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.

Posted in American politics, Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, international relations, Rise of China, Uncategorized, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out of the frying pan: Should the Australian Army be used against terrorists on Australian soil?

 

Introduction: Terrorism as a ‘dynamic’

Recently in The Australian, an article entitled ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business’’[1] was written suggesting that the Australian Army—specifically TAG East, the special forces team based in Sydney—should have been used to stop the gunman Man Haron Monis in the 2014 Lindt Café siege.[2]  The justification being that the police alone can no longer be relied upon as the ‘sole defenders against a terrorist attack.’[3]  The reasoning for this case is that sieges have changed and that terrorists, in this case supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are now ‘faster moving’ as illustrated by the Paris attacks of 2015 in which 130 were killed. [4] The French police special forces— which are integrated with the military—then took another two days to confront and neutralise the threat.  According to Maley in his article, the Paris attack is ‘emblematic of the style of terrorism the West now confronts.’[5]   All of Maley’s statements are factual and reflect the fact that terrorists—as with conventional sovereign-state military forces—alter their tactics in the kinetic phase of battle in order to gain the outcomes that most benefit their perception and realities in any a given situation.  As such ISIS, in the Paris attacks is no different than what has gone before.  For instance the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)—colloquially known as the ‘Provos’—fought Irish security personnel and the British Army in Northern Ireland (and on the English mainland) in a seventy year’ war before a settlement was reached.  The IRA encompassed strategies that would escalate tensions and create a belief that the police and army were not in control and many tactics were tried—such as  setting a building on fire and then shooting at the arriving firemen[6]—in the pursuit of their ambition to rid Northern Ireland of what the IRA saw as invaders.  The point being made here, is that terrorist groups are a dynamic, and as with any violent group their tactics need to be assessed and dealt with by experts, of which the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force no doubt, has access to, whether through its own staff or a broader expertise through consultancy.  Therefore, to suggest the Australian Army should be ‘called in’ in order to right a ‘terrorist situation’ needs to be assessed on the basis that the NSW Police Force—and therefore any other Australian police force—is somehow incapable of proactively or reactively containing a terrorist and/or terrorism.   There is more to introducing the Australian Army into the abovementioned than meets the eye and contains many worrying aspects for Australian society in general.

Policing versus the military

Emphasising the matter-at-hand the difference between the Australian Army and a State/Federal policing force is that the police are a civil force tasked by authority within the numerous conventions of State and Federal laws with solving a situation through policing which is (in theory), a combination of governance, maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, whilst upholding the rule-of-law.[7]   Within this remit however, police officers have rights (and responsibilities), and are able to use their discretion and rationale in the policing of a situation.  The stark difference between the police and the army is first and foremost, a member of the armed forces in under orders and must carry out those orders or face direct and severe consequences such as a dishonourable discharge/court-martial and/or prison.  If a soldier was given the order to kill Monis then there is no questioning, no discretion and rationale is to be introduced: it must be done.  Here is the hidden danger in introducing an army into an overall scenario.

With the abovementioned in mind, the point of whether the Australian Army should be deployed in order to fight against its own citizens needs a more stringent debate than the simplistic notion that the Australian Army should be involved because terrorism has ‘changed’ society. To be sure, the Australian Army is a defence force, charged with defending Australia’s borders and its citizens.  Whilst the argument can be made that if the Australian Army was involved in the siege and it was their personnel that killed Monis therefore, it was a form of ‘defending’ the Australian public has some validity.  The problem with the situation is and remains with the outcome: the Australian Army would be attacking a resident/citizen of Australia.  The debate beyond a single tragic instance can now be addressed.

The hidden danger: Broadening terrorism

A single problematic exists beyond the Monis/Lindt Café siege case and whilst acknowledging this, it is important to note that in the Monis case there is no doubt that he was acting within the legal definition of a terrorist; committing a terrorist act; and using the patrons of the café as tools in his aim to prove his point.  In this case the label of ‘terrorist’ is unambiguous, focussed on him and his actions.  What of the future?  Within the wider remit of using a military force against a ‘terrorist,’ and/or ‘terrorists’’ is to engage with the unthinkable: what if the legal definition of what a ‘terrorist’ comprises ‘of’ changes in the future?  Of course, this is fanciful, and could never happen in Australia.  Nevertheless, numerous laws have undergone changes over time.  The charge of rape was once, unable to be applied within a spousal situation.  Now when the allegation is made the police must become involved and once charges are laid the accused must attend court in order to accept or defend the charge/s.  The point being here is that the law changed, due to the influences of interest groups, a body-politic, a change of societal attitudes and a myriad of other reasons. Whether the change to a law is positive or negative remains external to this argument as what is attempting to be drawn out here is that the law is also a dynamic, and changes can be made in a liberal-democracy should the impetus be strong enough.

