Commentary Magazine


Topic: premier

Erdogan Threatens to Sue U.S. Diplomats Over WikiLeaks

The WikiLeaks circus has sparked an unexpected sideshow in Turkey, where Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is livid over leaked cables that highlight his allegedly crooked financial dealings. In the 2004 documents, U.S. diplomats relayed claims that the premier held eight Swiss bank accounts and accepted bribes.

In response to these revelations, Erdogan has announced he will sue the U.S. diplomats for libel:

The Turkish Premier adversely responded to American diplomats’ claims that he has eight accounts at Swiss banks. Erdogan stated that he has not a single cent at Swiss banks and urged the U.S. authorities to hold the diplomats responsible and suggest Turkey’s ruling party intends to sue them.

At its sitting the JDP Executive Board, following Recep Erdogan’s instruction, decided file suits against American diplomats and claim financial compensations from them for insulting Turkish officials. Specifically, the party plans to sue former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, who, in one of his messages, claimed Erdogan had bank accounts in Switzerland, Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

Erdogan has doubled down on his denial, saying that he will resign from office if the allegations are proved accurate. And it looks like his opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, is also on board with the litigation:

“If there is something incorrect in the allegations, then you can prove its falsity and the debate will come to an end. Moreover, you can take legal measures against those who made up false claims. It is so simple,” Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Thursday in the northwestern province of Bursa. “Instead of attacking us, [Erdogan] should sue the United States. We will lend our support if he does so. …

While a legal fight would certainly be an entertaining spectacle, it sounds like the Turkish government still has some logistics to work out before they can head to court:

Sabah reports that Ankara is considering a number of options. Claims may be lodged with local courts in the U.S. as well as with the World Court in the Hague.

And just in case the legal route proves ineffective for Erdogan, his government is already getting a head start at blaming the whole predicament on the Jews.

The WikiLeaks circus has sparked an unexpected sideshow in Turkey, where Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is livid over leaked cables that highlight his allegedly crooked financial dealings. In the 2004 documents, U.S. diplomats relayed claims that the premier held eight Swiss bank accounts and accepted bribes.

In response to these revelations, Erdogan has announced he will sue the U.S. diplomats for libel:

The Turkish Premier adversely responded to American diplomats’ claims that he has eight accounts at Swiss banks. Erdogan stated that he has not a single cent at Swiss banks and urged the U.S. authorities to hold the diplomats responsible and suggest Turkey’s ruling party intends to sue them.

At its sitting the JDP Executive Board, following Recep Erdogan’s instruction, decided file suits against American diplomats and claim financial compensations from them for insulting Turkish officials. Specifically, the party plans to sue former US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, who, in one of his messages, claimed Erdogan had bank accounts in Switzerland, Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

Erdogan has doubled down on his denial, saying that he will resign from office if the allegations are proved accurate. And it looks like his opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, is also on board with the litigation:

“If there is something incorrect in the allegations, then you can prove its falsity and the debate will come to an end. Moreover, you can take legal measures against those who made up false claims. It is so simple,” Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Thursday in the northwestern province of Bursa. “Instead of attacking us, [Erdogan] should sue the United States. We will lend our support if he does so. …

While a legal fight would certainly be an entertaining spectacle, it sounds like the Turkish government still has some logistics to work out before they can head to court:

Sabah reports that Ankara is considering a number of options. Claims may be lodged with local courts in the U.S. as well as with the World Court in the Hague.

And just in case the legal route proves ineffective for Erdogan, his government is already getting a head start at blaming the whole predicament on the Jews.

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Hillary Clinton: Errand Girl for Disastrous Foreign Policy

Michael Hirsh writes a lengthy piece on Hillary Clinton, confirming that she’s not much of a secretary of state. But then we knew that from the results of her handiwork — an unratifiable START treaty, a wrecked relationship with Israel, offended European allies, a Middle East “peace process” that has succeeded only in encouraging Palestinian intransigence, a failed Syrian-engagement gambit, and a dead-end Iran policy. So it’s not surprising that Hirsh focuses on her relationship with Obama — Starsky and Hutch! — and dwells on minutiae. After all, that’s what Hillary does best. The duo’s great accomplishment? Storming a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ultimately meaningless Copenhagen global-warming conference. That’s the best Hirsch can come up with.

It’s hard to hide the problem, namely that she’s really not up to the job. Hirsh writes:

“She has no real strategic vision,” says an NSC official. “But she’ll get done what she has to do. She’s the good little Methodist girl. In the end she’ll have her list of the nine or 10 things she has to do and check them off one by one.”

Associates bridle at such condescension, and so do many White House officials, including General Jones. Clinton’s former longtime policy chief, Neera Tanden, sees nothing to apologize for: “She definitely has lists. And she really feels a sense of obligation, duty, responsibility, as part of her general outlook; perhaps it is her Methodism. It’s part of who she is.” Clinton herself ridicules the criticism. “At the end of the day, have you solved the problem or haven’t you? Have you crossed it off the list or haven’t you?”

Hmm. Do you suppose “Thwart Iran’s nuclear program” is on the list? What about “Reorient administration away from Israel”? That one gets a check mark.

