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Deterrence in Taiwan Is Failing – War by 2025 (Thanks, Biden)

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When U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan penned a January memo saying, “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” to officers in the Air Mobility Command, the world paused for a moment. This memo, which found its way to the media, painted a looming picture of conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan. As if the gravity of this prediction wasn’t concerning enough, it’s shocking to consider that military and civilian officials had already been making similar public statements.

The intensity of the cross-strait tensions was palpable in August 2022. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan triggered China’s most aggressive posture in the last 25 years. Their military aircraft veered across the Taiwan Strait’s center line, and ballistic missiles fell disturbingly close to significant shipping lanes. All this happened just months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine served a stark reminder of the grim realities of major wars.

“It seems that the Biden administration has been busy playing catch-up, rather than forging a strategic path,” an analyst observed. It was only a year earlier that Adm. Philip Davidson, chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, had projected a potential Taiwan Strait war by 2027. Given China’s recent actions, many, including Minihan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, believe it might start even sooner. The distressing part is that if war erupts, it won’t be a surprise. This raises the question: Has Biden’s administration done enough to deter this anticipated conflict?

Although President Joe Biden has emphasized deterrence, his actions seem to fall short. The president has asserted that the U.S. would support Taiwan if attacked, but deterrents extend beyond mere affirmations. They necessitate a comprehensive approach, focused on the consequences of war, that must be conveyed clearly to potential adversaries. It’s concerning that years into this potential conflict window, the U.S. is still grappling to form a robust deterrent strategy.

Why is Taiwan so crucial? Besides its significant role in global tech supply chains and as a beacon of democracy threatened by autocracy, it serves as a strategic buffer. “Taiwan is a lock around the neck of a great dragon,” as Chinese military analyst Zhu Tingchang eloquently noted. Capturing Taiwan would give China unparalleled dominance in the Pacific region, destabilizing the geopolitical balance.

History tells us that in 1972, Mao Zedong suggested to U.S. President Richard Nixon that China could wait a century to reclaim Taiwan. However, today’s Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, seems to lack that patience. “The increasing assertiveness of China under Xi, combined with Biden’s perceived inaction, is an explosive cocktail,” commented a geopolitical strategist.

The potential war over Taiwan would be disastrous. Beyond the brutal combat, such a conflict would disrupt global economic structures and increase the danger of nuclear escalation. Biden recently dubbed China a “ticking time bomb.” But, mere acknowledgment isn’t enough. Actions, or in Biden’s case the lack thereof, speak louder.

Critics argue that President Biden’s hesitation and underestimation of the threat may be providing China an undue advantage. While defending Taiwan may seem challenging given its proximity to China, it’s not impossible. The U.S. can employ a two-pronged deterrence strategy: “deterrence by denial” and “deterrence by punishment.” The key is to create a multi-dimensional response involving Taiwan’s self-defense, a robust U.S. military presence, a coalition of supportive allies, a global campaign to counteract China’s economic ambitions, and a nuclear deterrent.

But the window is closing rapidly. One expert noted, “We need a holistic approach, and Biden’s ad-hoc methods won’t suffice.” Given the increasing threats, it’s essential for the U.S. and its allies to stay ahead, ensuring peace and stability in the region. Biden’s current strategy, or the lack thereof, only serves to exacerbate concerns about the future.

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