Editorial: There's nothing for Biden to walk back on defending Taiwan

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Political News

President Joe Biden’s remark Monday about a U.S. military response should China invade Taiwan was no gaffe and didn’t deserve to be walked back by his aides. Biden knew exactly what he was saying. He stated it three different ways at a news conference as Japan’s prime minister stood beside him. Despite all his previous malaprops and fumbled syntax, in this case, Biden said exactly what needed to be said, and what the world needed to hear.

U.S. national security and global security are one in the same. The isolationism embraced by a fringe group of congressional Republicans represents the kinds of misguided thinking that encouraged Adolf Hitler to march across Europe and Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor, wrongly assuming there was no one to stand in their way. The United States must never again be perceived as a reluctant hand-wringer on the world stage.

Biden’s predecessor spent most of his term insulting U.S. allies, weakening NATO and pulling back from America’s global leadership role. Russian leader Vladimir Putin felt emboldened to meddle in Ukraine and challenge the United States militarily over international waters. President Donald Trump repeatedly praised Putin’s boldness.

China constructed a major naval outpost in the South China Sea, asserted territorial rights and began threatening international shipping lanes. Beijing imposed its dictatorial will on Hong Kong. Trump responded with praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assertiveness. A Fox News interviewer finally felt compelled in December to interrupt Trump’s praise of Xi and interject: “He’s a killer.”

Biden’s remarks came at precisely the right moment to let superpower leaders know that there are limits to U.S. patience. Putin met with the full fury of U.S. military weaponry and technology during his invasion of Ukraine, losing entire tank battalions, scores of military aircraft and Russia’s flagship guided missile cruiser in the Black Sea.

Biden left it to Ukrainians to fight on the ground — as Taiwanese certainly would do to defend their territory. But if there were any doubts before by Putin and Xi about the damage U.S. weaponry and technology can inflict, they now fully understand the dangers of challenging U.S. resolve.


Having once publicly supported Putin’s invasion, China has fallen silent. Biden recognized in his comments that China has taken an increasingly aggressive posture toward Taiwan, with overflights by military aircraft and challenges to Taiwan’s territorial waters. Having seen the consequences Russia suffered, Biden asked rhetorically, “What signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting — attempting to take Taiwan by force?”

Asked if he meant that the United States was prepared to respond militarily, Biden answered without hesitation, “Yes.”

Even one of Biden’s loudest congressional critics, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that Biden’s response “was the right thing to say and the right thing to do.” There’s nothing to be walked back.


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