My reply to your comment here was getting overlong, so - thanks for inadvertantly getting me to write a new post! The question you asked:
Ponder this...exactly what argument could we make against China if they decide that Taiwan poses "an imminent threat" to them?
Give me a hard question, Cobra! The answer: We could say, in our own national interest and in complete truth, that we therefore consider China to be a threat to us. That's an oldy from the Cold War. Communism, or socialism if you like, totalitarianism in general, is a threat to what we like to call "our way of life" - which does not mean the trappings of Western society half so much as it means the Bill of Rights and the (relatively) free market. The MI complex as profit generator? Yes and no - there's a broken-window fallacy there, I think, wherein IF that money weren't spent on guns and tanks, it could be spent on other things, things that create more profit, but once it's spent, it's spent. I'm far from an economist - but here's my take on the "neo-con" strategy: We will have to deal with the consequences of totalitarianism abroad, one way or another. Containment is not a viable option any more, and hasn't been since, oh, China got the bomb, I'm gonna say. The first line of both defense and attack is economic: beat them by GDP, which is largely what we (the West) did with the Soviet Union. But when the opposition is not necessarily motivated by self-perpetuation, but is instead messianic or more or less purely ideological, the economic approach is limited: an ideological enemy is much less open to the persuasions of the market than an essentially socio-economic one like the Soviet system.
Look at China: still a totalitarian regime, but with widening cracks in its facade because it can't withstand the pressures of the market - both the economic and informational market - without giving in to some of them. The demise of that system is coming, sooner or later. I don't think we'll ever have to raise arms against China in order to bring it about.
Or, look at the current divide between Repubs and Dems: it's an ideological chasm that separates us, and appeals to common sense (in analogy, the marketplace) don't do diddly to bridge it.
It's my opinion, and one that the Bush Administration apparently shares, whatever its motives (and thank you for assigning me altruistic ones! I know your intentions are altruistic, though, as you said, I often disagree with your proposals), that nations with a strong commitment to individual rights approximately as our founders spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are good neighbors. Or at least better neighbors than those whose commitment is instead to the collective.
"Altruism" is a private matter, I think; when government attempts it, the line blurs between help and coercion, because government has power far beyond that of most individuals. An individual may choose to act outside his own self-interest without much risk of doing great harm if he's wrong in his choices; a government doesn't have that luxury. As such, it makes a lot more sense to me that government should primarily stay out of the way of individuals' attempting to exercise their freedoms to live mostly as they want to, up to the point where their exercise of freedom infringes on someone else's. That, in a nutshell, is why I named this blog what I did: because the principles of the Republican party (which, sadly, may differ a whole lot from its elected leaders' practices) suit my ideal of the least government, most of the time - but I completely reject the stereotype of Republicans as heartless.
So many of my metaphors are parental; heck, it's what I do. But here goes: It's not heartless for a parent of an adult to stand far back when the adult offspring falls into something nasty - instead, it's an acknowledgment that the adult offspring has agency, capability, pride, responsibility. However, it's also not characteristic for most parents to allow the adult offspring to die - and indeed, this is why I'm not a libertarian. If one of my kids, when grown, tries to come back home because living on his own is inconvenient, well, it was a nice visit, kiddo, but hit the road. If he comes home because he's at rock-bottom and has no other options, I'll make up the spare bedroom with love and reluctance, and try to light a fire under him to get him back on his feet as fast as possible.
Far afield. It's 3AM; I can't sleep. I hope you have fun in MD - I assume you're going there for fun, though you didn't say. We'll disagree again when you get back! Always interesting - thank you for continuing to visit.