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

 

Introduction

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

 

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

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

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

 

Existentialism: an overview

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Existentialism: applied to terrorism 

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

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

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

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

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

 

The West as an existential threat

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[32] Global Terrorism, 16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[46] Global Terrorism, 14.

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

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

 

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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.

Click to access 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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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.
Posted in Europe, European politics, insurgencies, international relations, terror, turkey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond the Asia-Pacific: China’s Next Geo-Strategic ‘Stepping Stone’

China in recent times has begun to drastically alter its role in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region, from that of being a docile observer for many decades to being a more forthright regional actor.  Within this paradigm the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government has tasked itself with redefining and altering its historic status quo—historically succumbing to the implicit and explicit demands of the West—and is now also moving beyond the A-P. The current situation within the A-P is that China is mounting a very robust challenge within the region and this state of affairs is reflected in recent actions.  The PRC definitively asserting its rights (perceived or actual) in its littoral or ‘green water’[1] zone—the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, South China Sea and the Philippine Sea. However, before addressing why and how China is moving beyond the A-P it is necessary to place the dynamic of how its current role in the A-P developed and how it has offered China confidence to move beyond this region.  Whilst China’s move into South Asia[2]—to be precise Afghanistan and Pakistan—has been somewhat rapid (and possibly has caught the West by surprise) it has nevertheless, been premised on a much more agile and determined foreign policy, further reflecting a new and unwavering China. Nevertheless, it is safe to argue that the confidence China has gained in the A-P region has enabled its most recent move to take place. Underpinning this latest move is a sign that China is  on a pathway of incrementally operating a more ‘hard’ power/militaristic approach than what has gone before. In attempting to comprehend this change of action it is necessary to observe the geo-political driving forces behind the move; and the geo-strategic underpinnings of why it has decided to move in a new direction.

Beyond the Asia-Pacific: China and South Asia

Underpinning China’s latest move is what was once an imagined scenario of staking a geo-strategic presence in the world is now becoming a reality. To wit, China has become more sophisticated and cosmopolitan; is assured of its power-trajectory; and is becoming more and more cognizant with unifying its geo-strategic and geo-political powers per se. The latest move toward South Asia shows it is now willing and able to pursue its policies through the prism of a military or quasi-military presence.  This is different from its previous passive expansion into Africa and Oceania. China’s previous expansion was largely premised on its fiscal capabilities: foreign aid; purchasing land; and offering loans. The engagement that China is having with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, whilst resting on the premise of it being a definitive statement about its power-projection abilities, over the past decade, China has been much more tenacious within the A-P region. Chinese engagement with the governments of Vietnam and the Philippines, has been much more collision-oriented and has in recent times caused all three countries to utilize ‘brinkmanship’[3] as a form of rheostat. China currently exercises its military leverage through the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and/or the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and through the use of quasi-military assets, such as the China Coast Guard.  China’s reinvigoration, now with an incremental and systemic usage of hard power, poses a question:  what is relevant in China’s history which has encouraged such a strong foreign policy stance which it is willing to back with military force?

China and the West

Whilst it is true China was a feudal country for many centuries, it nevertheless has a long and strong history of domestic cum regional successes. China’s emperors have been dedicated to developing their society—from which a sophisticated and learned culture developed. This is ensconced in an exceptional example of progress: the Song dynasty (960–1126). The Song dynasty marked ‘China out as the most literate and numerate society in the world … with Europe lagging far behind.’[4] Furthermore, China would continue to progress throughout the Song dynasty and into the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), via the gaining of geographic territory using direct force and passively through exploration—Zheng He’s Indian Ocean expeditions. To be sure, Chinese culture would, in general, thrive during these two dynasties and in relative terms China was much like Europe during this time with their elite, in the case of China its emperors, seeking to retain their grasp on power. It would be the Qing dynasty that would finally unite the country albeit through a different method of governance, the ‘tributary system’, and not through the more formal cum legal avenues Europe pursued. Paradoxically, for all of its power over its domestic reign and the region it would be the Qing dynasty that would finally be subjugated by and to, the objectives and needs of Western European powers over time. For all of its culture and sophistication, China, during the Qing dynasty, would not have enough control to exclude the West. Eventually China would succumb to the demands of Western Imperialism and within this body-politic be usurped by the European-Westphalian system.[5] The continuous influence and penetration of the West into China would incrementally and then exponentially grow, and in doing so subsequently diminish China’s ability to exert a strong political stance in both its domestic, and international political arenas.

The Subjugation of China

The Treaty of Nanking (1842)

ceded to Britain the island of Hong Kong and opened four ports, in addition to Canton to foreign trade … and a supplementary trade treaty was signed in 1843, fixed a schedule on tariffs and imports … which was produced in later Chinese treaties with the United States (July, 1844), and France (October, 1844) … [which] deprived China of the right to fix her own tariff levels at a time when an increase in the revenue from Customs duties was most needed by the Chinese government.[6]

This type of economic bias by, and for, the benefit of the West would increase and become an ongoing fiscal burden for the Chinese, and eventually retard any chance of systemic economic and political recovery. Moreover, the impact of the West, during the late nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century would result in China being reduced to ‘an object of international relations to be discussed and dispensed with by foreign powers.’[7] This state of affairs would be further exacerbated by China’s diplomatic isolation at the 1921-22 Washington Naval Conference,[8] with the favouring of Japan during the Conference by the United States of America (US), France and Great Britain.[9] At this time, China would be reduced to a semi-colonial ‘possession.’ One which lacked political unity, developed resources, and strength at home which resulted in a lack of the necessary status abroad to play an independent role in world politics.[10] China, due in part to its own domestic incongruities and the international inertia imposed on it by the West from 1912 through to 1949, would be incapable of sophisticated and cosmopolitan responses to Western impositions. This state of affairs however would not remain. After the end of World War Two (WWII), and the beginning of the ‘Mao-era’ (1949-1976),[11]China would finally achieve unity and have an, albeit limited, international presence. The most powerful attributes of the West through the prism of demarcated borders, fiscal, geographic, military and political conventions would force China to politically conform to the West overall.[12] This state of affairs too, however, would not remain.

Copying the Past: China Begins to Rise

China would begin to reinvigorate its status and slowly but surely move beyond the subjugation of the Qing dynasty and emerge from its ‘Century of Humiliation’[13] that had been forced upon it by Western nation-states; and their regional neighbour, Japan. Notwithstanding, the political solidity of Mao-era China’s large-scale internal struggles would also essentially end with the death of Mao. A new age would come to the fore—the Deng Xiaoping era (1976 – 1997).  During this time, and with the gradual implementation of the ‘’Four Modernizations’ of industry, agriculture, defense, and science and technology’[14] a new China would emerge and would continue to develop through a pragmatic and disciplined industrial, economic, agricultural and political tutelage.[15]  As an ‘emerging’ nation-state China would begin to exercise its newfound status cum confidence and as a newly-powerful nation-state’s are wont to do, it would move toward proactively shaping its own polity rather than reacting to external influences; and begin to exert a stronger presence in the international political arena. The West had already embarked upon this trajectory, and to be sure so had Japan through its regional power-stakes after the Japan-Russo War (1904-1905). In no particular order the expansion of nation-states as they gain power is borne out in the following examples: Japan’s (first) invasion of Manchuria and occupation of Korea;[16] the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ occupation of the East Indies in 1948 under the guise of ‘police actions;[17] the US’ ‘frantic grab for colonies, taking over Hawaii, Midway Island, Guam, Samoa … and getting the Philippines in the late-nineteenth century’;[18] and the British Crown establishing rule over India in 1858.[19]

All are examples of nation-states exercising their will as their influence grows; and as their power increases. Moreover, this type of intervention is not exclusive to communism and is present numerous in political blocs, from the monarchies of Britain, Portugal and Spain, the Republic of France and the (post-WWII) liberal-democracy of the US. And it is with this understanding that as geo-strategic and geo-political power grows, so too does the need for addressing past geo-political injustices; and of shoring up present and future geo-strategic proclivities. China is essentially following the same trajectory as Japan, the (then) Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the US in the post-WWII era and Britain circa-1750 through to 1939. China, as a rising power, is exhibiting the same tendencies as others that have gone before. What is the modus operandi that the PRC government is adopting?