Outside observers concede the obvious:

Clinton’s and Obama’s various policies do not yet add up to anything like a doctrine on America’s place in the world. Much of the first year was about “rebuilding the brand, rebuilding political capital,” says one official. And blaming George W. Bush for America’s dire situation, of course. Now, however, fewer world leaders care about the mistakes made by the previous administration. Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says he doesn’t think Clinton is of the caliber of James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who was perhaps the last real superstar in the job. “She’s very smart,” he says. “She understands all these issues. You can have a good discussion with her on almost any [subject]. But she doesn’t pretend to be, nor is she, a strategist. When she goes to the National Security Council, she doesn’t bring that to the table.”

So what does she bring? It seems that Obama found the perfect errand girl for his bizarrely counterproductive strategy of cozying up to despots, shoving democracy promotion aside, dissing allies, and focusing on unilateral grand gestures — which suggests that no one in the administration has a workable strategy for promoting American interests and values. Obama imagines himself a great foreign-policy visionary, but the legacy he is creating is an America more estranged from allies and a Middle East on the tipping point of a deadly nuclear-arms race. Hillary might be just the enabler, but she’ll share in that legacy, which for now promises to be the most dismal of any American president’s since (maybe including) Jimmy Carter.

Michael Hirsh writes a lengthy piece on Hillary Clinton, confirming that she’s not much of a secretary of state. But then we knew that from the results of her handiwork — an unratifiable START treaty, a wrecked relationship with Israel, offended European allies, a Middle East “peace process” that has succeeded only in encouraging Palestinian intransigence, a failed Syrian-engagement gambit, and a dead-end Iran policy. So it’s not surprising that Hirsh focuses on her relationship with Obama — Starsky and Hutch! — and dwells on minutiae. After all, that’s what Hillary does best. The duo’s great accomplishment? Storming a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ultimately meaningless Copenhagen global-warming conference. That’s the best Hirsch can come up with.

It’s hard to hide the problem, namely that she’s really not up to the job. Hirsh writes:

“She has no real strategic vision,” says an NSC official. “But she’ll get done what she has to do. She’s the good little Methodist girl. In the end she’ll have her list of the nine or 10 things she has to do and check them off one by one.”

Associates bridle at such condescension, and so do many White House officials, including General Jones. Clinton’s former longtime policy chief, Neera Tanden, sees nothing to apologize for: “She definitely has lists. And she really feels a sense of obligation, duty, responsibility, as part of her general outlook; perhaps it is her Methodism. It’s part of who she is.” Clinton herself ridicules the criticism. “At the end of the day, have you solved the problem or haven’t you? Have you crossed it off the list or haven’t you?”

Hmm. Do you suppose “Thwart Iran’s nuclear program” is on the list? What about “Reorient administration away from Israel”? That one gets a check mark.

Outside observers concede the obvious:

Clinton’s and Obama’s various policies do not yet add up to anything like a doctrine on America’s place in the world. Much of the first year was about “rebuilding the brand, rebuilding political capital,” says one official. And blaming George W. Bush for America’s dire situation, of course. Now, however, fewer world leaders care about the mistakes made by the previous administration. Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says he doesn’t think Clinton is of the caliber of James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who was perhaps the last real superstar in the job. “She’s very smart,” he says. “She understands all these issues. You can have a good discussion with her on almost any [subject]. But she doesn’t pretend to be, nor is she, a strategist. When she goes to the National Security Council, she doesn’t bring that to the table.”

So what does she bring? It seems that Obama found the perfect errand girl for his bizarrely counterproductive strategy of cozying up to despots, shoving democracy promotion aside, dissing allies, and focusing on unilateral grand gestures — which suggests that no one in the administration has a workable strategy for promoting American interests and values. Obama imagines himself a great foreign-policy visionary, but the legacy he is creating is an America more estranged from allies and a Middle East on the tipping point of a deadly nuclear-arms race. Hillary might be just the enabler, but she’ll share in that legacy, which for now promises to be the most dismal of any American president’s since (maybe including) Jimmy Carter.

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The Israel Standard

Charles Lane is the latest to spot the Obami’s double standards. He compares the administration reaction to Israel’s apartment expansion with its reaction to a deliberate Chinese provocation:

In Beijing Sunday, China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, launched an anti-U.S. tirade that made the president’s objective of economic harmony with Beijing seem even more unattainable than a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Rejecting President Obama’s rather tepid call, delivered just days earlier, for a “market-oriented” Chinese currency policy, Wen accused the U.S. of “trade protectionism,” alleging that Washington wanted to force the Chinese yuan up, and the dollar down, “solely for the purpose of increasing one’s own exports.”

This, as Lane explains, “was not only a direct sneer at the president — it was an insult to his intelligence, and everyone else’s for that matter.” What was Obama’s reaction? “Officials look forward to ‘an open channel of communication … and fostering a good bilateral relationship,’ a State Department spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.”

Totally different, you say? Why yes, Israel is a small, vulnerable democracy. China is a huge, powerful dictatorship. In the Obami worldview, there simply is no question about who gets the kid-glove treatment.

Charles Lane is the latest to spot the Obami’s double standards. He compares the administration reaction to Israel’s apartment expansion with its reaction to a deliberate Chinese provocation:

In Beijing Sunday, China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, launched an anti-U.S. tirade that made the president’s objective of economic harmony with Beijing seem even more unattainable than a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Rejecting President Obama’s rather tepid call, delivered just days earlier, for a “market-oriented” Chinese currency policy, Wen accused the U.S. of “trade protectionism,” alleging that Washington wanted to force the Chinese yuan up, and the dollar down, “solely for the purpose of increasing one’s own exports.”

