Words matter, in diplomacy and in law.
Last week President Bush was asked if the United States had an obligation to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China. He replied, “Yes, we do, and the Chinese must understand that. Yes, I would.”
The interviewer asked, “With the full force of the American military?”
President Bush replied, “Whatever it took” to help Taiwan defend itself.
A few hours later, the president appeared to back off this startling new commitment, stressing that he would continue to abide by the “one China” policy followed by each of the past five administrations.
Where once the United States had a policy of “strategic ambiguity” — under which we reserved the right to use force to defend Taiwan but kept mum about the circumstances in which we might, or might not, intervene in a war across the Taiwan Strait — we now appear to have a policy of ambiguous strategic ambiguity. It is not an improvement.
Here is the full 2001 Wapo Op-Ed — can you guess who the author was? Hint: a prominent Senator at the time. Via tekl.