Global news, policy gurus, think tanks, and social media are buzzing with Communist China’s unremitting pressure on Taiwan, threats, jets, and practice invasions. We hear more “war talk” than in decades. But let’s slow the train. Why do we want to protect Taiwan? If we must, how do we do that?
The first question is easy. In a nutshell, Taiwan’s freedom is the world’s freedom. Two titans are afoot today: The new Axis led by Communist China, weaker Russia, Iran, North Korea, and outliers, and what we call The Free World, those unified in practicing self-determination, opposing centralized oppression.
If the Free World allows a brick to be taken from the dam of unified free nations, then expect a flood. Communist China, feeling empowered – no credible response – will move outward. This is what they are doing across other domains via “unrestricted warfare,” and how Communist China operates.
In a different era, facing Soviet Communism – versus Chinese – Ronald Reagan offered prophetic words and profound actions. We should recall what unity on this issue looks like, and why it matters.
John F. Kennedy, speaking in West Berlin, June 1963, put it this way: “Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was ‘civis Romanus sum.’ Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner.’”
What was Kennedy saying? He was saying there is a fundamental difference between the West and East of Berlin, dissected by a communist-erected wall, to keep East Berliners from fleeing to the West. They all wanted to be in the West, away from communism’s oppression.
In a larger sense, for what this may be worth, Kennedy’s words are traceable to St. Paul’s words in the Book of Acts, where St. Paul appeals for a fair trial before his flogging, saying what Kennedy said, “I am a Roman citizen.”
Kennedy understood innate evil of Communism, as Reagan did – as most used to. Kennedy’s words in Berlin are as true today as when they were spoken. Listen closely, then apply them not to Berlin -but to Taipei, not to Germany – but to the free Chinese in Taiwan.
Said Kennedy: “There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the Free World and the Communist World. Let them come to Berlin.”
He continued: “There are some who say that Communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin…There are some who say…we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin…There are even a few who say that it is true that Communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen – Let them come to Berlin.”
The point, which was not lost on Kennedy, not lost on Reagan, and cannot be lost on us – is that this is a titanic battle of ideas, a battle between an evil ideology that willfully, ruthlessly, unapologetically oppresses the individual – the individual’s right to travel, speak, worship, protect herself, get a fair trial, and live freely – versus an ideology that celebrates and strives to protect those things.
If we lose Taiwan, fail to stand up as Kennedy and Reagan did, and let Communist China take a free nation that never was Communist China, and is not now – we have failed our time in history. Moreover, the Communist machine will keep grinding outward, as they already are and as the Soviets did, until they are either stopped at higher cost or win.
This brings me to the second question, how we fight Communist China. The prime objective is to get and stay strong, make clear our dominant capabilities, readiness, and will to win, no question. This kind of certainty of purpose, clarity of thought, word, and deed – often deters war.
However, if by bad fortune and worse leadership, we must engage the Communist behemoth, we must also be resolved to win, using all legal aspects of warfare, without reservation or hesitation.
We must prepare to engage in space and cyberspace, maximize maritime, air, and technology advantages, including ballistic missile defense. We must take advantage of our three-to-one advantage in carriers, marked quantitative and qualitative advantage in air assets, not shrink.
War is terrible, and war with China would be horrific, even if we prevailed. China must know we do not want a war, will work to avoid a war, but if we must fight one – we will, and we will prevail.
As Taiwan goes, so goes the Free World. Those are the stakes, always been against Communism. Kennedy and Reagan were right, and for that matter Patton, Eisenhower, and MacArthur. That is why and how we will protect Taiwan.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.