China Continues to Expand

China’s expansionist policies are underpinned by the same pattern that Britain displayed during its Industrial Revolution and the US exercised in the post-WWII era: a combination of growing naval power and a vibrant domestic economy.[20] Whilst it is true China has decided to take a somewhat different path than Britain and the US did in the nascent stages of their power, which largely consisted of outright ‘occupation,’[21] and when this was not possible a combination of accommodation, inducement and coercion,[22] increasing displays of military force by China have come to the fore in their recent operations. However, whilst China may share the same patterns of utilizing force in order to solve its aspirational intent it has not (as yet), applied any specific Western-style doctrines to its interventions. This is particularly true of its previous more passive interventions. Of importance here is what are the principles underlying previous interventions and what has triggered a change. Previously the PRC government portended:

it is wrong to impose political and economic conditionality in exchange for aid and that countries should be free to choose their own [political] direction. Moreover, this is consonant with the Chinese respect for sovereignty, a principle they regard as inviolable and which is directly related to their own historical experience during the aforementioned ‘century of humiliation’.[23]

This is in part, due to the fact that China has not invaded any lands it does not consider to be part of its ‘Middle Kingdom’ and the ‘land under Heaven (tianxia)’[24] mandate; and moreover any waters it does not consider to traditionally have rights over it also has not applied military pressure to. Hence, in laying claim to the South China Sea islands—the so-called ‘Iron Triangle,’ encompassing the Paracel Islands in the north down to the Spratly Island in the south and the Scarborough shoals in the east[25]— China believes it is acting within its rights. The US and its allies in the A-P region have essentially rejected China’s claims under the pretext of ‘freedom-of-navigation,’ however China has largely ignored the rebuttal and continues to occupy and build upon its traditional claims in the region. Herein is the iconoclastic change in China’s approach to its claims in the A-P. Furthermore, it is safe to argue that concomitant to its claims China also believes it has been a victim of imposed directives and will have no more of Western powers dictating its geo-strategic policies. There is also a recognition by China that the West’s aggrandisement of democratic liberties and values is not seen to have integrity: the ongoing and shameful occupation of Diego Garcia[26] by the US, and the non-negotiable occupation by Britain of the disputed Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas are two examples that severely undermine Western commitment to its ideals.

China’s expansion into the A-P region and the successful application of proactive tactics which have amounted to an overall strategy of gaining a solid presence in the A-P, it can be safely argued, has given China the confidence to be an overt actor in South Asia—Afghanistan and Pakistan to be precise. The way in which China has accomplished this and the way in which it has gone about executing this recent regional geo-strategic move will now be addressed.

South Asia: China’s Next Geo-Strategic ‘Footprint’

Part of the reasoning behind the decision to move into South Asia’s geo-strategic and geo-political arenas is in the first instance to create a ‘knock-on’ effect of other countries observing that China is now a proactive and assertive actor; and to show that it is willing and able to intrude on areas that have in recent times had strong input from the West in the second. Thus, as China grows it will become more opportunistic in opening economic and military agreements, and this will establish a higher international profile for China and reinforce its geo-strategic agenda. This is already in place with the promise of military support to Afghanistan which has a beneficial dyad for China: the possibility of greater stability in the northwest of China—through the auspices of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region—and also with the positive initiatives associated with the China-Afghanistan Silk Road Economic Belt.[27] China has also put effort into Pakistan, with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which offers China a 12,000 kilometre reduction in distance for its energy imports from the Middle East.[28] This has resulted in direct boots-on-the-ground involvement and though it consists of a largely protective and guarding role it nevertheless sends a definitive signal that China will not step back from a more deliberate presence in the South Asia region. However, the current deals China has made deeply encroach on the established military footprint the West has developed through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—including the US and its allies—in Afghanistan; the ongoing military pursuit (via Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) of terrorists in Pakistan; the support of the (previous) Pakistani Musharraf government; and the auspices of the ‘War on Terror.’ All bear out the consistency of recent incursions by the West into South Asia.

Notwithstanding the multi-faceted political elements of the intrusion of China into the South Asia region the ultimate signal that China is no longer at the behest of the West in its geo-strategic policies. The geo-strategic wait-and-see approach of whether a move should be made and whether it is one that will impact Asian-Western relations is simply no longer tenable. China’s recent actions constitute a direct rebuttal of the political conditioning that has been imposed on it by the West.  China has moved on from this paradigm and Afghanistan and Pakistan is a form of this new politics writ large.

Conclusion

A country that is on the cusp of being a newfound global power begins to extend its influence for a multitude of reasons and seeks to achieve what it once would have considered ‘unobtainable’ objectives.  With its move into South Asia, China is rapidly and exponentially becoming a direct and indirect force to be reckoned with. The era of the US retaining its complete and absolute control over its post-WWII gains in the A-P and its major influence in South Asia is coming to an end. South Asia is now expanding its regional presence, and it has the military and political wherewithal to exacerbate and encourage ‘the end of the Vasco da Gama era.’[29]

The PRC government’s movement into South Asia should be viewed as a quasi-unilateral stance, one that comprises a signal that China is not answerable to the West and its definitions of what the terms of ‘acceptable’ expansion are. The PRC government will continue to exercise its ‘rights’ and will without doubt, in the future, use direct force if necessary, in order to stake their claims, as it has done proactively in the building of airstrips on neighbouring atolls. At this point in time, China, in relative terms, is operating unilaterally in only two regions and this for the West is ‘manageable.’ The dangers for the West will incrementally and then exponentially increase when China utilizes a more multilateral approach toward its territorial ambitions. The prospect of obtaining direct allies—such as Indonesia in the A-P and Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia —is what will fundamentally and catastrophically change the geo-strategic landscape for the West. There is no reason to believe China will not approach its ambitions in a multilateral way in the future, as this is what the West has embarked upon for decades, and moreover, the PRC government has learned from this approach. Much to the chagrin of the West, China will not turn back to its subservient past and will inevitably adopt a trajectory of increasing pressures on the West as its ambitions increase.

Notes

[1]Paul Pryce.  ‘The Brazilian Navy: Green Water or Blue.’ Center for Maritime Security. 25 Jan, 2015 Green-water navies … focusing mainly on securing a country’s littorals [although do retain an] ability to venture out into deeper waters.’ However, a ‘blue water navy’ consists of having a navy which is able to venture into open ocean and/or the high seas and according to Kirtz is able to defend against ‘open ocean naval threats…and [is consistent with] gaining command of the sea.’  See: James Kirtz. ‘Introduction.’ Naval Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Operations.  Stability from the sea. Edited by James Wirtz and Jeffrey Larsen.  Oxon: Routledge, 2009, 1.

[2] South Asia consists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  See: ‘South Asia: Countries.’  The World Bank. 

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

[3] There are common features in what Calhoun describes as the ‘rhetoric of nations’ and though they do not completely define what a nation comprise, they include boundaries of territory, indivisibility, sovereignty, legitimacy, participation in collective affairs, direct membership, culture, temporal depth, common characteristics and special histories.   See: Craig Calhoun. Nationalism. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997, 4 -5.

[4] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. London: Penguin, 2nd Ed, 2009, 89.

[5] The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) set in place the (Western) accepted legal parameters of sovereignty, however it was driven by what the elites of Europe deemed necessary for their co-existence.  One of the most pertinent aspects of the Treaty is: ‘[T]he world consists of, and is divided into, sovereign territorial states that recognize no superior authority; the processes of law-making, settlement of disputes and law enforcement are largely in the hands of individual states; [and] international law is oriented to the establishment of minimal rules of coexistence.’  See:  Roger King and Gavin Kendall.  The State, Democracy and Globalization. Houndsmills: Palgrave, 2004, 34.

[6] Michael Edwards. The West in Asia 1850 – 1914. London:  B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1967, 114.

[7] Kuo-kang Shao.  Zhou Enlai and the Foundations of Chinese Foreign Policy. Houndsmills: MacMillan Press Ltd, 1988, 40.

