American pundits have likewise been eager and disturbingly casual about offering up U.S. service members to go and die for Taipei. Before taking another step down this dangerous path, however, these leaders need to consider just how willing Taiwanese are to die for their own country.
Until we have more concrete evidence that the Taiwanese are doing all they can for their own defense, all talk of America risking war with China for their benefit needs to come to a halt. There is no justification for sending American men and women to die on the seas and in the air around Taiwan when the citizens of Taiwan are themselves cool to the idea of dying for their own country.
First is the classic "show me your checkbook and I'll show you your priorities." The United States places great value on protecting its citizens and global interests, as evidenced by the fact that we spend more on national defense than any nation on the planet, upwards of 3.5% GDP annually.
As recently as 2016, Taiwan was spending an anemic 1.6% GDP on defense, and next year is expected to be only slightly better, at 2.1%. Evidence suggests that constant boasts by U.S. opinion leaders that the United States should give security guarantees to Taiwan leads the island's leaders to conclude they don't have to spend money on their own defense because they believe we will provide it for them.
Second is the extent to which the citizens are willing to serve in the armed forces and risk their lives in defense of their country. In the United States, our all-volunteer force constantly produces sufficient numbers of service personnel to fully man the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. We don't always meet the recruiting goals but we always have sufficient numbers of personnel.