A volatile combination: Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

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Map credit:  lahistoriconmaps.com
Having just read Pacific Power.  Australia’s Strategy in the Pacific Islands, (Author: Joanne Wallis) this book is an excellent read, and anyone interested in International Relations, especially the Asia-Pacific (A-P), should indulge in this succinct and articulate analysis.  One thing that I found particularly disturbing and of profound significance to Australia’s future was that ‘reflecting on Australia’s benign neglect of the Pacific Islands during the 1970s and 1980s,’ (p92), with the rise of China — and its inherent and continual geo-strategic push throughout the A-P (which is what, as I have previously stipulated, is what rising powers seek to achieve) — Papua New Guinea (PNG) has an agreement with Australia: Joint Declaration of Principles (1987).  What is most amazing about this agreement and according to Wallis is that if Indonesian military forces intrude into PNG in order to prosecute a mission –such as seeking refugees escaping from West Papua/Irian Jaya–is that in the process if they come into contact with PNG military forces.  What does this mean for Australia? According to Wallis ‘Australia may be obliged to assist PNG forces in such a conflict, which would place Australia in direct military conflict with Indonesia …’ (p316).
 
As China rises and its ties get closer with Indonesia and the Chinese government formulates and then develops further pacts with its A-P alliances, such an encounter could be used as a trigger for China to move on its Australian assets (such as the Port of Darwin), in order to proffer its geo-strategic footprint in the region; and exert greater authority over the region per se.  Yet another issue for Australia to consider in the future  as the submarine debacle continues; Australia cuts foreign aid to its nearest neighbours which will inevitably have a backlash; and the political-memory of World War Two remains vibrant due to the ‘saving of Australia’ by the United States of America (US), from which Australian politicians’ seem totally incapable of extracting their collective-selves from.  If China utilizes such an action and then extends upon it, the repercussions for Australia could be immense.   In the introduction to the chapters Wallis also alludes to the voting in of Trump and the repercussions for the A-P that may happen due to this.  Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned it is a very interesting read and one that is thoroughly recommended for those interested in International Relations.   
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Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, Indonesia, international relations, Papua New Guinea, Rise of China, Uncategorized, war | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Age of Violence: Terrorism as an Asymmetrical and ‘Existential-Threat’

 

 Image result for terroristsPhoto credit: telegragh.co.uk

 

Introduction

As the threat and actions of terrorists terrorism have become more focussed, and their outcomes having a outcomes greater impact on populaces of nation-states.  Their actions by necessity have demanded a change in thinking by governments of nation-states—particularly Western nation-states.  The rethink has been brought about by the pursuit of civilian (undefended) locales and the successes individual and terrorist groups have achieved in the targeting of them. The attacks on what have become colloquially known as ‘soft targets’—the attack on the World Trade Center[1] being the most significant in recent times–has permitted terrorism and therefore terrorists, to attain a newfound prominence. Historically, the commentary associated with terrorism consisted only of it representing a threat which employed ‘asymmetrical’ tactics to disrupt populaces. Placing improvised-explosive-devices in public spaces, kidnapping and targeting government buildings is to list only several examples of commitment to what are termed ‘target rich environments.’[2]   In more contemporary times the political rhetoric, largely by Western politicians’ have morphed terrorism into a more lethal dyad: the combination of being an asymmetrical- and an existential- threat.  Adding the new terminology ascribes and signals, a fundamentally different view of terrorism and extends it beyond simply being non-state actors taking up arms against the State to that of an actor or actors, using violence as a means of personal expression.  Terrorism therefore, has been given a renewed prominence and is a higher level of menace.

Since 2001, there has been numerous attacks: the Westgate shopping mall attack by Al-Shabaab in Nairobi (Kenya, 2013), in which 67 people were killed[3]; the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok (Nigeria, 2014);[4] and the shootings in the Charlie Hedbo office in Paris (France, 2015) by Al-Qaeda, in which 11 people were killed.[5]   Notwithstanding the ferocity of the attacks they continue and in the process have drawn in other actors and due to the connecting of the words ‘existential’ and ‘threat’ by commentators—notably Western politicians—has triggered a renewed urgency to, and in, Western polity.  Liberal-democracy, good governance; fair and equal elections, rule-of-law; the illegality of exogenous actors challenging the authority of the State; and transparent government is to name only several components that have been re-asserted as appropriate governance.  For the West, terrorists’ acting against the State comprises a triad: the method (violence), the target (civilian or government), and the purpose (to instil fear and enforce political or social change).[6]

The usage of the term ‘existential threat,’—especially in political forums and the news media—it is fair to argue has gripped the public imagination and therefore, terrorism has gained a renewed vigour; and the term has further created a robust and enduring fear throughout the West. A broad yet accurate summation of why terrorism has gained such importance is the increasing number of individuals are ‘finding’ themselves through their personal experiences and resorting to violence in order to prove their commitment to a cause.  It is the perceptions that lead to action that requires analysis and it is necessary to delve deeper into what is meant by the term ‘existential’; whether terrorism fulfils the requirements within the definition.  This essay will also intertwine terrorism as a multi-faceted matter within societal and cultural boundaries and perspectives.

 

Existentialism: an overview

Acknowledging that there are slight, variations to the thematic definitions of what it is to be an ‘existentialist’ and to involve oneself in ‘existentialism,’ is dependent upon which scholarly practice and  interpretation is applied. There are variations in the writings of Søren, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Dostoevsky and Sartre–although the schematic of emotion, ‘anguish and dread’[7]—are within all of the texts.    To be an existentialist by necessity means to be a person that has and applies, an existentialist approach to situations.  Within this principled approach, the person—in this case a terrorist—embraces the notions and ‘… importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make in the individual who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe’[8]  An explanation of this is that humans—although Sartre refers to and uses, the gendered term ‘man’—

 

first exists encounters himself and emerges in the world, to be defined afterwards … It is man who conceives himself, who propels himself towards existence.  Man becomes nothing other than what is actually done, not what he will want to be.[9]

 

The aforementioned factors are therefore, and by definition, associated with an ‘individual’s unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.’[10] What he/she has become is informed by experiences and their decisions are their responsibility alone.  The link that is able to be made here is a terrorist, when reacting through the prism of violence is effectively, using violence as an extension of their reality.  A terrorist is ‘made’ through their own unique experiences and understandings associated with what has, or is happening to their country, people, religion, kin, tribe, culture and a multitude of other factors.  Terrorism from an existential perspective is when an individual, ‘surges up in the world and then defines himself afterwards … and then he will be what he makes of himself.’[11]   Theoretically, the individual making the decision to carry out an act of terrorism is doing so with ‘freedom, decision and responsibility … [and] these matters constitute the core of personal being.’[12] It is these factors that have contributed to the reconfiguring of terrorism from being a strategic and tactical asymmetrical-threat, to an asymmetrical- and existential-threat. In order to understand existentialism at a deeper level it is necessary to observe how it evolved into a way of deduction.  Existentialism was, and remains a response to previous intellectual pursuits of reason and rationale.   Existentialism was a reaction to rationalism and empiricism which has at its core the Enlightenment (1685 – 1815),[13]  which is ‘positivistic’[14] and holds the conviction ‘that the true repositories of knowledge are the sciences.’[15]  Empiricism retains the predisposition and doctrinal components of ‘all knowledge comes from the sense experiences’[16] and that ‘the mind is not furnished with a set of concepts in advance of experience.’[17]

The fundamental variance in the two concepts broadly-speaking is that empiricism is a theory of knowledge that comes from experience from which one makes a decision, whereas existentialism defaults to an individual being able to make decisions free from historical and social constraints—regardless of the processes involved a decision is able to be made.  Whether the decision made by a person willing to commit a terrorist act is empirical or existential (or a combination of both), is a moot point as what is being analysed here the politico-application of the term ‘existential,’ and the concomitant considerations therein.

Notwithstanding the abovementioned, the adding of the word ‘existential’ to the word ‘threat’ offers an all-encompassing concept to the practice of terrorism.  It is one which moves it as an act, to beyond a rational decision to that of a personal one. According to the political rhetoric the labelling of terrorism in this way is an acknowledgement that when a terrorist act is committed, it is free of social- and historical-constraints—the act is devoid of reason and made solely from personal accord.  A drawing together of existentialism and terrorism is now able to be made.

 

Existentialism: applied to terrorism 

First and foremost it is important to observe several attacks which have been noted by commentators’ as being of an existential nature, and it is this labelling that continues to inform the threat level: the Bastille Day attack in Nice (14 July, 2016), which involved an attacker driving a truck through a crowd of pedestrians; the London Bridge attack (3 June, 2017), in which a car was used to kill pedestrians; and the more recently the attack on pedestrians in Barcelona (17 August, 2017), in which a van was used.  The type of attack is a reflection of and a response to, what the actor perceives as being an overwhelming problem, and one that he (in these cases the perpetrators were male) must respond to; be part of the cause; and play an active role in opposing the enemy—in these cases the West.  What is of interest here however, is the decision-making according to the existential paradigm and the concomitant psycho- and socio-homogenization of the populace. From this standpoint all members of the populace—military and civilian—are bona-fide targets and it can be surmised the existential decision to attack is one of ‘self’ against an overarching enemy.  The form of attack, the use of vehicles against the populace has become more frequent[18] and this is because terrorists in the tactical- and kinetic-phase of a low-intensity operation require simplicity, opportunism and vulnerability of the target.   Attacks on soft-targets do have an existential basis, as an attack requires a high-degree of decision-making by the individual in the process of acquiring the necessary assets, and of following through with the attack.  The existential nature of a terrorist attack is equally able to be applied to a small group or an ‘army’ such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the decision-making and homogenization components are similar. Notwithstanding these factors, attacks of this type have been used as strategic and tactical necessities by terrorists for many decades.

During the French occupation of Algeria (1954 – 1962), French military and Algerian government forces were constantly harassed by the guerrillas of the Armée de Libération Nationale (FLN), which objected to French involvement in Algerian affairs.  The FLN caused constant disruptions through the use of tactical ‘pin pricks’[19] … [consisting of] ‘small, highly trained packets [of guerrillas] … [randomly] shelling and mortaring [French] units … a hand grenade thrown into a café here, a burst of machine gun fire on the beach there.[20] These tactics then, as now, comprises an overall disruptive strategy that is designed to take advantage of small hit-and-run tactics; terrify the public; stretch government authorities and their allies’ to an absolute limit; and exhaust government and governance capabilities.  All are intended by a terrorist group, when a government is exhausted from the battles, to sue for peace on favourable terms. It is through the use of persistent minor lethal disruptions from which strategic- and political-advantage is gained.

In the Twenty-first century it is a germane observation that the number of attacks appears to be on the increase and without doubt this is due to the news cycle; and the immediacy with which an attack is reported.   Notwithstanding the carnage the number of fatalities from terrorist attacks 2000-2015 decreased compared to previous decades.[21] The number of fatalities however, does not adequately reflect the overarching perception of the terrorist threat, as the aim of a terrorist or group, is to instil fear in the populace. The drastic change that has come about for authorities in the West is that they are now dealing with people ‘willing to die in pursuit of the action,’[22] in a deliberate way whereas, in previous decades the aim was to survive the attack in order to fight another day. This factor brings existentialism to the fore as the decision to die for a cause (theoretically) presents a willingness to make the ultimate and most intimate of personal decision-making, one which is free of logic and reasoning.

Fighting from this existential platform presents numerous and significant problems to the authorities of nation-states—the West in particular. The most lethal form of recent disruptions have been by  ‘lone-wolf’[23] actors, and this is closely followed by actors working within  small cells—usually referred to as ‘sleeper cells.’ The tactics of both have progressively concentrated on ‘soft target’ disruption, which essentially involves the killing of civilians in public places and from a tactical perspective these attacks have been successful in part, because the individuals’ have no followers; are not part of a group; and have no hierarchy of control.[24] Authorities therefore, are reduced in their capabilities as (usually) and by necessity, authorities are pre-positioned as a response to actions; and the attacks are opportunistic and this too, favours the initiator.

Notwithstanding the abovementioned actions and the tangible- and symbolic-outcomes it is able to be accurately argued that the actor is an existential threat to the people immediately involved; and to the population at large—in the case of the aforementioned the three liberal-democratic nation-states of France, Britain and Spain.  Other Western nation-states, because of their similarities to these three countries are also able to claim the dangers of terrorism is existential and therefore, terrorism from this perspective, does represent an existential threat to the West.  With regard to individual actions terrorism has morphed beyond large group-think actions such as Baader-Meinhof Gang/Red Army Faction,[25]  to being more persuasive to the individuals, and it is here that the connection to existentialism is more erudite and easily made.  Individual action—in the case of a lone-wolf actor—has (theoretically) much less influence from forces external to the self, for instance other members of a group or cell, and the individual encompasses existentialism and becomes an existential-threat. There is and remains however in the complex narrative of terrorism, an alternate perspective of whether terrorists’ deem the West to be an existential threat.

 

The West as an existential threat

From a broader political perspective the existential threat the West represents—as a body-politic—is usually judged through the prism of political recognition, military-ties and economic benefits and the concomitant non-recognition that non-state actors may be fighting against may have valid claims regarding exploitative government- and economic-structures exist, and that repression and discrimination are present.[26] Countries with deep-seated and ongoing domestic governance issues and internal frictions are many and the West, through the auspices of the United Nations, has done little in applying comprehensive pressure to bring about change—the Philippines, Israel, Nigeria, Mali and Saudi Arabia[27] is to name only some that have within their societies long-term highly-fractious issues.  The West however offers ongoing and systemic support for these countries.  The West, usually through the mechanisms of the United Nations, persistently fails abysmally in its problem-solving. The Twenty-first century has shown the West to offer more of the same with regard to demanding change. A recent example of the West’s inept handling of crises is Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). Whilst both operations were aimed at regime change[28] it can also be argued they represent a strategic-foothold for the West in the Middle East which reflects its colonising history and its inabilities to  exercise comprehensive change beyond strategic necessity.  The West’s intervention in Afghanistan by the United States of America (US) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2001—Operation Enduring Freedom—in order to expel the Taliban[29] is a prime example of an involvement that was and remains, ill-conceived, badly-executed and ineffectual as the Taliban continues to be a robust force.  A significant part of the reason that Afghanistan is an abject failure is the West comprises the US, ISAF and its allies and a compliant and obsequious Afghan government has sought to make Afghanistan,  ‘something safe for us [the West], but entirely foreign to the Afghans’ which accords to the historic Western notions of the Orient comprising East Asia, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia,  and the Middle East as being ‘silent, available to Europe for the realizations of [its] projects… .’[31]

Consequently, the level of forced intervention by the West and the way in which operations are conducted without doubt promotes an understanding amongst the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq that the West is an existential threat to their lands, religion, culture, tribe, kin, population and numerous other elements within their societies.  Whilst this may broaden the facets of existentialism to a politico-bloc the West is nonetheless, making decisions and enacting choices.    To extend on this point the application of terrorism depends on perpetrator’s attitude, loyalties and focus and therefore it is pertinent to mention the differences between Western values and the values of others. To offer a perspective of terrorism, the Taliban was considered to be a terrorist group by the US only after Bin Laden, the self-prescribed leader of Al-Qaeda, ‘advised the Taliban to offer a [oil pipeline] contract to an Argentine firm … Unicol [a US firm] lost out.  Washington was furious and immediately turned on the Taliban and branded it an ‘outlaw regime.’[32]   Terrorism as an act for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is seen of as a reaction to what is often referred to as ‘Westoxification’[33]  has hinged on many issues although it comes under the macrocosm of the selective inclusion of politico-, military- and economic-principles of the West; and the (selective) application of these to Middle East, Southeast and Central Asian Muslim societies.  This has often fuelled much of the recalcitrance toward Western societies, and is largely directed at the US and its closest allies.  The recalcitrance referred to has inspired, and then drawn in many other actors. An example of this can be traced to the Gulf War (1990- 1991), in which Osama bin Laden, (and his Al-Qaeda followers) did not approve of Saddam’s military forces invading Kuwait, however Bin Laden’s greatest objections were the US’ maintenance of the Saudi Arabian monarchy; the monarchy’s continuing subjugation of Islam’s holiest land; and the deployment of US troops on Islam’s holy Saudi Arabian soil to fight a fellow Arab state.[34]  The West, from this point of view has honed the focus of those that would react against its policies and practices.