 

Now to ‘terrorism. Imagine the scenario with regard to a terrorist act unfolding to something anyone objecting to what the government is doing is able to be deemed seditious and therefore, acting in a ‘seditious manner.’  The terrorist label is then applied and once having used the Australian Army, it will be able to be called in again as governments once having gained laws in their favour rarely relinquish their newfound power; or have ‘sunset clauses’ in legislation.  Reverting to the military for answers to societal issues is a dangerous path as per the aforementioned British military in Ireland.  Of course, this would never happen.  No democratically-elected members of a liberal-democracy could ever harness that much influence could they?  Events in Britain suggest they can.  Recently in Britain, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a body-politic had consistently demanded (over the past decade) that Britain exit the European Union (EU) and by and large, it was never accepted that UKIP could express so much power.  It has been since acknowledged that the persistent and consistent focus of UKIP on the ‘Leave Vote’ significantly impacted on Britain’s voting choice.[8]  As a result Britain is no longer part of the EU. This example proves that small highly-active political-blocs can bring about cathartic change and indeed pursue a single-issue agenda with robustness and flair, and thereby alter a country’s path.  A path which was once reserved for the major players in liberal-democracies.  Hence, one need look no further than the One Nation party in Australia to observe the garnering of exponential power through persistence—a party which is now a ‘major force in Australian politics.’[9]

Conclusion

To be sure, it is not unusual for neo-conservative and/or conservative commentators to demand decisive acts as an answer to the ills of terrorism, whilst also offering a corresponding gracious and all-encompassing mantra that the West is the ultimate model of what a society should ‘be’ and any form of resistance to the model should be seen as terrorism.  As per the above we come back to what a terrorist ‘is’ also remains a dynamic, and a cursory observation of Nelson Mandela’s party—the African National Congress—is a party which was once labelled ‘a typical terrorist organisation’ by the Conservative Prime Minister Thatcher in the mid-1980s.[10] the statement is tantamount to  an expression that apartheid should not have been challenged.   This stated perhaps the most dangerous aspect of Thatcher’s statement, and one that exists today, is it homogenizes terrorism for the benefit of the nation-state.  If the sovereign nation-state deems you a terrorist, then ‘you are, what you are.’  The fact that Mandela was reacting against the crushing of his people by the nation-state authorities is irrelevant. Thus, Maley’s opinion with regard to the use of the Australian Army is the conservative reaction that befits the model of wanting to ‘get something done’ in the face of a terrorist act.

In conclusion: terrorism came to the fore and into the public sphere more robustly in the 1970s—especially with the destruction of four airliners that had been hijacked and then destroyed in the Jordanian desert[11] —and therefore to imply that a police force in the West does not have a succinct understanding of how to tackle a terrorist attack is insulting in the extreme based on the amount of time and resources Australia—and the West in general—spend on this issue.  If the reverse was proven to the case then the police commissioner in question, should be dismissed.  With regard to the use of the military against its own people in order to  to quell ‘dissent’ is to understand how a horror story can become real life:  the People’s Republic of China Army during the Tiananmen Square protests; the Thai Army use of force against its southern Muslim population; Saddam Hussein’s use of his  army against the Southern Kurds (Marsh People) in the south of Iraq; President Assad’s current use of this military against numerous cities in Syria; the military control of the population of Myanmar up until very recently; and the use of the army in Sri Lanka to eradicate the Tamil Tigers.  The list goes on.  All of these examples illustrate that policing actions are not used by an army as the remit of the army is to get the ‘job done’ at all costs. Therefore, introducing the Australian Army into the domestic  populace to quell terrorism—unless what a the legal definition of a terrorist remains solid and unchanging, which obviously cannot be guaranteed—would be a dangerous and irresponsible move based on the use of the military in the aforementioned examples.  The evidence-base therefore suggests, ‘we’d be fools to use the ‘best in the business,’’  and this is due to the following: a more balanced approach to the issue of terrorism needs to be debated in the public sphere; once the  Australian Army is introduced there will be no turning back; and Australian governments will not relinquish their power over this aspect of the military forthwith.