[8]Zhou Enlai and the Foundations of Chinese Foreign Policy, 27.

[9] See: ‘Four Power Treaty’  Dictionary of American History. Encyclopedia.com, The Gale Group, 2003.

[10]Zhou Enlai and the Foundations of Chinese Foreign Policy, 41-42.

[11] See: ‘China under Mao 1949-1976.’

[12] For a comprehensive analysis of this state-of-affairs see:  When China Rules the World, 297-308.

[13]When China Rules the World, 303 – 308.

[14] Katherine Keyser.  ‘Three Chinese Leaders.  Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping.’  Asia for Educators. 2009  

[15] Ezra Vogel.  The Transformation of China.’ Tvo, The Agenda.  2013.

[16] Edwin Hoyt.  Japan’s War.  The Great Pacific Conflict 1853 – 1952. London: Hutchinson, 1986, 26.

[17] Gerda Hendriks.  ‘’Not a colonial war’: Dutch film propaganda in the fight against Indonesia, 1945 – 49.’  Colonial Insurgency and Mass Violence.  The Dutch Empire in Indonesia.  Edited by Bart Luttikhuis and A. Dirk Moses. London: Routledge, 2014, 202.

[18]Japan’s War, 30.

[19] Chandrika Kaul.  ‘From Empire to Independence: The British Raj in India 1858 – 1947.’  British Broadcasting Corporation, History, 2013.

[20] Norrie MacQueen. Colonialism. Harlow: PeasrsonLongman, 2007, 15.

[21] Occupation’ according to Benvenisti is ‘the effective control of a power … over a territory to which that power has no sovereign title, without the volition of the sovereign of that territory.’  See: Eyal Benvenisti. The International Law of Occupation. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993, 4.

[22] Accommodation ‘attempts to satisfy the nationalist demands of the population by incorporating elements of that population in the governance of the occupied territory.’  Inducement, ‘provides resources to the occupied population in an effort to buy acquiescence.’  Coercion is ‘the use or threatened use of military force to defeat any elements of the population that resist or threaten to resist an occupation.’  See: David Edelstein. Occupational Hazards. Success and Failure in Military Occupations.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008, 49-53.

[23]When China Rules the World, 303 – 308.

[24]When China Rules the World,  303.

[25] Matthew Carney.  ‘China’s secret maritime militia: Fishermen the forward guard in South China Sea dispute.’  9 May, 2016.  Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

[26] See: David Vine.  Island of Shame.  The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2009.

[27] See: Shannon Tiezzi. ‘What’s Behind China’s Offer of Military Aid to Afghanistan?’  The Diplomat. 11 Mar, 2016.

[28] Sudhi Sen.  ‘Chinese Troops Will Be Positioned in Pakistan: Security Agencies Tell Government.’ The Diplomat. 13 Mar, 2016.

[29] See: Coral Bell.  ‘The end of the Vasco da Gama era. The Next Landscape of World Politics.’  Lowy Institute.  Paper 21, 2007.

©Strobe Driver.  June 2016.

See the published article here:  http://www.e-ir.info/2016/06/04/beyond-the-asia-pacific-chinas-next-geo-strategic-stepping-stone/

 

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, Rise of China, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A different comment on the Paris attacks

download  And so it remains the sad and pathetic truth that the Algerian Conflict (see: The Algerian Conflict: A Savage War of Peace by Horne) has not been mentioned in the debate with regard to the latest tragedy in France. The current act–the killing of many civilians–by those that carried it out, and from a clinical perspective, is an asymmetrical tactic and a low-intensity war in a reaction to those that have been confronted by an Imperial power and are unable to utilize a ‘frontal conflict’ or force-on-force collision which could see them wiped out. Therefore,  they have moved in a different direction.
Let us not forget that the war the North Vietnamese (NV) executed in the South of Vietnam, in order to undermine American power, was to shoot American officers within the all-consuming elements of a carefree nightlife (eg. bars,entertainment etc), and with NV insurgents, dressed as ‘women’ and as pillion-passengers on motorcycles killed numerous US officers in a sophisticated move to instill fear in all US soldiers when they were ‘out and about’ on their rest and recreation. The core element being to undermine the power of the US ‘on the ground’ and shatter their ‘comfort zone.’
A core issue for ISIS (sympathizers) in this attack is to show that the asymmetrical, low-intensity war that ISIS has decided to carry out is now moving toward a ‘local telegraph’ of operations rather than using an electronic telegraph to monitor their movements–which in the past has allowed Western authorities to monitor their activities and movement/s. This is simply a shift in tactics by people who know they are being watched, which was also done by the Irish Republican Army in their waging of war against the British, so it is essentially not a new phenomenon. This catches government agencies off-guard and renders them reactive rather than proactive, and in doing so offers-up doubt in the mindset of the public sphere. This is where asymmetrical, low-intensity, ‘third type’ of war– a psychological war which is conducted in the villages, the streets and district–type of warfare comes to the fore.   The West has (currently) no answer for this type of communication.
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Australia should consider hosting bases with US forces: A response to this absurd and dangerous proposal in the coming age of pax-Sino

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-should-consider-hosting-bases-with-us-forces-says-defence-analyst-ross-babbage-20150811-giwo8l.html

This is yet another, ridiculous and ill-informed commentary from the conservative (I would suggest neo-conservative) Menzies Institute and Ross Babbage’s comments should be rebuffed in no uncertain terms. There is an assumption that is so entrenched in this Institute and the Australian psyche in general that the United States of America (US) will ‘want’ and ‘need’ to come to the defence of Australia in the future as the rise of China happens–and pax-Sino comes to fruition. Some perspectives needs to be put on this so that Australia does not plunge headlong into a situation that is driven by the US, and one from which Australia cannot extract itself when the military collisions begin to come to the fore (I forecast the late-2020s).

A good perspective is to place where Australia ‘fits’ in a ‘needs-list’ for the US. What’s the population of California, approximately 40 million, this equals one state in the US being more than the entire population of Australia. Now, about the number of personnel available for a war and placing this in context. The New York City police force has about the same number of personnel as the Australian Army and Navy combined. The population of the US is approximately 340 million, ten times-plus (+) the size of Australia. Will the US really want to extend its forces out into the Pacific with all of its military dangers in order to save Australia, a land of so few people? There is also a widely held assumption in Australian politics that that the US ‘wants’ us as a true ally rather than just as a bulwark against the rise of China – as Japan was against the rise of the Soviet Union in the pre- and during the Cold War days, and Okinawa at the present time, is about ‘stalling’ China. Will the US really want to save Australia when China embarks upon what the West has done in the past 200+ years, or will Australia be consigned by the US to the Churchillian tenet of Australia being not worth the effort of saving? To gain an insight into what the future will bring, there are some issues regarding the US-Australia ‘partnership’ in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) that need to be examined.

There is first of all, the issue of the rise of the Latino, Hispanic and African-American vote in the US which will, in the next decades, outstrip that of the White, Anglo-Saxon vote–upon which Australia to a certain extent has relied on due to the cultural links and in keeping with it being part of England and its ally the US–and with this there will surely come a re-focus of the US’ population on the Central and South Americas. The other historical point to ponder is that Britain in its Industrial Revolution (IR) expanded (pax-Britannica), as did the US after World War Two (WWII) when it went through its own IR (which produced pax-Americana) due in part to the re-building of Europe and Japan by US monies. Why did these expansions happen? Because both Britain and the US began, due to the fiscal economics of the time, building burgeoning domestic middle-classes which insisted on their military, economic, cultural and geographic expansions.   China has in the next ten+ years approximately 545 million people moving into their middle-classes. What will they want?  The same as British and American citizens wanted in their eras of ‘pax.’