The ongoing and consistent animosity toward the West by exogenous and non-state actors in the aforementioned clearly offers examples of the West being deemed an existential threat to their societies.

Conclusion

British forces in Syria, US forces in Iraq and US and Australian forces in Afghanistan are three locations which have presented targets for exogenous actors.  The US in Iraq and US and ISAF in Afghanistan are possibly the most significant kinetic interventions with regard to enforcing and reinforcing a Euro-centric/Eurocentrism[35] model of good government and governance.  As a result they have drawn the most ire and ongoing reactive violence from exogenous groups; and this shows no sign of decreasing

 

Within the realm of existentialism and as this essay has borne out, no one power has a dominance over what is an existential threat comprises and moreover, there is some disagreement regarding whether terrorism is an existential threat to developed Western countries.[36]  What is an existential-threat is dependent on perspectives. Whilst all of the reasons that exogenous groups attack governments—particularly Western ones—is beyond the debate in this essay, and bearing in mind there is unlikely to be any unique cause for terrorism,[37] as there is no key event identifying the moment that an actor views himself or herself as a soldier fighting for comrades and cause,[38] an historical underpinning that drives violent reactions by exogenous groups does have a primary focus.  Groups and individuals that present and are subsequently involved in fighting Western forces in non-Western environments essentially, ‘seek to liberate themselves and their co-nationals from what they perceive to be a colonial situation or a repressive government.’[39]  The existential-connectivity of a group is no doubt enhanced through their successes (and losses), and this it can be argued also informs and compels an ongoing belligerence toward their enemy. Thus, ISAF is a force that requires an existential response from an exogenous actor. The followers it is safe to argue, embrace relevant political and cultural ideologies of the group, which in ideologies in turn ‘drive the actions’[40] and this relates to lone-wolf as well as group actors.  All in some way contribute to ‘the interests and desires of the individual become secondary to the group [or individual cause] and he/she will take any steps to advance its [and if the act is a lone-wolf attack it must, by necessity, contribute to the group] goals.’[41]   The actions may be different dependent on the actors however, this essay argues they are driven by observing the West as an existential threat to their religion, culture, and tribe along with many other aspects of their lives and moreover, the acts of violence will continue as long as the West is perceived as an existential threat.

Acknowledging that existentialism is a profoundly nuanced subject matter and one that encompasses many more aspects than those mentioned is a germane yet necessary observation to make.  The process of terrorism morphing from a violent asymmetrical-threat to an asymmetrical- and existential-threat, signals a profound change in its trajectory by Western governments.  Whether it has been brought about by numerous failed models of interventionism, it is necessary for Western governments to label terrorism as an existential-threat rather than an empirical- or rational-threat.  This is due to labelling a threat in this way disentangles the West from accepting and admitting reactions against it may have a reasoned and rationale evidence-base. It is politicians’ in the West that have controlled the debate, and observed the catastrophic consequences of the attacks, and have sought to prove that terrorism and terrorists are free from judging their actions through the prism of negative Western influences.  Regardless of the way in which the West has approached interventionism and the terrorist threat that has been inspired because of it, the fundamental strategy of interventionism remains ensconced in a flawed US model of action.  An action that the West nevertheless, persists in following.  This is writ large in the following observation

The American tradition [of fighting wars and of intervention] also tends to neglect the lesson, learned repeatedly in dozens of twentieth-century wars, that the only way to defeat an insurgency campaign is not to attack the enemy but instead to protect and win over the people.[42]

Whilst the West continues with the abovementioned strategy—and follows the US model of action—exogenous actors will continue to perceive the West as an existential threat and their violent reactions will continue. Soft-targets will remain at the forefront of exogenous actors preferred method of objecting to, and repulsing the West.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] For an overarching account of this action.  See: ‘World trade Center Disaster.’  United States Search and Rescue Task Force. http://www.ussartf.org/world_trade_center_disaster.htm

[2] James Lutz and Brenda Lutz.  Global Terrorism.  Oxon: Routledge, 2013, 51.

[3] ‘Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall reopens after tragedy.’ BBCNews.  18 July, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33578890

[4] ee:’Nigeria Chibok abductions: What we know.’  BBCNews.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32299943

[5] ‘Charlie Hedbo attack: Track how events unfolded.’  ABCNews. 8 Jan, 2015.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-08/paris-newspaper-attack-mapped/6006110

[6] Harvey Kushner. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359.

[7] See:  ‘Existentialism.’ Dictionary.com/British Dictionary.

[8] See: M. Rajimanickam.  Modern General Psychology.‘  Kachehri Ghat: Bhargava Book House, 2000, 37.  https://books.google.com.au/books?id=eJfXkj56H0kC&pg=PA37&dq=deterministic+and+seemingly+meaningless+universe

[9] John-Paul Sartre.  Existentialism is a Humanism.1945.  Edited by Glyn Taylor. Arizona State University.  http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/sartre-existentialism-squashed.pdf

[10] I have deliberately suspended the gendered language of the text by Sartre to encompass male and female in this description.  Sartre, however describes these actions reflecting ‘a deep responsibility for all humanity.’    See: http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/sartre-existentialism-squashed.pdf

This essay, therefore argues that an act of terrorism, is considered to be an act on behalf of all humanity and the betterment of it which encompasses fellow humans that believe in their cause, and the saving of those that do not.  The cause being exercised through the prism of a certain set of values via recalcitrance and in this case through the usage of violence.  The values, whether they be freedom, religion, manumission or a multitude of other precedents is not what is of interest here, as it is the act of violence and its motivations through the prism of existentialism that informs this essay.

[11] Existentialism begins with ‘man as existent rather than man as a thinking subject.’  Sartre’s theorizing and philosophising considers man to be the subject, what happens to him is what makes him, it is the philosophy of the subject rather than the object. See: John McQuarrie.  Existentialism.  An introduction, guide and assessment.  London: Penguin Books, 1973, 14 -17.

See: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/existentialism?fallbackFrom=essential-british-english

[12] Existentialism.  An introduction, guide and assessment, 16.

[13] There is much debate amongst scholars when the Enlightenment began and ended, and feminists’ now argue that because women and the poor were excluded the term does not represent an accurate description of history.  Notwithstanding the aforementioned and for the purpose of this essay the Enlightenment is 1685 – 1815. See: ‘Enlightenment.’  History. http://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment

[14] ‘Positivism’ was founded by Auguste Comte and is concerned with positive facts outweighing speculation.  See: ‘Positivism’ Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/positivism?s=t

[15] David Cooper.  Existentialism.  A Reconstruction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999, 15.

[16] Jack Reynolds.  Understanding Existentialism. Chesham: Acumen Publishing, 2006, 111.

[17] See: ‘empiricism.’ Dictionary.com/British Dictionary.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/empiricism

[18] For a comprehensive list of terrorist attacks 1970 – 2016.  See:  The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Global Terrorism Database, https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

[19] Alistair Horne.   A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954 – 1962. New York: New York Review of Books, 2006, 413.

[20] A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954 – 1962, 413.

[21] Emma Luxton.  ‘Is terrorism in Europe at an historical high?’ World Economic Forum.   24 May, 2016.  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/terrorism-in-europe-at-historical-high/

[22] ‘Is terrorism in Europe at an historical high?’

[23] There are four ‘types’ of ‘lone-wolf’ attackers and for the purpose of this essay it is the second ‘type’ that is of most interest here.  The second type is the religious lone-wolf, who perpetrates terrorism in the name of Islam, Judaism or some other belief system.’  See: Jeffrey Simon. ‘What makes a lone-wolf terrorist so dangerous?’  18 April, 2013. UCLANews.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-makes-lone-wolfe-terrorists-245316

[24] UCLANews.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-makes-lone-wolfe-terrorists-245316

[25] The Baarder-Meinhof Group was formed in 1968 and had its origins in the German protest university movement of the 1970s.  The group engaged in bank robberies, arson and terrorism.  The group decried the US as an Imperialist power and labelled the West German government as fascist and a holdover from the Nazi era.  The group was also involved in kidnapping and assassinations and had at least 22 core members.  See:  John Jenkins.  ‘Red Army Faction.’ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Red-Army-Faction

[26] Global Terrorism, 16.

[27] President Rodrigo Duterte’s of the Philippines ongoing ‘war on drugs’ has been criticised by Human Rights Watch due to the number of unlawful extra-judicial killings

See: https://www.hrw.org/tag/philippines-war-drugs.  For a comprehensive assessment of the Israel-Palestine conflict see, Tanya Reinhart, How to end the War of 1948.

‘Nigeria: Corruption Fuelling Police Abuses.’  See: Human Rights Watch.  17 Aug, 2010.  https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/08/17/nigeria-corruption-fueling-police-abuses.

France had been stating for months in 2012, that a West African military force should bring control to Mali.  French President Hollande acted and sent troops to Mali in January, 2013—after the Malian Army had been surprised by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.  See:  John Barry.  ‘Mali – The French Way of War.’ The European Institute. https://www.europeaninstitute.org/index.php/167-european-affairs/ea-january-2013/1683-mali-the-french-way-of-war

The Saudi Arabia government ‘promised bin Laden that the foreigners would leave as soon as the [1991 Gulf] war was over.  But American forces were in Saudi Arabia a year after the Gulf War ended, and bin Laden felt betrayed.  See:  Cindy Combs.  Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century.  Boston: Longman, 2013, 26.

[28] Joseph Collins.  Lessons Encountered. Learning from the Long War.  Washington: NDU Press, 2015.  http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Publications/Books/Lessons-Encountered/Article/915829/chapter-1-initial-planning-and-execution-in-afghanistan-and-iraq/

[29] For a comprehensive assessment of the Taliban in Afghanistan see, ‘Soldiers killed as Taliban storms Kandahar base.’  Al-Jazeera.   27 July, 2017  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/soliders-killed-taliban-storms-kandahar-base-170726080235545.html

[30] Andrew Rohrer.  ‘Why did we fail in the Afghan war?  Because we didn’t understand the place.’  Foreign Policy. 12 Feb, 2015.  http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/12/why-did-we-fail-in-the-afghan-war-because-we-didnt-understand-the-place/

[31] Edward Said.  Orientalism.  Western Conceptions of the Orient.  London: Penguin Books, 1978, 94.

[32] Eric Margolis.  War at the Top of the World. New York: Routledge, 2002, 94.

[33] Samuel Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.  New York: Simon & Shuster, 2011, 212-213

[34] Gilles Kepel.  The War for Muslim Minds.  Islam and the West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004, 98-99.

[35] The definition of ‘Eurocentric’ is to view societies through the prism of European and Anglo-American definitions of the societies and the World.  See: ‘Definition of Eurocentric.’ Merriam-Webster.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Eurocentric

[36] For a comprehensive understanding of terrorism being a threat to the balance-of-power in Western and non-Western countries see: Peter Jennings. ‘Is terrorism an existential threat?’ The Counterterrorism Yearbook 2017.   Australian Strategic Policy Institute.  13 April, 2017.  https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/terrorism-existential-threat/

[37] Charles Tilly.  “Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists,’  Sociological Theory.  Edited by Mustafa Emirbayer.  California: Sage Publications, 2004, Vol 22, 5-13.

[38] Marc Sageman.  Misunderstanding Terrorism.  Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2017, 143.

[39] James Lutz and Brenda Lutz.  Global Terrorism.  Oxon: Routledge, 2013, 15.

[40] Global Terrorism, 14.

[41] Ami Pedahzur.  Suicide Terrorism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005, 7.

[42] Thomas Ricks.  The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq.  New York: Penguin, 2007, 5-6.

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An analysis of terrorism:  The Turnbull government and political advantage of an ‘Existential Threat’  

 

Introduction

There has been an ongoing debate within Australian politics since approximately 2015 about terrorism and it having become an ‘existential threat.’  The debate originally started within the realm of referring to the war in Syria and the violence associated with the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  The Honourable Tony Abbott (MP) when he was prime minister persistently referred to ISIS as a ‘death cult,’ Attorney-General George Brandis claimed it was an ‘existential threat,’ and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (MP) told Australians that ISIS emerged from the Arab Spring (and therefore had nothing to do with Western intervention in Iraq)[1] and of Royal Australian Air Force strikes in the Middle East.[2] There has since 2015, been considerable discussion about terrorism morphing from a physical to existential threat and recently the debate has included ‘uncontrolled migration’ posing an existential threat to some European countries.  From this Prime Minister Turnbull has sought to reinvigorate ‘national values’ and thus citizenship[3] issues have also come into play.   The Honourable Peter Dutton (MP) and his views with regard to citizenship, border protection and a myriad of other security and domestic issues are well-known—including his Home Affairs[4] minister front bench status—and he has also been part of the vigorous debate surrounding national values.[5]   Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned the term ‘existential’ keeps entering the debate and whilst this essay is premised largely on Europe and the Middle East with regards to what the threat comprises (and due to the number of attacks), it is nevertheless relevant to Australia as there have been ‘lone-wolf’ attacks and this essay can be related to Australia’s domestic environment.   What the term means—and the concomitant political elevation that has been made by Conservatives’ in the Turnbull government—is why the term needs to be debated; warrants exposure; requires clarification; and needs to be given a perspective.   As with other Western governments—especially if there is trouble within the economy—the Turnbull government has been quick to use border protection, terrorism, and security in general to gain an advantage in the domestic political sphere.  Whilst this in many ways mirrors former prime minister Howard (the patsy from Down Under[6]) going to war with the United States of America (US) and its ‘war on terror,’ and the subsequent political gain (at least initially) that was made, and it is worth noting that the political rhetoric from the Conservatives continues; and remains consistent about the threat.  With this in mind and as the threat continues an examination can now be made.

 

As the threat and actions of terrorists terrorism have become more focussed, and their outcomes having a greater impact on populaces of nation-states.  Their actions by necessity have demanded a change in thinking by governments of nation-states—particularly Western nation-states.]  The rethink has been brought about by the pursuit of civilian (undefended) locales and the successes individual and terrorist groups have achieved in the targeting of them. The attacks on what have become colloquially known as ‘soft targets’—the attack on the World Trade Center[7] being the most significant in recent times–has permitted terrorism and therefore terrorists, to attain a newfound prominence. Historically, the commentary associated with terrorism consisted only of it representing a threat which employed ‘asymmetrical’ tactics to disrupt populaces. Placing improvised-explosive-devices in public spaces, kidnapping and targeting government buildings is to list only several examples of commitment to what are termed ‘target rich environments.’[8]   In more contemporary times the political rhetoric, largely by Western politicians’ have morphed terrorism into a more lethal dyad: the combination of being an asymmetrical- and an existential- threat.  Adding the new terminology ascribes and signals, a fundamentally different view of terrorism and extends it beyond simply being non-state actors taking up arms against the State to that of an actor or actors, using violence as a means of personal expression.  Terrorism therefore, has been given a renewed prominence and is a higher level of menace in order to attain domestic political advantage.

