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Is this trip necessary??

An old slogan from the 1940s renewed July 23, 2022 at 2:59 a.m.

"I trust I make myself obscure?"

--Thomas More, in "A Man for All Seasons"

First, let's all hope that the president of the United States and commander-in-chief of its armed forces, comes through his covid case in complete health. He's been vaccinated, we're told, so there's a great chance that he'll be A-okay. (Unlike so many unvaccinated people in Arkansas, who keep pushing the death count northward.)

Before President Biden went into lockdown, however, he was asked by the press about Nancy Pelosi's whispered-about journey to Taiwan. The speaker of the House of Representatives, who is second in the line of succession to the presidency, apparently is thinking about a trip to the island nation. Or at least a drop-in during a visit to the Asian rim.

There has been so much whisper in Washington that the mainland Chinese heard about it, and warned the U.S. to call her off.

The president said the American military didn't think it was such a good idea for the speaker to fly to Taipei.

As for her part, Speaker Pelosi told the press: "You never even hear me say if I'm going to London, because it is a security issue."

She added: "I think what the president was saying is that maybe the military was afraid that our plane would get shot down, or something like that, by the Chinese. I don't know exactly. I didn't see it. I didn't hear it. You're telling me and I heard it anecdotally. But I haven't heard it from the president."

Maybe she has by now. Let's hope so.

If she does go, even with the president and his military advisers cautioning against such a trip, it would be the first visit by a sitting speaker to Taiwan since Newt Gingrich went there 25 years ago. And that's what scares us.

In 1997, Newt Gingrich & Co. flew to Asia, and the speaker decided to change United States policy while abroad. After a series of meetings with the ChiComs, he told the press: "I said frankly . . . we understand that in principle you will not renounce the right to use force. We want you to understand that we will defend Taiwan. Period."

Oy.

What the South China Sea does not need is anybody making such a clear statement that he or she slams it down with a "period."

The Clinton administration, like most administrations since the Chinese Civil War, preferred strategic ambiguity in dealing with the Red Chinese and the Free Chinese as they stare at each other over the Taiwan Strait.

That policy, or non-policy, or maybe non-publicized-policy, has worked nicely since the Truman administration. (That is, until Joe Biden gaffed again, and his people had to walk back his comments earlier this year.)

At the time, Speaker Gingrich said, "The worst thing would be an absence of clarity, the Dean Acheson problem of 1950."

Ah. He referred to the secretary of state before the Korean War who didn't mention South Korea during a speech on this country's Asian allies, and thus (the theory goes) invited North Korea to invade. So Newt Gingrich sent his own message in '97.

"It has not been waving a saber," he said at the time. "It's just reminding them it's in the scabbard and available."

We're confident the Red Chinese know what's in American scabbards. Most peace-loving people probably would prefer the rhetoric to lessen the chance of war these days. And all days. And maybe the current speaker of the House of Representatives could rethink her (supposed and alleged) plan to crank up the volume, even if only symbolically. And, at the same time, lessen the chance for her own gaffe that would rock the boat, and ships.

Peace, it's wonderful. And even manageable, if done right.

Print Headline: Is this trip necessary??

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