Thursday, September 22, 2005

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Greens

Sun Bin, one of the newest additions to my blogroll, has previously posted on why Taiwan should not take actions toward independence. (My reply is here.) Now, he offers a quote from Lao Zi to further explain his point:
There was once a saying among those who wielded armies: 'I'd rather be a guest than a host, much rather retreat a foot than advance an inch.' This is called 'marching without marching, rolling up sleeves without baring arms, raising swords without brandishing weapons, entering battle without facing an enemy.' There's no greater calamity than dishonoring an enemy.

This seems to me to smell a lot like advocating appeasement. For clarification, one might look to the policy recommendations that he is supporting with this quote:
If Taiwan does nothing, after a few decades, its threat may disappear and the problem [is] resolved by itself (as mainland China changes)

He is simply advocating that the status quo be maintained. That couldn't be appeasement, could it? Yes, I would argue, it is. Appeasement is defined by Merriam Webster as
pacifiy, conciliate; especially : to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles

To not move toward independence in order to avoid a confrontation is to appease an enemy.* It matters not whether the enemy has compelled you to take action in accordance with its wishes (compellance) or convinced you not to take an action of which it doesn't approve (deterrence), giving in to such threats is appeasement.

What is wrong with appeasement, you might ask. Instead of the obvious response (see e.g. Munich, 1938), I'll reply with a recommended read: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. For those of you who don't have a large number of children's books at your disposal, I'll provide cliff notes. If you give a mouse a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk. If you give a mouse a glass of milk, he will ask for...

It could be alternately worded as 'give someone an inch and they will take a mile.' In international relations it is the principle that appeasing agressors is a bad idea. No offense to the ancient Chinese authors but I think Numeroff and her mouse have Lao Zi and Sun Zi both on this one.

Now, it is entirely possible that Sun Bin advocates the status quo for other reasons. He could be ideologically opposed to independence and thus not guilty of appeasement at all, because he is advocating a policy in line with his own beliefs that just happens to concur with that of the threatening power. That is not the argument he is making, however. Advocating that Taiwan maintain the status quo simply out of pragmatism or fear is appeasement, in my opinion. Am I wrong?

*To not move toward independence because you don't want Taiwan to be an independent nation is not, of course, appeasement. Those who support reunification or the status quo because of their ideology are appeasing no one. Those who advocate a policy simply to avoid conflict with an opponent, however, could be charged with appeasement.