©  Strobe Driver Sept, 2016

[1] Paul Maley. ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian. Nat ed. 29, Sept 2016, 2.

[2] Liz Burke.  ‘Martin Place cafe siege: Police storm café and kill gunman ‘Sheik’Man Haron Monis – Report.’  New.com.au.  16 Dec, 2014.  http://www.news.com.au/national/martin-place-cafe-siege-police-storm-cafe-and-kill-gunman-sheik-man-haron-monis–report/news-story/a1e51d29469209ffa62684e648441043

[3] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.  Emphasis added.

[4] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.

[5] ‘We’d be fools not to use the ‘best in the business.’’ The Australian.

[6]  Anthony Joes.  Urban Guerrilla Warfare. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2007, 123.

[7] ‘Policing.’  Dictionary.com.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/policing?s=t

[8] See: Ashley Kirk and Daniel Dunford.  ‘EU referendum: How the results compare to the UK’s educated. Old and immigrant populations.’  The Telegraph, 27 June, 2016.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/24/eu-referendum-how-the-results-compare-to-the-uks-educated-old-an/

[9] Michael Koziol.  ‘One Nation wins four Senate seats, crossbenchers to hold eleven seats.’  The Sydney Morning Herald.  4 Aug, 2016.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/one-nation-wins-four-senate-seats-crossbenchers-to-hold-eleven-seats-20160803-gqkn0h.html

[10] Julian Borger.  ‘The Conservative party’s uncomfortable relationship with Nelson Mandela.’  The Guardian.  27 Dec, 2013.  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/06/conservative-party-uncomfortable-nelson-mandela

[11] ‘1970: Hijacked jets destroyed by guerrillas.’  BBC News, 12 Sept, 2016.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/12/newsid_2514000/2514929.stm

Posted in Australian politics, insurgencies, international relations, terror, terrorism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A perspective on the current crisis inTurkey

The crackdown in Turkey–by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan–which has now been extended to a three month state-of-emergency it must be said is a foolish and dangerous move. The arresting of people who are ‘against’ Erdogan’s rule are in fact exercising their democratic right in a liberal-democracy. More to the point, history has shown that cracking down on those that are against the ruler, whether actual or perceived, generates disastrous consequences for a country.  History is littered with catastrophic examples of political machinations that are driven by power; and are veiled in ‘installing security.’ These antics eventually shatter the social fabric of societies whether they are liberal-democracies or otherwise, some worth mentioning are:
Pol Pot in his desire to take Cambodia back to ‘Year Zero’ plunged the country into continuous ruin for decades;
the Army ruling Myanmar with an ‘iron fist’ stifled positive progress and social cohesion in the country for decades;
China‘s ruler Mao Zedong’s ‘Hundred Flowers Bloom’ campaign destroyed the intellectual elite of China, and fractured the education system for at least two decades after this time; and a significant reason Nazi German troops were able to invade Russia so robustly and gain as much territory as they did in such a short time, was due in large part to Joseph Stalin’s paranoia about who was ‘against him’ in the military.  What did he do?  Stalin purged the elite command of Russia‘s armed forces–executing approximately 700 officers–which inevitably allowed German troops to advance relatively unhindered, and those that fought German troops were essentially leaderless and routed with ease.
The above is essentially, what happens when political paranoia overrides political intellect, and it will end in tears for the people of Turkey–as it has done for many a nation-state in history.
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War in a public place: The Bastille Day attack, the strategy and tactics of Insurgencies

Image result for terrorists attacks
Photo credit: http://www.themoscowtimes.com

 

Introduction

 

As difficult as it is to write on such a recent event in a clinical way, due to the carnage and horror that has been caused in France—the City of Nice—it is also nevertheless, important to use the happening to understand how ‘things have come to this.’  To have the resolve to use a heavy-vehicle as a battering ram and its use against civilians in a domestic cum non-military setting is a brutal though not unknown mechanism in asserting power.  The aim is to create as many casualties and as much mayhem as possible and further seed a notional understanding by the populace that ongoing disruption will happen.  Non-State actors—colloquially referred to as ‘terrorists’[1]—by indulging in these types of activities are able to take their impetus for change to a new and more dangerous level than before.  With this in mind (and whilst not condoning the incident), it is also important to offer an evidence-based perspective with regard to the strategy and tactics associated with the action.