And in passing it should be noted that China’s military technologies–some of which have surpassed the US–are another reason to not grab the ‘dragon by the tail.’ China is rising and will continue to rise and Australia needs to be acutely aware of the US’ last gasp at holding onto power is just that–the age of pax-Americana is passing–and although the US has been unable to come-to-terms with this–as the British, Dutch, French, Spanish and Portuguese before them were also unable to in their time–the facts are however, omnipresent. Reinforcing this point in an evidence-based way is to observe the following: the end of the Bretton-Woods agreement; the demise of functionalism within the US suburban populaces; a police-state mentality coming to the fore in order to keep citizens under ever-greater control (the US has more people in prison than China although China has a billion more people); the ongoing and continuous incarceration of African-Americans and the associated intellectual and fiscal costs of this practice; the rise of Europe as per the European Union which will gain momentum; the rebuttal of US war policies by powerful European states; endless and fiscally-draining limited wars; and the ‘Imperial overstretch’ of its military forces (which have brought down many an empire), are to name only a few examples. Nevertheless, Australian conservative institutes refuse to believe the US that was, is not the one of today. This is self-inflicted parochialism on their part, and they should be ashamed of their affliction to their desires overwhelming intellectual rigour.

Where does this leave Australia if this ridiculous proposal is enacted? As a target! For Australia the question is and will remain for the next decade, is one that the late Malcolm Fraser proposed and it is hinged on as the US declines, does Australia want to be seen of as complicit in the maintaining of US Imperial power in a world that will be effectively controlled by China? And more to the point if we are, will China demand retribution for Australia’s role in the ongoing maintenance of a declining pax-Americana?   Australia should dispense with its penchant to embrace the US, if only because China is building a pax-Sino that will last as per pax-Britannica ‘model,’ for hundreds of years. This is in direct contrast to the shambolic example of pax-Americana, one in which the US has in sixty years, managed to alienate and gain the hatred of dozens of nations. The US has achieved in sixty years what it took the Romans two millennium, and the British 250+ years to achieve.

Hence, the US has a ‘pax’ which has existed for a short time in relative terms, yet it has managed to pull Australia along as a passive and willing ally. Australia has partaken in pax-Americana to an enormous degree and it is now time to desist and reconfigure its relationship and there are numerous reasons for this to happen and moreover, they are identifiable and obvious. To be specific however and with regard to what the US domestic population actually wants Australians should be aware of the US past. Australians should not forget that a reason the US did not enter the European phase of WWII (1939-1941), was because President Roosevelt feared the political backlash of fascism in the US domestic population, or in plainer terms, many, many, Americans supported Hitler. With the rise of the Tea Party neo-conservatives, and other forthcoming issues changing and burdening the US, to think that the US will ‘drop everything’ and come to Australia’s defence is a grasping at the past, combined with a nonsensical belief that the US has in place the same policies that were in place decades ago. There are telling signs for Australia not to antagonize China and they are the ones that should be enacted, not ones delivered by commentators that willingly remain entrenched in a fanciful past, and in doing so place Australia in deeper trouble in the coming fractiousness that will be the A-P region. #Auspol #AIMN #MenziesInstitute #AsiaPacific #China #USA #Australia

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‘Heads should roll’: An Historical Perspective on Terrorism for the Abbott Neoconservative Government

‘Heads should roll’

With regard to Prime Minister Abbott and his ‘heads should roll’ comment of 25 June, 2015 there is more to be said about this incident and the witch-hut that has taken place in the public sphere. There are two issues at stake: the first being a fear that Australia is becoming a southern hemisphere equivalent of Iran and Egypt—two governments that default to crushing comment that is not ‘officially’ approved of—and moreover, that any comment that disagrees with the current government is deemed to be quasi-‘seditious.’ Notwithstanding, there is another perspective with regard to ‘terrorism’ that needs uncovering—in order for a deeper analysis to be offered.

To start with, the comment with regard to Zaky Mallah and his question to the panel of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s (ABC) QandA program, in particular directed at government MP Steve Ciobo who is currently, according to a recent ABC evening radio program, leading a trade mission to India. Returning to the question of Mallah, it is a reasonable assessment to accept the end part question involved the words of a frustrated and angry young man, rather than the words of a would-be-terrorist—otherwise we can assume he would have been arrested upon exiting the ABC studio. From this entire Q&A scenario however, the deeper components of terrorism and the ‘heads should roll’ issue that has been alluded to should now be addressed. Getting to the point terrorism however, needs to be accessed via a complex path and modern day technology is a good place to begin the process.

Terrorism and technology

A good point to start the deeper issues alluded to is to understand that the uninhabited-aerial-vehicle strikes—or as they have become colloquially known ‘drone-strikes’—that are occurring in the sovereign nation-state of Pakistan on a near-daily basis are just that, strikes against an enemy that the United States of America (US) deem to be worthy targets in its ‘war-on-terror.’ With regard to the anger and rage the Pakistani’s feel toward these strikes is making o future friends for the West and the fact that the Permanent Five (P5) of the United Nations (UN) Security Council has not approved of the strikes, which essentially means that the strikes are, according to the relevant tenets of international law, illegal. To state that the illegality factor, in conjunction with the actual raids simply reinforces the rage is to state the obvious. However, beyond the aforementioned war-on-terror points there is no need to discuss the actual war beyond a mention, as it is terrorism that is the overwhelming concern. It is here that a part of history is able to be introduced to give terrorism a greater perspective.

Drone-strikes, and the associated technology that is being used against Pakistan are a byproduct of technology, and at the forefront of this technology there is a dyad: jet propulsion and rocket-science. Which in simple terms is an ‘ability of science’ to send aircraft across a given geographic area to strike targets, and also to propel satellites/rockets into the upper-stratosphere, and then deep-space. Where did this ability come from? Achieving this level of science and technology came to the fore in the immediate years following the end of World War Two (WWII). A ‘space race’ would then develop between the two major victors of WWII: the Americans and the Russians. Once again, how did this happen? Where did this technology come from?   How were the Americans and the Russians able to embark upon a (competitive) space-program so quickly after WWII? The answer lies in their capture, and use of, what in modern day parlance would be deemed utilizing the abilities of ‘terrorists.’

In general terms and broadly speaking from the evidence available in numerous documentaries and books—which perhaps the neoconservatives should acknowledge in order to bring a balance to this debate—this is what happened at the end of WWII. The Russian military swept into Nazi Germany from the East and Allied forces (with a major component on the part of the Allies being American) from the West. To be sure there were other directional events and strategies, however, these were the major incursions and this phase of WWII would involve gruelling and attrition-driven offensives that would culminate in the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. There was it should be noted, considerable attrition to both sides and this should not be ignored in order to understand the shocking elements of this total war. Only one example is needed to establish the near-unbelievable personnel cost of the campaigns. The Russian Army for instance would lose a staggering 540,000 troops in the taking of East Berlin. Hence, it is safe to argue the Russians were keen for compensation for their effort. The Americans too, were after their compensation as they had taken the brunt of the Pacific phase of the war; were essentially dragged into the European war; and had lost thousands of troops in the Ardennes (colloquially know as the Battle of the Bulge), which had dragged on for months longer than was forecast.

One need ask, how then does a sweep into Nazi Germany, the capture of West and East Berlin and a nascent post-WWII space-program fit into this analysis?   This is how it ‘happened.’ When the Americans swept in from the West and the Russians from the East, they included in their captures (Nazi) German jet propulsion, aeronautical- and rocket-scientists who had been part of the Nazi war-effort. These scientists were of particular interest to both powers, however both sides knew that because of their crimes-against-humanity, they would be sent to the (pending) Nuremberg Trials. As such, these scientists were in fact, in modern day terms ‘terrorists.’ Why? Because they were responsible for the engineering and technology of munitions that had been used indiscriminately against civilians. Their expertise allowed for the firing of, in the first instance V-1 rockets (which were possibly, able to be shot down if Royal Air Force Spitfire’s were able to be scrambled in time), and V-2 rockets which flew much higher and faster and used a different propulsion system than the V-1s, and thus, were unable to be intercepted by fighter-aircraft. The scientists who were directly involved in the firing of, and the ongoing development of these munitions were acts of terrorism. This was known in 1945 and it is known now. Why then, did these people not get sent to the Nuremburg Trials?

