Archive for the ‘China’ Category

I’ve come across numerous articles this semester that have described President Obama’s foreign policy approach as being marred by idealism. This accusation was especially prevalent in Dueck’s article “The Accommodator.”

Dueck seems to be incapable of imagining foreign policy outside of the context of traditional realism. He argues that Barack Obama simply “does not understand” that states act in their self- interest, and that a policy of “leading from behind” involving the accommodation of other states’ foreign policy goals will not eliminate this reality. Dueck believes that Obama’s focus on improving relations with the Middle East, particularly with Iran has weakened the United States’ position.

President Obama has indicated to Iran that he is open to improving relations with Iran, rather than being “strong” by further condemning Iran’s corruption and pursuit of nuclear weapons. In regards to Russia, Obama has “accommodated” to their desires to be influential in Eastern Europe by signing the New START treaty and suspending the construction of missile defense systems instead of pushing forward with construction and forcing Russia to acquiesce to U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. has also encouraged improved relations with China, and has not pushed toward condemning China’s human rights abuses.

However, Dueck’s argument is simply one that states basically “Obama has not done what a realist would do.” Furthermore, Obama’s foreign policy has been difficult to analyze because he has not followed the template traditionally used by presidents in the past. He has pushed for a policy in which relations have been on the forefront. To this extent Obama is an idealist, going away from traditional foreign policy which focuses on strengthening the United States’ lead as world-path-determiner.

Is there no room for idealism in foreign policy? Is there no room to take a risk on diplomacy over militarization? Should we always frame the argument in terms of the weak and the strong, the good and the evil, the west versus the east? It seems that the traditional arguments have left no room for other options. It seems to suggest that we should force our ideas down the throat of others in the hopes that they will not fight back. I suggest giving a bit of idealism a chance.

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North Korea announced yesterday that it will test launch another long-range rocket for the commemoration of the one year anniversary of the death of the former leader Kim Jong-Il. This launch is said to take place any time from December 10 to December 22. The report mentions how this announcement was made after Chinese delegation went to visit North Korea. It was speculated that China had sent a delegation to speak with North Korea about halting launches of test missiles. Critics say that this launch is a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. South Korea and the United States see this test launch as a provocation from North Korea.

“In Washington, the Obama administration also denounced the planned launching. A North Korean ‘satellite’ launching would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement on Saturday. She added that the United States was consulting with allies on the issue.”

This article reflects my points covered in my North Korean Nuclear Proliferation research paper. It demonstrates the argument I made of North Korea’s “two faced” actions. North Korea says the missile launch is a form of celebrating the memory of previous leader Kim Jong-Il as it did in April when it launched a missile to remember Kim Il-Sung the creator the Korean nation. When in reality these launches are actual missile testing under the disguise of commemoration for previous leaders. Though the April launch was a failed launch, this new launch is said to be full of hope for success as previous errors were corrected. This announcement by North Korea only elevates the tension between North and South Korea and inevitably a concern for the United States even though North Korea may not be a priority on America’s foreign policy check list right now, though it is there as a concern. North Korea seems to be using in my opinion these test launches as a form of leverage for negotiations for economic aid and to serve as a reminder to other countries the potential it could have with its missile launches and its continued focus on the production of weapons of mass destruction.


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Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine (Photo credit: fyunkie)

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been talking about jobs lately, making it especially clear that there needs to be a lot more of them. Both candidates have been advertising incredibly generalized plans about how they would provide these jobs – Mitt Romney seems to believe that the traditionally conservative plan of low and lowering taxes will provide incentives for those he calls the “job creators” to well, create jobs. President Obama has repeatedly considered a “jobs bill,” which apparently has something to do with “clean energy jobs,” and those associated with repairing our damaged infrastructure. Forgive me if I have incorrectly stated their plans, but there is a more pressing issue:

Are there bigger, systemic problems associated with the availability of work, and of the sustainability of the world economy in the long term?

An article on foreignpolicy.com this week titled, “The Third Industrial Revolution,” focuses on a book titled Rage Against the Machine, in which the follies of the so-called third industrial revolution are described. The book suggests that increases in productivity associated with the “marriage of information technology and advanced manufacturing techniques,” are having a negative effect on the creation of new jobs. Not just the United States, but also emerging economies and even China are seeing slow job growth. It seems that the GDP has continued to grow, fewer and fewer jobs are being created, and median incomes are falling while the rich get richer. Traditionally “safe” positions such as lawyers and accountants may also begin to feel the negative effects. To add to the gloom, some officials have suggested that Europe will be in recession for the next five years and that growth in the BRICS might fall 60 to 70 percent during that time.

