US abandonment of Taiwan island inevitable if war erupts
Published: Apr 11, 2023 05:46 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

The Chinese People's Liberation Army's drills around the Taiwan island after the meeting between Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicate China will do its utmost to maintain territorial integrity. In contrast, the fate of the Taiwan island is not integral to US survival.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday that he is "open" to sending US troops to Taiwan to defend the island. "I would be willing to fight for Taiwan," he said. Hypocritical Washington politicians are adept in tossing out empty slogans. The welfare of people in Taiwan has never been their main concern. 

The island's population is largely concentrated in the western half of the island as the eastern half is mountainous and a lack of land corridors to friendly neighbors eliminates options for refugees to flee the carnage. 24 million people will be trapped on a high intensity battlefield if a war really breaks out.

In a war scenario, the US seeks to apply lessons learned from Ukraine to the Taiwan island. Per that model, the Taiwan military is expected to fight the Chinese mainland using modern weapons and intelligence provided by the US. The US assumes that the Taiwan forces will significantly deplete mainland military capabilities in advance of US military intervention.

However, if the US prods the Taiwan island to cross Beijing's red line, the response may be immediate and decisive. The US fears such a fait accompli wherein the island is overwhelmed by the mainland when it enforces its anti-secession law before a coherent US military intervention can be executed. A US abandonment of the Taiwan cause is possible.

The US will vehemently disagree and restate its resolute commitment to the Taiwan residents. However, others might question US' resolve by pointing to its historical record of unreliability.

For example, in 1956 then US Senator John F. Kennedy gave a pivotal speech before Vietnam lobbyists in Washington, D.C. His speech laid the foundation for US military intervention in the Vietnam war that he would order years later as the US president.

Kennedy's speech referred to a "Free Vietnam" as the critical cornerstone to preventing the domino effect of Communism's spread throughout Asia. He stated the US was directly responsible for Vietnam's democratic experiment and cannot afford to permit that experiment to fail. 

Curiously, if each instance of the word "Vietnam" in that speech were replaced with the word "Taiwan" the exact script could be delivered today.

During the 1960s, the US presence in South Vietnam grew to 543,000, mostly conscripted troops, and rotations impacted over three million men and women overall. But US' resolve was not unlimited. The pain threshold for US to act on its commitment to the South Vietnamese reliably turned out to be 58,000 US deaths. Once crossed, it triggered US abandonment.

What remains is a deeply moving national memorial to the US patriots who gave their lives in good faith for a foreign cause that their political leaders were never truly committed to. Some might ask what happened to our faithful allies in the South Vietnam? At least 1.4 million South Vietnamese civilians and 200,000 soldiers died in the war. 
Abandonment of Taiwan by the US appears inevitable. 

The US President and Congress will take offense and reject that prediction. Instead, they will claim that the US learned from the Vietnam debacle and would never repeat it again.
But recent history reveals their dishonesty. The pain threshold for US reliability and resolve in Afghanistan was 2,450 US service members. Once crossed President Biden directed that our modern ally be abandoned. As for the Afghans? When the US retreated, 360,000 Afghan civilians and soldiers had already died, tens of millions were left behind and written off by the US.

Today the Taiwan residents are being fed false assurances by the US. The entire US Congress appears as an opportunistic cheerleading section for war with China. Unfortunately, historical precedent guarantees that millions of misled Taiwan soldiers and residents will only serve as cannon fodder for a new cause the US abandons.

One might ask why the leaders of erstwhile US allies did not protest US betrayal at the time. The answer is their personal safety was never in doubt. In 1975 South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu deserted his countrymen aboard a US aircraft to evade capture. In 2021 Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani fled to Uzbekistan aboard a US aircraft to escape accountability.

DPP elites can count on an identical US-facilitated exit strategy to evade arrest. They too will leave tens of millions of deceived brethren behind.

As a realist, former Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou recognizes omens of a war in which Taiwan islanders will suffer the most of all parties. He also reminded all that both sides of the Straits belong to the Chinese nation and share the same ancestors, and the two sides should work together to achieve the revitalization of the nation.

Taiwan residents may have concerns regarding societal changes if their province were peacefully reunified within the Chinese mainland. But those concerns would be eclipsed by the horrors of a high intensity conflict on their small island. Taiwan islanders would be better off dismissing US rhetoric as just more false promises.

The author is a retired Marine Corps infantry officer and a former Pentagon employee. Opinions are of the author and do not represent the US government. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn