Tiffany’s Foreign Policy Foolishness

… when confronted by small men doing big and stupid things, we need to resist with all the wit and creativity we can muster…” Bill McKibben, environmentalist and author

Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.” John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873), an influential British political and economic thinker.

It would be impolite for me to suggest that Wisconsin Rep. Tom Tiffany, being extremely conservative, might fit J.S. Mills famous maxim. It would not be inappropriate, however, to point out how Tiffany’s own statements exemplify a small town, small minded, small businessman saying and “doing…stupid things.” It is not inappropriate to examine his false, misleading, self-serving statements and point out his misguided thinking.

According to his online biographical information, Tiffany has only lived in rural or small town Minnesota and Wisconsin. He has a degree from UW River Falls in agricultural economics. He has “managed” several rural fuel delivery services. For 20 years he ran a seasonal tourist business in northern Wisconsin. Clearly he has a very limited background. Being a legislator in Madison was his only “foreign” experience.

We see this lack of knowledge and experience in Tiffany’s inconsistent and dangerous foreign policy positions. Tiffany has voted against military aid for Ukraine while supporting military aid for Israel and Taiwan. These inconsistencies prove he does not oppose Ukrainian aid because pouring weapons into a conflict is throwing fuel on the fire. Tiffany is not a principled advocate for peace or diplomatic solutions to conflicts. The war in Ukraine is simply another political opportunity to attack Biden and his “out of control spending.”

Tiffany also attacks Biden for not being aggressive enough in supporting Taiwanese “independence.” He recently ranted, “I was stunned…to see the lengths to which liberal politicians and corporate leaders will go to curry favor with Communist China.” He speaks of “appeasement” (a derogatory, Cold War word for “weakness”) and ending “America’s outdated One China Policy.” He has introduced a resolution to re-establish formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan to strengthen, in his words, “diplomatic, economic, and security ties with our friends in Taiwan” (in 1979 the U.S. established diplomatic relations with mainland China and ended formal relations with Taiwan while maintaining other commercial ties and support).

But Tiffany doesn’t have his facts straight. Rather than “liberals,” it was conservative Republican President Richard Nixon who initiated more rational relations with China. All presidents since (with the exception of Trump) have sought better relations and trade with China based on the One China policy. Also it has been conservative, mostly Republican, big business leaders who pushed for, and benefited from, increased trade with China.

Tiffany also misses (or chooses to ignore) the fact that the Biden administration is aggressively confronting China over Taiwan independence. In keeping with decades of bi-partisan militarized foreign policy, Biden is playing naval chicken in the Taiwan Strait, expanding military bases in the region and increasing military aid to Taiwan. There is, unfortunately, little difference between Tiffany’s or Biden’s “outdated,” Cold War anti-communist thinking on Taiwan (or the war in Ukraine or the Israeli genocide in Gaza). Tiffany’s bombast over Taiwan is just more unproductive political posturing.

Taiwan has been independent since 1949 but it was part of China for many centuries. Taiwan retains many cultural, economic, and family connections with mainland China. Recently the economic ties have been increasing. Left alone this could lead to re-integration or to co-existence. This peaceful process of conflict resolution is what we should be supporting not a military confrontation that would be disastrous for the people of Taiwan.

In the 1950s the U.S. could prevent an invasion of Taiwan. Today China is much stronger and a nuclear power. A military defense of Taiwan is not viable. We will lose and the people of Taiwan will pay a terrible price for our foolishness.

In other senseless meddling in foreign policy, Tiffany recently sponsored legislation to prevent the Biden administration from “admitting large numbers of Palestinian passport holders to the United States” or allowing Palestinians here on temporary visas to stay (the Guaranteeing Aggressors Zero Admission or GAZA Act). He says,“…the last thing policymakers ought to consider is opening the floodgates to more individuals who are likely to reject our shared values and way of life.” This is also an example of his exaggerated fear and antipathy toward immigrants and asylum seekers.

In another bit of political theater, Tiffany (along with Rep. Andy Ogles R-TN) introduced a bill to require the Department of Homeland Security to “immediately deport illegal aliens from the United States” if they are from the West Bank or Gaza. Ogles said, “…Biden has refused to secure our nation…what is happening in Israel could happen in the U.S. if we don’t take action and evict the Palestinian jihadists that have invaded our nation.” This political posturing also has a ridiculous, exaggerated title; Evicting Violent Islamic Criminals That Entered Deviously Act or the Evict Act. Both this and the GAZA Act titles illustrate Tiffany’s false, racist belief that all Palestinians are terrorists.

Unqualified support for Israel does increase the risk of terrorist attacks. This is one reason why we should not be funding and supplying the munitions for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza. Again, there is little difference between Biden’s actions and Tiffany’s rhetoric about “standing with our friends in Israel” and putting “the security of the American people first.” Both will only exacerbate the situation and further endanger the people of Israel, Palestine and the U.S.

Tiffany frequently sponsors “legislation” with deceptive titles and objectives. Rather than being serious proposals to address real problems, these often are not needed, harmful to people or simply ridiculous. A ridiculous example is Tiffany’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which funds the Department of Defense. The amendment would require “honest maps” and forbid the department from “spending funds on maps that portray Taiwan as Chinese territory.”

Small men doing small, stupid things for politically self-serving reasons may only reveal their incompetence. But being incompetent on important issues like foreign policy and war is dangerous to other people.

Given all the complicated issues a representative must deal with, it should be obvious that we need the best, most knowledgeable, most experienced and competent leaders possible. Tom Tiffany doesn’t demonstrate these attributes of a good leader.