Since 2001, there has been numerous attacks: the Westgate shopping mall attack by Al-Shabaab in Nairobi (Kenya, 2013), in which 67 people were killed[9]; the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok (Nigeria, 2014);[10] and the shootings in the Charlie Hedbo office in Paris (France, 2015) by Al-Qaeda, in which 11 people were killed.[11]   Notwithstanding the ferocity of the attacks they continue and in the process have drawn in other actors and due to the connecting of the words ‘existential’ and ‘threat’ by commentators—notably Western politicians—has triggered a renewed urgency to, and in, Western polity.  Liberal-democracy, good governance; fair and equal elections, rule-of-law; the illegality of exogenous actors challenging the authority of the State; and transparent government is to name only several components that have been re-asserted as appropriate governance.  For the West, terrorists’ acting against the State comprises a triad: the method (violence), the target (civilian or government), and the purpose (to instil fear and enforce political or social change).[12]

The usage of the term ‘existential threat,’—especially in political forums and the news media—it is fair to argue has gripped the public imagination and therefore, terrorism has gained a renewed vigour; and the term has further created a robust and enduring fear throughout the West. A broad yet accurate summation of why terrorism has gained such importance is the increasing number of individuals are ‘finding’ themselves through their personal experiences and resorting to violence in order to prove their commitment to a cause.  It is the perceptions that lead to action that requires analysis and it is necessary to delve deeper into what is meant by the term ‘existential’; whether terrorism fulfils the requirements within the definition.  This essay will also intertwine terrorism as a multi-faceted matter within societal and cultural boundaries and perspectives.

 

Existentialism: an overview

Acknowledging that there are slight, variations to the thematic definitions of what it is to be an ‘existentialist’ and to involve oneself in ‘existentialism,’ is dependent upon which scholarly practice and  interpretation is applied. There are variations in the writings of Søren, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Dostoevsky and Sartre–although the schematic of emotion, ‘anguish and dread’[13]—are within all of the texts.    To be an existentialist by necessity means to be a person that has and applies, an existentialist approach to situations.  Within this principled approach, the person—in this case a terrorist—embraces the notions and ‘… importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make in the individual who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe’[14]  An explanation of this is that humans—although Sartre refers to and uses, the gendered term ‘man’—

 

first exists encounters himself and emerges in the world, to be defined afterwards … It is man who conceives himself, who propels himself towards existence.  Man becomes nothing other than what is actually done, not what he will want to be.[15]

 

The aforementioned factors are therefore, and by definition, associated with an ‘individual’s unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.[16] What he/she has become is informed by experiences and their decisions are their responsibility alone.  The link that is able to be made here is a terrorist, when reacting through the prism of violence is effectively, using violence as an extension of their reality.  A terrorist is ‘made’ through their own unique experiences and understandings associated with what has, or is happening to their country, people, religion, kin, tribe, culture and a multitude of other factors.  Terrorism from an existential perspective is when an individual, ‘surges up in the world and then defines himself afterwards … and then he will be what he makes of himself.’[17]   Theoretically, the individual making the decision to carry out an act of terrorism is doing so with ‘freedom, decision and responsibility … [and] these matters constitute the core of personal being.’[18] It is these factors that have contributed to the reconfiguring of terrorism from being a strategic and tactical asymmetrical-threat, to an asymmetrical- and existential-threat. In order to understand existentialism at a deeper level it is necessary to observe how it evolved into a way of deduction.  Existentialism was, and remains a response to previous intellectual pursuits of reason and rationale.   Existentialism was a reaction to rationalism and empiricism which has at its core the Enlightenment (1685 – 1815),[19]  which is ‘positivistic’[20] and holds the conviction ‘that the true repositories of knowledge are the sciences.’[21]  Empiricism retains the predisposition and doctrinal components of ‘all knowledge comes from the sense experiences’[22] and that ‘the mind is not furnished with a set of concepts in advance of experience.’[23]

The fundamental variance in the two concepts broadly-speaking is that empiricism is a theory of knowledge that comes from experience from which one makes a decision, whereas existentialism defaults to an individual being able to make decisions free from historical and social constraints—regardless of the processes involved a decision is able to be made.  Whether the decision made by a person willing to commit a terrorist act is empirical or existential (or a combination of both), is a moot point as what is being analysed here the politico-application of the term ‘existential,’ and the concomitant considerations therein.

Notwithstanding the abovementioned, the adding of the word ‘existential’ to the word ‘threat’ offers an all-encompassing concept to the practice of terrorism.  It is one which moves it as an act, to beyond a rational decision to that of a personal one. According to the political rhetoric the labelling of terrorism in this way is an acknowledgement that when a terrorist act is committed, it is free of social- and historical-constraints—the act is devoid of reason and made solely from personal accord.  A drawing together of existentialism and terrorism is now able to be made.

 

Existentialism: applied to terrorism 

First and foremost it is important to observe several attacks which have been noted by commentators’ as being of an existential nature, and it is this labelling that continues to inform the threat level: the Bastille Day attack in Nice (14 July, 2016), which involved an attacker driving a truck through a crowd of pedestrians; the London Bridge attack (3 June, 2017), in which a car was used to kill pedestrians; and the more recently the attack on pedestrians in Barcelona (17 August, 2017), in which a van was used.  The type of attack is a reflection of and a response to, what the actor perceives as being an overwhelming problem, and one that he (in these cases the perpetrators were male) must respond to; be part of the cause; and play an active role in opposing the enemy—in these cases the West.  What is of interest here however, is the decision-making according to the existential paradigm and the concomitant psycho- and socio-homogenization of the populace. From this standpoint all members of the populace—military and civilian—are bona-fide targets and it can be surmised the existential decision to attack is one of ‘self’ against an overarching enemy.  The form of attack, the use of vehicles against the populace has become more frequent[24] and this is because terrorists in the tactical- and kinetic-phase of a low-intensity operation require simplicity, opportunism and vulnerability of the target.   Attacks on soft-targets do have an existential basis, as an attack requires a high-degree of decision-making by the individual in the process of acquiring the necessary assets, and of following through with the attack.  The existential nature of a terrorist attack is equally able to be applied to a small group or an ‘army’ such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the decision-making and homogenization components are similar. Notwithstanding these factors, attacks of this type have been used as strategic and tactical necessities by terrorists for many decades.

During the French occupation of Algeria (1954 – 1962), French military and Algerian government forces were constantly harassed by the guerrillas of the Armée de Libération Nationale (FLN), which objected to French involvement in Algerian affairs.  The FLN caused constant disruptions through the use of tactical ‘pin pricks’[25] … [consisting of] ‘small, highly trained packets [of guerrillas] … [randomly] shelling and mortaring [French] units … a hand grenade thrown into a café here, a burst of machine gun fire on the beach there.[26] These tactics then, as now, comprises an overall disruptive strategy that is designed to take advantage of small hit-and-run tactics; terrify the public; stretch government authorities and their allies’ to an absolute limit; and exhaust government and governance capabilities.  All are intended by a terrorist group, when a government is exhausted from the battles, to sue for peace on favourable terms. It is through the use of persistent minor lethal disruptions from which strategic- and political-advantage is gained.

In the Twenty-first century it is a germane observation that the number of attacks appears to be on the increase and without doubt this is due to the news cycle; and the immediacy with which an attack is reported.   Notwithstanding the carnage the number of fatalities from terrorist attacks 2000-2015 decreased compared to previous decades.[27] The number of fatalities however, does not adequately reflect the overarching perception of the terrorist threat, as the aim of a terrorist or group, is to instil fear in the populace. The drastic change that has come about for authorities in the West is that they are now dealing with people ‘willing to die in pursuit of the action,’[28] in a deliberate way whereas, in previous decades the aim was to survive the attack in order to fight another day. This factor brings existentialism to the fore as the decision to die for a cause (theoretically) presents a willingness to make the ultimate and most intimate of personal decision-making, one which is free of logic and reasoning.

Fighting from this existential platform presents numerous and significant problems to the authorities of nation-states—the West in particular. The most lethal form of recent disruptions have been by  ‘lone-wolf’[29] actors, and this is closely followed by actors working within  small cells—usually referred to as ‘sleeper cells.’ The tactics of both have progressively concentrated on ‘soft target’ disruption, which essentially involves the killing of civilians in public places and from a tactical perspective these attacks have been successful in part, because the individuals’ have no followers; are not part of a group; and have no hierarchy of control.[30] Authorities therefore, are reduced in their capabilities as (usually) and by necessity, authorities are pre-positioned as a response to actions; and the attacks are opportunistic and this too, favours the initiator.

Notwithstanding the abovementioned actions and the tangible- and symbolic-outcomes it is able to be accurately argued that the actor is an existential threat to the people immediately involved; and to the population at large—in the case of the aforementioned the three liberal-democratic nation-states of France, Britain and Spain.  Other Western nation-states, because of their similarities to these three countries are also able to claim the dangers of terrorism is existential and therefore, terrorism from this perspective, does represent an existential threat to the West.  With regard to individual actions terrorism has morphed beyond large group-think actions such as Baader-Meinhof Gang/Red Army Faction,[31]  to being more persuasive to the individuals, and it is here that the connection to existentialism is more erudite and easily made.  Individual action—in the case of a lone-wolf actor—has (theoretically) much less influence from forces external to the self, for instance other members of a group or cell, and the individual encompasses existentialism and becomes an existential-threat. There is and remains however in the complex narrative of terrorism, an alternate perspective of whether terrorists’ deem the West to be an existential threat.

 

The West as an existential threat

From a broader political perspective the existential threat the West represents—as a body-politic—is usually judged through the prism of political recognition, military-ties and economic benefits and the concomitant non-recognition that non-state actors may be fighting against may have valid claims regarding exploitative government- and economic-structures exist, and that repression and discrimination are present.[32] Countries with deep-seated and ongoing domestic governance issues and internal frictions are many and the West, through the auspices of the United Nations, has done little in applying comprehensive pressure to bring about change—the Philippines, Israel, Nigeria, Mali and Saudi Arabia[33] is to name only some that have within their societies long-term highly-fractious issues.  The West however offers ongoing and systemic support for these countries.  The West, usually through the mechanisms of the United Nations, persistently fails abysmally in its problem-solving. The Twenty-first century has shown the West to offer more of the same with regard to demanding change. A recent example of the West’s inept handling of crises is Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). Whilst both operations were aimed at regime change[34] it can also be argued they represent a strategic-foothold for the West in the Middle East which reflects its colonising history and its inabilities to  exercise comprehensive change beyond strategic necessity.  The West’s intervention in Afghanistan by the United States of America (US) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2001—Operation Enduring Freedom—in order to expel the Taliban[35] is a prime example of an involvement that was and remains, ill-conceived, badly-executed and ineffectual as the Taliban continues to be a robust force.  A significant part of the reason that Afghanistan is an abject failure is the West comprises the US, ISAF and its allies and a compliant and obsequious Afghan government has sought to make Afghanistan,  ‘something safe for us [the West], but entirely foreign to the Afghans’ which accords to the historic Western notions of the Orient comprising East Asia, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia,  and the Middle East as being ‘silent, available to Europe for the realizations of [its] projects… .’[37]

Consequently, the level of forced intervention by the West and the way in which operations are conducted without doubt promotes an understanding amongst the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq that the West is an existential threat to their lands, religion, culture, tribe, kin, population and numerous other elements within their societies.  Whilst this may broaden the facets of existentialism to a politico-bloc the West is nonetheless, making decisions and enacting choices.    To extend on this point the application of terrorism depends on perpetrator’s attitude, loyalties and focus and therefore it is pertinent to mention the differences between Western values and the values of others. To offer a perspective of terrorism, the Taliban was considered to be a terrorist group by the US only after Bin Laden, the self-prescribed leader of Al-Qaeda, ‘advised the Taliban to offer a [oil pipeline] contract to an Argentine firm … Unicol [a US firm] lost out.  Washington was furious and immediately turned on the Taliban and branded it an ‘outlaw regime.’[38]   Terrorism as an act for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is seen of as a reaction to what is often referred to as ‘Westoxification’[39]  has hinged on many issues although it comes under the macrocosm of the selective inclusion of politico-, military- and economic-principles of the West; and the (selective) application of these to Middle East, Southeast and Central Asian Muslim societies.  This has often fuelled much of the recalcitrance toward Western societies, and is largely directed at the US and its closest allies.  The recalcitrance referred to has inspired, and then drawn in many other actors. An example of this can be traced to the Gulf War (1990- 1991), in which Osama bin Laden, (and his Al-Qaeda followers) did not approve of Saddam’s military forces invading Kuwait, however Bin Laden’s greatest objections were the US’ maintenance of the Saudi Arabian monarchy; the monarchy’s continuing subjugation of Islam’s holiest land; and the deployment of US troops on Islam’s holy Saudi Arabian soil to fight a fellow Arab state.[40]  The West, from this point of view has honed the focus of those that would react against its policies and practices.

The ongoing and consistent animosity toward the West by exogenous and non-state actors in the aforementioned clearly offers examples of the West being deemed an existential threat to their societies.

 

Conclusion

British forces in Syria, US forces in Iraq and US and Australian forces in Afghanistan are three locations which have presented targets for exogenous actors.  The US in Iraq and US and ISAF in Afghanistan are possibly the most significant kinetic interventions with regard to enforcing and reinforcing a Euro-centric/Eurocentrism[41] model of good government and governance.  As a result they have drawn the most ire and ongoing reactive violence from exogenous groups; and this shows no sign of decreasing

 

Within the realm of existentialism and as this essay has borne out, no one power has a dominance over what is an existential threat comprises and moreover, there is some disagreement regarding whether terrorism is an existential threat to developed Western countries.[42]  What is an existential-threat is dependent on perspectives. Whilst all of the reasons that exogenous groups attack governments—particularly Western ones—is beyond the debate in this essay, and bearing in mind there is unlikely to be any unique cause for terrorism,[43] as there is no key event identifying the moment that an actor views himself or herself as a soldier fighting for comrades and cause,[44] an historical underpinning that drives violent reactions by exogenous groups does have a primary focus.  Groups and individuals that present and are subsequently involved in fighting Western forces in non-Western environments essentially, ‘seek to liberate themselves and their co-nationals from what they perceive to be a colonial situation or a repressive government.’[45]  The existential-connectivity of a group is no doubt enhanced through their successes (and losses), and this it can be argued also informs and compels an ongoing belligerence toward their enemy. Thus, ISAF is a force that requires an existential response from an exogenous actor. The followers it is safe to argue, embrace relevant political and cultural ideologies of the group, which in ideologies in turn ‘drive the actions’[46] and this relates to lone-wolf as well as group actors.  All in some way contribute to ‘the interests and desires of the individual become secondary to the group [or individual cause] and he/she will take any steps to advance its [and if the act is a lone-wolf attack it must, by necessity, contribute to the group] goals.’[47]   The actions may be different dependent on the actors however, this essay argues they are driven by observing the West as an existential threat to their religion, culture, and tribe along with many other aspects of their lives and moreover, the acts of violence will continue as long as the West is perceived as an existential threat.

Acknowledging that existentialism is a profoundly nuanced subject matter and one that encompasses many more aspects than those mentioned is a germane yet necessary observation to make.  The process of terrorism morphing from a violent asymmetrical-threat to an asymmetrical- and existential-threat, signals a profound change in its trajectory by Western governments.  Whether it has been brought about by numerous failed models of interventionism, it is necessary for Western governments to label terrorism as an existential-threat rather than an empirical- or rational-threat.  This is due to labelling a threat in this way disentangles the West from accepting and admitting reactions against it may have a reasoned and rationale evidence-base. It is politicians’ in the West that have controlled the debate, and observed the catastrophic consequences of the attacks, and have sought to prove that terrorism and terrorists are free from judging their actions through the prism of negative Western influences.  Regardless of the way in which the West has approached interventionism and the terrorist threat that has been inspired because of it, the fundamental strategy of interventionism remains ensconced in a flawed US model of action.  An action that the West (including Australia), nevertheless, persists following.  This is writ large in the following observation

The American tradition [of fighting wars and of intervention] also tends to neglect the lesson, learned repeatedly in dozens of twentieth-century wars, that the only way to defeat an insurgency campaign is not to attack the enemy but instead to protect and win over the people.[48]

Whilst the West continues with the abovementioned strategy—and follows the US model of action—exogenous actors will continue to perceive the West as an existential threat and their violent reactions will continue. Soft-targets will remain at the forefront of exogenous actors preferred method of objecting to, and repulsing the West.