This, as Lane explains, “was not only a direct sneer at the president — it was an insult to his intelligence, and everyone else’s for that matter.” What was Obama’s reaction? “Officials look forward to ‘an open channel of communication … and fostering a good bilateral relationship,’ a State Department spokesman told the Wall Street Journal.”

Totally different, you say? Why yes, Israel is a small, vulnerable democracy. China is a huge, powerful dictatorship. In the Obami worldview, there simply is no question about who gets the kid-glove treatment.

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What Brown’s Election Should Teach Israel

Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

Former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger notes that Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts offers an important lesson for Israelis: that American democracy revolves “around constituents and not around the President, Congress, or political parties.” To Americans, that doubtless seems obvious. But since Israel’s electoral system is not constituency-based, it’s a point often missed by Israeli leaders — with negative consequences for Israel’s foreign policy.

Israel is virtually the only Western democracy that still elects its legislature via closed nationwide lists. Israelis vote for a party, not a candidate, so general election voters have no say over which individuals occupy their party’s Knesset seats. This means they also have no way to punish individual legislators for unpopular positions or poor performance: As long as a Knesset member satisfies his party bosses, he can count on a “safe seat” next election, meaning a slot high enough on the party list to keep him in the Knesset even if the party loses seats.

Consequently, prime ministers have enormous power over rank-and-file MKs, far greater than what U.S. presidents enjoy. A president has no power to get a congressman reelected; that decision lies solely with the congressman’s constituents. But prime ministers have considerable power to get an MK reelected. Though all three major Israeli parties currently choose their Knesset slates via nationwide primaries, these slates are so riddled with “reserved seats” that a premier’s ability to shape his party’s list remains enormous — especially if he maintains good relations with “vote contractors” (key local activists) who can persuade large numbers of primary voters to vote a pre-approved list.

All this causes Israeli premiers to overestimate the U.S. president’s power. And this often leads them to sacrifice Israeli interests to the president’s desires, for the sake of maintaining good relations with Israel’s only ally. What they fail to understand is that reasonable relations can be maintained even without kowtowing to the president’s every whim, because even in the foreign-policy realm, where his power is extensive, he still needs Congress. And he cannot just order congressmen to fall in line. Thus as long as support for Israel remains strong among the American people, and hence in Congress, there are limits beyond which even the most hostile president won’t go.

This understanding is particularly important because even the friendliest presidents generally adopt less pro-Israel positions than either the Congress or the American people desire. Thus, for instance, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but every president has utilized waivers to postpone the move.

Having lived in the U.S., current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely understands this. But most Israeli premiers don’t. Thus in their dealings with Israeli leaders, one of the most important services American Jewish leaders could perform is explaining how the American system truly works — and how to leverage the American people’s strong support for standing up to a hostile president.

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A Lesson for London

Meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem this morning, British Attorney General Baroness Scotland reiterated her government’s pledge to amend the “universal jurisdiction” law under which British courts have repeatedly issued arrest warrants against Israeli officers and politicians. That pledge, first made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month, outraged the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the government of being “partisan” and “compliant to [Israeli] demands.”

But if Britain keeps its word, the pro-Palestinian activists who keep seeking, and getting, those warrants will have only themselves to blame. After all, British courts have issued such warrants for years without the British government batting an eye, despite vociferous Israeli protests, and could probably have continued doing so had activists only picked their targets a little more carefully. The British couldn’t care less if Israeli army officers canceled planned visits for fear of being arrested, as yet another group did last week. Ditto for right-of-center politicians such as Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who aborted a planned trip in November: Britain would rather not hear from Israelis who think peace with the Palestinians is currently impossible.

But the activists overreached last month by securing a warrant against former foreign minister and current opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Livni is the Great White Hope of peace-processors worldwide, the Israeli deemed most likely to sign a deal with the Palestinians. She won praise from her Palestinian interlocutors during a year of final-status negotiations in 2008; she publicly declares that any Israeli premier’s primary responsibility, far above such trivialities as preventing Iran from getting the bomb, is to create a Palestinian state. And, not coincidentally, she is the most left-wing Israeli who could conceivably become prime minister. If even Livni can’t travel to Britain, London would be left with no Israelis to talk to at all.

And for the pro-Palestinian radicals who seek these warrants, that’s precisely the point. In their view, there are no “good” Israelis; all Israelis (except those who favor abolishing their own country) are evil and deserve to be in jail. There’s no difference between Livni, passionately committed to Palestinian statehood, and a right-wing extremist, because Livni and the extremist are equally guilty of the cardinal sins: both believe Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state, and both are willing to fight to defend it.

In truth, Britain ought to amend the law for its own sake: while Israelis can live without visiting London, a country whose soldiers are in combat from Iraq to Afghanistan has much to lose from encouraging universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try any other country’s nationals for “war crimes” committed anywhere in the world, even if neither crime nor criminal has any connection to the indicting country. Hence if the Livni warrant does finally spur London to action, Britain will benefit no less than Israel does.

But it would be even more useful if the case finally prompted Britons to recognize the pro-Palestinian radicals’ true goal: not “peace,” but the end of Israel.

Meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem this morning, British Attorney General Baroness Scotland reiterated her government’s pledge to amend the “universal jurisdiction” law under which British courts have repeatedly issued arrest warrants against Israeli officers and politicians. That pledge, first made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month, outraged the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the government of being “partisan” and “compliant to [Israeli] demands.”