If you’re looking for a positive ending, I cannot provide one. The authors of Rage Against the Machine seem to suggest only that we stop searching for same old answers, which involve protectionism and bringing back manufacturing. If leaders are looking for solutions, they need new brand new ideas.

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Falkland or Malvina Islands?

In chapter 3 of Breuning brings up the feud between Argentina and Britain over the Malvinas or Falkland islands depending on whom you believe the islands belong to. Breuning provides us with the insight to the perceptions the leaders in Argentina and Britain had in regards to what they expected the other would do. For example, Argentina junta decided to invade the islands on April 2 1982 and did not expect Britain to respond militarily. The Argentinean junta believed that the world leaders would support them since many saw the Malvinas as part of Argentine territory. As a result Argentina believed Britain would relinquish the islands easily. But Britain’s perceptions were different. The British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher dispatched the Royal Navy to take out the Argentineans from the Island. Thatcher used the Munich analogy from when Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler, as an example of what appeasing Argentina would create. She used this historical case as her analogical reasoning to not back down against Argentina for the Falkland Islands. This same dispute seems to reflect the current dispute between China and Japan over the islands in the East China Sea. But in the contrary to the case of Argentina and Britain, the conflict between China and Japan is of a more dangerous scale at this moment since negotiations between the two have been rocky since protest have broke out in Japan for the islands to remain in their possession. The question that arises from this dispute correlates to chapter 3 of Breuning in regards to the perceptions leaders have when dealing with a problem. It would be key for this cases as well as it was in the Argentina vs. Britain dispute to find out what are the perceptions of the Chinese and Japanese leader. By understanding their perceptions we will be able to comprehend what is motivating them to continue this confrontation and not reach an agreement.

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Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon...

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Iran‘s nuclear ambitious have been getting a lot of attention lately, but whatever happened to our Cold War love affair with the possibility of nuclear annihilation? It’s all a bit sad that our major nuclear concerns revolve around a “maybe” in Iran, an educated guess as to the actual nuclear capabilities of North Korea, and for the foreign policy junkies the neighborly disputes of the nuclear sort involving India and Pakistan. What about fears of an attack on US soil? Have we lost our faith in the Henry Kissingers, the Donald Rumsfelds, and the Dick Cheneys of old that could so compel us with rousing speeches about how we might die tomorrow? In recent years, fans of doomsday scenarios may have been forced to turn to figures like Glenn Beck for their daily dose of annihilation-inspiration. Luckily, for those of us with a more aged and refined taste for annihilation scenarios, foreignpolicy.com is offering some gems of the nuclear sort in an article titled “The Fifty-Megaton Elephant in the Room.”

US Secretary of Defense Leo Panetta is in Beijing this week for a round of meetings with leader Xi Jinping, where they will discuss a plethora of topics not including nuclear weapons, says the article. At the moment, US-China nuclear relations exist on an “I won’t use the nuke first” basis, and needless to say the author is of the opinion that two nuclear weapon-possessing world powers should certainly be discussing the issue. China has been described by some as “little Russia,” in comparing the threat that Russia posed to the US during the Cold War and the threat that China may pose today. However, Jeffery Lewis, the article’s author, points out that the current situation is far from the situation that existed during the Cold War.

Lewis argues that during the Cold War, reasons for the US and Russia to refrain from using nuclear weapons on each other were clear. The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the evolution of more powerful nuclear weapons compelled us to think there would be no winner in a nuclear war. A policy of “assured destruction” became popular in the 1960s, following an experiment conducted by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara concluded that even if 400 1-megaton nuclear bombs were deployed against the Soviet Union, it might not be enough to deter “another Stalin,” but “401 would be a fool’s errand.” This policy became known as “mutually assured destruction” (MAD).

Lewis points out that for policy-makers; mutually assured destruction on the level dreamed by McNamara is far beyond the realm of acceptability. Decision makers are persuaded by the idea that even one nuclear bomb could reach U.S. or Chinese shores, and the state of “mutual vulnerability” as MAD has evolved into, very much still exists. Understanding that mutual vulnerability is a fact of life is a fact that should encourage this issue to continually be discussed, contends Lewis.

