trading partners. Our people love buying one another’s goods and they are emulating our consumer culture (McMansions and big buicks, and our creative content).

                      So it matters a great deal if the president-elect is making promises to a regime they consider a breakaway state that we have not diplomatically recognized since 1979. Especially if he is doing this through back channels related to his Taiwanese business ties as has been alleged and without consulting the State Department, current administration or Congress.

                      We could throw our weight around between 1992-2002. A ten year moment squandered by the Bush administrations blind and arrogant incompetence in Iraq. A mistake that continues to ripple with the present Middle Eastern instability undermining the pivot to Asia and the creation of a unified counter bloc to China. Our allies are either abandoning us for the Putin/Chinese autocratic bloc like the Philippines, boldly going out on their own like Japan or internally destabilized like South Korea. Obama gets almost no credit from the navel gazing inward looking American media for the impressive coalition of disparate interests he held together. And not just in Asia.

                      Italy is the next domino to fall in the populist uprising with their PM resigning after a minor referendum failed despite the polls. France may avoid electing Le Pen but will have to settle on Francois Fillon who isn’t substantially better and Angela Merkels electoral position is now precarious. You do not want the far right coming back to power in Germany.

                      Presiding over this great decline of the western liberal order is Donald Trump who has a very simplistic understanding of global politics and overestimates the influence the United States can exert to make substantial changes. It is on foreign policy where he will do the most damage and where I had placed the most hope in Hillary Clinton, even to the point of preferring her on those issues to her primary challenger I ultimately voted for. We are in for a long twilight of American decline, made all the more ironic that the man routinely attacked for presiding over it heroically worked to prevent it and is going to be replaced by a man rhetorically in denial about the reality he will help create.

                    • small messages

                      One thing to mention is that Donald accepted but did not initiate the call. He is using the view that he’s something of a loose cannon to his advantage. (I can only hope his advisors bring him up to speed quickly).
                      But the small snub when the Chinese didn’t send out steps for Barack’s plane will not be repeated (I hope).

                    • TBD --

                      It’s clear that you know more about this stuff than, say, me. But the talking down isn’t helpful.

                      At some point — I don’t know where — accommodating China becomes kowtowing to China. The US president, ex officio, should be able to talk to any world leader. Do you really think he told Taiwan we plan to recognize them?

                    • This sentence is at odds with itself.

                      The US president, ex officio, should be able to talk to any world leader. Do you really think he told Taiwan we plan to recognize them?

                      The whole dispute centers on whether or no China is willing to allow Taiwan, and Taiwan’s leaders, to be viewed as astride the world stage. So accepting the view that the President of Taiwan is a ‘world leader’ is implicit recognition.

                      By way of explanation, that is to say without endorsing the view, the leaders in China might say that US involvement in Taiwan without permission from China would be akin to Chinese meddling in, say, Florida without permission from DC. Nobody would consider it an innocent phone call if Xi Jinping were to speak with Rick Scott on the theory that he’s a ‘world leader.’ So that’s what China might say. Doesn’t mean they are right… But they have a rather larger army and navy, as well as nuclear weapons, to underline their point. Taiwan, not so much…

                      So when President-Elect Trump takes the call from Taiwan he’s gambling — with other peoples lives — that China isn’t going to take offense at it and so he should, perhaps, be a little more careful about it… Maybe that’s neither accommodating nor kowtowing (a word derived from the Chinese, I believe…) but diplomacy.

                    • Sorry I just reject this

                      I get that China’s world view is different from ours, but China is, excuse the term, problematic.

                      I don’t think Trump should provoke them, but he also doesn’t have to play by their BS rules. if the US President (elect) can’t take on China, then no one can.

                    • Had a nice long nap, have you...?

                      I get that China’s world view is different from ours, but China is, excuse the term, problematic.

                      Not even George W. Bush, a man who launched a war of choice against Iraq, wanted to chest up on the Chinese. I get that history was, more or less, invented on 9/11/2001, but mustachio-twirling Muslims aside, the world is a much much bigger place than all that.

                      I don’t think Trump should provoke them, but he also doesn’t have to play by their BS rules.

                      Isn’t that the very definition of diplomacy?

                      I would object to very little that Trump does carefully and with consideration… but, as far as I can tell, he does absolutely nothing carefully and with consideration. Absolutely nothing. That’s the very thing wrong with him in the position he is in.

                    • On that, I agree

                      It is unfortunate that he is our President-Elect.

                      But here we are.

                    • Florida is also not governing itself separately.

                      Part of what I believe we should do is acknowledge reality, in this case of a separately governed Taiwan. For example, if FL et alia had successfully broken away from the US in the 1860s I would expect other nations to eventually establish ties, even if the US. Britain and France came close to doing so anyway. In fact, there were strategies the US took off the table in the Civil War on the grounds that you only do that to another country and the CSA was not another country.

                    • errata

                      “…even if the US did not (recognize the CSA)” above.

      • "I certainly don’t want an all out war, but . . ."

        Now there’s an inauspicious way to start a sentence.

  4. I'll take Brown over Palin

    And as a Senator he was always good with constituent services and helping veterans. Good move for Warren.

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