But if Britain keeps its word, the pro-Palestinian activists who keep seeking, and getting, those warrants will have only themselves to blame. After all, British courts have issued such warrants for years without the British government batting an eye, despite vociferous Israeli protests, and could probably have continued doing so had activists only picked their targets a little more carefully. The British couldn’t care less if Israeli army officers canceled planned visits for fear of being arrested, as yet another group did last week. Ditto for right-of-center politicians such as Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who aborted a planned trip in November: Britain would rather not hear from Israelis who think peace with the Palestinians is currently impossible.

But the activists overreached last month by securing a warrant against former foreign minister and current opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Livni is the Great White Hope of peace-processors worldwide, the Israeli deemed most likely to sign a deal with the Palestinians. She won praise from her Palestinian interlocutors during a year of final-status negotiations in 2008; she publicly declares that any Israeli premier’s primary responsibility, far above such trivialities as preventing Iran from getting the bomb, is to create a Palestinian state. And, not coincidentally, she is the most left-wing Israeli who could conceivably become prime minister. If even Livni can’t travel to Britain, London would be left with no Israelis to talk to at all.

And for the pro-Palestinian radicals who seek these warrants, that’s precisely the point. In their view, there are no “good” Israelis; all Israelis (except those who favor abolishing their own country) are evil and deserve to be in jail. There’s no difference between Livni, passionately committed to Palestinian statehood, and a right-wing extremist, because Livni and the extremist are equally guilty of the cardinal sins: both believe Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state, and both are willing to fight to defend it.

In truth, Britain ought to amend the law for its own sake: while Israelis can live without visiting London, a country whose soldiers are in combat from Iraq to Afghanistan has much to lose from encouraging universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try any other country’s nationals for “war crimes” committed anywhere in the world, even if neither crime nor criminal has any connection to the indicting country. Hence if the Livni warrant does finally spur London to action, Britain will benefit no less than Israel does.

But it would be even more useful if the case finally prompted Britons to recognize the pro-Palestinian radicals’ true goal: not “peace,” but the end of Israel.

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China Turns Our Lights Out

Chinese hackers caused two power blackouts in the United States in the last half decade, according to the cover story in tomorrow’s National Journal. American intelligence sources confirm that the People’s Liberation Army was responsible for intrusions in 2003 that likely caused North America’s largest blackout, which affected three states, parts of Canada, and 50 million people. More than a hundred generating stations were shut down. To this day the Chinese activity that precipitated the cascading failure is not fully understood.

Then, this February, three million customers were hit by a blackout that appears to have been inadvertently caused by the People’s Liberation Army as it mapped the network of Florida Power & Light. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese,” said an unnamed information-security expert quoted in the story.

As they say, the Chinese are at war with us every day over the phone lines. Washington is squeamish about publicly naming China as the source of hostile attacks, so we almost never push back.

Whatever happened to the don’t-tread-on-me spirit in this country? We ignored al Qaeda’s attacks until September 11. Now we’re adopting the same passive approach to Chinese assaults on our critical infrastructure. Last August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while in Beijing, publicly told off Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese hacking. Why can’t Robert Gates muster the courage to say anything in front of the microphones when he travels to the Chinese capital? Beijing has rewarded our secretary of defense for his discretion by hacking into the computer network serving his office last June.

We need a better China policy. So here’s a proposal. The next time the Chinese cause a blackout in this country, let’s take down all their grids. The communists in Beijing will be angry, but I suspect they’ll get the message.

Chinese hackers caused two power blackouts in the United States in the last half decade, according to the cover story in tomorrow’s National Journal. American intelligence sources confirm that the People’s Liberation Army was responsible for intrusions in 2003 that likely caused North America’s largest blackout, which affected three states, parts of Canada, and 50 million people. More than a hundred generating stations were shut down. To this day the Chinese activity that precipitated the cascading failure is not fully understood.

Then, this February, three million customers were hit by a blackout that appears to have been inadvertently caused by the People’s Liberation Army as it mapped the network of Florida Power & Light. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese,” said an unnamed information-security expert quoted in the story.

As they say, the Chinese are at war with us every day over the phone lines. Washington is squeamish about publicly naming China as the source of hostile attacks, so we almost never push back.

Whatever happened to the don’t-tread-on-me spirit in this country? We ignored al Qaeda’s attacks until September 11. Now we’re adopting the same passive approach to Chinese assaults on our critical infrastructure. Last August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while in Beijing, publicly told off Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese hacking. Why can’t Robert Gates muster the courage to say anything in front of the microphones when he travels to the Chinese capital? Beijing has rewarded our secretary of defense for his discretion by hacking into the computer network serving his office last June.

We need a better China policy. So here’s a proposal. The next time the Chinese cause a blackout in this country, let’s take down all their grids. The communists in Beijing will be angry, but I suspect they’ll get the message.

