My friend and colleague, Dr. Robert S. Wood of the Naval War College, loves regaling audiences everywhere with a story about a briefing he once led for President Ronald Reagan in the White House. The fortieth president was munching on jelly beans while Dr. Wood and his colleagues briefed him on Soviet fleet developments.
The year was 1982 and the Cold War was at its hottest point in years. The Soviets seemed to be on the march everywhere and America was still recovering from Jimmy Carter’s great malaise.
After a while, there was a break in the conversation and Reagan looked at Dr. Wood ruefully, and said, “Well, Bob, if you ask me, the Soviet Union is a mickey mouse operation. I’d not be surprised if they don’t exist by the end of my second term.”
With that, Reagan stood up from the table, and exited the room, leaving in his wake a roomful of dumbfounded, highly educated eggheads.
According to Wood at the time, he was nonplussed by Reagan’s apparent nonchalance about the great Soviet menace, which the combined wisdom of America’s elephantine intelligence community (IC) insisted would be with us until at least the year 2015.
In the eyes of most of America’s elite at that time, Reagan was a cheesy B-movie actor who was merely an amiable dunce.
As Dr. Wood loves to recall, though, it was that cheesy B-movie actor whose prediction on that day in 1982 ended up being true while so many of the prognostications of the elite were dead wrong.
Ron DeSantis Stands Strong Against China
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who is officially running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024, must embrace that same clear-headed line of thought on the China threat today.
It’s not that China’s threat is overhyped—if anything, many in America’s elite downplay it.
It’s that China’s victory is far from a fait accompli.
All it takes is decisive American leadership that recognizes the China threat for what it is and has a sound, simple strategy for victory—real victory—over the communists in Beijing.
The Indo-Pacific region is separated by large tracts of the Pacific Ocean. While new alliances, such as the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) naval pact and the Quadrilateral Alliance (Quad) consisting of the United States, India, Australia, and Japan exist, these organizations are still getting on their proverbial feet.
Thus, American military might would be required to deter a potential Chinese invasion of its democratic neighbor.
The island of Taiwan has long been viewed as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” Indeed, it is the ultimate spot for local power projection.
Under American sway it is a conduit for US military power projection that keeps authoritarian China at bay; should it fall to Red China, though, Taiwan becomes a shield against US power projection and a facilitator of a wider Chinese military push into the deep blue ocean beyond.
DeSantis Must Stop China from Completing Its Grand Strategy
From Taiwan, China can directly threaten nearby Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and multiple other independent nations as never before.
Once China has Taiwan, they will have the “First Island Chain,” with Taiwan as the strategic lynchpin of that chain.
Next up, China can—and will—take the “Second Island Chain,” which consists of places like the Marianas Islands all the way down to Western Papua New Guinea (within striking range of Australia).
With the “Second Island Chain” in their iron grip, China moves happily to the “Third Island Chain” which consists of the Aleutian Islands (part of Alaska) all the way down to Hawaii.
Scoff at the prospect of China threatening these places all you want but remember America’s entry into the Second World War began when Japan attacked Hawaii. One of the first battles that Americans fought against the Japanese in World War II was in the Aleutian Islands.
For China, like Japan in WWII, taking the Indo-Pacific for itself is a necessity of basic geopolitical logic.
For most American leaders, this is the stuff of fantasy. Sadly, we are led by dilettantes and dweebs (many of whom are on Beijing’s immense payroll). If Joe Biden gets a second term, China will take these critical island chains with relative ease.
Americans will wake up and find Chinese military units operating with impunity in our hemisphere—a clear violation of the Monroe Doctrine, one of America’s bedrock foreign policy principles, which forbids another foreign power from outside the Western Hemisphere operating here with impunity.
Ron DeSantis understands this threat, though. He recognizes Taiwan’s strategic importance to the United States as an unsinkable aircraft carrier for American power in the Indo-Pacific.
As part of his recent official announcement that he is, in fact, running for the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2024, DeSantis has been doing many interviews and media appearances promoting his policies and possible presidential agenda.
The Ron DeSantis Doctrine Takes Shape
Foreign policy is going to be a key element of the 2024 Presidential race. DeSantis needs to clearly, boldly, and strongly articulate his policy for protecting America’s interests from Chinese aggression with as much clarity as Reagan stated his mission in defeating the Soviet Union.
The next time that a reporter asks DeSantis about his stance on a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, DeSantis must not equivocate. He must decisively state that, “If the People’s Republic of China attacks or invades Taiwan when I am president, the United States will stop them.”
Of course, any reporter would prod the governor further on such a declaration. DeSantis must not break. They’d inquire if the governor understood that such a policy would culminate into a massive, deadly war between the United States and China.
Calmly, DeSantis must declare that, “If China chooses to violate the ‘One China, Two Systems,’ agreement made between our two governments in 1979, my administration will use any and all means necessary to restore that agreement.”
DeSantis should then reinforce his statement by saying that, “My administration would never seek war. But if China seeks to make war upon American allies, such as Taiwan, we will do whatever it takes to end that war quickly and decisively in America’s favor.”
In such an interview, DeSantis should then look straight into the camera and say coolly, “And we will do just that in my administration.”
And if China decided to exploit the inherent weakness of Joe Biden and attack during the remainder of his term in office, rather than wait for the rise of a DeSantis presidency, DeSantis should simply say that, “If Chinese forces are on that island before I am sworn in, I promise you, they won’t be there after I’m sworn in as the forty-seventh president.”
That would be how DeSantis can restore deterrence. He must demonstrate a willingness to use all measures at his disposal as America’s chief executive to maintain a regional order that favors the United States and keeps its possible enemies down.
Replicating Reagan’s “Peace Through Strength” Foreign Policy
Such a demonstration from the outset of his campaign—that must be repeated throughout the duration of his campaign—would establish clear boundaries with Beijing and would likely dissuade them from attempting hostile action against Taiwan, since they still fear conventional US military reprisals.
This was precisely the attitude and behavior that Reagan took during his time against the Soviet Union. It worked beautifully when so many of the elite said it wouldn’t. It will work again in America’s favor under President Ron DeSantis.
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A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.