Do countries like Iran, Pakistan, and India figure into U.S. foreign policy decisions regarding mutual vulnerability? Should American presidents, and currently the Obama administration push harder for nuclear non-proliferation? Does the ownership of nuclear weapons increase or decrease geopolitical slack? Is Iran pursuing nuclear weapons to deter the United States, or to have a bargaining chip on the table of world powers?

These are all questions that should be asked.

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English: Samuel P. Huntington, Chairman, Harva...

English: Samuel P. Huntington, Chairman, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, USA, pictured during the ‘When Cultures Conflict’ session at the 2004 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the world of international politics today, there is no one power that has surpassed the United States in terms of gross domestic product and military spending.  WIth the rise of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will the USA be able to hang on to that power into the distant future?

Samuel Huntington‘s piece, “Why Primacy Matters,” outlines that at the end of the Cold War, the US ought to take its position as the top power in the world very seriously.  But what does he mean by primacy?  He says that this is when: “a government is able to exercise more influence on the behavior of more actors with respect to more issues than any other government can” (International Security 17; Vol. 4, pp. 68).  Power then is then a function of a state’s punch weight, the scope of what issues they touch, and the domain of people influenced by the state’s actions.  Let us not forget that Huntington views power from a very realist lens.  Absolute gains in power are meaningless to him, even in the field of economics (where profits can be seen as absolute gains, and market shares as relative gains).

Samuel Huntington did make some pretty accurate predictions – economic power has become one of the most important sources of primacy.  The only problem is that we need to substitute China for Japan to make his work more contemporary.  Writing in 1993, Huntington predicted that Japan would continue to challenge the United States in the economic arena.  In 2012, we are much more worried about the specter of a Chinese economy that surpasses our own.  There are five “trouble areas” that Huntington cited as troublesome in the economic relationship between the US and Japan: Producer dominance, industry targeting, market shares, import restriction, and trade surplus.

All five of these are between China and the US today.  According to the Taipei Times, the Chinese trade surplus with the US has hit 26.7 billion dollars.  We also need to think about producer dominance and industry targeting, with China taking the lead on manufacturing.

I would like to end with another quote from Huntington:

“A world without U.S. primacy will be a world with more violence and disorder and less democracy and economic growth than a world where the United States continues to have more influence than any other country in shaping global affairs.  The sustained international primacy of the United States is central to the welfare and security of Americans and to the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world” (83).

Is this statement still true in 2012? Does the United States need to have primacy in order for the world to be just?  Huntington got some things right in regards to the importance of economics, but the United States being #1 in the world does not always lead to better conditions for those countries not as well off as us.  We have engaged in preferential trading that has often brought more harm than good.  As we are presented by new challenges, we need to adapt to a world where we may not be #1 in everything we do.

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The State Department says the week-and-a-half-long trip is intended to emphasize a strong, long-term U.S. focus on the entire Asia-Pacific region.

“It is a very long, very diverse trip, but the concurrent themes that run through this is a strong, determined effort on the part of the United States to underscore our rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region, to make clear that we’re here to stay, that we are engaged on an array of issues — strategic, political, commercial,” a senior State Department official told reporters ahead of the trip.

While reading this article todays in class discussions comes to mind. The discussion about the values and goals for the United States foreign policy such as alliances is displayed in this article. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will embark on a trip throughout Asia demonstrating the United States interest to keep alliances and peaceful relationships with Asian countries. This also exemplifies the position President Obama has towards foreign policy and how he values maintaining a good relationships with Asian countries like China because of the great impact it has on the United State’s economy. The correlation between the importance of Asia to the United States also has a connection with todays discussion on the possible catastrophes around the world that would be disastrous for the United States. An example of these types of catastrophes as mentioned in class are the possible changes in Chinese currency and the halt of exportation of Chinese natural minerals to the United States. These types of catastrophes is what the United States wants to avoid and by maintaining good relationships in Asia seems to provide a peace of mind to the US that by maybe visiting and reassuring these Asian countries of the US presence will allow for continuous cooperation. US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, will be visiting Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and China to reenforce US presence but only time will tell if these visit will be as beneficial as the United States expects them to be.

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