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“A Complete Failure of Governance”

Since snow started falling in the second week of last month, southwestern, central, eastern, and southern China have been gripped by a massive storm. About 105 million people have been affected in 17 provinces. Some 2.5 million of them have been or will be evacuated. Around 30 million have lost electricity. A quarter of a million troops have been mobilized to shovel snow and provide emergency relief. Approximately 16 million livestock have been killed. The storm will continue through at least the second week of this month, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

The snow could not have come at a worse time. Tens of millions of workers are on the move, making their once-yearly trip home for Chinese New Year, which begins next week. Hundreds of thousands of desperate, weary, and angry travelers, most of whom depend on the rails, are now stranded. On Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao went to the Guangzhou train station to calm distraught passengers through a megaphone. About 217,000 travelers were stuck in that city, the capital of southern Guangdong province. Security around the nation has been tightened where crowds have gathered. The ruling Politburo met on Tuesday in emergency session.

The storm is, according to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, “historically unprecedented.” The official People’s Daily calls it “the worst in 50 years.” Beijing can’t be blamed for the weather, but central government policies have severely aggravated the suffering. “What has appeared to be a natural disaster is, in essence, a massive failure of governance,” said Mao Shoulong of Renmin University. Attempts at central planning have turned an unusual weather pattern into a national disaster.

There are about a dozen wrongheaded policies that have aggravated the situation, but the most misguided of them are the central government’s price controls on energy, needed to power the trains to take people home. Beijing technocrats have been waging an unsuccessful campaign to slow accelerating inflation. As an integral part of that effort, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, has put a ceiling on electricity charges. The NDRC in the last few days has been insisting that its cap has not led to the decline in the generation of power that is aggravating the ongoing crisis, but its case is unconvincing. The trains won’t move unless there is electricity, and there is an electricity shortage due in large measure to overregulation of the economy. There is also a national shortage of coal, used to generate most of the country’s electricity, due to a result of a mix of central government measures.

China needs better weather, but more important it needs a more open economy. The forecasters say the snow will stop sometime this month. Unfortunately, that will be long before the country gets better economic planning.

Since snow started falling in the second week of last month, southwestern, central, eastern, and southern China have been gripped by a massive storm. About 105 million people have been affected in 17 provinces. Some 2.5 million of them have been or will be evacuated. Around 30 million have lost electricity. A quarter of a million troops have been mobilized to shovel snow and provide emergency relief. Approximately 16 million livestock have been killed. The storm will continue through at least the second week of this month, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

The snow could not have come at a worse time. Tens of millions of workers are on the move, making their once-yearly trip home for Chinese New Year, which begins next week. Hundreds of thousands of desperate, weary, and angry travelers, most of whom depend on the rails, are now stranded. On Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao went to the Guangzhou train station to calm distraught passengers through a megaphone. About 217,000 travelers were stuck in that city, the capital of southern Guangdong province. Security around the nation has been tightened where crowds have gathered. The ruling Politburo met on Tuesday in emergency session.

The storm is, according to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, “historically unprecedented.” The official People’s Daily calls it “the worst in 50 years.” Beijing can’t be blamed for the weather, but central government policies have severely aggravated the suffering. “What has appeared to be a natural disaster is, in essence, a massive failure of governance,” said Mao Shoulong of Renmin University. Attempts at central planning have turned an unusual weather pattern into a national disaster.

There are about a dozen wrongheaded policies that have aggravated the situation, but the most misguided of them are the central government’s price controls on energy, needed to power the trains to take people home. Beijing technocrats have been waging an unsuccessful campaign to slow accelerating inflation. As an integral part of that effort, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, has put a ceiling on electricity charges. The NDRC in the last few days has been insisting that its cap has not led to the decline in the generation of power that is aggravating the ongoing crisis, but its case is unconvincing. The trains won’t move unless there is electricity, and there is an electricity shortage due in large measure to overregulation of the economy. There is also a national shortage of coal, used to generate most of the country’s electricity, due to a result of a mix of central government measures.

China needs better weather, but more important it needs a more open economy. The forecasters say the snow will stop sometime this month. Unfortunately, that will be long before the country gets better economic planning.

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A Summit with Singh

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing announced that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin a three-day visit to China on January 13. There are long-running border disputes and fundamental disagreements between the Chinese and the Indians. Not one will be settled during the brief moments when Singh actually sits down for talks with his counterparts.

Although the itinerary has yet to be announced, it’s clear that the visit will be filled with a series of high-profile events and made-for-television handshakes. In short, Singh’s sojourn in the Chinese capital will resemble the smiles summit that the Chinese staged for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late last month. For example, Singh, if early reports are correct, will also address Chinese students at one of Beijing premier universities.

There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Chinese diplomacy, at least when relations with China’s big-power rivals are involved. So we need to ask ourselves why Beijing is engaging in content-less diplomacy at this moment. Optimists, of course, will say that the country’s foreign policy is maturing and Beijing wants harmonious relations while it hosts the Olympics. Pessimists—I prefer to call them “realists”—might think that the Chinese are covering their flanks in preparation for misadventure elsewhere in the region. For example, Beijing may be thinking of intensifying pressure on Vietnam—the two countries are already involved in an especially nasty phase of their long-running territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Or perhaps the Chinese are thinking of taking a bite out of Taiwan, such as a quick grab of its outlying islands.

In any event, China is undoubtedly trying to woo Tokyo away from Washington and prevent New Delhi from getting even closer to America. To the extent that China has any grand strategy at this moment, it is to push the United States out of Asia and make itself the unquestioned hegemon there. That means, at a minimum, Washington, in addition to problems elsewhere, needs to think about the next steps toward consolidating its relationship with India. The problems in the Middle East are important, of course, but superpowers never have the luxury of concentrating all their attentions on just one problem or region.