To be sure, what the Americans and Russians found in the conquering of Nazi Germany was a veritable and enormous intellectual pool of aeronautical- and rocket-science cum physics talent. The captured German scientists were in real terms, given an ultimatum by the Americans and Russians—come and work for us, or you will be sent to the Nuremburg Trials where you will be convicted of crimes-against-humanity, and sentenced to hang. These scientists obviously chose the former and from this set of circumstances two space programs were born: one Russian, one American. Two space programs were borne of employing terrorists and murderers that should have been sent to hang according to the laws of the time. This is the proud history of how the two post-WWII soon-to-be superpowers dealt with terrorists and murderers. A modern day perspective is needed here to see whether things have changed.

A modern-day perspective

To revisit the abovementioned and place it in a more contemporary perspective. Ensconced within the International Criminal Court (ICC) law and numerous UN conventions, is to note that to deliberately fire live-munitions on a civilian population is an international statutory crimes. The current day Assad government of Syria, will no doubt be (or attempt to be) brought to trial by the ICC, in the coming years. The point being made here is that regardless of the regimes of the world that are indulging in these practices, they are, and remain contrary to UN conventions. Will Australia be dragged into the ICC in the future? A pertinent point is perhaps the Australian government should be wary of accusing others of indulging in acts of terrorism especially considering the Royal Australian Air Force is striking targets—largely at the behest of the US’ in an illegal ‘war on terror’—which is unapproved of by the UN P5 and the ICC may become involved. Time will tell.

Returning to the original point made, the situation is and remains, Australians should mindful that the technology and weapons used against the very people the Australian prime minister rages against, emanate from an intellectual base of terrorists and murderers. And the West—as the oft-repeated upholder’s of a ‘moral high ground’—not only utilized the intellect of Nazi scientists but also offered them sanctuary, fiscal reward and shelter. Hence, the civilians that were killed by acts of terror by Nazi Germany were not only denied justice, their deaths were not honoured as the two victors held their own interests above the laws of justice.

This unfortunate episode in the history of the West (and the most powerful of the East, the Soviets), has allowed the both Russia and America to prosper and essentially rule outer space with military and spy satellites aplenty—which offer up targets to its numerous allies and further offers advantage to these countries indulging in overt and covert wars. The overt wars, whether fought for national security, the two Chechen wars fought by Russia on the premise of defeating Muslim terrorism, the Vietnam War which was used to deny the ‘march of Communism’ throughout Southeast Asia, and the covert Iran-Contra conflict fought in the Central Americas by the US Central Intelligence Agency are to name only several. Whilst these wars are a blight on the East and the West the actions have as a core, the use of technology that has a shameful history.

Conclusion

In conclusion: Terrorism per se, is not the sole monopoly of angry young men, nor is it of organisations such as the Irish Republican Army and other irregular forces. Some of the most powerful governments of the World have used it as a weapon; and continue to do so to this day—Western governments included. The neoconservatives in the political sphere—especially the Australian Liberal Party in this instance—should look to the history of the West before threatening to crush freedom of speech with the use of glib threats and singling out one incident to incite such a punitive response. Perhaps a little introspection to this debate would bring some balance and moreover, it is a good place to start when accusing others of crimes.

 

©  Dr Strobe Driver

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The Sovereign Nation-State as a Contributor to Terrorism

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The current crises associated with ‘terrorism,’ in particular the shocking acts by individuals in the beheading of civilians as acts of revenge notwithstanding, there are issues with regard to the nation-state and its role in the ‘shaping’ of terrorism that have remained undisclosed.  The active participation of individuals and/or groups and their forming of a reaction to the nation-state is what has remained at the forefront of the commentary.  By its very nature the focus on the reaction implies a dyad: the perpetual reinforcement of the nation-state as being just and reasonable; and that those who react against the nation-state and its laws/wisdoms are criminals.  Hence, there has been no comment with regard to the ‘process’—such as the systemic brutalisation of a populace as encountered by the ‘Marsh Peoples’ of southern Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime—which caused them to rise up after the First Gulf War.  To wit, governments need not acknowledge their role in creating terrorists; and terrorism.  However, placing terrorism in perspective with regard to the nation-state provides a useful template and guide to what it consists ‘of.’

 

‘[T]here are many definitions for the word terrorism as there are methods of executing it … [h]owever, most definitions of terrorism hinge on three factors: the method (violence), the target (civilian or government) and the purpose (to instill fear and force political or social change).’[1]  Save for the ongoing mantra of poverty creating discontent and disenfranchisement of peoples—which is often followed by group violence—governments of nation-states tend to decouple from deeper issues that bring about decentralised, yet organized, group violence. Therefore, the questioning of what governments actually ‘do’ in order to bring about the rise of a ‘non-state actor,’ remains unmentioned, unexamined and more importantly unattached to governments and their explicit actions. The Islamic State (IS) is the current overt example in such a state-of-affairs and is encountering the wrath of several nation-states—including Australia.

 

Whether liberal-democracy is the best form of government is a moot point and need not be debated here as this essay is concerned with why a group would rebel against a liberal-democratic government—such as the current Iraqi government—and pursue change through violence.  A counter-argument is and remains, if the sovereign state was accomplishing the task of good government/governance, the corresponding inclusiveness it would generate, would surely render violent reaction (near) non-existent. This is currently not the case in many nations. Therefore, the question of what does it ‘take’ for a group—such as IS—to react with violence, and why is it intent on the creation of a territory that essentially, overrides traditional boundaries?   A useful broad-spectrum answer to this question is evident by their actions of claiming the territory IS believes is theirs and as such, IS has no respect for traditional Western/Eurocentric stipulated boundaries. Whilst there are no surprises in the outcome of governments—whether liberal-democratic or otherwise—not questioning their role in creating terrorism and/or or terrorists per se, as this could involve the burden of introspection, it is nevertheless useful to delve deeper into how the  notion of sovereignty has changed; and in turn observe what this fluidity has done in encouraging a ‘rise in terrorism.’

 

There is a need, in order to bring a balance to the current debate to cast aside the horrendous acts of individuals and focus on terrorism per se and therefore, involves taking a clinical approach to the issue.  There is much needed in the overall commentary with regard to terrorism and terrorists that requires coming to terms with the role of the nation-state in order to comprehend what has come to be, its bedevilment. Terrorism after all, does not happen ‘in a vacuum,’ and it is not an ahistorical event.  Therefore understanding terrorism in the later twentieth century and the early twenty-first century requires a significant historical leap which enables the nation-state to be grounded in its historical intent—what it was supposed to ‘become’—and paradoxically, by observing this factor and how it has changed over time offers an understanding of why non-state actors (terrorists) exist.

The Treaty of Westphalia[2]—hereafter referred to as the ‘Treaty’—in 1648 saw the formulation of the sovereign nation-state (often referred to as the ‘State’ or ‘Statehood’), and from this time the notion of what is to be ‘sovereign’ has been imposed on the world.  The Treaty was an agreement by the elite powers of Western Europe that ended the Sixty Years War[3] which had laid waste to much of Europe.  Eventually, the processes and the underpinnings of the Treaty would usurp all that stood in the way of the accompanying Westphalian-system of government; and governance.  Or put more simply how governments are structured and how they should interact with their respective populaces through rule-of-law, diplomacy, merit and numerous other ‘reasonable’ acts. The power of the Treaty can be seen in the sovereign-state marshalling its abilities through the use of a disciplined army and in some cases navy, and of the State becoming the ‘strongest form of political organisation.’[4]  Feudal rulers, feudal families, tribes, clans, weak(er) monarchs, dynasties, elites and numerous other groups would be drawn into the State in one way or another.  This could be achieved through persuasion as in the case of the French in Corsica by offering protection, or the use of brute force such as the British in the case of Scotland, and the Dutch in Indonesia.  Others, nomadic peoples such as the European gypsies, native peoples such as the Australian Aborigines, the Amerindians would be completely overcome through ongoing pressure and at times direct force.  African tribes too, through the arbitrary drawing up of borders by the great colonial powers (Britain, Italy, Portugal and France) over approximately two centuries[5] experienced the Treaty first-hand in this way.  The intrusion of Commodore Perry’s ‘black ships’ in order to demand long-secluded Japan trade with the West, (1853-1854)[6] is also an intrusion of the Westphalian-system spurred on by mercantilism, in a post-1648 world.  The banal yet necessary observation to acknowledge is the centuries-long successes of the covenant of statehood remains internationally recognised and largely accepted to this day.  There is however, one crucial aspect that came into being via the Treaty and it is a rigid understanding of what sovereignty has at its root: recognized demarcated borders; and the non-interference of others.  Thus,

