- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

Paul Wolfowitz, the new deputy secretary of defense, is a conceptualizer. You might also call him a "defense intellectual." Like the great Clausewitz, he understands the relationship between arms and politics. That is why I am recalling a lecture Mr. Wolfowitz gave just a year ago when he was dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
His speech demonstrated a statesman's wisdom when in discussing diplomacy he said "clarity is not always a virtue, and often ambiguity is a practical way to achieve an agreement with which each side can live." He was referring to the inflammatory term "one-China" since it means different things to Taiwan and to the People's Republic of China but so far it has kept the peace in Asia.
The lecture, one of a series under Heritage Foundation auspices, dealt in broad terms with the prospects for democracy in Asia but more directly with the triangle the United States, China and Taiwan. Mr. Wolfowitz's carefully worded analysis, which attacked Bill Clinton's handling of China policy, may or may not become U.S. policy in the months ahead, but his thinking on Asia's thorny challenge is worth citing:
* What will determine Asia's future is if and when the Chinese Communist Party dumps its Marxism-Leninism sludge and allows some fresh air to circulate on the subcontinent. Mr. Wolfowitz believes that "we have an interest in China's democratic evolution and a limited but very important ability to support democracy in China, and particularly in Taiwan."
* China's future emergence as a great power means trying to persuade its leadership that the status quo should only be changed peacefully: "The failure to properly handle the emergence of Germany and Japan [in the early 20th century] as major powers had catastrophic consequences."
* Most importantly, a democratic China "would have a far better chance of coming to terms peacefully with Taiwan." In other words, Mr. Wolfowitz accepts the "one-China" policy because:
1. It preserves freedom, democracy and prosperity in Taiwan while denying the island formal independence.
2. "By avoiding a direct affront to mainland China's sovereignty, it helps to avoid military conflict."
* While ambiguity on the definition of "one-China" may be desirable ("and ambiguity on the subject of arms sales is probably unavoidable") there are two areas involving U.S. intentions where ambiguity could be dangerous:
1. "I think it would be a strategic as well as a moral mistake for the United States to ever let China use force to have its way with Taiwan."
2. Taiwan must eschew a unilateral declaration of independence from mainland China. Clearly, should Taiwan ignore this warning and declare unilateral independence, the Taiwan-U.S. understanding would be breached immediately.
Mr. Wolfowitz's speech also contained some interesting revelations during his service as a State Department executive in the Reagan era. It seems that in the early days of the administration some officials wanted to abolish the department's Bureau of Human Rights. The argument against the bureau was that it harassed America's allies while it supposedly ignored human rights abuses by the communists and other left-wing dictatorships. Edmund Burke had an answer to that argument: "Too often political choice is between the disagreeable and the intolerable."
Mr. Wolfowitz and others argued that "a policy that pursues only America's so-called interests, as opposed to American ideals indeed a policy which assumes that there is a sharp separation between ideals and interests would have sacrificed an enormous base of domestic support. Even more important, it would have abandoned what was perhaps the most potent instrument the United States possessed for weakening and eventually unraveling the Soviet empire, an instrument more powerful even than our formidable ability to compete militarily."
There is a risk to the Wolfowitz "policy." China's communist gerontocrats are quite aware of how glasnost and perestroika compromised the legitimacy of the Soviet empire. It's anybody's guess what China's Old Guard, the Tianamen Square killers, would do if faced with another such threat to their power.


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