 

 

© Strobe Driver.  September 2017.   Strobe Driver, completed a doctoral thesis in war studies in 2011 and since then has been writing on war, terrorism and Asia-Pacific security.  The above article has been modified for an Australian audience although the main argument appeared in E-IR on 28 Sept, 2017; and is in his blog Geo-Strategic Orbit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] For a succinct analysis of ISIS in Iraq see: Bernard Keane.  ‘Turnbull sets terms for a reset of terrorism rhetoric.’  Crikey. 5 Oct, 2015.  https://www.crikey.com.au/2015/10/05/turnbull-sets-terms-for-a-reset-of-terrorism-rhetoric/

[2] See:’ Strike Maintenance in the Middle East.’ Royal Australian Air Force.  25 Aug, 2016.  https://www.airforce.gov.au/News/Strike-Maintenance-in-the-Middle-East/?RAAF-ocpPIMzd7faOsa0P4Nd9VZkOzAUApXao

[3] James Elton-Pym.  ‘PM wants ‘patriotism from would-be citizens as counter-terror move.’  SBS. 13 June, 2017.  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/13/pm-wants-patriotism-would-be-citizens-counter-terror-move

[4] Karen Barlow.  Peter Dutton Nets New, Super-Sized UK Style Home Affairs Ministry.’  Huffpost.  18 July, 2017.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/07/17/peter-dutton-gets-new-super-sized-uk-style-home-affairs-ministr_a_23034794/

[5] There is a plethora of Dutton’s views on the Internet, however this article embraces many of the issues in this essay.  See: Jackson Gothe-Snape.  SBS.  13 June, 2017.  http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/15/fears-stateless-kids-and-extraordinary-powers-dutton-prompt-new-citizenship?cid=inbody:dutton-promises-new-powers-won%E2%80%99t-distract-from-immigration ‘Fear of stateless kids and ‘extraordinary powers’ for Dutton prompt new citizenship concerns.’

[6] Paul McGeough.  ‘Chilcot Report: The mind-boggling incompetence of Bush, Blair and Howard laid bare.’  The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 July. 2016. http://www.smh.com.au/world/chilcot-report-the-mindboggling-incompetence-of-bush-blair-and-howard-laid-bare-20160706-gq06hy.html

[7] For an overarching account of this action.  See: ‘World trade Center Disaster.’  United States Search and Rescue Task Force. http://www.ussartf.org/world_trade_center_disaster.htm

[8] James Lutz and Brenda Lutz.  Global Terrorism.  Oxon: Routledge, 2013, 51.

[9] ‘Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall reopens after tragedy.’ BBCNews.  18 July, 2015. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33578890

[10] ee:’Nigeria Chibok abductions: What we know.’  BBCNews.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32299943

[11] ‘Charlie Hedbo attack: Track how events unfolded.’  ABCNews. 8 Jan, 2015.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-08/paris-newspaper-attack-mapped/6006110

[12] Harvey Kushner. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359.

[13] See:  ‘Existentialism.’ Dictionary.com/British Dictionary.

[14] See: M. Rajimanickam.  Modern General Psychology.‘  Kachehri Ghat: Bhargava Book House, 2000, 37.  https://books.google.com.au/books?id=eJfXkj56H0kC&pg=PA37&dq=deterministic+and+seemingly+meaningless+universe

[15] John-Paul Sartre.  Existentialism is a Humanism.1945.  Edited by Glyn Taylor. Arizona State University.  http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/sartre-existentialism-squashed.pdf

[16] I have deliberately suspended the gendered language of the text by Sartre to encompass male and female in this description.  Sartre, however describes these actions reflecting ‘a deep responsibility for all humanity.’    See: http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/sartre-existentialism-squashed.pdf

This essay, therefore argues that an act of terrorism, is considered to be an act on behalf of all humanity and the betterment of it which encompasses fellow humans that believe in their cause, and the saving of those that do not.  The cause being exercised through the prism of a certain set of values via recalcitrance and in this case through the usage of violence.  The values, whether they be freedom, religion, manumission or a multitude of other precedents is not what is of interest here, as it is the act of violence and its motivations through the prism of existentialism that informs this essay.

[17] Existentialism begins with ‘man as existent rather than man as a thinking subject.’  Sartre’s theorizing and philosophising considers man to be the subject, what happens to him is what makes him, it is the philosophy of the subject rather than the object. See: John McQuarrie.  Existentialism.  An introduction, guide and assessment.  London: Penguin Books, 1973, 14 -17.

See: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/existentialism?fallbackFrom=essential-british-english

[18] Existentialism.  An introduction, guide and assessment, 16.

[19] There is much debate amongst scholars when the Enlightenment began and ended, and feminists’ now argue that because women and the poor were excluded the term does not represent an accurate description of history.  Notwithstanding the aforementioned and for the purpose of this essay the Enlightenment is 1685 – 1815. See: ‘Enlightenment.’  History. http://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment

[20] ‘Positivism’ was founded by Auguste Comte and is concerned with positive facts outweighing speculation.  See: ‘Positivism’ Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/positivism?s=t

[21] David Cooper.  Existentialism.  A Reconstruction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999, 15.

[22] Jack Reynolds.  Understanding Existentialism. Chesham: Acumen Publishing, 2006, 111.

[23] See: ‘empiricism.’ Dictionary.com/British Dictionary.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/empiricism

[24] For a comprehensive list of terrorist attacks 1970 – 2016.  See:  The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Global Terrorism Database, https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/

[25] Alistair Horne.   A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954 – 1962. New York: New York Review of Books, 2006, 413.

[26] A Savage War of Peace.  Algeria 1954 – 1962, 413.

[27] Emma Luxton.  ‘Is terrorism in Europe at an historical high?’ World Economic Forum.   24 May, 2016.  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/terrorism-in-europe-at-historical-high/

[28] ‘Is terrorism in Europe at an historical high?’

[29] There are four ‘types’ of ‘lone-wolf’ attackers and for the purpose of this essay it is the second ‘type’ that is of most interest here.  The second type is the religious lone-wolf, who perpetrates terrorism in the name of Islam, Judaism or some other belief system.’  See: Jeffrey Simon. ‘What makes a lone-wolf terrorist so dangerous?’  18 April, 2013. UCLANews.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-makes-lone-wolfe-terrorists-245316

[30] UCLANews.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/what-makes-lone-wolfe-terrorists-245316

[31] The Baader-Meinhof Group was formed in 1968 and had its origins in the German protest university movement of the 1970s.  The group engaged in bank robberies, arson and terrorism.  The group decried the US as an Imperialist power and labelled the West German government as fascist and a holdover from the Nazi era.  The group was also involved in kidnapping and assassinations and had at least 22 core members.  See:  John Jenkins.  ‘Red Army Faction.’ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Red-Army-Faction

[32] Global Terrorism, 16.

[33] President Rodrigo Duterte’s of the Philippines ongoing ‘war on drugs’ has been criticised by Human Rights Watch due to the number of unlawful extra-judicial killings

See: https://www.hrw.org/tag/philippines-war-drugs.  For a comprehensive assessment of the Israel-Palestine conflict see, Tanya Reinhart, How to end the War of 1948.

‘Nigeria: Corruption Fuelling Police Abuses.’  See: Human Rights Watch.  17 Aug, 2010.  https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/08/17/nigeria-corruption-fueling-police-abuses.

France had been stating for months in 2012, that a West African military force should bring control to Mali.  French President Hollande acted and sent troops to Mali in January, 2013—after the Malian Army had been surprised by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.  See:  John Barry.  ‘Mali – The French Way of War.’ The European Institute. https://www.europeaninstitute.org/index.php/167-european-affairs/ea-january-2013/1683-mali-the-french-way-of-war

The Saudi Arabia government ‘promised bin Laden that the foreigners would leave as soon as the [1991 Gulf] war was over.  But American forces were in Saudi Arabia a year after the Gulf War ended, and bin Laden felt betrayed.  See:  Cindy Combs.  Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century.  Boston: Longman, 2013, 26.

[34] Joseph Collins.  Lessons Encountered. Learning from the Long War.  Washington: NDU Press, 2015.  http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Publications/Books/Lessons-Encountered/Article/915829/chapter-1-initial-planning-and-execution-in-afghanistan-and-iraq/

[35] For a comprehensive assessment of the Taliban in Afghanistan see, ‘Soldiers killed as Taliban storms Kandahar base.’  Al-Jazeera.   27 July, 2017  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/soliders-killed-taliban-storms-kandahar-base-170726080235545.html

[36] Andrew Rohrer.  ‘Why did we fail in the Afghan war?  Because we didn’t understand the place.’  Foreign Policy. 12 Feb, 2015.  http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/12/why-did-we-fail-in-the-afghan-war-because-we-didnt-understand-the-place/

[37] Edward Said.  Orientalism.  Western Conceptions of the Orient.  London: Pengion Books, 1978, 94.

[38] Eric Margolis.  War at the Top of the World. New York: Routledge, 2002, 94.

[39] Samuel Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.  New York: Simon & Shuster, 2011, 212-213

[40] Gilles Kepel.  The War for Muslim Minds.  Islam and the West. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004, 98-99.

[41] The definition of ‘Eurocentric’ is to view societies through the prism of European and Anglo-American definitions of the societies and the World.  See: ‘Definition of Eurocentric.’ Merriam-Webster.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Eurocentric

[42] For a comprehensive understanding of terrorism being a threat to the balance-of-power in Western and non-Western countries see: Peter Jennings. ‘Is terrorism an existential threat?’ The Counterterrorism Yearbook 2017.   Australian Strategic Policy Institute.  13 April, 2017.  https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/terrorism-existential-threat/

[43] Charles Tilly.  “Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists,’  Sociological Theory.  Edited by Mustafa Emirbayer.  California: Sage Publications, 2004, Vol 22, 5-13.

[44] Marc Sageman.  Misunderstanding Terrorism.  Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2017, 143.

[45] James Lutz and Brenda Lutz.  Global Terrorism.  Oxon: Routledge, 2013, 15.

[46] Global Terrorism, 14.

[47] Ami Pedahzur.  Suicide Terrorism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005, 7.

[48] Thomas Ricks.  The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq.  New York: Penguin, 2007, 5-6.

 

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Winning the hostilities without fighting a war: US-DPRK machinations and the Korean Peninsula

Image result for US North Korea

Image credit: CBS news

(this article was originally requested by and published on E-IR as ‘Winning hostilities without war: US-North Korea machinations’)

 Introduction

 

At the end of June 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)— North Korea—through the actions of the North Korean People’s Army embarked on an invasion of South Korea by  advancing toward Seoul.  This action signalled the beginning of the Korean War (1950 – 1953); and was the first military act of the Cold War (1948 -1989).[1]  Three years after the war had commenced the Republican Party in the United States of America (US) came to power largely on a pledge to end the war in Korea, and when North Korean and Chinese forces had been pushed north, back to near the thirty-eighth parallel by United Nations (UN)  forces the war ended in a ‘stalemate.’[2]   Since 1953, the US has deemed North Korea to be a ‘rogue nation/rogue state’[3] and from the perspective of the North Korean government, the war for the unification of their nation remains an ongoing and constant part of their political landscape.  Both of these standpoints have come to the fore in numerous ways in the decades since 1953.

North Korea is regarded as a rogue state by the US.  In order for North Korea to not be judged so harshly it have would engage with the prescribed norms of international politics through the prism of Realpolitik,[4] and via the avenues of the UN to find a solution.  To date North Korea has not sought a solution through these channels.   Prior to North Korea’s current series of missile launches and through overt and persistent belligerence it remains defiant; and moreover seeks to exercise political independence through a strong military presence.  The defiance toward the US and its regional allies, particularly Taiwan, Japan and Australia has come in the form of ongoing missile tests, and the continued threat-of-strikes in the region—in recent times as far southeast as Australia.[5]   The hostility of North Korea through the Kim Jong-il regime (1994 – 2011) was brought to the fore as early as 2002, when President George W. Bush linked North Korea’s non-compliance with international norms  to an ‘axis of evil’ which included Iraq and Iran.[6]  Defining the US’ position, President Bush stated

[Rogue] States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.  By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.[7]

 

North Korea’s choice of allies, and the ongoing threats of Kim Jong-un, continue to underpin the current crisis.

 

How does North Korea survive?

For all of its belligerence and pontificating North Korea however does receive support and byproxy support from other regional allies as no country in a globalized world is able to be completely isolated.  Whilst it is true that China recently criticized North Korea for its nuclear test in September 2016[8]  the regional strength that North Korea possesses essentially hinges on China’s largesse which emanates from the political, trade and energy avenues that exist through the cross-diplomacy and other auspices of the Chinese government—China is considered by the international community to be a ‘buffer state’[9] for North Korea.  Another regional power is the Russian Federation operating through the prism of ‘mutually beneficial cooperation,’[10] which offers North Korea an economic and political lifeline, as do the transnational companies utilizing cheap labour in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (in conjunction with the South Korean government), at the southern end of their border.[11]  All represent an ongoing lifeline for North Korea.

North Korea’s ongoing missile program

North Korea’s definitive and strong regional presence occurs in defiance of international norms that are designed to bring recalcitrant powers into alignment with prescribed international norms.  The norms are set by the UN Security Council (UNSC) and therefore, any deviations are able to be addressed by the UNSC through Chapter Vll[12] which stipulates, ‘The Security Council shall determine any threat to the peace, any breach of the peace, or act of aggression…’[13] however to date, the UNSC has not deemed North Korea to be a serious threat to regional peace.   Nevertheless, North Korea is currently under the caution of UNSC Resolution 2321[14] which condemns North Korea’s nuclear test of September 2016.[15]   North Korea has persisted with its belligerence in the decades since the end of fighting, although not the end of hostilities, and this has allowed the development of missile- and  a nuclear-program which have reached a troublesome point in the mindset of the West; and its regional allies—the US, South Korea and Japan in particular.

The current fear that has been generated does have solid antecedents to a kinetic outcome as the posturing of North Korea is relentless, and concomitant to this in 2009 it stepped away from the Six Party Talks[16] which began in 2003—involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the US—and were designed to dismantle the North Korean nuclear program.  Since 2009 however, tensions have continued to rise.[17]  North Korea has contributed persistently to regional tensions by maintaining a nuclear program as well as conducting short-, intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile tests.   China and Russia—both long-time supporters of North Korea—have in recent times articulated a more moderate approach to their previous stance.  For instance, Russia continues to condemn North Korea’s nuclear program,[18] and ‘in March 2013, China finally agreed to sponsor UN sanctions alongside the United States and it has, since then increased its rhetoric for the resumption of [Six Party] talks.’[19]  Although China and Russia remain perturbed about North Korea’s belligerence and missile program, they continue to maintain that bringing North Korea into more fruitful negotiations is the most appropriate recourse for a peaceful solution.  North Korea remains steadfast in its missile mbitions.