 

[T]he world consists of, and is divided into, sovereign territorial states that recognize no superior authority; the processes of law-making, settlement of disputes and law enforcement are largely in the hands of individual states; [and] international law is oriented to the establishment of minimal rules of coexistence.[7]

 

The above statement suggests sovereign states are allowed—due to the implementations of numerous international laws—to govern their recognized territories in any way they choose.  Therefore, no other country is to impose their ‘values’ of governance on another sovereign state.  The reality of the situation is vastly different.  Powerful nation-states for centuries, have sought to impose their value-systems on others often resulting in ‘total war.’ Total war consists of ‘a high mobilisation of society … [comprise] a fight for survival … [and] mobilize resources and means to wage battles with few restraints …’[8]  There have also been micro-instances of this phenomenon—known as ‘limited war’—delivered against groups within nation-states by their own government or by other more powerful States, often for a nebulous ‘greater good.’  Limited war is however a more difficult phenomenon to explain as it is nebulous by definition.  Broadly speaking, ‘limited war’ requires nations to place artificial restraints to preclude it from escalating into total war … [and] 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.’ [9]  The problematics of limited war are that it has within it, conceptual tensions: how much of a commitment is ‘limited,’ and by what ‘means’ should they be measured?[10]  Osgood’s enunciation of the pivotal discord, within the concept stresses the difficulties of what ‘limited’ actually consists of in hostilities and this incorporates the following dichotomy: ‘war may be limited from the perspective of one belligerent, yet virtually unlimited in the eyes of another.’[11]   The North Vietnamese forces fight a total war as opposed to American and allied forces fighting a limited war in Vietnam (162 – 1975) are examples of this discord writ large.   

 

Some recent of limited war are the Russian Federation fighting the Chechen Rebels in the Second Chechen War; the French in the Indo-China Conflict (the First Vietnam War) and Algeria (the Algerian Conflict); the British in Malaya (the Malayan Emergency, or the War of the Running Dogs); the United States of America (US) and its allies in Vietnam (the Vietnam War[12]); and the Second Gulf War, also known as the ‘War on Terror’ mounted by the US and its allies in Iraq, to name only a few[great examples!!].  These examples encompass the mix of State-versus-State conflicts and include State-versus-non-State actor conflict, although the main aim is to announce the temerity with which the nation-state acts.

 

To be sure, non-State actors, or actors of a ‘renegade State’ that rebels against the government of a nation-state is immediately labelled a ‘terrorist group’ or an ‘insurgency,’ through the prism of international law.  The implication intrinsic within these definitions is that the backlash against a sovereign government is inherently illegal which technically it is; and therefore ‘corrupt’ which is a moral addendum the nation-state often applies to its enemies.  The opposition Tamil Tigers rebelling with violence against their suppression by the government of Sri-Lanka were deemed ‘terrorists;’ as was the ‘Viet Cong’ ‘insurgents’ when fighting the Americans’ and their allies in the south of Vietnam; and so too was the Irish Republican Army in ‘the Troubles’ in ‘defending’ their homeland against Britain.  The myriad of reasons each side would present in their justifications for actions is an arid argument at this point, as what is of interest here is the action of the nation-state toward those that oppose its will.

 

What is of the most relevance to the abovementioned is the understanding that powerful nation-states have, since time-in-memoriam, inserted a ‘fluidity’ in to the notion to sovereignty which has essentially allowed powerful nation-states free reign over less-powerful nation-states and groups.  In simpler terms, powerful actors have deliberately become involved in the affairs of others and their actions have disregarded the clearly pronounced element of what sovereignty ‘consists of’—the non-interference of otherswithin, and through the Treaty.  As this has happened continuously in previous centuries, the way in which sovereignty has been eroded in the twentieth century is what is important here, and it leads to a sagacious understanding: IS has moved in the same direction as powerful nation-state actors in its non-acceptance of sovereignty with the use of a deliberate invasion strategy.  A strategy that has been effectively shown to gain results for nation-states and moreover, IS fighters are showing similar contemptuous disregard of the Westphalian-system—as heralded by many of the most powerful of nation-states.

 

Whilst the beheading of civilians and crimes in conflict zones whether civilian or military cannot and should not be condoned, the intrusion by others into the lands of a sovereign state, whether through direct incursion or influence pronounces that the model of sovereignty within the Treaty—and its modern day equivalent the United Nations Charter—is now defunct; and open to interpretation.  Actions such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, ongoing US drone-strikes in Pakistan, the Indonesian military presence in Irian Jaya/West Papua in order to suppress ‘rebel actions,’ the recent Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the presence of Russian forces in Chechnya, the French moving troops into Mali, and the presence of Royal Australian Air Force F-16 Super-Hornet’s over Iraq is to name only some instances of modern day brute force.  All however, signal that powerful nation-states are able to act with relative impunity and have altered the meaning of what it is to be ‘sovereign.’  Having a presence in a country through violent incursions regardless of the justification, defiles what the Treaty was designed to achieve: peace through the non-intervention of others in the sovereign state.

 

The issue of violent reaction occurring when people/s are ignored, brutalised, disenfranchised, status-deprived and repressed or a combination thereof by the actions of a sovereign state is another banal, yet necessary point to make.  However, the labelling of violent dissenters as ‘terrorists’ or ‘insurgents’ is a term with obvious ramifications as dictated by the nation-state; and through the prism of international law.  What should be acknowledged over and above this is that powerful nation-states have continuously shattered the boundaries of others sovereignty and have engineered a free reign of their power in order to fulfil their quests.  In doing so, powerful nation-states have effectively caused their own domino-principle: the rise of non-State actors pushing for their ‘rights’ outside the remit of the Westphalian-system.

 

Due to the abovementioned factors the ‘rise’ of terrorism, it can be argued has both, directly and indirectly been caused by powerful Western and Euro-centric sovereign nation-states since the end of World War One; and more so since the end of World War Two. Because the United Nations (UN), in particular the UN Security Council has fundamentally failed in its distribution of fair and reasonable jurisprudence.[13] Their example has been assiduously followed by some Baltic, Asian, Central Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern nation-states since the latter part of last century.  All have had a part in the making of what is currently bedevilling the Middle East.  Unless the sovereign state curbs its tenacity in the suppression of ‘dissenting’ groups more will come.  Why will this happen?  In large part it will be due to abject derision and contempt which Western liberal-democracies—as the  major stakeholder’s in what is considered to be ‘good governance,’[14]—have held the Treaty and its latter-day equivalent in the second half of the twentieth century; and continue to do so in the early part of the twenty-first century.

 

[1] Harvey Kushner.  Encyclopedia of Terrorism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003, 359. Italics in original.

[2] The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia.  The Treaty of Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts.  The most pertinent ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the Treaty of Osnabrück respectively.  See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41. <http://www.jstor.org/view/00029300>

[3] The Sixty Years War—which produced the outcome of the Treaty of Westphalia—is divided into two counts. The first part consisted of an erratic 30 years of warfare leading up to a more definitive Thirty Years War (1618-1648).  Although it should be noted the 30 years of warfare which ended in 1618, was more of an ‘ad-hoc’ conflict than the Thirty Years War (sometimes also referred to as the Later Thirty Years’ War).  Both wars are however, usually combined by historians’ and referred to as the Sixty Years’ War.  The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) when referred to in isolation is consistently seen in more contemporary terms of warfare, due to the sustained/protracted and face-to-face nature of the various conflicts, and the level of ‘quasi-state’ or ‘state-like’ organization of the respective armies involved.  There is however disagreement amongst historians’ which needs to be acknowledged here.  Held refers to the war which produced the Treaty of Westphalia as the event which brought to an end the Eighty Years War between Spain and the Dutch Republic and believes the Thirty Years War was only the ‘German phase’ of the war.  See: David Held. ‘Inequalities of power, problems of democracy.’  Reinventing the Left.  Edited by David Miliband.  Cambridge: Polity, 1994, 78.  Finally, Sutherland states the Thirty Years War was not a war at all and states the ‘war’ has been developed into a ‘‘factitious conception’ which has become an indestructible myth.’  Sutherland views the conflict not as a ‘war,’ but as an interminable struggle between the Habsburgs and the French royal dynasty, the Valois and their successors the Bourbons, which did not end until circa 1715.  See: Nicola Sutherland.  ‘The Origins of the Thirty Years War and the Structure of European Politics.’  English Historical Review.   Oxford: Oxford University Press, 107, 1992, 587.