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing announced that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin a three-day visit to China on January 13. There are long-running border disputes and fundamental disagreements between the Chinese and the Indians. Not one will be settled during the brief moments when Singh actually sits down for talks with his counterparts.

Although the itinerary has yet to be announced, it’s clear that the visit will be filled with a series of high-profile events and made-for-television handshakes. In short, Singh’s sojourn in the Chinese capital will resemble the smiles summit that the Chinese staged for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late last month. For example, Singh, if early reports are correct, will also address Chinese students at one of Beijing premier universities.

There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Chinese diplomacy, at least when relations with China’s big-power rivals are involved. So we need to ask ourselves why Beijing is engaging in content-less diplomacy at this moment. Optimists, of course, will say that the country’s foreign policy is maturing and Beijing wants harmonious relations while it hosts the Olympics. Pessimists—I prefer to call them “realists”—might think that the Chinese are covering their flanks in preparation for misadventure elsewhere in the region. For example, Beijing may be thinking of intensifying pressure on Vietnam—the two countries are already involved in an especially nasty phase of their long-running territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Or perhaps the Chinese are thinking of taking a bite out of Taiwan, such as a quick grab of its outlying islands.

In any event, China is undoubtedly trying to woo Tokyo away from Washington and prevent New Delhi from getting even closer to America. To the extent that China has any grand strategy at this moment, it is to push the United States out of Asia and make itself the unquestioned hegemon there. That means, at a minimum, Washington, in addition to problems elsewhere, needs to think about the next steps toward consolidating its relationship with India. The problems in the Middle East are important, of course, but superpowers never have the luxury of concentrating all their attentions on just one problem or region.

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Springtime for China and Japan

Yesterday, Japan’s Yasuo Fukuda returned from his first official visit to China as prime minister. During his four-day “ringing in the spring” trip, he received a red-carpet welcome, bowed to a statue of Confucius at the philosopher’s birthplace, held “heart-to-heart” talks with senior leaders in Beijing, and spoke to students at prestigious Peking University. Fukuda agreed to transfer environmental technology to China, promised to reflect on Japan’s historical mistakes, and abjectly said what Beijing demanded on the subject of Taiwan. In the midst of his heavy schedule he even had time for a game of catch with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, each of them decked out in a baseball uniform and wearing a red cap decorated by a “C.”

Yet the trip, to borrow the words of Tokyo political scientist Takeshi Inoguchi, “was not a home run.” Other leaders come away from Beijing with economic packages or concessions of some sort. Fukuda returned to Japan with only Beijing’s momentary goodwill. Perhaps that was all that Fukuda could achieve in these circumstances.

Yet the object of diplomacy is not maintaining good relations—the object is achieving national goals. Japan, unfortunately, has been particularly unable to do so when it comes to China. The most visible open sores between the two nations are their competing territorial claims, especially the one festering over the gas fields in the East China Sea. On the East China Sea dispute, Beijing issued a stream of wonderful-sounding but essentially meaningless words during Fukuda’s visit. “We feel each other’s sincerity and determination,” Premier Wen said after their talks on the subject.

Of course, we can’t be too tough on Japan for failing to craft a sensible approach to China, because Tokyo is merely taking its cue from a feckless Washington. As Michael Auslin pointed out recently, other nations will become allies of Beijing unless the United States can come up with more resolute policies. On his recently concluded trip, Fukuda said he wanted to establish a “creative partnership” with China and hoped both countries would team up on global issues. If Washington does not want to lose its remaining friends in East Asia—and at this point it cannot afford to give up any of them to Beijing—the Bush administration will have to start exercising effective leadership. Of course the Chinese will try to drive a wedge between Washington and Tokyo. It is up to President Bush to make sure that American alliances in Asia stand firm.

Yesterday, Japan’s Yasuo Fukuda returned from his first official visit to China as prime minister. During his four-day “ringing in the spring” trip, he received a red-carpet welcome, bowed to a statue of Confucius at the philosopher’s birthplace, held “heart-to-heart” talks with senior leaders in Beijing, and spoke to students at prestigious Peking University. Fukuda agreed to transfer environmental technology to China, promised to reflect on Japan’s historical mistakes, and abjectly said what Beijing demanded on the subject of Taiwan. In the midst of his heavy schedule he even had time for a game of catch with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, each of them decked out in a baseball uniform and wearing a red cap decorated by a “C.”

Yet the trip, to borrow the words of Tokyo political scientist Takeshi Inoguchi, “was not a home run.” Other leaders come away from Beijing with economic packages or concessions of some sort. Fukuda returned to Japan with only Beijing’s momentary goodwill. Perhaps that was all that Fukuda could achieve in these circumstances.

Yet the object of diplomacy is not maintaining good relations—the object is achieving national goals. Japan, unfortunately, has been particularly unable to do so when it comes to China. The most visible open sores between the two nations are their competing territorial claims, especially the one festering over the gas fields in the East China Sea. On the East China Sea dispute, Beijing issued a stream of wonderful-sounding but essentially meaningless words during Fukuda’s visit. “We feel each other’s sincerity and determination,” Premier Wen said after their talks on the subject.

