Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called for a nationalistic foreign policy during a recent talk at the Heritage Foundation. He believes that the real enemy right now is China’s desire for dominance, and that if it is not stopped in Asia, before it invades Taiwan, then it will be almost impossible to stop it going forward. He sees a potential future of price hikes, unfair trade and military threats coming from the Pacific power, if it is not challenged while that is still an option.
He called for a “foreign policy in the spirit of Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt,” putting America’s interests first and deterring Communist China from seizing Taiwan. He noted that defense spending should be concentrated on deterrence in the Pacific. This, of course, means “scaling back military commitments elsewhere,” he said. He then raised the subject of NATO’ s unfair burden-sharing arrangement and the excessive financial support given to Ukraine.
He noted: “I’m for partnerships, I’m for the Alliance. The basis of our burden sharing in the 21st century though has to look like this: The Europeans take the lead in Europe and we will take the lead against China. That would be more than enough for both of us.”
Hawley noted that the U.S. must stop pretending that it can do everything for the Europeans and those in Asia at the same time, as this is just fanciful and unsustainable. The senator believes that the U.S. should be honest with the Europeans that, “the Pacific is the key theater for the U.S.” and that “Europe is important but it is not the key.”
He concluded that the “first step is to stop writing blank checks to Ukraine and demand that our European allies step up.” He believes it is important to arm Taiwan, on the condition that it spends and “goes all in” for its own protection.
The senator also said he is not against free markets but that being dependent on potentially hostile nations for food, medication, and other essentials is dangerous.
And therein lies the problem between idealist and realist outlooks.
From an economic perspective free trade and the marketplace of ideas are what make up the life blood of progress and especially prosperity. Generally speaking, everyone wins when goods are traded fairly and openly. Cutting trade with a nation as large and productive as China can really hurt the American consumer, that is, the regular American citizen. Perhaps prices go up or shortages appear.
Then again, from a national security perspective, there are certain things which can allow for international trade to play a role, but which need to never leave a country vulnerable to economic wars. I am sure many of us can live without cheap coffee pots or TV screens. But when it comes to food security, medicine, and some vital parts of industry, it is always best to make sure that the country is not going to be incapacitated at the whim of some far-off dictator.
In this respect, Taiwan is indeed a strategic site, if not because it would solidify China’s power in the Pacific if captured, then because it is the world leader in semiconductor and advanced chip (90%) manufacturing. Taking Taiwan would single-handedly give China control over any of the world’s technology which requires such parts (generally computers, phones, gaming consoles, some cars, microwaves, refrigerator, and military equipment).
Given the recent chip manufacturing shortage in the wake of the pandemic, it is likely the whole world has a stake in Taiwan remaining independent from China. We have all seen a glimpse of the problems that could be caused by a shortage. It is not difficult to imagine that a genocidal regime that cares nothing for its own people except as resources would hold such a technology hostage or hike prices for enrichment or political gain.
What all of this will mean for international security, trade, and ultimately peace remains to be seen.