 

Non-State actors and war

The attack was, according to the popular press, the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),[2] and by an individual inspired by its teachings and/or practices.  Whether this event also embraced the actions of a sleeper-cell support network, or whether the individual utilized the model of a ‘lone wolf’ exemplar remains to be discovered by the French intelligence services.   Accepting that the attack was actioned by ISIS either directly or indirectly offers the first clue to solving the puzzle of using such a tactic.  When a ‘terrorist’ organisation begins a conflict, or is forced into a conflict by the legitimate authorities—those recognised by the United Nations as the legitimate sovereign power of a country—what immediately comes to the fore is defining the ‘enemy.’  For a terrorist group—in this case ISIS—it is all people who directly or indirectly ‘support’ the mechanisms of the government regardless of age, sex, religion and politics.   All are deemed to be legitimate targets.  Support for a government however, is a loose and subjective term and can be as wide-ranging as the simple act of attending a parade, supporting tourism, or accessing a particular business is often deemed to be ‘support.’  Therefore, the deaths of innocents for terrorists in hostile exchanges usually with, and through gunfire, is considered to be worth the end-game of the group as they too, will have died for a greater cause.  This stated, what is taking place in the present—why the act was committed—is what is of interest here.  Non-state actors, upon declaring their intent and because within that intent all people are legitimate targets, essentially announces a particular ‘type’ of conflict has been declared: ‘total war.’

 

Historically, total war has been associated with broad-scale conflicts as far back as  the Third Punic War (149-146 BCE) during the Roman Empire, when the Romans annihilated the Carthaginians, and more recently British and Allied forces fighting against Nazi Germany during World War Two (WWII) and the United States of America and its allies fighting Japan in the Pacific phase of WWII.  However, the concept can also be applied to the potential for hostile conflict, as well as actual conflict—this is represented by the ideological battle of the Cold War (1948-1989) between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Soviet-bloc forces.  The concept of what a total war is underpinned by, and the associated dynamics that come into play can be applied equally to the (relative) microcosm of what happened in Nice.  Thus total war is,

 

[C]haracterised by the unlimited means employed and by the general scope of the warfare.  Because all parties are drawn into the war and the stakes involved are high, few limitations if any, on violence are observed with respect to the means employed; the limitations of violence and treachery tend to be only those necessarily imposed by the state of technology, of available resources, and the fear of retaliation.[3]

 

As per the above statement another underlying component of why the war with ISIS has evolved to such a pitch, and regardless of the moral compendiums of who is ‘right’ and who is not (as both belligerents will have their indubitable reasons for conflict), any outbreak of hostilities fits the model of  one or both of the antagonists coming to believe, or believing from the start, that the cause of conflict lies in the character of the opponent, and the flawed character of their leadership, hence all of its governmental and ideological supports must be purged.[4]  The idealism associated with total war invariably leads to actions against civilians and whilst this may not withstand the test of time and be modified to only actions against military and/or government institutions, ‘unconditional surrender’[5] and ‘annihilation’[6] remains the end-came of belligerents.  War, having been directly, or indirectly, declared against the French by ISIS or its subsidiaries, or admirers or any other individual affiliates—as per the abovementioned ‘lone wolf’ attackers—now allows for an examination into  ISIS’ overall strategies and tactics and the theories which underpin them.

 

The strategy of insurgency

What happened on the Promenade des Anglais[7] whilst it remains a continuum, and possibly an escalation, of the previous Charlie Hedbo attacks[8] it is nevertheless an act that befits the norm of an ‘asymmetrical war’[9] with a concomitant ‘low-intensity’[10] platform.   Once again this type of action is more often associated with war zones and cross-border, or nation-against-nation conflicts.  Notwithstanding, this type of warfare is also indulged in by governments in order to trigger a series of events which will allow for an escalation in actions; as it is by exogenous group wishing to exert influence and ISIS has embraced a total war of low-intensity.  The radicalised individual that carried out the truck attack used the vehicle to  create immediate reactions from security forces, with the hope of that action creating a ‘knock-on’ effect of encouraging further participants in the campaign which inevitably ‘extends’ influence of ISIS; have significant fear-based ramifications in the public sphere; and escalate the war on France.  In low-intensity conflicts this state-of-affairs continuing depends upon but is not limited to, the number of individuals available for further actions; the weapons available; the expertise of the attackers; and/or the willingness of an attacker, or attackers, to be sacrificed; and the understanding that security forces are largely reactive due to personnel limitations.