Of course, we can’t be too tough on Japan for failing to craft a sensible approach to China, because Tokyo is merely taking its cue from a feckless Washington. As Michael Auslin pointed out recently, other nations will become allies of Beijing unless the United States can come up with more resolute policies. On his recently concluded trip, Fukuda said he wanted to establish a “creative partnership” with China and hoped both countries would team up on global issues. If Washington does not want to lose its remaining friends in East Asia—and at this point it cannot afford to give up any of them to Beijing—the Bush administration will have to start exercising effective leadership. Of course the Chinese will try to drive a wedge between Washington and Tokyo. It is up to President Bush to make sure that American alliances in Asia stand firm.

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Commemorating the Struggle for Soviet Jewry

The campaign to free Soviet Jewry was one of the great human rights struggles—and successes—of the last century. Here was a situation in which the battle lines were sharply drawn, people of conscience had only one side to take, and where the distinction between the Free World and the Soviet slave state could not have been more clear.

December 6 marked the 20th anniversary of the Freedom Sunday Rally in Washington, D.C., which brought an estimated 250,000 people to the National Mall on the eve of a summit between President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev. The anniversary was celebrated by NCSJ, formerly known the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

The struggle for Soviet Jewry serves as a useful example to contemporary human rights movements. Here was an issue that attracted supporters from an array of political corners—from evangelical Christians to the labor movement, the latter of which played a pivotal role. There was Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights activist, who lent not just his personal understanding of the connection between the African-American and Jewish freedom struggles, but also his mellifluous voice to the singing of Negro spirituals. That Rustin would be a leader in the campaign to free Soviet Jews was hardly a surprise; he was the greatest black proponent of Jewish causes. Ten years ago, writing in the New Republic, Paul Berman noted that “[Rustin] organized a tiny but noisy black organization [Black Americans to Support Israel Committe, BASIC] in favor of Israel. That was as noble as anything he ever did.”

Most passionate, of course, was Senator Scoop Jackson, author of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which (very sensibly) prohibited normal trade relations with countries that prevented their citizens’ freedom of movement (a right that is granted in the United Nations Charter). The amendment continues to be a useful tool in promoting human rights and religious liberty abroad as it encourages countries to improve their records in order to “graduate” from the law.

If anything, the 20th anniversary of the Freedom Sunday rally ought serve as a reminder that human rights should always be on the agenda of the United States, no matter what the issue or country with which it’s dealing.

The campaign to free Soviet Jewry was one of the great human rights struggles—and successes—of the last century. Here was a situation in which the battle lines were sharply drawn, people of conscience had only one side to take, and where the distinction between the Free World and the Soviet slave state could not have been more clear.

December 6 marked the 20th anniversary of the Freedom Sunday Rally in Washington, D.C., which brought an estimated 250,000 people to the National Mall on the eve of a summit between President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev. The anniversary was celebrated by NCSJ, formerly known the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.

The struggle for Soviet Jewry serves as a useful example to contemporary human rights movements. Here was an issue that attracted supporters from an array of political corners—from evangelical Christians to the labor movement, the latter of which played a pivotal role. There was Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights activist, who lent not just his personal understanding of the connection between the African-American and Jewish freedom struggles, but also his mellifluous voice to the singing of Negro spirituals. That Rustin would be a leader in the campaign to free Soviet Jews was hardly a surprise; he was the greatest black proponent of Jewish causes. Ten years ago, writing in the New Republic, Paul Berman noted that “[Rustin] organized a tiny but noisy black organization [Black Americans to Support Israel Committe, BASIC] in favor of Israel. That was as noble as anything he ever did.”

Most passionate, of course, was Senator Scoop Jackson, author of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which (very sensibly) prohibited normal trade relations with countries that prevented their citizens’ freedom of movement (a right that is granted in the United Nations Charter). The amendment continues to be a useful tool in promoting human rights and religious liberty abroad as it encourages countries to improve their records in order to “graduate” from the law.

If anything, the 20th anniversary of the Freedom Sunday rally ought serve as a reminder that human rights should always be on the agenda of the United States, no matter what the issue or country with which it’s dealing.

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Hotline to Nobody

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now in Seoul, after completing two days of meetings in Beijing during the first stop of a three-nation tour (he also will be visiting Japan before heading home). In China, Gates traded compliments with Chinese leaders, issued correct statements on the need for dialogue, and toured the Forbidden City, the imperial palace at the north end of Tiananmen Square. It was Gates’s first trip to the country since succeeding Donald Rumsfeld as Pentagon chief, and senior U.S. officials marked the event by reporting modest progress on a range of secondary issues. The Chinese, for example, promised to provide more cooperation on accounting for American prisoners taken during the Korean War.

Both sides also announced the planned establishment of a military hotline between Washington and Beijing “at an early date.” The initiative was announced during Hu Jintao’s summit in Washington last April and has been the subject of periodic re-announcements ever since, such as one this June when Gates was in Singapore. Despite the apparent signs of progress, the Chinese have been dragging their feet over technical issues. The United States has sought to establish such a hotline for more than five years. Yet the critical issue now is not how such a link will be established. It is whether the Chinese wish to engage the United States in substantive discussions at all—or whether they wish merely to sip tea and waste our time.

There is reason to believe that when we call, no one will answer the phone. (There was, remember, nobody taking Washington’s calls during the Hainan reconnaissance plane incident in April 2001.) The issue is as much about the ability of the Chinese government to make decisions in the middle of crisis as it is about the state of relations between the two countries.