 

Influencing factors: domestic and international

The election of Donald Trump as the President of the US has brought about a change in the way in which the US views North Korea.  The change, it is fair to argue, is one that adheres to the political overtones of the mid-1990s Project for the New American Century (PNAC).[20]  This project was designed to re-establish US preponderance after the perceived failures of the Clinton administration (1993 – 2001) with regard to international relations.   The rhetoric of President Trump is following a core PNAC tenet which states, ‘we [the US under a Republican administration] need to … challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values.’[21] The political dynamic is one of the US being more pro-active about threats and as with the machinations suggested in the PNAC document, the newfound focus has its legacy in the recent past.  Underpinning the more forceful approach and change in attitude is the political-memory and perceived malaise of the Obama administration in  dealing with North Korea which was through a prism of ‘strategic patience,’[22] which included consultations about North Korea with US allies (read: Multilateralism).

The Trump administration therefore, has brought to the fore numerous political tenets that it feels it must confront in order to differentiate from the ‘outstretched hand’[23] of the Obama administration which comprised setting a new tone for US foreign policy, and of incorporating a more bilateral approach to rogue states such as North Korea[24] and replace it with a ‘clenched fist’[25]approach (read: Unilateralism), and is one that ensures any policy toward other recalcitrant countries is backed up with a show of force or threat-of-force.  Whilst the new approach may be the opposite of the ‘America first’[26] rhetoric of Trump’s campaign—which is focussed on ‘a foreign policy based on American interests’[27]—is a moot point and need not be discussed here whereas, the post-Obama approach definitely reduces Realpolitik as a means-to-an-end; ‘brinkmanship’[28] will be met with decisive decisions and if need be, overwhelming force; and signals the US will remain a forthright actor in the region.  With regard to domestic audiences the US moving a strike group moving toward the Korean Peninsula comprises, to show Trump’s domestic audience that a more decisive president is in control of America’s geo-strategic ambit; a clear signal being sent that to that a departure from the indecision and the tolerance-base of the Obama administration is no longer in play; offers America’s allies a show-of-force assurance; that the use-of-force has been placed on the Trump administration’s agenda; and that US preponderance has been reinvigorated.   For Kim Jong-un and the North Korean military the issues are it will keep its regional status as a military power; that their current leader is as robust and capable as his father; the preponderance of the US and its regional allies will be confronted militarily if the need arises; and the sovereign nation-state of North Korea will not be influenced by military asymmetries in regional power-stakes.

Relevant addendums to this polity consist of but are not limited to, President Trump has delivered on his rhetoric with regards to North Korea within the framework of establishing a more predominant US presence in the Asia-Pacific region; of signalling that the US is committed to the Asia-Pacific security issues in general; and of showing a willingness to use military force.   This was stipulated in the first instance by the current National Security Advisor McMaster who stated “… the president has made clear he is prepared to resolve this situation one way or another,”[29] which is a direct and intentional statement giving credence to, and for, a kinetic outcome.  Whether this would be through US airpower in the form of ordnance deliverance via long-range bombers, or cruise-missile strikes would no doubt, be decided by strategic planners at the time.

The rhetoric of war and the requisite power-stakes

In 2013 the (then) US Secretary of Defense Hagel, stipulated North Korea was a ‘clear and present danger to the United States.’[30]  In 2017, the US was ‘having a big problem with North Korea.[31]  United States rhetoric has however, been moderated somewhat from the original tension-filled position to one of President Trump exclaiming he would be ‘honoured’ to meet Kim Jong-un under the ‘right circumstances.’[32]  Whether there is a kinetic exchange between the US and North Korea remains fluid, although no nation-state has reinforced their rhetoric beyond anything other than a requisite ‘display of power’ to pacify their domestic audiences—the US moving the USS Carl Vinson strike group near to the Korean Peninsula,[33] and the North Korean government warning that it is ‘ready for war.’[34]  Therefore, with the current dialogue happening—rhetoric- and tension-filled as it is—the chances of a war breaking out is diminished considerably.   There are also overarching elements that both parties would not want as an outcome and they can now be discussed.

 

Limited war and Total war: the challenges

There is much to be taken into account in order for a kinetic exchange not to occur.  The fear of a limited-strike escalating into a ‘limited war’[35] from which limitations are imposed.  The limitations are for the US would entail the objectives sought; weapons and manpower employed; the time, terrain, and geographic area of hostilities; and the emotions, passions, and energy, and intellect committed by a nation[36]—in this case the US.  There is also the possibility of a limited war developing into a ‘total war’[37]—especially if a ‘pre-emptive military action’[38] was launched—and this would produce a situation in  which the US would indubitably be blamed by a majority in the UN General Assembly.  If a total war developed it would be deemed by all both belligerents to ‘take on the characters of a fight for survival, they tend to mobilize resources and means to wage battles with few restraints … The goals in total wars are much more open-ended and often expand as the war progresses.  Total often demand the complete overthrow of the leadership of the other side whether through the demand of unconditional surrender…’ which would inevitably draw in other actors.

As the US is deemed the most ‘mature nation-state’ in the current machinations a kinetic exchange would by necessity, create a situation from which the US would be incapable of political extraction.  Furthermore, a unilateral action that was not approved of by the UNSC Permanent Five,[39] which is a body-politic that comprised five permanent members—Britain, China, the Russian Federation, France, and the US—would assuredly move China and Russia to overwhelmingly condemn the US; and ensure severe political responses from Britain and France.  Concomitant and reinforcing the  current state-of-affairs and because of North Korea’s limited, military capabilities by comparison to the  US, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stated that there can be ‘no winners’[40] in a war between North Korea, the US and South Korea.   Therefore, the chance of a war at this time has a near-zero chance of happening.

 

Conclusion

To be sure and as with any political situation there are also somewhat hidden elements that drive the need for an actor to increase pressure on a belligerent.  Whilst North Korea does have a reputation for being pugnacious even to its closest ally China there are nevertheless, inconsistencies in how North Korea is represented by the West.   The claim that North Korea is isolationist however is misleading as it has well-entrenched ties with China, the Russian Federation, and moreover based on the comments of President Bush also has a connection with Iran.  This is not a sign of a politically-isolationist nation-state and it is fair to argue, the West—the US in particular—has difficulties with the geo-strategic allies that the sovereign-state of North Korea has chosen, as much as the concerns of missile-strike capabilities.  There is another enormous issue driving the US’ need to be rid of the ‘rogue’ state of North Korea and it is the production of counterfeit US one hundred dollar bills—so-called ‘super dollars’—which North Korea has been producing since the 1970s, and are for all intent and purpose, indistinguishable from genuine US currency.[41]  Moreover, a flood of this currency onto the world market would pose a serious threat to the US economy.

Other extenuating circumstances that would impact on US World War Two dominance are a war actually happening would result in US and South Korean losses which cannot be estimated in terms of what a future political milieu would produce.  Regardless of the outcome the circumstance of going to war would allow for the possibility of a reduction in the overall regional power of the US; allow China to gain an immediate exponential geo-political and geo-strategic rise; offer an opportunity to the Russian Federation to gain regional geo-political and geo-strategic ground; include European Union involvement in political stability; and embroil other actors in asserting their regional demands. The aforementioned milieu holds the US back from a strike—pre-emptive, tactical or strategic—and whilst the ongoing  threats of Kim Jong-un destabilise the region politically, if the US thought North Korea posed an overwhelming threat to US and/or regional security it would have acted (unilaterally) earlier in the twenty-first century—possibly as early as 2002.

[1] ‘Korean War’  History.comstaff.  History.com, 2002.  http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war

[2] Gabriel Kolko.  Another Century of War?  New York: The New Press, 2002, 92 – 93.

[3] A ‘rogue nation’ is an early-twentieth century term for a nation-state ‘which acts in an unpredictable or belligerent manner towards other nations; (in later use) specifically – “rogue state”.’  See: Oxford English living Dictionary.  https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rogue_nation

[4]Realpolitik’ is posited in the notion of power and the desire and to a certain extent the ability to use it in a forum of sophisticated peers and recognized institutions.  Realpolitik is posited in, and summed up as ‘traditional power politics … Realpolitik [however] is a ‘jungle’, so to speak, where dangerous beasts roam and the strong and cunning rule, whereas under the League of Nations [now the UN] the beasts are put into cages reinforced by the restraints of international organization, i.e. into a kind of ‘zoo.’’  See: Robert Jackson and Georg Sorensen.  Introduction to International Relations. Theories and approaches.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 38.  Italics mine.

[5] Andrew Greene.  ‘North Korea threatens nuclear strike against Australia if it doesn’t stop ‘blindly toeing US line.’  ABCnews.  22 April, 2017.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-22/north-korea-accuses-australia-of-blindly-following-the-us/8464252

[6] See: ‘Text of President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address.’  The Washington Post. 29, June 2002.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/transcripts/sou012902.htm

[7] The address was made on January 29, 2002. See: ‘Speeches by US presidents, 2002, George W. Bush.’ State of the Union Address Library. < http://stateoftheunionaddress.org/2002-george-w-bush>

[8] Eleanor Albert and Beina Xu.  ‘The China-North Korea Relationship.’  Council on Foreign Relations, 26 April, 2017.  http://www.cfr.org/china/chinanorth-korea-relationship/p11097

[9] Alexander Dor.  ‘North Korea’s Growing Isolation.’  5 Sept, 2015.

http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/north-koreas-growing-isolation/

[10] For a comprehensive analysis. See: Liudmila Zakharova. ‘Russia-North Korea Economic Relations.’ Joint U.S. – Korea Academic Studies. 2016, 210 – 215.

http://keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/joint_us-korea_2016_-_russia_nk.pdf

[11] ‘What is the Kaesong Industrial Complex?’ BBCnews.  10 Feb, 2016.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-22011178

[12] ‘Charter of the United Nations.  Chapter VII—Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches to the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ UN.org  http://legal.un.org/repertory/art39.shtml

[13] UN.org  http://legal.un.org/repertory/art39.shtml

[14] See: ‘Security Council Strengthens on Democratic Republic of Korea, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2321 (2016).’  United Nations.  30 Nov, 2016.  https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[15] https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[16] Xiaodon Ling. ‘The Six Party Talks at a Glance.’  Arms Control Association. May, 2012.  https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/6partytalks

[17] ‘North Korea. Nuclear.’  Nuclear Threat Initiative.  Sept, 2016.

http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/nuclear/

[18] Joint U.S. – Korea Academic Studies, 2016, 210 – 215.

[19] JayShree Bajorta and Beina Xu. ‘The Six Party Talks On North Korea’s Nuclear Program.’ Council on Foreign Relations. 30 Sept, 2013.

http://www.cfr.org/proliferation/six-party-talks-north-koreas-nuclear-program/p13593

[20] The Project for the New American Century has many contributors and the directors are William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Bruce Jackson, Mark Gerson, and Randy Scheunemann.  The project was established in the Spring of 1997 and is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project.  See: Project for the New American Century.  http://www.newamericancentury.org/.htm

[21] Project for the New American Century.

[22] ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’ Jan, 2013.

http://www.cfr.org/north-korea/us-policy-toward-north-korea/p29962

[23] Scott Snyder.  ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’

[24] Maria Cotudi.  ‘The limits of “strategic patience”:  How Obama failed on North Korea.’  NKNews. 2 Nov, 2016.  https://www.nknews.org/2016/11/the-limits-of-strategic-patience-how-obama-failed-on-north-korea/

[25] ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’

[26] ‘America First Foreign Policy.’  The White House.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[27] https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[28] According to Gochman brinkmanship becomes part of political manoeuvrings when, ‘decision makers perceive a dramatic impending shift in the balance of power in favour of an adversary and/or a substantial internal challenge to their own political position at home.’  Best included in the body of the article. See: The Process of War.  Advancing the Scientific Study of War. Edited by Stuart Bremer and Thomas Cusack.  Australia: Gordon and Breach, 1995, 97.

[29] Harriet Agerholm. ‘US national security adviser says ‘be prepared for military action against North Korea.’     1 May, 2017.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/north-korea-national-security-adviser-lieutenant-general-hr-mcmaster-be-prepared-military-action-a7711221.html

[30] Joel Wit and Jenny Town. ‘7 Reasons to Worry About North Korea’s Weapons.’ 16 April, 2013. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/7-rea1.sons-to-worry-about-north-koreas-weapons/275020/

[31] ‘We have a big problem’ in North Korea: Trump.’ Reuters/video. 5 April, 2017 http://www.reuters.com/video/2017/04/05/we-have-a-big-problem-in-north-korea-tru?videoId=371430155

[32] Jeremy Diamond and Zachary Cohen.  ‘Trump: I’d be honored to meet Kim Jong-un under ‘right circumstances.’ CNNpolitics.  2 May, 2017.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/01/politics/donald-trump-meet-north-korea-kim-jong-un/

[33] Edward Helmore.  ‘Tillerson: China agrees on ‘action’ on North Korea as navy strike group sails.’ The Guardian.  10 April, 2017.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/09/us-navy-strike-group-north-korea-peninsula-syria-missile-strike

[34] Samuel Osborne.  ‘North Korea says it is ‘ready for war’ with Donald Trump’s United States.’ Independent.     21 Mar, 2017.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-korea-ready-for-war-donald-trump-united-states-america-kim-jong-un-a7641276.html

[35] ‘Modern limited war required a nation-state to place artificial restraints in the conduct of war to preclude it from escalating into more total war’.  See: Adrian Lewis.  The American Culture of War.  The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  New York: Routledge, 2007, 203.  Emphasis in original.

[36] The American Culture of War, 203.

[37] John  Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 67.

[38] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-korea-ready-for-war-donald-trump-united-states-america-kim-jong-un-a7641276.html

[39] The UNSC P5 also has 15 ‘observer nations’ which share voting influences and are selected on a revolving basis, however these nation-states do not have the right of veto in the assemby.  See:  UN.org.

[40] ‘North Korea: War with North Korea can bring no winners, China says.’  ABCnews, 18 April, 2017.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-15/china-says-no-winners-in-us-north-korea-war/8445508

[41] Moon Sung Hwee.  ‘Super Notes Still in Production.’ Daily NK.  6 April, 2009.  http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00100&num=5006

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What’s really going on?: The reasons the US and North Korea won’t go to war over the Korean Peninsula

 Image result for US North Korea

Image credit: CBS.news.org

Introduction

At the end of June 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)— North Korea—through the actions of the North Korean People’s Army embarked on an invasion of South Korea by  advancing toward Seoul.  This action signalled the beginning of the Korean War (1950 – 1953); and was the first military act of the Cold War (1948 -1989).[1]  Three years after the war had commenced the Republican Party in the United States of America (US) came to power largely on a pledge to end the war in Korea, and when North Korean and Chinese forces had been pushed back to near the thirty-eighth parallel by United Nations (UN)  forces the war ended in a ‘stalemate.’[2]   Since 1953, the US has deemed North Korea to be a ‘rogue nation/rogue state.’[3] From the perspective of the North Korean government however, the war for the unification of their nation remains an ongoing and constant part of their political landscape.  Both of these standpoints have come to the fore in numerous ways in the decades since 1953.

From the standpoint of the West—the US in particular—North Korea remains a rogue state and in order for this to change there  would have to be a move toward Realpolitik,[4] via the avenues of the UN to find a solution.  To date North Korea has not sought a solution through these channels.   Prior to North Korea’s current series of missile launches and through overt and persistent belligerence it remains defiant; and moreover seeks to exercise its political independence and regional preponderance through a strong military presence.  The defiance toward the US and its regional allies, particularly Taiwan, Japan and Australia has come in the form of ongoing missile tests, and the continued threat-of-strikes in the region—in recent times as far southeast as Australia.[5]   The hostility of North Korea through the Kim Jong-il regime (1994 – 2011) was brought to the fore as early as 2002, when President George W. Bush linked North Korea’s non-compliance to international norms  with an ‘axis of evil’ which included Iraq and Iran.[6]  Defining the US’ position, President Bush stated

[Rogue] States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.  By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.[7]

 

North Korea’s choice of allies, and the ongoing threats of Kim Jong-un, continues to underpin and inform the current crisis.  Nevertheless it should be stipulated, North Korea does have regional allies and this allows the nation to survive economically, militarily and politically.

