The Care and Maintenance of The Cold War with China, in The Financial Times!
Political Observer comments on Kathrin Hille’s December 28, 2021 essay.
What can The Reader make of the first three paragraphs on Kathrin Hille’s essay?
In June 1950 General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of US forces in Asia-Pacific, urged President Harry Truman in a top secret memorandum not to allow China to gain control over Taiwan.
Its location at the centre of an island chain off the Chinese coast, which would have strategic value in a conflict, meant that the island, more commonly known as Formosa at the time, could be compared to an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” MacArthur wrote. He warned that “the strategic interests of the United States will be in serious jeopardy if Formosa is allowed to be dominated by a [hostile] power”.
Some seven decades later, echoes of that language are reverberating through US-China relations.
Kathrin Hille has missed something significant about her Oracle Douglas MacArthur- here is H.W. Brands essay from September 28, 2016:
Headline: The Redacted Testimony That Fully Explains Why General MacArthur Was Fired
Sub-headline: Far beyond being insubordinate, the military leader seemed to not grasp the consequences of his desired strategy
Harry Truman’s decision to fire Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War in April 1951 shocked the American political system and astonished the world. Much of the world didn’t realize the president had the power to fire a five-star general; much of America didn’t realize Truman had the nerve.
But Truman did fire MacArthur, whose complaints against the commander in chief had grown louder and more public. MacArthur wanted to expand the war against China, which had entered the Korean fighting in late 1950. MacArthur complained that the president was tying his hands by forbidding the bombing of China, thereby sacrificing American lives and endangering American freedom.
Truman’s top advisers agreed. The MacArthur firing prompted the Democratic-led Congress to invite the general to address a joint session, which MacArthur moved to applause and tears when he declared that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Among Republicans, there were murmurs of support for a MacArthur candidacy for president. The Senate’s Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committes held joint hearings, at which MacArthur detailed his disagreement with the president and claimed the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for his position.
The joint chiefs contradicted him. The Senate hearings were closed to the public, but a transcript was released each day including all but the most sensitive comments. Omar Bradley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, flatly rejected MacArthur’s call for a wider war. “In the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy,” he said.
Bradley’s categorical conclusion proved the most compelling public statement by any official at the committee hearings. For a soldier of Bradley’s stature, with no history of politics, to contradict MacArthur so completely caused even the most ardent of MacArthur’s supporters to pause and reconsider.
How inconvenient is History, not a History Made to Measure! The quotations for Ely Ratner , Wu Xinbo, Bonny Lin, Vincent Chao, all members of the ‘Taiwan Lobby’, and their New Cold War cronies- the last two paragraphs of Kathrin Hille’s essay trades in speculation, about the responsibility of both America and China. After a barrage of low key war mongering, provided by her political allies, again the notion of ‘responsibility’ is stressed as key: call it an unconvincing attempt to appear steeped in reason, in the guise of speculative political moralizing.
Proponents of a clearer US commitment to Taiwan’s security see the new language as a sign of those changes and an attempt at deterring Beijing more effectively.
Whether that will work is an open question: both countries have stepped up military activity around Taiwan as they exercise for a conflict and try to warn each other off. Chinese observers like Wu believe Ratner is stirring up new trouble in bilateral relations.
Washington and Beijing therefore now bear immense responsibility in navigating the course ahead.