[4] Alfred Cobban.  The Nation State and National Self-Determination.  London: Oxford University Press, 1969, 30.

[5] Max Fisher.  ‘The Dividing of a Continent: Africa’s Separatist Problem.’  The Atlantic.  10 September, 2012. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/the-dividing-of-a-continent-africas-separatist-problem/262171/

[6] Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Visualising Cultures.  2010. http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/black_ships_and_samurai/

[7] Roger King and Gavin Kendall.  The State, Democracy and Globalization.  Houndsmills: Palgrave, 2004, 34. Italics mine.

[8] John Vasquez.  The War Puzzle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 67.

[9] 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.  Italics in original.

[10] Strobe Driver.  Why wining a war is no longer necessary: Modern Warfare and the United States of America through the prism of the wars of Vietnam and Iraq. Doctoral Thesis. Federation University: Ballarat, 2011, 103.

[11] Robert Osgood.  Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, 2.

[12] The ‘Vietnam War’ is ‘known as the “American War” in Vietnam.’  See: British Broadcasting Corporation.  Timeline: Vietnam.

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1243686.stm

[13] See:  Broken Promises. The United Nations At 60.  Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation.  Editors: John Selllman and Johnalynn Holland.  Director Kevin Knoblock, 2005.

[14] This is particularly true of governments that have embraced Western liberal-democracy as a form of governance since the end of World War One and thus, it has continuously been deemed to be the only ‘suitable’ form of government.  Moreover, its credibility was enhanced when it eventually ‘defeated’ its long-term rival: Communism.  The success of liberal-democracy, its merit in governance, its venerableness and robustness, and its righteousness and purpose are reflected in what Francis Fukuyama deeming the collapse of Communism to be the ‘end of history.’  See: Francis Fukuyama.  The End of History and the Last Man.  New York: Free Press, 1992.

The above article was also published by the AIMN in a modified version as

‘Double Standards: the West and terrorism’

The horrors recently delivered upon innocent civilians and police officers in France, and being mindful of the unspeakable multiple-traumas that would have been cast upon those involved in Australia’s Lindt Café siege, are painful in the extreme, and those concerned should be offered unconditional sympathy. With the greatest of respect–especially to those who have lost a loved one–there is a deeper malaise underpinning why these actions have taken place. In order to understand why these individuals’ were driven to this point must be cautiously brought to the fore. At its core is the way in which the West has manipulated—to its own advantage—the world’s body-politic; and the way in which this process has stirred the hatred of many.

The process of the untrammelled expansion of the ‘West’[1] or what is the Western ‘style’ of government and governance has been present in the body-politic of the world for several centuries. The European Westphalian[2] ‘system,’ is what underpins the way in which the world ‘is’ and consists of demarcated borders, sovereign/national government, recognized boundaries (sea, air and land), effective governance, and the rule of sovereign law, as well as international law. This ‘system,’ has been in place since 1648 however, there was an attempt to put this ‘system’ more firmly into place after World War One—through the League of Nations—however, this failed and it was not until after World War Two (WWII), that it was formally reinforced through an institute: the United Nations (UN). In coming to terms with UN ‘requirements’ and thus, the full recognition of the ‘system’ it is necessary to differentiate between ‘government’ and ‘governance.’ Government is who ‘runs a country’ and there are many different ‘types’ and forms of a ‘government’: dictatorship, democracy, autocracy, social-democracy, benevolent dictatorship, theocracy and numerous others. To be sure, often a particular government will consist of a ‘blend’ of practices although it will form under the mantle of one ‘type’ of government. Others will be static in their representation of a ‘style’ of government, such as Cuba and Britain, both incredibly different though rigid in their representation. Whilst there were, and are, many differences in the way in which countries are governed, all countries nevertheless, conform to the system of governance which Europa—or what we now call Europe/Western Europe—devised, and then disseminated around the world. The ‘manner of governing’[3] is premised on the aforementioned sovereign-system of values, which all participants recognize as legitimate/legal.

There are, of course, disputes with regard to ‘who owns what’ and there always has been. Hence, in modern day times these issues are meant to be debated in the UN. This is in direct contrast to the pre-Westphalian system of immediate recourse-to-arms when a matter was in dispute. The savagery of which, was summed by Grotius circa early-1600s as,

I saw prevailing throughout the Christian world … a license in making war which even barbarous nations would have been ashamed; recourse was had to arms for slight reasons, or for no reason, and when arms were once taken up, all reverence for divine and human law was thrown away; just as if men were thenceforth authorized to commit all crimes without restraint.[4]

There remains to this day, several current sovereignty/ownership disputes and they are China-India, (Arunachal Pradesh); Israel-Palestine, (Gaza Strip); China-Japan, Senkaku Islands/Diaoyutai Islands; and the Argentine-Britain, Falklands Islands/Islas Malvinas. Nevertheless, all of the these are expected to be solved through the various mechanisms of the UN, and the mantra of the UN has always been—through their various charters—to insist that peaceful settlement is the best outcome.

Underpinning the UN is also an insistence that nations, regardless of their government to (eventually) adopt ‘democracy,’ as through this mechanism the UN believes ‘best practice’ governance—or put more succinctly, the Western European ‘model’ of governing—should be adopted, as it offers better populace representation and moreover, is the consummate expression of fairness. All else is secondary to this model. Powerful non-democratic nation-states (such as China and Russia) do exercise considerable control within the UN—both are have permanent seats on the UN Security Council and are part of the Permanent Five (P5) members on the UN Security Council (UNSC)—and as such, they do respect the rules of polity as per the Westphalian system. Theoretically all nations-states, and in particular, democratically governed nation-states respect the Wesphalian mantra that a sovereign ruler/government has the ‘supreme authority to act in a particular sphere unhampered by others …’[5] or in simpler terms, a ruler/government is allowed to conduct their governing/governance on their own terms without the interference of others.

Therefore, one can argue, if democracies are the best representatives of what good government and governance represents, then it is only fair that their record be examined in what they have done in order to bring about peace; and what they have accomplished in the post-WWII world, in particular with regard to the non-interference component. This needs to be done to establish whether what powerful democracies have insisted upon through the mechanisms of the UN—peaceful dialogue, negotiation and other principles of justice—has actually been carried out by those that have the high moral ground with regard to governing; and to be sure, in keeping to their Westphalian ‘ideals.’

A perfunctory observation of the post-WWII era is an excellent starting point because the UN has been firmly established and once again, powerful democracies should not, if they are true to their ideals, be inciting hatred through what Grotius called ‘a license to making war’—the use of direct force—especially when its (read: democracy) expectations of others has not been met.

