While the war in Afghanistan was originally unrelated to Taiwan, China has been plotting to use the withdrawal of American troops to launch hybrid warfare against Taiwan. In addition, opportunistic Taiwanese media and pro-China politicians have caused a commotion by using the troop withdrawal to mislead the Taiwanese people. This manipulation has backfired, however, and that’s a blessing in disguise for Taiwan.
War has never been a good thing; it is fierce and terrible and brings extreme hardship. By resolutely and decisively withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the Biden administration decided to free the U.S. from the mire of a 20-year war, executing the withdrawal agreement the Trump administration made last year and ending the mess left by the previous three presidents. You cannot call staunching the flow of $1 trillion in military expenditures an unwise decision.
America’s strategy for the war on terror and in Afghanistan is a failure. Joe Biden’s policy decision to withdraw troops had two problems: One, the decision and execution were hurried and sloppy. Two, he acted unilaterally and did not adequately notify allies. U.S. troops left large quantities of weapons, military supplies and aircraft for the Taliban, and the American-supported Afghan government self-destructed and collapsed. This proves that Biden did not completely think through the decision and to that extent, he misjudged. Unilaterally withdrawing troops caught American allies by surprise. The German government, for example, complained that 18 years of stationing troops in Afghanistan has come to nothing. Meanwhile, the Japanese government has been scrambling to evacuate people. The explosion at the airport thwarted a motorcade of 10 buses carrying 400 people, and the Japanese government only managed to extract one person. Although Biden personally defended the pullout, the wave of criticism and calls for a congressional investigation remains high. While he faced criticism for withdrawing troops, Biden believes his decision benefits the U.S. in that financial and human resources can be reallocated to dealing with China.
Perhaps because it is an island nation, Taiwan often fares well regarding matters of war. It has often escaped the suffering that battle brings, even though the island has not escaped the shadow and experience of war. Before World War II, the most horrific war was the Thirty Years’ War (from 1618 to 1648). The conflict, which began in Central Europe, led the Netherlands in Western Europe to declare independence and create a new country. Even though Holland is on the other side of the world, it was the home of the people who colonized Taiwan.
Contemporary wars have been more advantageous than detrimental for Taiwan; the war in Afghanistan, thousands of miles away, is no exception. World War II baptized Taiwan in the fires of combat, and as a result, the country broke free of Japanese colonial rule. Although Taiwan did not send troops to the Korean or Vietnam wars, it intervened by sending advisers and served as a logistical support base for U.S. troops. As a result, both Taiwan and Japan reaped large fortunes. Taiwan’s economy and security was assured for the long term when the Korean War erupted; when Chiang Kai-shek was exiled and received U.S. support; and when Taiwan was under the protection of U.S. forces during the Cold War. Thus, contemporary wars have benefited Taiwan in many ways.
The benefit from the war in Afghanistan is like a gift from heaven. Because the troop withdrawal unexpectedly helped China’s case, Taiwan received an unexpected dividend. Biden spared no effort in appeasing allies and preserving America’s international image by clarifying that China was using the troop withdrawal to defame America’s international credibility and reliability. He personally asserted that the U.S. would resolutely keep its commitments to American allies, and in an unprecedented move, compared the security of Taiwan to that of NATO countries, which is a collective safeguard.
It is extremely significant when an American president expresses his personal commitment, as it reflects America’s renewed commitment to Taiwan on an international stage. The policy between the U.S. and Taiwan has naturally shifted from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity. Once more, the issue of Taiwan has received international visibility and there is room for expansion. Biden claims that the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan so that it could turn its attention to China and Russia, a move which strengthens Taiwan’s position with regard to international strategic security. With respect to Indo-Pacific strategy, from northeastern Asia down to the South China Sea, the U.S. and Japan’s security system is kept in place by Taiwan. Taiwan is also a stronghold for the global democratic community in its stand against China. With Biden’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. inadvertently extended an unprecedented amount of mutual trust and support to Taiwan. As history shows, war has brought Taiwan more change for the better than it has brought the country risk. Therefore, it is true what You Si-kun, president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, said. If China dares to attack Taiwan, Taiwan will be able to declare independence.
The author is a researcher at the Taiwan Brain Trust law firm and a member of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.