Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, warned last week at The Heritage Foundation that U.S. leaders need to take steps to deter Communist China from launching an attack on Taiwan within the next few years. Chinese President Xi Jinping said as much at China’s recently concluded 20th Party Congress. The speech attracted little attention, but Mr. Gallagher was serving notice that the matter has to be on Washington’s agenda after the midterm elections.
Most elections and especially midterm elections turn on economic issues, and that is truer this year than at any time in recent memory. Candidates can talk about noneconomic issues like abortion or drone on about the state of the world and even the dangers of war, but when families are hurting, the vote will be determined by pocketbook issues. The only noneconomic issues with impact in this type of election year will be what voters perceive to be threats to themselves and their families, issues like crime and what their children are or aren’t being taught in school.
Democratic candidates want the election to be about something other than gas prices and crime, but they will be on the ballot regardless of what excites ideologues or those who live and work in the Washington bubble. Such esoteric concerns are having little impact outside their narrow parochial circles. Across the board, every pollster who asks voters what issues they consider important is reporting that ideologically divisive issues such as abortion, climate change, election fraud, and what the woke call “equity” all have their champions, but these are not issues that are moving many voters.
Pro-choice activists have been shouting from the rooftops since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade that every woman in the country is at risk, and President Biden has warned rather casually that we may be facing nuclear Armageddon. But foreign and defense policy will move to center stage only after the election. Vladimir Putin isn’t going to go away, and while Americans rightly applaud the blood, sweat and tears sacrificed by Ukrainians resisting his attack on their country, our leaders don’t seem to have thought much about how we help bring the war to a conclusion.
Mr. Putin’s Russia is a threat to his neighbors, but his Russia is a pint-sized duchy compared to today’s China. Unlike Russia, China has the manpower, technology and wealth to back up its threats. China wants Taiwan, and neither Mr. Biden nor his advisers seem to have any real idea as to whether we can or should defend the 23 million people and the democracy they have built on their island nation. Our leaders talk about helping, but Taiwan’s government and people must be ready for the worst.
Congressman Gallagher’s warning that our country is entering “a window of maximum danger” and must address what can and should be done if we have any real desire to thwart Beijing’s desire to take Taiwan. This should get the attention it deserves after the votes are counted in November. He was especially critical of the short-term assistance Taiwan needs as we develop new systems that may be helpful but won’t be available for a decade or two. He outlined steps we can but are not taking now.
Other nations recognize the short-term threat and are taking steps now. Japan realizes that if Beijing invades Taiwan, Japan’s territory and all of Asia’s economy could be collateral damage. As a recent Reuters analysis put it, “For Japan, losing Taiwan to mainland Chinese control could be a disaster because it would jeopardize key shipping lanes that supply nearly all Japan’s oil and many of the materials it uses for manufacturing. It would also give the Chinese navy unfettered access to the Western Pacific.”
Recognizing that Communist China is its most dangerous adversary, Tokyo is committed to doubling defense spending over the next five years and into the future. Like the U.S., Japan is funding and building new weapons systems that won’t be deployed for years. However, as one Japanese defense official told Reuters, “We will give priority to things we can deploy within five years.”
Mr. Gallagher clearly agrees with the Japanese defense strategy. He believes our problem is with leaders who spend their time trying to please the militant left here at home rather than focusing on the very real threat posed by an aggressive China. After the midterms, it is his hope that we will recognize that the interests of Taiwan, Japan and our friends in Asia are our interests as well.
• David Keene is editor at large at The Washington Times.