When the twin towers fell in New York and President George W. Bush declared war on terrorism, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian backed him all the way. Taiwan has been a staunch supporter of US policies to stamp out terror and go to war. A political supporter, that is. But it has not extended to troop deployments, and now it seems that it will not. The discussion on Taiwan's involvement began in April, when ultra-conservative US magazine Human Events ran an article by William Triplett entitled Send in the (Taiwan) Marines. The title says it all, and three weeks later US congressmen proposed that Mr Bush should ask Taiwan to send troops. According to reports, he made no such request, which was something of a relief to the Taiwanese, who were not keen on the idea. Unlike in the US and the mainland, Taiwan's leaders do not have much of a taste for war. Now that the idea has been put to bed, it is interesting to take stock of the issue. If nothing else, Triplett's article laid it out in the open, making people squirm a little. Previously, it was an issue that did not have to be dealt with in public, and could be safely avoided. Taiwan expects the US to come to its aid in the event of a conflict with the mainland. It is as simple as that. Given this expectation, it would be reasonable to expect Taiwan to show good faith by helping out the US in Iraq. After all, why should the US put its soldiers' lives on the line for Taiwan if the island will not risk the lives of its own troops for a US cause? But it is not that simple. For one thing, Taiwan's lack of international recognition would put its status in Iraq in limbo. Given that Beijing thinks Taiwan is part of its territory, Taiwanese troops would, in theory, be deployed with, or as, Chinese troops. But imagine a member of the Taiwanese military going into battle alongside a member of the PLA, especially given the mainland military's vow to take Taiwan by force. An alternative would be for the Taiwanese to go in as part of a United Nation's deployment and under the UN flag. Of course, that is not possible either, given that Taiwan is not a member of the UN. Certainly, Beijing would be none too pleased. 'Bush may feel that displeasing communist China is worth the price if it means fewer American military casualties,' wrote Triplett. But who is he kidding if he thinks that Mr Bush, or his advisers, would seriously consider the issue in those terms? Escalating tension in this region is the last thing America needs right now, even if it would mean 5,000 more troops to help out in Iraq. Ironically, it may be that having no Taiwanese troops in Iraq is one of the few things that all three sides can agree on.