Two-thirds of National Journal's National Security Insiders support the sale of new U.S.-made fighter jets to Taiwan in light of Chinese military expansion.
In a recent letter to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the White House said that it was committed to helping Taiwan address its gap in fighter aircraft as a result of Chinese military expansion, and promised to consider selling the island nation F-16 C/D jets. Cornyn was incensed over the Obama administration's September decision to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of F-16 jets, rather than sell the nation the new package of late-model aircraft that Taipei, and many in Congress, had requested.
In early October, 67 percent of polled Insiders said they supported the administration's initial decision to retrofit Taipei's aging fighter jet fleet. In contrast, an almost equal percentage (65 percent) now say the U.S. should sell Taipei the full package of F-16 C/Ds.
"Obama needs to 'walk softly but carry a big stick,' " one Insider said. "China pays undue attention to perception, and there is little doubt they see us as 'appeasers' right now." The sale isn't just about providing a badly needed boost to Taiwan's capabilities, another Insider added, but demonstrating U.S. support for the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which requires Washington to sell Taiwan “defensive” weapons.
"The Chinese may react badly no matter what we decide," one Insider said. "Yes, sell the planes. And tell Beijing that there is only one thing that could ever lead the United States to curtail its assistance--and that is a sustained (as in decades-long) reduction of the military threat to Taiwan."
Thirty-five percent of Insiders disagreed. "It is hard to see what this would do for U.S. interests (other than some additional sales for Lockheed Martin) to offset the effect on relations with China," one Insider said. "It is not as if the aircraft would make the difference in deterring or not deterring a Chinese invasion of the island."
Another Insider added: "Those jets do not affect, in any meaningful way, the order of battle. They only anger our largest trading partner--and provide jobs for Sen. Cornyn's constituents," one Insider said.
Insiders were deeply divided over the Obama campaign's decision to release a video touting the operation that took out al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and questioning whether presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney would have done the same.
A narrow majority of 51 percent said that this use of the bin Laden operation was appropriate. "Although clearly the professionalism of the force should get [its] due credit, President Obama's focus on going after bin Laden paid dividends and was a risky call," one Insider said. "Since he would've been held culpable if the mission would've been a disaster, he should also get his due credit for making the call."
Another Insider said that both the president and his opponent should both feel free to debate national-security issues as a measure of presidential performance. "For example, it would be equally appropriate for Gov. Romney to run an ad criticizing the president for failure to make progress on Middle East peace," the Insider said. Another added: "It's POLITICS! Unseemly, perhaps; but perfectly fair game given that the operation's failure would have been used by his opponents for political purposes."
Another 49 percent of Insiders said the video was inappropriate. "Very bad idea. Essentially taking credit for what the intelligence community built over 10 years' time demeans their work--and his office," one Insider said.
Other Insiders said the specific questions about Romney crossed a line. "The video was fine up to the point where Romney's ability to make such a decision was questioned," one Insider said. "I don't mind the president taking credit for a job well done on his watch, but I doubt he is the only one who would have given a green light to the operation that took bin Laden out."
"There is one thing to tout foreign policy successes and there is another to cheapen them with political pot shots," another Insider added. "Obama tarnished one of his most powerful foreign-policy achievements by including Romney's name in that video."
1. In a recent letter to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the White House said that it was committed to helping Taiwan in light of a Chinese military expansion--and promised to consider selling the island nation F-16 C/D jets even though the sale would infuriate Beijing. Should the United States support selling Taipei these jets?
- Yes 65%
- No 35%
"Absolutely. Part of bringing about a modus vivendi between China and Taiwan is to ensure that Taiwan remains strong militarily, so as to dissuade the hard-liners in Beijing from tyring to do anything rash."
"It would be a symbolic signal to Beijing that the United States stands firm in its decades-old commitment to the terms of its defense pledge to Taiwan."
"Politically unavoidable though strategically shortsighted."
"Only if it's really a change of heart and balance-of-power assessment, not if it's simply a quid pro quo for confirmation of a mid-level official."
"It should sell them the jets and then tell Taipei that they need to defend themselves--that the United States no longer interprets the Taiwan Relations Act as meaning that Taipei can outsource its defense to the American taxpayer."
"Saying we promise to 'consider' the sale creates a diplomatic chit we can leverage in dealings with China; it can either be surrendered as a carrot (no sale) to the Chinese for being reasonable or used [as] a stick (sale) to show our displeasure."
"Assuming that placating China on the Taiwan issue that will appease its aggression is akin to people at the end of World War II who believed that allowing the Soviet Union to create a buffer in Eastern Europe would appease its aggression."
"It's important for the United States to continue arms sales to Taiwan as a way to check China's expanding military power. It would be against U.S. and allied interests to allow China a free hand in the South China Sea or over the Spratlys."
"At a time when the United States' commitment to its allies is in question the world over, the United States must stand by its friends. This is all the more so given the White House's purported commitment to helping Taiwan."
"We cannot let China dictate our foreign policy in East Asia. If the Chinese government does not want the United States to sell arms to Taiwan, then it should publicly announce its intention to peacefully settle the issue of reunification rather than periodically rattling its saber."
