This exchange between President Biden and a reporter caught my eye:

Most of the discussion in the press has focused on Biden’s confusing statements on Taiwan.  But I am more interested in the reporter’s question.  Why does the reporter think it’s “obvious” that the US should not get militarily involved in Ukraine?

[BTW, you can argue that we are militarily involved, due to massive weapon’s exports to Ukraine and perhaps other forms of aid.  But (in context) the reporter is clearly referring to an unwillingness to send US troops to fight, so I’ll interpret the question that way.]

To be clear, I agree with the decision to not have the US go to war with Russia.  I can think of many reasons to stay out of the Ukraine War, but most of them are not “obvious”.

Here are the two most obvious reasons I can think of:

1. We have no formal defense treaty requiring us to defend Ukraine.

2. Russia has a lot of nuclear weapons, and it would be dangerous to engage in warfare that might escalate to a nuclear exchange.

Are there other obvious reasons that I missed?

Interestingly, Biden never challenged the reporter’s assumption that militarily defending Ukraine is obviously a bad idea. Given that Biden chose not to use the US military in Ukraine, he might well agree with the reporter.  But why?  Has the administration ever explained its rationale for not intervening?

You probably see where I am going with this:

1. We have no formal defense treaty requiring us to defend Taiwan.

2. China has a lot of nuclear weapons, and it would be dangerous to engage in warfare that might escalate to a nuclear exchange.

Presumably the reporter didn’t think it was “obvious” that defending Taiwan is a bad idea, or he/she wouldn’t have phrased the question that way.  That makes me wonder what the reporter had in mind when thinking about Ukraine.

This completes the main point of the post.  But experience teaches me that some people might miss the point, and cite some non-obvious differences between Taiwan and Ukraine, of which there are many.  Here are 5 examples:

1.  Taiwan has an important semiconductor industry.

2.  Xi Jinping is a bad leader, but less emotional and unpredictable that Vladimir Putin.

3.  Ukraine’s sovereignty is internationally recognized, whereas Taiwan is officially part of China.

4.  Ukraine is bigger than Taiwan, and located in Europe.  Taiwan is smaller and an island.  Russian is more likely to invade multiple countries if it wins in Ukraine.

5.  Ukraine in a major food exporter.

The first two suggest that defense of Taiwan might be more justified.  I has a crucial high tech sector and (compared to Xi) there is a greater risk that Putin would use nuclear weapons.  The final three point to Ukraine’s defense as being more justified.  But none of these five points are at all “obvious”.

The reporter who said the US didn’t intervene in Ukraine for obvious reasons presumably didn’t think the obvious reason we held back from Ukraine is that it has no semiconductor exports, or that Putin is more irrational than Xi.  Those factors may be true, but they aren’t obviously decisive differences.

So what is?

PS.  Here’s the Financial Times:

US secretary of state Antony Blinken says Washington will stay focused on China as the most serious threat to the international order despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Translation:  Don’t bother us with facts, we’ve made up our minds.

I’ve seen this in economics.  We now know that the 2000 tech stock price boom and the 2006 housing price boom were not bubbles.  But economists have already made up their mind, so . . .