 

Who’s supporting North Korea and how does it survive?

For all of its belligerence and pontificating North Korea however does receive direct and byproxy support from regional allies as it is fair to argue, no country in a globalized world is able to be completely isolated.  Whilst it is true that China recently criticized North Korea for its nuclear test in September 2016[8]  the regional strength that North Korea possesses does essentially, hinge on China’s largesse.  The support from China emanates from the political, trade and energy avenues that exist through the cross-diplomacy and other auspices of the Chinese government.  China therefore, is considered by the international community to be a ‘buffer state’[9] for North Korea.  Another regional ally is the Russian Federation operating through the prism of ‘mutually beneficial cooperation,’[10] and this offers North Korea an economic and political lifeline, and the same is able to be attributed to the transnational companies utilizing cheap North Korean labour in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (in conjunction with the South Korean government), at the southern end of their border.[11]  All contribute to a lifeline for North Korea and in part this has allowed North Korea to build and maintain a missile- and nuclear-program.

Continuing antagonism:  North Korea’s ongoing missile program

North Korea’s definitive and strong regional presence through its missile- and nuclear program occurs in defiance of international norms set down by the UN and the UN Security Council (UNSC). Any deviations and the corresponding threat and potential for destabilisation are assessed and addressed by the UNSC through UN Chapter Vll[12] which stipulates, ‘The Security Council shall determine any threat to the peace, any breach of the peace, or act of aggression…’[13] however to date, the UNSC has not deemed North Korea to be dangerous enough to approve direct action; or for it to be a serious threat to regional peace.  North Korea has persisted with its belligerence in the decades since the end of fighting and whilst the hostilities have not ended the continuum of the missile- and nuclear-program has reached a troublesome point in the mindset of the West and regional actors—Australia, Japan and South Korea in particular.   The fact that the UNSC has not approved direct action does not reflect a neutral stance, as North Korea is currently under the caution of UNSC Resolution 2321[14] which condemns North Korea’s nuclear test of September 2016.[15]

To be sure, the current fear that has been generated does have solid antecedents to the possibility of a kinetic outcome as the posturing of North Korea is relentless, and moreover in 2009 it stepped away from the ‘Six Party Talks’[16] which began in 2003—involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the US—which were designed to dismantle its nuclear program.  Since 2009 however, tensions have continued to rise[17] and North Korea has contributed persistently to regional tensions by maintaining its nuclear program as well as conducting regular short-, intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile test-flights and these tests have prompted comment from China and Russia which have in recent times articulated a more considered approach to regional frictions.  For instance, Russia continues to condemn North Korea’s nuclear program,[18] and ‘in March 2013, China finally agreed to sponsor UN sanctions alongside the United States and since then has steadily increased a call for the ‘resumption of [Six Party] talks.’[19]  Notwithstanding all of this, North Korea remains steadfast in its regional ambitions and exercises its sovereign independence via a military stance.

Underlying and influencing the current hostilities

The election of Donald Trump as President of the US has brought about a change in which the US views North Korea.  The change it is fair to argue, is one that adheres to the mid-1990s Project for the New American Century (PNAC)[20] which was designed to re-establish US preponderance after the perceived failures of the Clinton administration (1993 – 2001).   The rhetoric President Trump is using follows a core PNAC tenet of ‘we [the US under a Republican administration] need to … challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values.’[21]  The political dynamic is one of the US being more pro-active about threats as suggested in the PNAC document, and for the Trump administration is the political-memory and perceived malaise of the Obama administration when dealing with North Korea.  The way Obama dealt with North Korea was through the prism of ‘strategic patience,’[22] which included consultations with the US’ regional allies.

The Trump administration’s stance has brought to the fore numerous political tenets that it feels it must confront in order to differentiate from the ‘outstretched hand’[23] of the Obama administration.  The approach by Obama was one of setting an overall new tone for US foreign policy and incorporated a more bilateral approach to rogue states such as North Korea.[24]  Trump seeks foreign policy toward North Korea to be replaced with more of a ‘clenched fist’[25] approach, and this encompasses recalcitrant countries being shown direct US force or a threat-of-force.  Notwithstanding the new approach and whilst it may be the opposite of the ‘America first’[26] rhetoric of Trump’s presidential campaign which was focussed on ‘a foreign policy based on American interests’[27] is a moot point as ‘brinkmanship,’[28] and the forcing of it is the real issue and moreover, the US will meet it with overwhelming force which in turn offers an assurance to US’ allies in the region.

However, and as with all crises there are not only international frictions that dominate a situation as there are always domestic factors that play a part.   For the Trump administration and from a domestic perspective, moving a US Navy strike group toward the Korean Peninsula shows a more ‘hands on’ president is in control of America’s geo-strategic ambit and gives credence to words of US National Security Advisor McMaster who recently stated “… the president has made clear he is prepared to resolve this situation one way or another.”[29]

For Kim Jong-un and the North Korean military the influences that drive their domestic polity are that North Korea’s status as a military power is robust; regional preponderance is an ongoing part of domestic and international politics; should brinkmanship increase the US and its regional allies will be confronted militarily if the need arises; the nation will eventually be reunited by force if need be; and the sovereign nation-state of North Korea will not be influenced by military asymmetries in the  regional power-stakes.

The massive challenges of a war breaking out

There is much to be taken into account in order for a kinetic exchange not to occur as war is a circumstance that can rapidly spiral out of control for belligerents as the strategist Clauswitz observed, ‘war is subject to no laws but its own.’[30]   The fear of a limited-strike by US forces which would be designed to bring North Korea to heel, is that it may result in an escalation to  a ‘limited war’[31] as it is generally accepted that North Korea would respond with a barrage of missiles. The limitations on the part of the US would entail how much to commit in order to maintain its advantage and this would create a dilemma to the US’ domestic population—especially after the failures of Afghanistan and Iraq—as Americans would have to come to terms with what Vasquez sums up as ‘the objectives sought; the weapons and manpower employed; the time, terrain, and geographic area of hostilities; and the emotions, passions, and energy, and intellect committed by a nation.’[32] In simpler terms the Trump administration would have to take into account how much the US’ populace would be willing to commit and there would be considerable tensions.  Whilst a limited war may have some immediate successes there is always the possibility that it could develop into a ‘total war’[33]—especially if a ‘pre-emptive military action’[34] was launched by the US—and a ‘knock-on’ effect would inevitably be the US being blamed by the UN for the  war.  If the war became total it would be a disaster for the region (and the world) as  a war of this type ‘take[s] on the characters of a fight for survival, they tend to mobilize resources and means to wage battles with few restraints … The goals in total wars are much more open-ended and often expand as the war progresses.  Total wars often demand the complete overthrow of the leadership of the other side whether through the demand of unconditional surrender or total annihilation … ’ and such a catastrophic event would inevitably draw in other nations.  Concomitant and reinforcing the  current state-of-affairs and because of North Korea’s limited, military capabilities by comparison to the  US, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently stated that there can be ‘no winners’[35] in a war between North Korea, the US and South Korea.

Conclusion

In 2013 the (then) US Secretary of Defense Hagel, stipulated North Korea was a ‘clear and present danger to the United States’[36]  and in 2017, the US was ‘having a big problem with North Korea.[37]  Whilst both comments acknowledge that the US has over time continues to observe North Korea as a rogue state, the rhetoric has been moderated recently from the original tension-filled position to one of President Trump exclaiming he would be ‘honoured’ to meet Kim Jong-un under the ‘right circumstances.’[38]  Whilst there no guarantee that a kinetic exchange between the US and North Korea because will not take place, as the situation remains fluid however, neither actor has reinforced their rhetoric beyond anything other than a requisite ‘display of power’ to pacify their domestic audiences and in the case of the US, its regional allies as well—the US moving the USS Carl Vinson strike group near to the Korean Peninsula,[39] and the North Korean government warning that it is ‘ready for war.’[40]  Therefore, with the current dialogue happening—rhetoric- and tension-filled as it is—the chances of a war breaking out is diminished considerably as the exchanges signify that no actor is willing to lose the regional power-stakes.  Remaining hostile and its requisite show-of-strength does not necessarily end indirect action; and moreover is a necessary part of preponderance.  Historically several examples of this state-of-affairs are, Russia moving troops to the Finnish border in World War Two (WWII), China on numerous occasions moving troops and matériel to coastal facilities near Taiwan, and Britain moving a permanent garrison onto the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas after the Falklands War/Guerra del Atlántico Sur (1982).

What is of most importance although often not part of the general commentary is there are inconsistencies in how North Korea is represented by the West and this factor needs to be examined.   The claim that North Korea is isolationist is misleading as it has well-entrenched ties with China, the Russian Federation, and moreover based on the comments of President Bush, also has a connections with Iran.  This is not a sign of a politically-isolationist sovereign nation-state and it is fair to argue, the West—the US in particular—has difficulties with the geo-strategic allies that North Korea has chosen are as problematic as its missile-strike capabilities.  Notwithstanding the missile program there is another single enormous issue driving the US’ need to be rid of the ‘rogue’ state of North Korea and it is the production of counterfeit US one hundred dollar bills—so-called ‘super dollars’—which North Korea has been producing since the 1970s, for all intent and purpose, indistinguishable from genuine US currency.[41]  A flood of this currency onto the world market would pose a serious threat to the US economy and is a major, if not the major, reason for the US’ military stance.   Knowing this single fact it is safe to argue, changes the  focus of why there is such preponderance and tensions in the region.

There are however, other extenuating circumstances that would impact on the US if a war were to break out.  The US’ post-WWII dominance of the region would be weakened due to US losses as well as South Korean.  A war could result in but not be limited to a reduction in the overall regional power of the US; allow China to gain an immediate exponential geo-political and geo-strategic advantage; offer an opportunity to the Russian Federation to gain greater regional geo-political and geo-strategic footprint; include European Union involvement in future political stability; and motivate other actors to assert their regional demands in the face of a weakened US.

Taking all of the above into account if the US thought North Korea posed an overwhelming threat to US and/or regional security, it would have acted earlier in the twenty-first century—possibly as early as 2002, and in recent days without doubt, would move more than a single carrier strike group into the region if the threat was real rather than imagined.   Therefore and based on the evidence, both the US and North Korea are both intent on winning the hostilities without going to war.

 

[1] ‘Korean War’  History.comstaff.  History.com, 2002.  http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war

[2] Gabriel Kolko.  Another Century of War?  New York: The New Press, 2002, 92 – 93.

[3] A ‘rogue nation’ is an early-twentieth century term for a nation-state ‘which acts in an unpredictable or belligerent manner towards other nations; (in later use) specifically – “rogue state”.’  See: Oxford English living Dictionary.  https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rogue_nation

[4]Realpolitik’ is posited in the notion of power and the desire and to a certain extent the ability to use it in a forum of sophisticated peers and recognized institutions.  Realpolitik is posited in, and summed up as ‘traditional power politics … Realpolitik [however] is a ‘jungle’, so to speak, where dangerous beasts roam and the strong and cunning rule, whereas under the League of Nations [now the UN] the beasts are put into cages reinforced by the restraints of international organization … .’’  See: Robert Jackson and Georg Sorensen.  Introduction to International Relations. Theories and approaches.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 38.  Italics mine.

[5] Andrew Greene.  ‘North Korea threatens nuclear strike against Australia if it doesn’t stop ‘blindly toeing US line.’  ABCnews.  22 April, 2017.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-22/north-korea-accuses-australia-of-blindly-following-the-us/8464252

[6] See: ‘Text of President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address.’  The Washington Post. 29, June 2002.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/transcripts/sou012902.htm

[7] The address was made on January 29, 2002. See: ‘Speeches by US presidents, 2002, George W. Bush.’ State of the Union Address Library. < http://stateoftheunionaddress.org/2002-george-w-bush>

[8] Eleanor Albert and Beina Xu.  ‘The China-North Korea Relationship.’  Council on Foreign Relations, 26 April, 2017.  http://www.cfr.org/china/chinanorth-korea-relationship/p11097

[9] Alexander Dor.  ‘North Korea’s Growing Isolation.’  5 Sept, 2015.

http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/north-koreas-growing-isolation/

[10] For a comprehensive analysis. See: Liudmila Zakharova. ‘Russia-North Korea Economic Relations.’ Joint U.S. – Korea Academic Studies. 2016, 210 – 215.

http://keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/joint_us-korea_2016_-_russia_nk.pdf

[11] ‘What is the Kaesong Industrial Complex?’ BBCnews.  10 Feb, 2016.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-22011178

[12] ‘Charter of the United Nations.  Chapter VII—Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches to the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ UN.org  http://legal.un.org/repertory/art39.shtml

[13] UN.org  http://legal.un.org/repertory/art39.shtml

[14] See: ‘Security Council Strengthens on Democratic Republic of Korea, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2321 (2016).’  United Nations.  30 Nov, 2016.  https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[15] https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[16] Xiaodon Ling. ‘The Six Party Talks at a Glance.’  Arms Control Association. May, 2012.  https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/6partytalks

[17] ‘North Korea. Nuclear.’  Nuclear Threat Initiative.  Sept, 2016.

http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/nuclear/

[18] Joint U.S. – Korea Academic Studies, 2016, 210 – 215.

[19] JayShree Bajorta and Beina Xu. ‘The Six Party Talks On North Korea’s Nuclear Program.’ Council on Foreign Relations. 30 Sept, 2013.

http://www.cfr.org/proliferation/six-party-talks-north-koreas-nuclear-program/p13593

[20] The Project for the New American Century has many contributors and the directors are William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Bruce Jackson, Mark Gerson, and Randy Scheunemann.  The project was established in the Spring of 1997 and is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project.  See: Project for the New American Century.  http://www.newamericancentury.org/.htm

[21] Project for the New American Century.

[22] Scott Snyder.  ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’ Jan, 2013.

http://www.cfr.org/north-korea/us-policy-toward-north-korea/p29962

[23] ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’

[24] Maria Cotudi.  ‘The limits of “strategic patience”:  How Obama failed on North Korea.’  NKNews. 2 Nov, 2016.  https://www.nknews.org/2016/11/the-limits-of-strategic-patience-how-obama-failed-on-north-korea/

[25] ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’

[26] ‘America First Foreign Policy.’  The White House.  https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[27] https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[28] The Process of War.  Advancing the Scientific Study of War. Edited by Stuart Bremer and Thomas Cusack.  Australia: Gordon and Breach, 1995, 97.

[29] Harriet Agerholm. ‘US national security adviser says ‘be prepared for military action against North Korea.’     1 May, 2017.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/north-korea-national-security-adviser-lieutenant-general-hr-mcmaster-be-prepared-military-action-a7711221.html

[30] Carl von Clauswitz. Vom Kriege: Hinterlassenes Werk des Generals …(Gebundene Ausgabe)Dümmlers: Verlag,Berlin, 1832. See: Karl von Clausewitz.  On War.  Edited by Anotel Rapoport. Translation by Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1908.  London: Penguin Classics, 1982, 402.

[31] Adrian Lewis.  The American Culture of War.  The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  New York: Routledge, 2007, 203.

[32] The American Culture of War, 203.

[33] John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 67.