 

The tactics of insurgency

The Bastille Day case would be executed by an individual using an improvised weapon which in turn continues the battle; inspires others; and stretches the resources of French intelligence services.  Whatever combination of the abovementioned components with regard to assets and inspiration are utilized by ISIS, a low-intensity battle demands the incorporation of what is known as ‘cross-tier’ fighting.   This factor is what ISIS understands above all else, and whilst this too, is usually attributed to more organised guerrilla forces than those in the French domestic environment and the striking of, or placing civilians in danger in order to distract/disrupt security operations is a core component of strategy and tactics.  Cross-tier fighting with regard to ISIS—or  its ‘foot soldiers’ or sympathizers willing to go into battle—is that, regardless of their determination ISIS is restricted by its abilities as it is, and remains the low-tier participant.  France being the high-tier participant. Thus, it is vitally important for an insurgency/terrorist group to understand where it is on the ‘scale of abilities.’ During cross-tier fighting it is important for the low-tier force to continue striking, accepting a limited (often pre-determined) number of casualties, whilst delivering a maximum amount of damage on the opponent.  The critical point in a cross-tier conflict is not to engage in a low-tier versus high-tier battle, and to disengage from the kinetic or ‘fluid’ stage of the battle as quickly as possible, as any prolonged gun battle will deliver near-certain defeat to the low-tier force, especially if armour-support is call in.  Reinforcing this reality is high-tier forces possess greater levels of technology and firepower.  Therefore, the low-tier force must be acutely aware of its capabilities, monitor and moderate the battle to its advantage, and the shocking truth is that a promenade is a viable and opportunistic target; and one that is part of a ‘capabilities strategy’ for low-tier force when attempting to prove potency.  The way in which the Bastille Day attack was executed suggests that lone-wolf attacks with improvised weapons is at the present time regarded by ISIS as being the most advantageous in the process of winning the war.  The method for ISIS, with regards to France in this instance, was not to engage directly with the National Gendamerie/Police Nationale and their associates, as it would result in a devastating defeat and thus, the most effective way for ISIS’ to express power is to penetrate soft targets—such as driving a truck into the ‘enemy.’  The upshot of this tactic is to sow fear into the general populace; keep the low-intensity conflict alive; and stretch the security resources of the French government.

With regard to cross-tier fighting and offering an illustration of actual large-scale actions—commonly referred to as ‘force-on-force’ collisions—the way in which a low-tier group/unit engages with the high-tier opponent is to fight as geographically close as possible.  To engage in street-to-street or house-to-house fighting is a useful way to wear down a high-tier opponent as actions that are near negate, or severely limits the force with the superior firepower.  In simpler terms calling in an air- or artillery-strike involves the chances of both sides being struck.  From an historical perspective the Russian Army fighting the Germans in Stalingrad Tractor Factory during WWII, and the North Vietnamese forces fighting in the south of Vietnam in the 1968 Tet (New Year) offensive are excellent examples of the successful deployment of these tactics.

 

Conclusion

Whether the war that ISIS has declared against France remains ‘total’ in nature remains to be seen as a war can be moderated and de-escalated with political input from the parties involved.  At the present time however, ISIS remains determined to engage persistently in a relatively low-level commitment to cross-tier fighting; and within this construct it is also evident that a prolonged low-intensity conflict with the West in general, and France in particular, is underway.  What ISIS is accomplishing is textbook theory in action.  Asymmetrical warfareis the over-arching way in which ISIS is completing its objectives, with no defined areas of where the next attack will come from and continually using low-intensity platforms of execution.  This will remain the status quo although it will be—as all conflicts are—dependent on the types of weapons available; the personnel able to be committed; and the targets available.  French cities are becoming increasingly viable targets and the reasons why this is happening are too vast for this study, suffice to say there are many variables which have been highlighted by GlobalStrat,[11] and because ISIS has extended its reach to the political sphere the French government will have to address this aspect as well, should it wish to retard the attacks.  The alternative remains that the French government too, must go down the path of total war and annihilate ISIS on French soilTo be sure, ISIS versus France is a redux of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) versus the British Army and government; the Sri Lankan government versus the Tamil Tigers; and the (Algerian) National Liberation Front versus French and Algerian government forces.

