Cockburn is not one to point fingers (as they are often preoccupied with his cigar), but he finds himself making an exception for President Biden over his apparent U-turn on the issue of the United States using military force to help defend Taiwan against China.
Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, just unearthed a 2001 Washington Post op-ed then-senator Joe Biden wrote dissenting from President George W. Bush’s stance that the “United States had an obligation to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China.”
Biden wrote that “words matter,” and that Bush’s extreme language had “damaged US credibility with our allies and sown confusion throughout the Pacific Rim.”
Speaking of confusion… it’s twenty-one years later, and Biden seems to have changed his mind — or lost some of it. Earlier this week, Biden said that the US would get involved militarily if China takes Taiwan, because, “that’s the commitment we made” — a statement that is not only in opposition to Biden-of-yore, but with Biden’s own current administration.
Biden’s aides were quick to clarify there had been no change in the US stance toward Taiwan, which Reuters reports has long been “a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ on whether [the US] would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.”
This is, of course, not the first time Biden has contradicted official White House policy. In fact, this is at least the third time Biden has made confusing statements about Taiwan alone. At this point, the White House administration is covering for Biden like a wingman covers for his drunk comrade, one of Cockburn’s areas of expertise. The buzzed barfly walks around spilling his drink and the beans, and the more sober wingman follows behind cleaning up his wordy mess. Cockburn suggests that Biden’s teleprompter stick with him like an IV to a patient. That way, most — well, let’s be honest here — some of the gaffes would disappear.
That said, the Ghost of Biden Past may have had a point when he wrote, “The president should not cede to Taiwan, much less to China, the ability automatically to draw us into a war across the Taiwan Strait.” While Cockburn is no armchair strategist, giving Taiwan, China or any other nation the power to jumpstart the US military complex is dangerous.