Taiwan and Israel and China and the Arabs and the Bush Administration

Sometimes it is hard to remember what was important before September 11th. Taiwan was. After JINSA’s visit to Taiwan in February 2001, we wrote:

Sometimes it is hard to remember what was important before September 11th. Taiwan was. After JINSA’s visit to Taiwan in February 2001, we wrote:

One area of intense irritation to the Taiwanese was that of travel restrictions on diplomats in the U.S. The President and Foreign Minister cannot visit at all, and military delegations are heavily restricted. Vice President Lu, in transit in San Francisco on a visit to Central America, had plans to meet privately with entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. However, the meetings were canceled after the (Clinton Administration) State Department told the businessmen it was “inappropriate.” The JINSA delegation agreed that travel restrictions should be lifted, particularly since Taiwan is a democracy, even if the United States does not have diplomatic relations with it.

“Yasser Arafat and Gerry Adams (could then) visit the White House,” said one JINSA participant, “But Annette Lu, who spent six years in prison for advocating democracy in her own country, can’t meet with businessmen in the U.S. We can do better than that.”

And we have. This week, the Bush Administration rectified the ugly policy of denying visas other than for transit to most Taiwanese government officials. Defense Minister Tang Yiau-ming arrived in Florida to attend a conference, becoming the first Taiwanese defense minister in 22 years to receive a visitor’s visa. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly are also scheduled to attend the closed-door conference, which is called a “defense summit” by organizers.

Over the past six months we have learned that many countries we used to call “friends” are, in fact, just countries that take what we offer them – arms, money, the liberation of their country (Kuwait) or their co-religionists (Moslems in Bosnia and Afghanistan), or political support that flies in the face of our own national interests (Palestinians) – and then follow their own anti-Western, anti-capitalist, anti-American agenda.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is a wealthy democracy with all the attributes: an independent judiciary and a reliable body of law that protects individuals and companies from arbitrary government action; freedom of religion and the press; a legislature with multiple parties and changes in leadership, and a presidency that has changed parties as well. Taiwan is a friend in the broadest sense of shared values and security interests.

Interestingly, Taiwan shares all these attributes with Israel, and shares one other. Alone in the world, Israel and Taiwan are small countries who’s very right to exist is challenged by a larger country or countries. And those larger countries, China and the Arab states, are important to the United States for economic and political purposes.

It was important for the Bush Administration to reject Chinese objections to Minister Tang’s visit. Support of democratic friends in the face of those who would do them harm, or eliminate them altogether if they could, is the only moral position for the United States. Vice President Cheney should do no less as he travels through the Arab world.