It doesn't necessarily involve helicopters flying off the roof or embassies under siege, but the Saigon Syndrome is a real phenomenon: it strikes when people become so invested in a person or faction that seemingly was on the rise but which subsequently failed, and they simply cannot admit that their initial decision to back them was wrong. Instead of backing out like they should, they throw bad money after good, adopt the most ridiculous positions, endorse the most reprehensible characters, and generally make damned fools of themselves. In the end the tangible outcome is the same but the loss of face far greater then necessary - and made worse much worse by the refusal to admit it.
Two big examples of this syndrome have recently come into view. The first are the backers of a certain ex-mayor and now ex-governor. Sarah Palin may have come within touching distance of the White House last year, but if she hasn't imploded in the meantime, she has now. Any further boosting of such an unpopular and incoherent woman is bound to wasted effort, but this doesn't stop people trying. So here we have British-born American commentator Tony Blankley trying to boost a clearly lost cause:
"last weekend, the professionals were sneering confidently that Palin had made a fatal mistake by giving up the governorship of Alaska because everyone knows that an aspiring candidate for higher office clings to his or her current office while running for the next one.
Well, I'm not so sure that being an incumbent is an advantage if the world seems to be going to hell and government is seen to be at least part of the cause for that journey. And though many conventional politicians might be seen as quitters if they resigned their offices, I have a very strong hunch that Sarah Palin is constitutionally incapable of being seen as a quitter. Because she is not. She constantly is taking on the biggest challenge on her horizon."
That's right, Sarah Palin is just 'misunderstood', and someone who quit the position they were elected to is not a quitter because, hell's bells son, they ain't no quitter. This joke is going to roll on right up to the point when Palin loses the Republican nomination to someone who actually knows what they are talking about, and it's going to be fun to watch.
It seems that this syndrome has also struck the English-language Taiwan blogs of late (see, that was a great segue there) where people who really ought to know better have been forced into the most ridiculous of positions by their support for a lost cause. Having been swept from power by a landslide election result, Taiwan's vaguely pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party looks set for more electoral woe. As if this weren't enough former DPP president Chen Shui-Bian is currently in rotting in jail due to his alleged involvement in a money laundering scam for which his daughter, son, and son in law have already pleaded guilty as accessories. You would think that all of this would be enough to give the usually maniacally pro-pan-green (i.e., independence-centric parties) Taiwan bloggerati pause for thought. I mean, why exactly is it that people who are most probably more sympathetic to assertively Taiwanese politicians are abandoning the DPP for the pro-reunification KMT? However, you'd be wrong.
No, instead the last year has seen the most amazingly paranoid declarations from otherwise sane individuals. In this piece, for example, Taiwan blogger A-Gu all-but called for a revolt against Taiwan's elected government, and compared the current situation to that in Iran. When not trying to make excuses for racial discrimination, Taiwan blogger Michael Turton has been making comparisons between the current KMT government and Stalin. Even Taipei Times columnist J. Michael Cole has declared Taiwan a "Democracy in peril", apparently as a result of its elections.
Particular odium has centred around the KMT-backed Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with the PRC. Despite the lack of any evidence of the agreement extending beyond the economic sphere, it has been labelled an attempt at 'anschluss'. An often-referenced narrative is of a secret agreement between the KMT and the Chinese communists to annex Taiwan to the mainland, needless to say that there is no actual evidence of any such agreement. The truth is, I'm afraid, much more banal. Whilst the KMT certainly favours re-unification, it stands as little chance of achieving it as the the DPP did of successfully achieving independence. Essentially the requirement under the constitution for a 50% quorate referendum before any significant constitutional change can be carried out renders any such move incredibly vulnerable to a boycott of the referendum by one side. Moreover Ma has repeatedly forsworn any such move whilst the Chinese mainland remains undemocratic. Paranoia is not the way to appeal to the Taiwanese people, and the DPP will remain in the political wilderness until this is realised.