 

All asymmetrical, low-intensity battles involving cross-tier fighting are ones which inevitably involve many, many civilians being killed as the battles are waged with greater ferocity; and involve skirmishes in civilian precincts as opposed to more defined battlefields.  The disadvantage high-tier forces have in the environment that is chosen by an insurgent group—and this is the case for France—is and remains the insurgents as both a military and political entity, understand that the longer the battle is waged the greater possibility of suing for peace on more favourable terms: this determination is writ large in the Good Friday Agreement[12] between Britain and the IRA.  Hence, unless there is strong committed political input from the belligerents it will be ‘more of the same’ as when a war reaches the point of being ‘total’ there is no turning back while the zero-end-sum-game[13] remains.  As each side strives for the upper-hand, civilians are deemed to be part of the enemy, and as has been demonstrated in the eyes of one belligerent, in this case ISIS—and as it was for the French in Algeria, the IRA in Britain, the British in Northern Ireland, the North Vietnamese in the south of Vietnam, (the list is too vast for this essay)—and the horrifying truth is, civilians are ‘legitimate targets’ in a zero-end-sum-game war.

 

© Strobe Driver:  July, 2016.

[1] What a ‘terrorist’ comprises ‘of’ is a much-debated point and belligerents that have reasons of greater ‘substance’ to attack a legal sovereign government are often referred to as terrorists.  To advance this point further see:  Andy McSmith.  ‘Magaret Thacher branded ANC ‘terrorist’ while urging Nelson Mandela’s release.’ The Independent. 1o Dec, 2013.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/margaret-thatcher-branded-anc-terrorist-while-urging-nelson-mandela-s-release-8994191.html  and whether terrorism is a valid exercise of rights remains a moot point it is true to state terrorists indulge in ‘terrorism’ which. ‘hinges on three factors … the method (violence), the target (civilian or government), and the purpose (to instil fear and force for political change).’  See: Harvey Kushner.  Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359.

[2] Also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

[3] Robert Gilpin.  War and Change in World Politics.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981, 200. Emphasis added.

[4] John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 67.  Emphasis in original.

[5] The War Puzzle, 67.

[6] The War Puzzle, 67-68.

[7][7] David Graham.  ‘The Nice Attacks and the Meaning of Bastille Day.’ The Atlantic.  15 Jul, 2016.  http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/nice-bastille-day/491495/

[8] ‘Charlie Hedbo attack: Three days of terror.’ BBC News.  I4 Jan, 2015.  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30708237

[9]  A microcosm of asymmetrical warfare in contemporary times is that of terrorism, which is a force which acts ‘outside the limits imposed on the use of traditional or conventional] force’ and uses asymmetry which in effect means not facing the enemy in a direct ‘attrition-driven’ conflict.’  . See: Roger Barnett.  Asymmetrical Warfare.  Today’s Challenge to US Military Power. Washington: Brassey’s Inc, 2003, 53.  Emphasis in original.

[10] According to Thompsen, ‘low-intensity’ conflict is associated with a ‘diverse range of politico-military activities less intense than modern conventional warfare.   The types of conflict most frequently associated with the concept are insurgency and counterinsurgency and terrorism and counterterrorism.’ See:  Loren Thompsen.  Low-Intensity Conflict.  The Pattern of Warfare in the Modern World.  Massachusetts: Lorington Books, 1989, 2.

[11] For an insight into the reasons ISIS has deemed France a target see: ABC 730 Presenter: Matt Wordsworth interviews Olivier Guitta founder of GlobalStrat: 15 Jul, 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2016/s4501657.htm?site=darwin

[12] See: Good Friday Agreement.’  BBC History.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/good_friday_agreement

[13] According to Cohen a ‘zero-sum-game’ or ‘zero-end-sum-game’ is the polarized ‘win-lose’ environment that is dictated by the extreme of the hostilities and is summed up ‘when one state wins the other must lose.’  See:  Benjamin Cohen.  ‘International Finance.’  Handbook of International Relations, 441.  Emphasis added.

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