Thursday, December 10, 2009

Final Readings Post

This will be the final post on this blog. I am not giving up blogging, however, as I and some friends have founded a group blog where I can continue many of these themes. (In fact, I've post many things over there that would have worked here as well, dealing with Taiwan and North Korea.)

Today's readings focus on the region as a whole.

David Kang. “Getting Asia Wrong,” International Security Vol. 27, No. 4, Spring 2003, pp.57-85
Adelphi Papers: no. 400-401 Asian Security Issue

Pax Asiatica versus Bella Levantina: The Foundations of War and Peace in East Asia and the Middle East ETEL SOLINGEN University of California Irvine

As usual, we'll take these one at a time.

Kang: This piece is a mostly theoretical piece, talking about how the most common IR theories do not really apply to East Asia, and how East Asia is a great opportunity for revising and universalizing theories created in the shadow of European experience. He focuses mostly on realism, which I find somewhat problematic because realism is so easy to pick on. Kang is quite frank about how none of realism's predictions for East Asia came true, but realism's predictions never come true anywhere. Even in Europe, NATO still exists, Germany does not yet have the bomb, and there has been no massive war between the European powers. (And no, the Yugoslav war doesn't count, because the component parts of Yugoslavia do not count as great powers. Besides, the fact that the internal dynamics of a country could so heavily affect the other states destroys the very ideas of realism as well.)

I also take issue with a few minor points (such as the idea that a nationalistic South Korea would rather balance with China, which has historically oppressed Korea, against the US, which has played a part but not as heavy handed), but overall, I think there is a lot to be said for the main ideas. East Asia offers a state system and history vastly different from that of Europe, and thus could be useful for refining our ideas of "how IR works."

Adelphi: I was not aware when I first put this on the syllabus that it was, in fact, a large number of different speeches at a conference. Therefore, it is hard to categorize in this way. Most of these involved policy makers from around the region pledging greater cooperation, with US SecDef Robert Gates also pledging greater attention from the US. The Korean representative talked a lot about how Korea has grown and is a model for the world, while the Chinese representative talked about multipolarity.

Solingen: This piece tried to draw out why, despite very similar starting points, the Middle East and East Asia have diverged so sharply, mostly in terms of conflict but also economically. The article says that it is due to "competing domestic models of political survival," or simply that most of the major Middle Eastern states were able to rely on oil rents and thus could pursue disastrous but popular policies, or else were able to be militaristic and conflictual in ways that were absolutely disastrous for East Asian states. In other words, the resource curse killed any chance at developing normal relations in the Middle East. There were other things at work (Nasser's consistent meddling in other states, etc.), but the resource curse has to be the greatest cause of it.

There is another point that Solingen does not get to for quite awhile that I think may have as much to do with it. At least in Northeast Asia, the states in question had far more legitimacy than the states of the Middle East. No one either within the states or without doubted the right of the states of Japan, Korea, and China to exist. The same applies to some of the states of Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and Thailand. Questions could be raised as to exact borders, and they did not hold the exact same level of legitimacy as Westphalian states, but the basic right for the Koreans, the Japanese, the Thai, etc., to have states was never in question. This is not the case in the Middle East, where not only was Israel surrounded by countries that did not believe in its right to exist, but the Arab states (being largely artificial lines drawn on a map) never held the internal legitimacy of (for example) Japan. No one in East Asia was seeking to impose a united East Asian state, like Nasser was seeking in his United Arab Republic. This probably helped tamp down quite a bit on conflict as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


This week's readings unfortunately retread ground covered before, because they are about terrorism in parts of the world I've already covered. But, here they are regardless:

Chien-peng Chung, “China's "War on Terror”: September 11 and Uighur Separatism.” Foreign Affairs. 81(4) (July-August 2002), pp. 8-12,

David Capie, “Between a Hegemon and a Hard Place: the ‘War on Terror’ and Southeast Asian-US Relations,” The Pacific Review, Vol. 17, No. 2 (June 2004), pp. 223-248

Chung's piece very helpfully rehashes arguments made before about Uighur separatism, especially that hard fighting is not going to do much to solve it. Instead, China needs to focus on meeting Uighur needs and forming some kind of peace. The major problem with the piece is that Chung completely ignores the fact that Han nationalism is one of the constitutive parts of Chinese legitimacy these days, and so it cannot go too far in appeasing the Uighurs without losing legitimacy among the Han. (This can be seen in the riots that happened after the police did not start locking up all the Uighurs during the panic over hypodermic jabbings in Xinjiang.) So, while I can certainly hope that China will do something, I'm not optimistic.

Capie's piece is an interesting, if rather academic, look at how Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippines have all responded to the post 9/11 American foreign policy. I am not at all surprised that the realist predictions all fall through (none of them are balancing against the US! Yet, none are fully bandwagoning either!) nor that Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" theory doesn't offer much help. (Weirdly, Capie consistently misspells Huntington's name as "Huntingdon".) Instead, it is domestic factors along with external factors that determine the overall policies.

One interesting thing I'd never seen before was the idea of the "Rumsfeld Principle," in which the mission defines the coalition (rather than vice versa). Perhaps it's my inherent love for middle ground rather than extremes, but it seems that this is another way of saying "We're doing it our way, come with us or not." This is never a good way to make policy or decisions; you need to accept input from all around before "defining the mission."

In general, personally, I'd like to see terrorism become less of a priority, with perhaps "instability" taking it's place, at least as far as Pacific Asia is concerned. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand are all fairly representative governments, and further democratization and economic development would likely make them even more stable, thus decreasing the range of motion for terrorists and reducing the chances of overall war in the region. They could also make good examples for a certain more northern behemoth. Just narrowly targeting "terrorism" on the other hand does nothing to solve the greater problems.

Institutionalism and Philippines

The Philippines and MILF have created a forum in which to discuss their grievances, known (blandly enough) as the International Contact Group. But, as bland as it is, it's definitely a step towards resolving the issues, especially as they are bringing in many more powerful states and IGOs to make sure a resolution is found.

I'm optimistic, because it truly seems that both the government and the rebels want peace. Let's see if Arroyo can make this her legacy.