Commentary: Taiwan should get OK to buy F-16s

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 1, 2012 

Vice President Joe Biden is in Fort Worth today for two private fundraising events for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.

Given that Tarrant County ranks second only to Orange County, Calif., for its deep-red Republican hue, there probably wasn't a need to book the convention center.

That's not to say this slice of Texas is devoid of elected Democrats. State Sen. Wendy Davis and state Reps. Marc Veasey and Lon Burnam have all garnered a headline now and then for their work in Austin.

Of course, Veasey hopes to have an opportunity to see the vice president more often if the congressional redistricting maps align in his direction. Veasey has filed to run for the new U.S. House District 33 seat.

But future Biden sightings in the Capitol also depend on the November presidential election. Veasey may make it to D.C. about the same time Obama and Biden move out.

One way the vice president might be able to put a few more votes in his win column is to announce that the administration has approved the sale of new F-16s to our nation's longtime ally Taiwan.

Lots of folks on the Lockheed Martin production line would cheer that decision. With more than 4,000 direct and 12,000 indirect jobs, workers who would be able to support themselves and their families for the next five years would be downright giddy from the announcement. So would lots of men and women in military uniform who are tired of riding to the rescue of other countries when a neighbor decides to act a fool.

When the Obama administration announced its new defense strategy Jan. 5, it was clear from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's comments about a renewed commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific region that the spotlight is on China, which is aggressively expanding its military footprint.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told the National Journal that under the new strategy, the Navy will shift military and financial resources away from Europe and toward the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions and "adjust accordingly" its ships, aircraft, equipment and personnel.

The U.S. will maintain large bases in Japan and South Korea, deploy some 2,500 Navy and Marine personnel and aircraft to Australia and bolster its strategic partnerships with Asia-Pacific regions like India, Singapore and Indonesia.

That "bolster" includes the willingness to sell U.S. fighter aircraft to every allied nation in those regions with one glaring exception: Taiwan.

Japan committed to buying 42 F-35s. Indonesia is adding 24 refurbished F-16C/Ds to its fleet of 10 F-16A/Bs. Australia is an F-35 international partner. The Republic of Singapore, which already has F-16s, has said it will buy F-35s.

South Korea, which is living with a new unknown in the form of North Korea's new dictator, Kim Jong Un, is seeking to acquire 60 fifth-generation fighter jets with stealth capabilities. Boeing's F-15SE and Lockheed's F-35 are in the running for that contract. At the same time, South Korea is looking at $1.4 billion in upgrades for its F-16s.

China's neighbors are donning the latest "Made in USA" finery as they suit up for their own regional defense.

And then there's Taiwan, with a fleet of F-16s that have been around since the mid-1990s and equally old French Mirages and F-5s.

The Taipei government has been waiting since 2006 for the green light to purchase 66 F-16 C/Ds.

Obama's getting hammered from the GOP campaign trail. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, when they stop chewing on each other about their net worth, are happy to label him the appeasement president.

Obama, via his surrogate, Biden, has an opportunity for a stand-up triple in North Texas -- support a longtime democratic ally, bring job security to thousands of North Texans and show he's not intimidated by the nation's banker.

Mr. President, sell the F-16s to Taiwan.

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