Blog Archives

‘Uncle Sam, are you friend or foe?’: China


According to Tsuneo Watanabe (2014) of the Tokyo Foundation, U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis China has quietly shifted from cooperative engagement to risk hedging, the brainchild of longtime director of the Office of Net Assessment in the Department of Defense (DoD) Andrew W. Marshall. Indeed, risk hedging is openly embraced by the Obama administration, with notable acolytes of Marshall including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt M. Campbell. Such a hedging policy applied to China, explains Watanabe (2014), quoting the DoD’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, would involve “a balanced approach, one that seeks cooperation but also creates prudent hedges against the possibility that cooperative approaches by themselves may fail to preclude future conflict.” (para. 14) Although Watanabe (2014) admits the DoD’s next Quadrennial Defense Review, published in 2010, says the U.S. should avoid thinking of China as a potential adversary requiring containment, he notes that the same report explicitly advocates a more aggressive counteraction of Chinese military expansion. Read the rest of this entry

The Real “Humanist Dilemma” in the Asia-Pacific: Striking a Balance between Political Realism and Liberal Idealism


In Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, Robert D. Kaplan (2014) makes the claim that conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea, between a rising China and its increasingly guarded neighbors, will spell the end of the post-World War II stability in the Asia-Pacific. Referencing John J. Mearsheimer’s belief in the “stopping power of water,” Kaplan (2014) suggests that the particular geography of the Asia-Pacific “will foster the growth of navies, which, while … not as worrisome as the growth of armies in continental Europe at the beginning of the last century,” may provoke “‘routinized’ close encounters between warships of different nations at sea, creating an embryonic risk of armed conflict.” (p. 7, 11) Kaplan (2014) further adds that this risk will only intensify as Asia’s collective energy consumption soars; as countries grapple over increasingly scarce energy resources, he says, their conflicting claims over the resource-rich littoral states of the South China Sea must gain in precedence, leading to a heightened state of military preparedness in the region. Read the rest of this entry

War Memory and Reconciliation / Japan’s Emperor System


Dr. Jennifer Lind (2010) does a fine job of laying out her theoretical framework for when and how (or even if) contrition––i.e., the “apologetic remembrance” of crimes committed in the heat of war––can foster a period of reconciliation among nations with bad blood between them. Drawing on two case studies to advance her thesis––which is that “the [preponderant] view that international reconciliation requires apologies and other contrite gestures” (Lind, 2010, p. 3) is right-minded but quite full of hyperbole in its singular faith in the moral authority of a sincere expression of regret––Dr. Lind (2010) argues for a “middle ground between whitewashing and contrition.” (p. 190) Read the rest of this entry

Mapping Out the Complexities of North Korea’s Geopolitical Position in the Far East


In dealing with North Korea, the U.S. has tried tact and discretion, threats and intimidation. However, with nothing having worked, experts believe the U.S. has resigned itself to the fact that the ruling Kim family is here to stay.  In their estimation, America’s judicious use of tact has been nothing short of humiliating for the U.S., while its efforts to intimidate, sometimes by the imposition of targeted economic sanctions against the ruling elite (e.g., on luxury items), have fared better by only the slightest of margins.  Indeed, the claim can be made that only once in recent history has North Korea truly had cause to cooperate, when, in September 2005, U.S. sanctions targeted Macao’s Banco Delta Asia, a bank with illicit ties to several North Korean companies including the state-owned Zokwang Trading Company; rumor has it that when North Korea’s assets in Macao were frozen, such was the resultant economic backlash, which reportedly interfered with Kim Jong-il’s notoriously opulent lifestyle, that the ‘Dear Leader’ was compelled at long last to seek common ground with his enemies. Read the rest of this entry

Kim Jong-un a Korean Tarkin?


Following the recent sixteen-day stand-off between congressional Republicans and Democrats over an appropriations resolution, it has become quite apparent that the Obama administration, once fully in control and intent on cementing its legacy of trailblazing liberalism, has instead lost its ability to respond with purpose as it seemingly lurches aimlessly from one mishandled crisis to the next.  Indeed, the way things are headed, history will not judge Mr. Obama’s second term kindly.  The President’s display of indecision regarding the Syrian conflict (which, by the way, remains unresolved––people are still dying by the thousands even as the media applauds U.N. Resolution 2118 authorizing the confiscation of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons), along with his administration’s mismanagement of a $634 million effort to build a website for its signature policy achievement, Obamacare, have obscured his most recent foreign policy successes.  These include the start of negotiations with Iran, long an enemy of the U.S., and with Syria, whose repressive government has expressed an uncharacteristic eagerness to broker for peace since consenting to Resolution 2118. Read the rest of this entry

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