There is an ongoing debate between centrist Democrats and progressives in Washington over giving President Biden war powers to go to war with China in the case that Beijing invades Taiwan, Foreign Policy reported on Wednesday.
The centrists are in favor of expanding Biden’s authorities even though any military action against China risks nuclear war, while the progressives favor the current policy.
One Democrat in the House, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), the House Foreign Affairs Committee vice-chair, made the case to give Biden the war powers in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
Luria’s concern is that if China moves to take Taiwan, getting authorization from Congress would take too long. “So if you can’t act quickly enough, China overwhelmingly takes Taiwan,” she told Foreign Policy.
Luria frames the need for authorization to fight China as necessary to “de-escalate” the situation despite the obvious risks. “Without the ability for the president to react immediately, any delay would prevent the United States from responding, at a lower level of conflict, to repel an invasion and de-escalate the situation,” she wrote in the Post.
Republican hawks have already drawn up legislation that would give Biden the authority to go to war with China over Taiwan. “My Republican colleagues introduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act in February to grant the president the authority to act against an invasion of Taiwan and prevent a fait accompli. This act is a good starting point to address a legal dilemma,” Luria said in the Post.
The Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act would authorize “the President to use the Armed Forces to defend Taiwan against a direct attack by China’s military, a taking of Taiwan’s territory by China, or a threat that endangers the lives of civilians in Taiwan or members of Taiwan’s military.”
Matt Duss, an aide to Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), told Foreign policy that the current policy of not committing to defending Taiwan, known as “strategic ambiguity,” shouldn’t be changed.
“A policy of ambiguity may not be the most emotionally satisfying for DC hawks, but it’s working,” Duss said. “The dangers of creating another open-ended war authorization should be obvious.”
The renewed debate was sparked by China’s recent flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which have been falsely portrayed as airspace violations by Western media. An ADIZ is an area where a country wants foreign aircraft to identify itself. The concept is not covered by any international laws or treaties, and the Chinese warplanes usually enter the southwest corner of the ADIZ, nowhere near the island of Taiwan.
Missing from most reports on China’s ADIZ flights is how much the US has increased its military activity in the region. Beijing’s moves around Taiwan are clearly fueled by the US’s presence and Washington’s steps to boost ties with Taipei. A change in policy in the form of a war powers authorization would only raise tensions in the region and make a conflict more likely.