The US has an obvious choice. It can walk on eggs with China, or it can flex its superpower muscles
Pundits are still asking why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in the face of stern warnings from China, who viewed her visit as a provocation and used it as a pretext for belligerence against Taiwan.
Pelosi, a liberal Democrat, said she did it to support Taiwan’s democracy against China’s brand of Communism. Fox News analysts suggested her goal was to promote her business interests in East Asia. (Even CNN criticized her visit for fear it would start a war).
Whatever her reason, she has precedent on her side, even if the president wasn’t so keen on it.
Ryan Scoville, a professor at Marquette University Law School, notes that members of Congress have been traveling overseas regularly since the 1890s. For a project he published on behalf of the Lawfare Institute and Brookings Institution, Scoville tallied some 4,000 overseas Congressional visits between 2011 and 2016 alone. Virtually every House and Senate member took a minimum of one or two annual junkets.
Scoville says Article I of the Constitution appears to authorize Congressional travel and serves the purpose of enabling elected officials to be more informed on foreign affairs and less dependent on what the executive branch is willing to share with them. Presidents, who are responsible for executing foreign policy, can and do push back on the travel they feel could harm US interests, and normally assign a member of the State Department to tag along to monitor the visit.
In Pelosi’s case, a weak Biden administration declined to butt heads with the powerful Speaker and issued only a mild objection. Biden further devalued America’s image as a superpower when he failed to admonish China for trying to dictate where Americans may or may not visit.
At some point, China will use any pretext it can to capitalize on US weakness and seize Taiwan, either by making them an offer they can’t refuse, or by force. The US has an obvious choice. It can walk on eggs with China, or it can flex its superpower muscles. It will take more than the one aircraft carrier the US dispatched last week to deter Chinese aggression.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 923)
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