"Beijing has been deploying missiles across the strait from Taiwan for years; meanwhile we've left Taiwan with decades-old fighters."
"The United States should continue supporting Taiwan's military, but with lower-profile equipment that is likely to be more useful for the island's defense, such as improved IT for command, control, communications, and intelligence; defenses against tactical ballistic missiles; and capabilities to enhance resilience against attack. The purpose should be to increase uncertainty in the mind of a potential aggressor and thus strengthen deterrence."
"Time to end this jag."
"The irony is that if [the] United States truly believes the One China policy, in the long run, we'd be selling these jets to China."
"Cross-straits tension are at a 60-year low, not reflected by China's missile buildup. U.S. policy needs to put pressure on Beijing to demilitarize this issue. More weapons sales just compounds the security problem."
2. The Obama reelection campaign has released a video touting the operation that took out Osama bin Laden and questioning whether Mitt Romney would have done the same. Is this use of the bin Laden operation appropriate?
- Yes 51%
- No 49%
"He is the president, after all."
"Since Romney and his supporters are making misleading claims about Obama's foreign policy, it is more than appropriate."
"The president gets the blame or credit for big decisions and actions on his watch."
"Romney cannot criticize Obama as weak then expect him not to defend himself aggressively. This is going to be a very negative campaign, on both sides."
"Romney should respond by saying what we do know for certain is that Biden wouldn't have and Bill Clinton didn't when he had the opportunity."
"Romney has said the campaign is about the Obama record. Being the Democrat with the highest national-security approval rating in decades is part of that record."
"It's inappropriate for an incumbent to tout his accomplishments and claim his opponent doesn't measure up? A presidential campaign is not a dinner party!"
"Appropriate? Come on, this is politics. If Republicans want to whine about national- security issues being used against them unfairly, they ought to remind themselves how La Rochefoucauld defined 'hypocrisy.' "
"The Romney campaign has made it known that it plans to call into question the president's national-security and foreign-policy credentials. It appears the president is simply playing projected defense by framing his accomplishments before Romney can try to define his alleged failings. Bottom line, never allow your opponent to define you."
"This is a commander-in-chief issue that points to the tough decisions a president has to make. Of course he should make the case to the American people."
"It is entirely appropriate for Obama's supporters to highlight the operation taking out bin Laden. However, the president said he would not 'spike the football,' and that is precisely what he is doing. So while he can highlight this all he likes, it is somewhat unseemly to do it so brazenly and so politically."
"The raid to capture/kill bin Laden was well planned and executed, and the president justly deserves credit for making the decision to go. But he should let the facts speak for themselves rather than claiming that another president would have acted differently in his place. This video is beneath him and his office."
"Using the bin Laden killing was understandable; the ad crossed the line in trying to draw a contrast with Romney."
"Both sides are playing electoral politics with serious issues of national security.... Shame, all around."
"The administration's effort to gain partisan advantage from the killing of Osama bin Laden is both unseemly and bound to backfire. It is already raising questions, for example, about the degree to which the policies of the previous administration are responsible for the success that Obama wishes to claim as his own. This will lead inevitably to questions [about] whether the policy changes instituted by Obama with respect to detention and interrogation (and his larger policy decision to kill terrorists rather than try to capture them) will handicap counterterrorist operations in the future."
"The president deserves credit for the success and should take credit and include [it] in his campaign as a reminder of his willingness to make tough decisions. He should not use it to imply his opponent would not have made the decision."
"Bush used bin Laden for his political purposes (until he couldn't find him), and now Obama is using him for his political purposes. Which leads to the question, how much of the so-called 'war on terror' is simply for political purposes?"
"The most politically partisan presidency in years; ... all the more disappointing because he ran on a campaign to do just the opposite.''
"Bad form. Bad taste. Bush league (except neither of the Presidents Bush would have acted this way)."
"Both campaigns should be touting the Seals who actually carried out the operation."
"It is [a] cheap political ploy unworthy of the presidency."
"It is impossible to say what Mitt Romney would or would not have done in the same situation. Mr. Obama deserves credit for his action, but it provides no basis for a comparison with his political opponent."
"Lauding the OBL decision in a campaign ad is fine. Speculating on what someone else would or would not have done under similar circumstances is ridiculous."
National Journal’s National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of defense and foreign-policy experts.
Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Thad Allen, James Bamford, David Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Kit Bond, Stuart Bowen, Paula Broadwell, Mike Breen, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Wendy Chamberlin, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Robert Danin, Richard Danzig, Paul Eaton, Andrew Exum, William Fallon, Eric Farnsworth, Jacques Gansler, Daniel Goure, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Jim Harper, Michael Hayden, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Donald Kerrick, Rachel Kleinfeld, Lawrence Korb, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, James Lindsay, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kevin Nealer, Michael Oates, Thomas Pickering, Paul Pillar, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Matthew Sherman, Jennifer Sims, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Suzanne Spaulding, Ted Stroup, Tamara Wittes, and Dov Zakheim.