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Degrees of freedom for national U.S. policy in the Taiwan Strait can be parsed by estimating the future likelihoods and time order of uncertain events—such as Taiwan independence, Chinese liberalization, truce, a Chinese attack, and U.S. choices —and not just by applying the standard paradigms of international relations theory (e.g., realist, liberal, constructivist). Ordered time scenarios can explore all sizes of collectivity, and they can take account of actors’ contexts as well as their self-identifications. This article finds evidence that American policy is less "ambiguous" than officials discreetly describe it. The United States is now defending Taiwanese liberalism as Chinese, and Beijing elites also might decide to liberalize if they avoid holding direct national elections before they do more to separate domestic powers. U.S. policy can prevent a later Sino-American war if it can influence the time order of specifiable contingencies.