Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sowed division and chaos in the Biden administration, provoked a foreign superpower’s military might, and was almost universally slammed by American media pundits for her reckless behavior. Those of us who don’t obsessively follow the news might be wondering: what in God’s name did she do? Did she threaten to nuke Russia? Did she openly support some terrorist group?
I doubt anyone would’ve been able to come up with her real offense: visiting a peaceful, democratic, staunch American ally whose sole crime is existing as an independent country in the South China Sea.
People might say my depiction of the scenario isn’t fair. They’ll claim that Pelosi unnecessarily amplified tensions in an already tense region just to add another stamp to her diplomatic passport. I think it’s precisely this wildly appeasatory attitude towards the ruthless Chinese regime and not Pelosi’s light tapping on the gas of the U.S.-China conflict that is the real problem.
Everyone engaged in histrionics over Pelosi’s Taiwan visit seems to forget that barely three years have passed since China attempted to, and basically succeeded in, clawing millions of free Hong Kong citizens back under its autocratic rule. Of course, it’s no accident that we are all suffering from this short term memory loss — China can shift the goalposts faster than you can say Tiananmen Square. It’s also nothing new: indeed, an autocracy slowly imposing its soul-crushing regime on an innocent populace is a tale as old as time. China’s done it multiple times — including with Tibet and Hong Kong — and Russia has done it more times than I can count, including right now. This is because until recently, that was the way of the new world order — barring aggression on the level of Hitler, the U.S. was not going to jeopardize its own security in defense of its allies who had the misfortune of existing in the backyard of an autocrat. Fortunately for supporters of freedom worldwide, however, something changed this year.
When Russia unsurprisingly invaded the parts of Ukraine it hadn’t already taken, and seemed poised to add another tally mark to its “countries taken” column, an often-mocked and belittled force unexpectedly cut them off — the force of American public opinion.
For the first time in a long time, the American people said: “No matter what the ‘game theory’ indicates, we are going to support our free allies and stand up to our authoritarian enemies.” It might have been a little later than Ukrainians would have liked, but it still worked: thanks to global — but particularly American — outrage, the scrappy Ukrainian underdogs will end up successfully repelling a Russian attack while maintaining their dignity and sovereignty.
Let me stress how much this was not a given — Putin’s entire plan hinged on us forsaking Ukraine like we did Hong Kong and Crimea and Tibet, and it seemed like a very sound bet. Simply because our Western emotions got the better of us, however, our government and its hefty defense budget was finally forced into action.
Still, we were somewhat late to fully supporting Ukraine, and Ukrainians will be paying the price for our apathy and appeasement for years, if not decades, to come.
Fortunately, we have been given a golden opportunity to right our wrongs, to get aggressive before a full-scale war breaks out and we have to tread lightly in our support of the innocent lest the war turns nuclear. To take advantage of this opportunity, we only need to do one thing: care. And when I say we, I mean we the American people, but more specifically, I mean we Yalies. Because as it happens, Yale wields disproportionate influence over American public opinion — if you don’t believe me, just look at how many times professor Timothy Snyder has been mentioned online in the past six months. Even better, the playbook for Yalies supporting a different country is already quite well established — just look at the myriad of ways in which we’ve supported Ukraine, from harboring pro-Ukraine personal views to attending and organizing awareness events.
Efforts like these in Yale and across America spurred the U.S. government to send unprecedentedly significant military aid to Ukraine, aid which has proven to be the largest bulwark against large Russian territorial gains. For some reason, however, Yale — and America — can’t seem to replicate their efforts for Taiwan. While one Yalie wrote an article expressing his concern for Taiwan’s safety in the wake of Russia’s invasion, essentially nothing has happened since then. There is no plan for a Yalies for Taiwan group, advocacy, rallying, events or even just people waving the Taiwanese flag on Cross Campus, despite Taiwan’s fate being arguably much bleaker than that of almost anywhere in Ukraine — as evidenced by China’s militaristic actions recently. If we want to put our money where our mouth is and stop authoritarian expansion before people start dying en masse, we need to start pushing back on China’s aggressive tactics with some of our own. That starts with encouraging, not catastrophizing, run-of-the-mill diplomatic visits to Taiwan. But it also includes supporting the establishment of a formal embassy in Taiwan, and giving Taiwan access to advanced military technology.
Let’s prove that all our so-called “social justice warrior” emotion isn’t a total paper tiger, but rather a formidable force that even the mighty Chinese government must reckon with. Because, as we proved with Ukraine, no one, can stop the righteous anger of the American people.
ARI BERKE is a sophomore in Branford college. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.