But there’s a more fundamental reason why the phone may not be of much use during the next confrontation. At the same time that Gates was talking with Chinese officials this week, Premier Wen Jiabao was in Moscow talking with President Vladimir Putin about their countries’ “friendship for generations.” While the American defense secretary was arguing about the technicalities of telecommunications lines, Moscow and Beijing were putting together the alliance that will challenge the international community for a lifetime. It seems they have been communicating just fine without a hotline.

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Wen to Merkel: Mind Your Own Business

Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to do more to stop climate change. “The Chinese wish, like all people, for blue skies, green hills and clear water,” Wen said at a joint news conference in Beijing. Then, the “People’s Premier” told the Germans—and by implication, everyone else—to mind their own business. He essentially said that China must finish its industrialization before it can consider minimizing its impact on world climate. “China has taken part of the responsibility for climate change for only 30 years while industrial countries have grown fast for the last 200 years,” he said.

China does not have a severely degraded environment—the world’s worst—because it is industrializing. And it’s not because of a shortage of money—China possesses the world’s largest pile of foreign currency reserves, now in excess of $1.3 trillion. Nor is it due to a lack of technology: China already possesses much of the know-how, and foreign governments and companies are tripping over themselves to supply what it does not now have.

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Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to do more to stop climate change. “The Chinese wish, like all people, for blue skies, green hills and clear water,” Wen said at a joint news conference in Beijing. Then, the “People’s Premier” told the Germans—and by implication, everyone else—to mind their own business. He essentially said that China must finish its industrialization before it can consider minimizing its impact on world climate. “China has taken part of the responsibility for climate change for only 30 years while industrial countries have grown fast for the last 200 years,” he said.

China does not have a severely degraded environment—the world’s worst—because it is industrializing. And it’s not because of a shortage of money—China possesses the world’s largest pile of foreign currency reserves, now in excess of $1.3 trillion. Nor is it due to a lack of technology: China already possesses much of the know-how, and foreign governments and companies are tripping over themselves to supply what it does not now have.

The country has polluted its land, water, and air because its political system has prevented its disgusted and frustrated citizenry from stopping the damage. The Communist Party’s bottom-up patronage system rewards economic growth at any price, providing an incentive to dump raw sewage, scatter industrial waste, and release toxic smoke. Beijing’s leaders are afraid that an economic slowdown will lead to the collapse of the one-party state.

Wen Jiabao can, of course, put off the German chancellor for the moment. but the People’s Premier one day will have to listen to his own people. According to Zhou Shengxian, Beijing’s top environmental official, Chinese people took to the streets an astonishing 51,000 times in 2005 to protest environmental degradation. In other words, during that year the Communist Party failed almost a thousand times a week to mediate conflict between ordinary citizens on the one hand and polluting factories and colluding local governments on the other.

There is, however, hope in China. Either Mr. Wen will figure out a way to clean up the nation’s environment—or the Chinese people will. I’m betting it won’t be Wen.

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How To Counter the Taiwan Nuclear Menace

One of the problems commonly cited about gun control is that it keeps firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, leaving the field to criminals, who by definition do not care about following the rules.

Does a similar dynamic exist in the nuclear realm? That certainly seems to be the case in Asia, where the U.S. has worked hard to halt the spread of these fearsome weapons.

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One of the problems commonly cited about gun control is that it keeps firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, leaving the field to criminals, who by definition do not care about following the rules.

Does a similar dynamic exist in the nuclear realm? That certainly seems to be the case in Asia, where the U.S. has worked hard to halt the spread of these fearsome weapons.

North Korea tested its first bomb last October. It may have been a partial dud; the evidence is unclear. Whatever the case, the U.S. has repeatedly stated that a nuclear-armed North Korea would be intolerable. But tolerating it we are. Pyongyang is thought to have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons and may be building more.

Communist China, not nearly as hostile as North Korea, but a potential adversary nonetheless, has a much larger arsenal. Some of its smaller devices appear to be copies of ours, the warhead designs probably obtained by espionage. At this point, we are doing nothing about Chinese nuclear weapons; we have no choice but to acquiese. But back in the early 1960’s when was China was in the throes of revolutionary chaos, the problem was worrisome enough for both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to contemplate a preemptive first strike to take out the fledgling Chinese nuclear program.

Pakistan is not now an adversary, but given its political instability, it is a lit fuse on a stick of dynamite. This basketcase of a country already has an arsenal of perhaps 100 weapons. If a nuclear device is detonated in anger in the next decade, or passed on to a terrorist band, my bet is that it will be one of these.

Then there is our friend Taiwan, a threat to no one, a stable and law-abiding country, threatened by its giant Communist neighbor, which has been engaged in an intense military build-up across the Taiwan straits. In the 1970’s, feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable in light of Richard Nixon’s opening to Communist China followed by Jimmy Carter’s abrupt severing of diplomatic relations, the Taiwanese government launched a covert nuclear-weapons development program.

Fascinating newly declassified documents, some of them top-secret and just put on-line by the National Security Archive, a private research group, show that the U.S., particularly under Carter, came down hard, leading Taiwan’s premier to complain that Washington was treating Taiwan “in a fashion which few other countries would tolerate.”

Whether the U.S. pushed too hard can be debated, but the pressure did achieve the desired result. Taiwan today does not have nuclear weapons.

Should we applaud? If so, only with one hand. Most of the criminals in this particular neighborhood now have the guns while one of its upstanding citizens was successfully disarmed.

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