[34] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-korea-ready-for-war-donald-trump-united-states-america-kim-jong-un-a7641276.html

[35] ‘North Korea: War with North Korea can bring no winners, China says.’  ABCnews, 18 April, 2017.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-15/china-says-no-winners-in-us-north-korea-war/8445508

[36] Joel Wit and Jenny Town. ‘7 Reasons to Worry About North Korea’s Weapons.’ 16 April, 2013. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/7-rea1.sons-to-worry-about-north-koreas-weapons/275020/

[37] ‘We have a big problem’ in North Korea: Trump.’ Reuters/video. 5 April, 2017 http://www.reuters.com/video/2017/04/05/we-have-a-big-problem-in-north-korea-tru?videoId=371430155

[38] Jeremy Diamond and Zachary Cohen.  ‘Trump: I’d be honored to meet Kim Jong-un under ‘right circumstances.’ CNNpolitics.  2 May, 2017.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/01/politics/donald-trump-meet-north-korea-kim-jong-un/

[39] Edward Helmore.  ‘Tillerson: China agrees on ‘action’ on North Korea as navy strike group sails.’ The Guardian.  10 April, 2017.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/09/us-navy-strike-group-north-korea-peninsula-syria-missile-strike

[40] Samuel Osborne.  ‘North Korea says it is ‘ready for war’ with Donald Trump’s United States.’ Independent.     21 Mar, 2017.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-korea-ready-for-war-donald-trump-united-states-america-kim-jong-un-a7641276.html

[41] Moon Sung Hwee.  ‘Super Notes Still in Production.’ Daily NK.  6 April, 2009.  http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00100&num=5006

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The Westminster Bridge attack: Socio-political Perspectives of the West, and Terrorism

 

 Introduction

In my last article—War in a public place: The Bastille Day attack, the strategy and tactics of Insurgencies—I stipulated ‘civilians are deemed part of the enemy,’ and this has, yet again, played out in the London Westminster Bridge attack of 22 March, 2017.[1]

 

Notwithstanding the pain and sorrow that is inflicted on the populace – the immediate recipients and their families and friends – and the simple truth that civilians and/or non-combatants should not be part of any solution that a group may desire, the fact remains that groups utilize public places as locations to advance their cause, and/or causes.  This remains true to the edict that ‘terrorism’ essentially embraces three core principles: the method (violence), the target (civilian or government), and the purpose (to instil fear and force political or social change). [2]

 

This issue is however that the microcosm of an event—the direct targeting of civilians—is the reflection of a greater sphere of what ‘needs to be done’ in order for those that feel polarised and disenfranchised from their beliefs to reinvigorate an existential connection to them.  The rage and anger that a person feels towards an assemblage, in this case a group of people walking along a bridge pathway, means that the group presents an overt expression of the political bloc that the individual is raging against, and within this understanding all people become worthwhile targets; ones which offer the most potential for change; and of delivering the utmost form of personal sacrifice should the person be challenged.  This attitude towards a populace is historically not restricted to the microcosm of a single person as in the recent Westminster Bridge carnage, although in this case for the actor the people do reflect a group  deemed to be supporting the United Kingdom if only by their presence.   Therefore their age, nationality, gender or religion or religion do not matter.  In simpler terms all on the bridge come under the banner of tourism, visiting or living and therefore all are supporting the government of the United Kingdom economically in some way, and therefore are deemed to be a form of support for the government; and if the targets are killed in the process, then for the attacker, it is an advantage.

 

The enforced homogeneity of peoples by the West

To understand the aforementioned rage that a ‘lone wolf’ attacker feels towards a group of innocents on a bridge it helps to reflect on how this mindset has been incrementally, and then exponentially, put into place by Western-driven historical events.  A single person such as the Westminster Bridge attacker, although perhaps not aware that he forms a part of a culture that has long been associated with Western references toward, and about ‘others’ (read non-Westerners), is pertinent to mention.  The Middle East—often referred to as the Orient—Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia and Central Asia have historically been the target of comment, although the Middle East has been of particular focus.  According to Said Orientalism’ or the ‘Orientalist attitude’ which is a construct of and by the West consists of Arabs being thought of as ‘camel-riding, hook-nosed venal lechers whose undeserved wealth is an affront to real civilization.  Always there lurks the assumption that although the Western consumer belongs to a numerical minority he (sic) is entitled to own or expend (or both) the majority of the Worlds resources.’[3]

 

Hence, history is littered with examples of entire nation-states (and cultures) being branded with appalling levels of existential non-awareness, blind stupidity and ignorance—or in the vernacular of the English language, that of being ‘sheep.’   A singular and stunning example of this dogma is writ large in the postulating of President John F. Kennedy of the United States of America (US) in 1961 in which he spoke about the doors of Communism being ‘open wide,’[4] in the Southeast Asian region as the ideas of Ho Chi Minh gained a level of regional acceptance.  Whilst this statement was premised on motivating and developing a gathering need to begin an escalation of US involvement in Vietnam, it was also done with a (somewhat false) notion that Southeast Asia without a strong and committed US involvement in the first instance—which signifies an involvement of the West and its values in general—would evolve into a long-term and powerful Communist stronghold.  In the second instance, the state-of-affairs would contribute to an unregulated non-Western world which would, in some bizarre way, contribute to the death of democratic nation-states worldwide.  To be sure, Kennedy’s words were essentially, a timely reverberation and reinforcement of President Eisenhower’s statement about Indo-China being part of a region where ‘… the United States must, if necessary, resist the communists with its own military forces. If any one country of Southeast Asia—Laos for example—fell to the communists, all the rest would tumble over like a row of dominoes.’[5]  To wit, the ‘domino-theory,’ was born and it resided in an ill-informed notion that Communism was an all-consuming force that would subsume all populations that were in its path.  Communism would be so great in its delivery that it would condemn Southeast Asian nations to non-Western ideals and eventually, political slavery.  Underpinning this assumption that Communism would roll on unhindered, is that Southeast Asian nation-state governments would be fundamentally incapable of articulate and intellectual nuance, and therefore, would be totally incapable of coming to terms with what was to befall their region.  In simpler terms, and from a Western Imperialism/Imperialist[6] perspective, Southeast Asian nations—consisting of hundreds of millions of people—would be ‘too dumb’ and ‘too stupid’ to react differently than their regional counterparts and would fall under the ‘hammer of Communism’ like ‘sheep to the slaughter.’  The level of insult and pain that must have reverberated through Southeast Asian communities’ then (and perhaps to the present day), must have been palpable and might yet, have repercussions.

 

The way it is: the demands of the West

Returning to the notion of the incandescent rage of those that carry out acts of terror against liberal-democratic populations is to note that, as uncomfortable as it is, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is exerting its influence through violence (often on those within its own regional populaces), in order to reject the historical and centuries–old presence of Imperial powers within the Middle East region.   A perspective of the presence is needed here.  Under the auspices of the British government the sovereign nation-state of Kuwait[7] was given protectorate status by said government and whether this was a worthwhile political act remains a moot point however, it does amount to an extreme meddling in the cultural- and tribal-boundaries of millennia-old ethnicities.

Returning to the abovementioned disenfranchisement what the actor hopes to trigger is a (re)questioning of Imperialist interventions that have been on a grand-scale; and to bring attention to the way in which the tribal and cultural peoples of the Middle East in particular have been treated in the political and territorial milieu.  Meddling in the Middle East has become a somewhat normal part of Western policy and it is underpinned by the post-World War Two intrusions into the Southeast Asian region; and persistent divisive commentary about how the Middle East should ‘behave’ according to the West.  President George H. W. Bush after the successes of the First Persian Gulf War would argue that a Western ideal had been achieved, one that had delivered

[A] foreign policy that assumes one world of compatible social, political, and economic values; that promotes democracy, open-market economics, international law, and international organization; and that insists upon U.S. leadership because [according to Secretary Baker[ [8]] “our moral principles and our material interests make us a leader”…The United Nations played a central role in the Bush administration’s pursuit of a New World Order[9]…’

 

Whether the vanquished agreed, or were given a say in the matter of having a ‘New World Order’ thrust upon them must do little to appease the rage that they must feel within, and one that will eventually no doubt coalesce in an attempt to expel those that feel the need to tell a culture how to live—and yet another war will begin.   The world that the New World Order demands is essentially, what was in the nineteenth century what the French deemed a mission civilastrice,[10] or a ‘civilising mission.’

 

Conclusion

The difficulty in the argument is that whilst people should not be killed going about their business, whether as an officer of the law, or an ordinary citizen, it is also too simplistic to refer to an act of terror as not having motivations that the West in general has helped to generate.  Being homogenized and having a formulaic of government and governance thrust upon a population and/or ethnic or religious group, one which ignores cultural traditions—whether they be satisfactory or unsatisfactory to Western ideals remains a moot point—there is only one pathway for those that feel enraged to the point of the worth of their life being secondary to their cause.  The microcosm of the tragedy is that a person feels he or she (in the Westminster Bridge case it was a male), feels the powerlessness of centuries old Western-juggernaut input into their societies, as briefly dealt with in the abovementioned, and is an actor is only able to deal with this by the sacrifice of innocents; and their own death.  The macrocosm of the tragedy is and remains: the West maintaining its stronghold on regions, including the Middle East involves a seeming unpreparedness to willingly disengage from its Imperialist roots; is unable to embrace a nuanced approach with regards to cultural and traditional sensitivities; is resistant to understanding that East Asian, Southeast Asian and Central Asian governments and peoples are actually capable of dealing with their own economic and political issues; and that Western influence, if it is required/requested, should be moderated and sensitive in its economic and governance applications.

The West must resist and desist from its past actions or, unfortunately, face more of the pain associated with the Westminster Bridge attack.  This is surely echoed in the fact that London’s Metropolitan Police claim to have interrupted eight attacks in recent months.[11]  This factor reflects a dyad: the efficiency of the Metropolitan Police; and the extent that functionalist rage that exists in individuals, a group, or groups within British society.

© Strobe Driver.  March, 2017.

 

[1] Lisa Miller.  ‘London Attack: Chaos on Westminster Bridge.’  ABC News http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2016/s4640949.htm

[2] Harvey Kushner.  The Encyclopedia of Terrorism.  Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359.

[3] Edward Said.  Orientalism.  Western Conceptions of the Orient. England: Penguin Books, 1995, 108.

[4]  John Kennedy. ‘Address in New York City before the General Assembly of the United Nations.’ September 25, 1961. United States Government Public Papers. http//www.jfklinl.com/speeches/jfk/publicpapers/1961/jfk387_61.html

[5] See: Hugh Brogan.  The Penguin History of the USA. London: Penguin Books, 1999, 649.

[6] ‘Imperialism,’ according to dictionary.com is ‘the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nationover foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies.’ See: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/imperialism

[7] BBCNews  ‘Kuwait Profile – Timeline.’ http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14647211

[8] On September 11, 1990 Bush, in the United Nations General Assembly, declared (in part) ‘Out of these troubled times a New World Order can emerge, under the United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders,  We stand at a unique and extraordinary moment.  This crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers us a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation.  Today that New World Order is struggling to be born.  A world quite different from the one we’ve known.’  See:  Gabriel Kolko.  A Century of War, 217.  My italics.

[9] The Presidency and the Persian Gulf War. Edited By Macia Whicker, James Pfiffner, and Raymond Moore.  Westport: Praeger, 1993, 224.

[10] ‘The perceived calling of (former) imperial powers to introduce civilization into their colonies; specifically with reference to French colonial policy in Africa and Indo-China.’. See: English Oxford living Dictionaries. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mission_civilisatrice

[11]  Adam Lusher.  Security services foiled more than 12 UK terror attacks last year, Defence secretary reveals.’ Independent. 23 March, 2017.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-westminster-attack-michael-fallon-terror-threat-islamist-lone-wolf-low-tech-car-truck-vehicle-a7645221.html

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War with China:  Ascending Powers, Expansionism and the Use-of-Force

 

Introduction

There has been some increasing consternation in recent times among commentators that the ‘rise of China’ is mirroring the machinations and complexities of Germany before World War One (WWI)—the era of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  Monk points to Germany’s sense of being hemmed in by the Triple Entente (England, France and Russia) and of Germany’s population ‘seeing the world from their own government’s point of view,’[1] or in simpler terms, not questioning their decision-making elite as being significant contributing factors that would bring about the ‘total war’[2] of 1914-1918.   Moreover, several decades prior to going to war, Germany was an ascendant European power.  However it was in the decade prior to WWI that Germany had managed via a decade of rapid industrialization to form a naval force that was second only to Britain.[3]  More importantly, the massive industrial undertaking of building a navy according to the established powers of Britain, Russia, Japan and France suddenly found Germany ‘meddling everywhere.’[4]

Based on the abovementioned history of ascendant powers, Germany befits the archetype of what an ascendant power is wont to do: begin to assert authority in a more robust way; be more proactive and reactive in its geo-strategic and geo-political positioning; and demand that their ‘place’ in the world be re-assessed.  Prior to Germany’s ascendance: Portugal, Spain France and Britain, to name only a few had embarked upon this trajectory and the strategy and tactic that was overwhelmingly used consisted of ‘coercion,’ which is summed up as

[T]he use or threatened use of military force to defeat any elements of the population that resist or threaten to resist an occupation … Coercion in occupations can take the form of either explicit actual violence, or latent violence that deters violent opposition to occupation.[5]

Observing recent events, China is on the trajectory of Germany prior to World War Two (WWII) as it feels ‘hemmed in’ by the United States of America (US) and its Asia-Pacific allies—Australia and Japan to be precise.  Whether the pre-WWI scenario will apply in the same or a similar manner can now be assessed through a prism of what other powerful nation-states have undertaken in their power-stakes.

Japan as a Regional Power

To be certain power-stakes reside within a country’s capabilities and whilst Germany had European ambitions, Japan developed regional ambitions in its quest for power.  For instance the rise of Japan was through the policies of the Meiji era (1868 – 1890), and the subsequent defeat of Russia; and two invasions of China.[6]  Within this process there were also societal changes such as the abolishment of feudalism and the embracing of structural changes which were

The enthusiastic [selective] adoption of new Western technologies [which] caused an explosion of industrial productivity and diversification. A national military and universal conscription were established. Compulsory public education was introduced both to teach the skills needed for the new nation and to inculcate values of citizenship in all Japanese.[7]

Japan, in the Meiji era established a nascent dominance over its regional neighbours[8] and Imperial Japan (1890 – 1945) would follow what had been established.  Imperial Japan’s trajectory would consist of winning a war against Russia (1904 – 1905) in order to curtail Russia’s expansionist policies in Far East Asia, a war with China (1894 -1895) over control of Korea, gain a colony (Formosa/Taiwan) in 1902 and finally, annex Korea in 1910.[9]  All incidences reflect a pathway of becoming a major regional power.  Imperial Japan would continue its ambitions with a second invasion of China in 1937,[10] and extend its geo-strategic ambitions through war and colonisation backed by astounding growth until its total defeat in 1945—at the end of the Pacific phase of WWII.

Therefore, Japan also befits the model of those that had gone before.  Japan was circa-1894 to 1945, simply one more powerful nation-state claiming control of regions—East Asia, South East Asia, through to Oceania in that order.  This was accomplished through the prism of violent (realism-driven) expansionism; strong domestic nationalism; and the desire to maintain the regional status gained in the Japan-Russo War.  A move to understanding the aim of global power can now be addressed.

