Long-time senior US diplomat to Taiwan (technically not an ambassador) William Stanton lashed Taiwan in comments over the weekend, insisting their defense spending cuts left it vulnerable to Chinese attack.
The cuts themselves were part of Taiwan’s effort to shift from a permanent war footing toward mainland China, transitioning to a smaller, all-volunteer force and trying to improve relations with the Chinese government.
China’s given no indication it is about the come rushing across the strait and try to annex the island. Rather the comments from the all-but-official US source are part of an ongoing trend of faulting anybody whose military spending is on the decline.
Last month, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blasted NATO member nations for “irresponsible” cuts to spending despite those nations facing budget crises and having little choice but to pare away some of the excesses. Other officials have suggested NATO membership obliges nations to spend a large portion of their GDP on defense, whether they face any conceivable wars or not.
The push for bigger budgets has been de facto US policy the world over, with officials making regular pilgrimages to oil-rich state-lets along the Gulf coast to scaremonger about Iran and sell pricy warplanes for an air war no one thinks is coming.
It isn’t hard to see why: the US isn’t just the largest military spending on the planet by far, it is also the world’s largest arms exporter. For well-connected arms makers, keeping the world nervous and spending on new weaponry is just good business, and so the nations that suddenly try to waste a little less money face a quick rebuke from the administration, which has openly promised to see America’s arms export industry grow.