Britain as a Global Power

Driven by nationalism, mercantilism, and science and technology—such as the development of capital ships, cannon, shot and portable firearms—and by having ‘increasingly sophisticated administrative and tax systems’[11] which could support long conflicts numerous European nations would develop expansionist policies.  The primary focus of these powers was to establish a military presence in order to ensure an immediate and ongoing resource base; and enforce navigation rights.  Britain would excel in the aforementioned gaining of territories.  By1860, its territory covered nearly a quarter of the Earth’s surface.[12]  To observe the extent of Britain’s global ambition and to also understand the intent which the British government would use force against the populations is to note ‘military actions played an increasingly larger role in [the] British imperial experience.’[13]  Emphasising this factor is to observe the following conflicts that were undertaken in order to ensure an empire was sustained: the Second Burma War (1852 – 3), Indian Uprising (1857 – 8), the Ambeyla Expedition (1863), Third Maori War (1863 – 72), the Abyssinian Expedition (1867 – 8), the Zulu War (1879), Second Afghan War (1878 – 80), First Boer War (1880 – 81), action in Egypt and the Sudan (1882 – 99), action on the Indian frontiers (1883 – 97), Third Ashanti War (1895 – 96), and the South African (Boer) War (1899 – 1902).[14]

The above emphasises what a determined global actor does in order to hold on to empire and status. The British Empire’s power-base extended over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  At every opportunity it was extended and defended and was replete with a high degree of nationalism amongst the British domestic populace.  In the post-WWII era, the US would embark upon a similar trajectory.

The United States of America as a Global Power

The US has a long history of expansionism which in many ways corresponds to the British.  In the mid-twentieth century the US began to position for global power through the prism of what was achieved in its total victories in the Pacific theatre of WWII; and its joint victories in Europe as an Allied power.    Victory in the Pacific notwithstanding, the US has been involved in numerous conflicts over time in its effort to become a powerful international actor and has used military strength on numerous occasions.   In July 1853, Commodore Perry of the United States Navy with a squadron of support ships sailed into Tokyo Harbour and ‘forced Japan to enter into trade with the United States and demanded a treaty permitting trade and the opening of Japanese ports to U.S. merchant ships.’[15]   In 1894 – 1898, the US ‘stage-managed’ a coup d’état against Queen Lili’oukalani of Hawaii and annexed her islands; and in 1903 fomented a revolution  in the isthmus of Panama to separate it from Columbia in order  to acquire territory needed for the Panama Canal.[16]  The US would then be involved in the following conflicts: Cuba, (1898 – 1902), Philippines (1898 – 1941), China (1900), Panama (1903 – 1936), Cuba (1906 – 1909), Nicaragua, (1909 – 1933), and Mexico (1914). [17]  Just prior to the twenty –first century the US would be involved in a further 86 conflicts[18] with the view to establishing a solid geo-strategic world presence.

As the US and its use-of-force on other sovereign nation-states remained strong and vibrant it pursued its policy objectives through the prism of ‘pax.[19] Whilst not having been able to achieve the chronological achievement of the British in their approximately 150 years’ domination, the fact remains the US is a very robust international actor.  With this in mind, China entering the Asia-Pacific region in a much more dynamic way can now be addressed.

Pax-Sino: China Embraces the Historic ‘Use-of- Force’

The rise of a nation is through a multitude of happenings which consist of but are not limited to, industrialisation, mechanization, nationalism, patriotism, robust tax collection and science and technology.  Within the development of these societal and industrial components a nation-state tends to develop and then harness a strong military and what Tilly describes as ‘attendant infrastructures.’[20] These ‘structures’ range from personnel discipline through to sophisticated equipment and the ability to apply use-of-force.  A more robust military for a nation-state invariably leads to more overt geo-strategic demands—Japan, Britain, France and the US in the aforementioned.  China, with its attendant structures is now setting out to redefine its geo-strategic ‘place’ with more focussed geo-strategic objectives.  The ‘nine-digit line’ being paramount to its forward-focussed foreign policy planning.  The nine-digit line encompasses the Paracel Islands, extends as far south as James Shoal (near the coast of Malaysia), proceeds north to near the coast of the Philippines and ends as far north as the Luzon Strait, off the coast of Taiwan.  To be sure, the significance of the nine-digit line is not an aggrandizement of oceanic territory per se.

The abovementioned ‘line’ however, is more a statement of future intent and in turn, the end result of a long slow process that began in 1991 and is important therefore, to be given a perspective.  One of the major driving forces for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at this time stemmed from a belief that the Chinese people had been stripped of their identity by European powers in the nineteenth century.[21]   The PRC government through the focussed planning during the Deng Xiaoping era (1978 – 1994) began the process of expansion in earnest and a nascent ‘blue-water’ (ocean-going) navy began to be formed; and over time China’s military spending increased exponentially.  Therefore, the PRC during the mid-1990s began a focussed strategic policy of developing a military capacity to deter and deny, rather than assault and defeat, US carrier battle fleets in the Western Pacific, and this was combined with the diplomatic aim of pushing the US out of its dominant and established role in East Asia and Southeast Asia since 1945.[22]

The necessity of a more robust China in geo-strategic terms therefore befits the model of power projection—one which demands a more solid expression of hard power.  The recent development of the Cuarteron Reef in the South China Sea being a strong example of hard power.  Underpinning the overt moves into the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region and of threatening the established US primacy in the Western Pacific also fits the historical model of  ‘rising powers with narratives of past humiliations tend to view the status quo  with ambiguity and justify the use of power politics, to right these perceived wrongs.’[23]   China is definitively and assertively following the path of those that have gone before—Japan, the US, France and Britain to name only several.

Conclusion

In recent times the PRC has been exerting its perceived and/or actual rights by establishing a more robust A-P presence.  To date China has not stepped back from its projection of hard power and although it has not reacted to freedom-of-navigation ‘interventions’ by the US and its allies, it has nonetheless continued implementing a robust plan of expansion–mainly through the prism of the  People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The usage of an ocean going navy is a tried and true method of expansion and China has embarked upon what has become colloquially known as the ‘string of pearls’[24] in order to achieve its regional ambitions. Ports in Myanmar and Pakistan being of particular importance in their oceanic connectivity  and moreover the recent swing of the Philippines toward China is a direct display of China’s influence  in the A-P; and its steady pursuit of invoking geo-strategic change in the region.[25]

The uptake of the PRC in harnessing Chinese ‘security’ through the prism of maximising national interest, economic prosperity, security and maritime superiority[26]announces that the PRC and the Chinese populace are embarking upon what has gone before in terms of attempting to reshape the status quo.  As has been stated, Japan, Britain and the US have all embarked upon what China is attempting.  With regard to Germany, nationalism played a growing part in their ambitions culminating in 1939 with the invasion of Poland.  Japan’s pivotal exercise in expansionism would result in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Both powers at the time saw direct force as a necessity in coming to terms with their ‘rivals.’

Thus, China has not stepped back from the domestic security policies attributed of the Deng era per se and has recently reinforced its ambitions by ignoring the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PAC) ruling that China has no specific rights in the South China Sea maritime disputes.  China dismissed the ruling as nothing more than ‘a piece of paper’ further  surmising that tribunal’s such as the PAC are only for small powers and Great powers—especially members of the United Nations Security Council Permanent Five—do not have to acquiesce to such rulings.[27]

The power projection that China is applying to East and Southeast Asia is one of being incremental as the PRC builds upon its domestic elements of nationalism and economic stability, whilst at the same time exercising geo-strategic and geo-political strength through the prism of an ocean-going naval force. Concomitant to the military aspects of power projection, China has dismissed US insistences for a halt to land reclamation[28] which also reflects the confidences that other powers have expressed prior times.  Therefore it is fair to argue a significant focus of the PRC is to embrace what Imperialist nations accomplished prior to China’s newfound and/or reinvigorated power per se and the fact that what China has already accomplished is ‘fundamentally challenging Asia’s strategic order,’[29]  is within the  remit of those that have gone before.  China has learned strategies and tactics of Western Imperial powers as well as Japan’s.   The issue for a safer A-P is whether how the West and Japan in particular, deal with the  inevitable  rise of China as once a nation-state grasps its expansionist trajectory there is no turning back.  And within this construct the PRC shows no sign of slowing as each ambitious component of pax-Sino comes to the fore.

Conflict and then war come about due to a  deliberate kinetic military attack taking place, a more focussed pro-active stance takes place by the emerging power and the most powerful actor launches a ‘pre-emptive defence attack,’[30] due to a perceived or actual security threat.  Therefore, and based on history there is no reason to believe that military conflict through a ‘limited (regional) war’[31] will depend upon whether there is a de-escalation of any initial kinetic power projection—that is an exchange of live munitions—or whether it is escalated.

Currently and due to the inherent and continuing tensions, what is certain is that a military collision will take place.  Gaining regional and then global power is a costly business.  The US in the post-WWII era, Britain in the mid-seventeenth through to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, France before that and Spain prior to France were committed to their power and utilized numerous strategies and tactics to ensure their power remained constant.   All however, offer an insight into the strategies of expansionism.  Thus, the regional imperialism that China is displaying demands that the use-of-force be an inherent and omnipresent part of a powerful country’s geo-strategic expansionism and mix, and this is usually met with the current actor—in this case the US—being increasingly unwilling to secede any lessening  of its power-base.  Therefore it must be said that China to a large extent is mimicking pre-WWI Germany.  It must also be stated however, that its geo-strategic policies are being exacerbated by constant US refusals for the Western Pacific to be a multilateral oceanic zone.  Whether the US is able to rely on all of its allies in the post-WWII world and whether China is able to maintain and increase its allies to form a greater and more potent fighting power-bloc in the A-P remains to be seen.  The current state-of-affairs however, suggests that a war will happen as China exponentially increases its expansionism; and the US incrementally reverts to being a revisionist power.  Or in a more focussed way, China is exhibiting a pre-WWI German paradigm.

 

The above is due to the numerous impositions of security forces in the A-P region; and it is within this paradigm—the US refusing to step back to a multilateral A-P region (or multiple position) stance in the region—that poses the greatest threat for Australia as the current policies (of both sides of the major parties in Australian politics) remain subservient to the US’ political-dogma of a unilateral A-P region which was created in the 1950s.  China is a nation ‘on the move’ and like those nation-states before them, and as stipulated in the abovementioned, the PRC government will not hesitate to use a direct use-of-force (such as the sinking of an Royal Australian Navy ship, or the shooting down of n Royal Australian Air Force aircraft); or the cutting-off of sea-lanes as a indirect use-of-force (such as the Malacca Strait), to show that its historical ‘place’ in the region has changed.  And moreover, it will use one or both of the aforementioned to test whether the US will directly come to Australia’s military aid or simply observe the happenings of how things are ‘panning out’ in the region.  One thing is for certain, the US will do what is good for its foreign policies and not what is good for Australia’s established historical place in the region.  A war with China is coming and Australians’ should be acutely aware of its ‘place’ in the A-P.

 

Dr Strobe  Driver completed a PhD in war studies in 2011 and is a sessional lecturer and tutor at Federation University.  Since then he has been writing on Asia-Pacific security, War and Terrorism.  This is a modified article—with a more direct focus on Australia—than the one recently published on his blog Geo-Strategic Orbit; and subsequently published on E-IR.

[1] Paul Monk.  ‘China’s parallel with Germany before WWI.’  The Age. FairfaxMedia: Melbourne, 21 Aug, 2014, 20.

[2] ‘Total war’ is a multi-faceted and complex happening however it is summed up succinctly by Vasquez as, ‘Total wars involve a high mobilization of society … Because total wars take on the characteristics of a fight for survival, they tend to mobilize resources and means to wage battle with few restraints … The goals in total wars are much more open-ended and often expand as the war progresses.  .’  See: John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

[3] ‘Germany from 1871 to 1918.’ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica.  Encyclopædia Britannica.  https://www.britannica.com/place/Germany/Germany-from-1871-to-1918

[4] https://www.britannica.com/place/Germany/Germany-from-1871-to-1918

[5] David Edelstein.  Occupational Hazards.  Success and Failure in Military Occupations.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008, 49-53.

[6] The ‘Meiji Era’ is also referred to as the ‘Meiji Restoration.’

[7] ‘Japan’s Modern History: An outline of the Period.’  Columbia University.  http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/japan_modern_timeline.htm

[8] Imperialism, according to Butlin is  ‘the projection of power across large spaces, to include other states whatever the means: colonies, mercenaries, gunboats, missiles, client elites, proxy states, multilateral institutions, multinational alliances.’  See: Robin Butlin.  Geographies of Empire.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009,  6.

[9] ‘Russo – Japanese War.’ The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica.  Encyclopædeia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Russo-Japanese-War

[10] ‘In 1937 skirmishing between Japanese and Chinese troops on the frontier led to what became known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. This fighting sparked a full-blown conflict, the Second Sino-Japanese War.’  See: ‘Sino – Japanese War.’  http://www.history.co.uk/study-topics/history-of-ww2/sino-japanese-war

[11] Geographies of Empire, 39.

[12] Geographies of Empire, 49.

[13] Geographies of Empire, 54.

[14] Geographies of Empire, 54.

[15] ‘Commodore Perry and Japan (1853 – 1854).’  Asia for Educators. Columbia University. http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/japan_1750_perry.htm

[16] Chalmers Johnson.  The Sorrows of Empire.  New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004, 42.

[17] Mark Peceney.  Democracy at the Point of Bayonets.  Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania University Press, 1999, 16.

[18] For a full list of conflicts see: Democracy at the Point of Bayonets, 16.

[19] According to Dictionary.com ‘Pax’ comprises ‘a period of general peace, especially one in which there is one dominant nation.’  See: Dictionary.com. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/pax?s=t

[20] Charles Tilly.  ‘Reflections on the History of European State-making.’  The Formation of Nation States in Western Europe. Edited by Charles Tilly. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1975, 33.

[21] Martin Jaques.  When China Rules the World. The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order.  London: Penguin Books, 2009, 306 – 307.

[22] Paul Monk.  ‘China, America and the danger to world order.’  Quadrant. May, 2012.

[23] John Hemmings.  ‘The Potential For China – US Discord in the South China Sea.’  RUSI Journal.  April/May, 2011, Vol 156, 90.

[24] For a succinct assessment of China’s force projection see: Larry Wortzel.  ‘Enter the Dragon.’  The Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall/Winter, 2013, 19 – 21.

[25] Lindsay Murdiooch.  ‘It’s time to say goodbye to US.’  The Age. FaifaxMedia: Melbourne, 21 Oct, 2016, 13.

[26] Zhou Enlai debated Chinese foreign policy in the post-WWII era.  Enlai’s belief in the direction China should be directed is complex and multi-faceted, however he did consider Britain’s foreign policy to be pragmatic and focussed.  See: Kuo-kang Shao.  Zhou Enlai and the Foundations of Chinese Foreign Policy.  Houndsmills: MacMillan Press, 1993, 30 – 40.

[27] Graham Allison. ‘Of course China, Like All Great Powers Will Ignore an International Legal Verdict.’  The Diplomat.  11 July, 2016. http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/of-course-china-like-all-great-powers-will-ignore-an-international-legal-verdict/

[28] David Lynch and David Roe.  ‘US demands halt to China islands.’ The Age.  Melbourne: FairfaxMedia, 29 May, 2015, 2015, 8.

[29] Hugh White.  The China Choice. Why America should share power. Collingwood: Black Ink, 2012, 68.

[30]  Pre-emptive force is when a state defends ‘against violence that is imminent but not actual; they can fire the first shots if they know themselves about to be attacked.’  See: Michael Walzer. Just and unjust Wars.  New York: Basic Books, 2006, 74.

[31]  ‘Limited war’ as with ’total war’ is a complex and multi-faced happening.  Lewis sums up limited war in a very succinct manner:  ‘Modern limited war was an artificial creation caused by the development of nuclear weapons … Modern limited war required a nation-state to place artificial restraints in the conduct of war to preclude it from escalating into more total war …  Artificial limited war required nations to place limitations on the objectives sought; weapons and manpower employed; the time, terrain, and geographic area of hostilities; and the emotions, passions, and energy, and intellect committed by a nation.’  See: Adrian Lewis.  The American Culture of War.  The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  New York: Routledge, 2007, 203.  Emphasis in original.

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