The West however, whilst insisting that others seek peaceful solutions, has ‘resorted to the sword’ on many occasions.  At times this has consisted of intra-state interventions (warring with another Western nation-state), though on most occasions, it has been Western interventions colliding with non-Western nation-states and/or peoples in one form or another. The interest here however, is the degree that the West, or ‘Western-orientated’ nation-states have delivered on their adversary, whether through direct or indirect violence.  Examples of the West going to war in one form or another consist of Great Britain and its dealings with Northern Ireland (The Troubles, 1968-1998)[6]; the British in Malaya (the ‘Malayan Emergency,’ or the ‘War of the Running Dogs,’ 1948-1960)[7]; the incursion and then invasion of northern Vietnam by the French (the First Indo-China War, 1946-1954); the French occupation of Algeria, in what Evans has called France’s ‘undeclared war’[8]; the Second Indo-China War (the Vietnam War 1962-1975) in order for the United States (US) to stem the tide of Communism which it insisted would take place through a ‘domino principle,’ which would see all of Southeast Asia usurped by Communism[9]; South Africa and the Apartheid regime which included the gaoling of the (then) terrorist Nelson Mandela; the ‘extraordinary rendition’[10] of citizens by the US to non-Western nation-states in their ‘War on Terror’ (2003 – ); to name only a few examples of violence which the West has approved.  Less overt, however just as troublesome is the selective approval by the West of, arming and/or supporting nation-states  that have brutal and repressive governments such as Saudi Arabia; and the tacit support by the West of other less-violent though highly-suspect governments’ in their deliverance of democracy to all of their citizens, such as Singapore. Whilst the aforementioned represent degrees of direct force and/or misguided political will on the part of the West, and bearing in mind Western nation-states are the ‘upholder’s of problem solving’ via the UN, the sheer ineptness on the part of Western nations in bringing about an end to the recent internal conflict in Syria, and a mutually beneficial conclusion to the long-term Israel-Palestine crisis[11] cannot be ignored as both, it is fair to argue, contribute to the utter despair and rage of numerous non-Western nation-states.  Moreover, they incite hatred toward the West; and manifest in their peoples a divide between how much the West really cares for non-Western populaces.

All of the abovementioned constitute abject and in some cases deliberate failings on the part of powerful Western nation-states in dealing with issues that are their concern—as per the tenets of Westphalia. More to the point, the West specifically addresses the notions of diplomacy through the various mechanisms of the UN, yet, and as is able to be observed, resorts to war, or a degree of violence at the earliest opportunity. The most relevant point here is, the West (and Western-orientated countries) pontificate one point of view, resort to violence, and then have the impudence it would seem, to believe their duplicity will go unnoticed and moreover, will not incite hatred and/or revenge toward the West. This is folly; and can only lead to eventual despair for the West.

The moral argument of whether attacks should take place against civilian targets is (now)an arid argument as the fact remains this is happening; and is evidence of the above duplicity in action. An alternative perspective remains to suggest that there is always another aspect to a given issue, for instance the argument that an agitator/event provoked the West into action—the most obvious in recent times being the World Trade Center disaster: A specific point needs mentioning here: it is the UN—usually the P5—that is charged with whether an action is warranted, and whether it should be pre-emptive or post-event.  Therefore, it is not a single country to decide whether it should take action, and should only take action with UN approval. The tenets of the UN remain in place: military force must not be used unless it has the official/legal backing of the UNSC.[12]

The West has failed in following its own rules; in its duty-of-care to good governance and has treated other nation-states, in particular non-Western countries, with contempt and derision.  As the actions of the West have developed and progressed in the post-WWII world the deliberateness of these actions—in some cases toward other Western nation-states, in the case of Ireland—have caused groups to come-of-age; be willing to sacrifice their lives; and execute others in the cause against the direct repression that the West has delivered. While the actions of non-state actors are reprehensible, especially when civilians and police officers are targeted, it is far too simplistic to state that the cause of non-state actors—terrorists, guerrillas and insurgents—have not been encouraged to their actions due to the abject contempt with which the West has shown toward others. Additionally, the West has fundamentally failed to stem reactionary forces through both its implementation of selective policies toward Western-friendly nations; and used direct force when other nations have sought to deviate from the course that has been ‘set’ by the West.

The above argument and the West’s attitude toward others, and indeed the ‘license to war,’ that has prevailed is able to be given a broader perspective with a cursory observation of one of the driver’s the West has used in its delivery of its body-politic. This has been through the attitude of the most powerful post-WWII actor: the US. According to Little the US, and one could argue by association Western policymakers, have been influenced by potent racial and cultural stereotypes, some imported and some homegrown, that [have] depicted the Muslim world as decadent and inferior, U.S. policymaker’s from Harry Truman through to George Bush [have] tended to dismiss Arab aspirations for self-determination as politically primitive, economically suspect, and ideologically absurd.[13]

Current interventions (Australia’s into Iraq included), suggest this attitude remains entrenched in the psyche of the West and Western-orientated governments, and to be sure, unless these nation-states embark upon a change in their body-politic the horrifying repercussions of contemporary times will continue; especially against ‘soft targets’ as per the recent sieges in urban areas.

A pertinent reminder of the rage felt toward the West is able to be traced through the actions of Britain, France and the US and numerous other Western nations, although when examining interventions the US remains the most active, and has a long history of intervening in the affairs of others. From the Caribbean, through to the Middle East, the Central and South Americas, Africa and numerous other locales—to be fair, the UN has sponsored several actions—although it is imperative to note that between 1898 and 1996 there were 93 interventions on the part of the US–this is what Peceney has called ‘democracy at the point of bayonets.’[14] For many reasons beyond the deaths of innocent civilians, a rethink of the West’s ‘license to war’ is sorely needed. At the very least Western and Western-orientated countries, should stop offering platitudes regarding Western and Western-orientated nation-states being the ‘upholders of the virtue of good government/governance,’ when it is obviously a disingenuous and (now) deeply-flawed position to now assume.  More to the point, non-Western nation-states perspicaciously observe the dichotomy of argument, and parallel actions.

© Dr. Strobe Driver.  January, 2014.

[1] Western civilisation and what it represents is a vast and complex subject and fraught with interpretation. A succinct reference to this is only needed here in order to instil an understanding of how it became so expansive in its mechanisms that allowed this to prosper. Western civilisation has as one of its major tenets industrialization and science as part of its formulaic, and this in and of itself required organization and the forming of standing forces.   Although Stearns uses the Industrial Revolution to make a point about the West it can be applied to when the Treaty of Westphalia and the sovereign state came into being. Stearns avers industrialization, ‘extended a Western commitment to using technology as a measure of social progress. The impulse to deplore other societies as backward because they lagged behind Western industrialization represented a further step is [sic] what was already a well-established impulse…[and moreover being Western] now depended on claiming unchallenged world supremacy…’ See: Peter Stearns. Western Civilization in World History. New York: Routledge, 2003, 105-108.

[2] The Treaty of Westphalia is also referred to as the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, the Settlement of Westphalia, the Peace Settlement of Westphalia, and the Peace Treaties of Westphalia. The Treaty of Westphalia was not borne of a single document as each, to some extent consisted of, and constituted, a ‘treaty’ of sorts. The most pertinent ones were of Franco-German intercession: the Treaty of Münster, and the Treaty of Osnabrück respectively. See: Leo Gross. ‘The Peace Treaty of Westphalia.’ The American Journal of International Law, 42, 1, January, 1948, 20-41.

[3] Dictionary.com < http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/governance?s=t > January, 2014.

[4] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), was a Dutch philosopher and author of De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (The Rights of War and Peace), [and] wrote down the conditions for a just war that are accepted today.’ See: British Broadcasting Corporation. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/ethics/war/just/history.shtml> July, 2007.

[5] Derek Verall. ‘The Westphalian system and its underlying normative order.’ World Order. Managing International Conflict. Editors of the School of International and Political Studies, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1996, 3.

[6] See: British Broadcasting Corporation <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/troubles&gt;

[7] See: Noel Barber.   War of the Running Dogs, 1948-1960. Cassell Military Books, 2007.

[8] See: Martin Evans. Algeria: France’s Undeclared War. Oxford University Press, 2012.

[9] President Kennedy in a UN speech in 1961, stipulated if Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam fell to the communists, this would result in the gates of defeat for liberal-democracy being ‘open wide.’ See: 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> Accessed 23 April, 2008.

[10] See: Jane Meyer; ‘Outsourcing Torture.’ The New Yorker. February, 2005. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/02/14/outsourcing-torture&gt;

[11] See: Tanya Reinhart. Israel/Palestine. How to End the War of 1948. Seven Stories Press, 2002.

[12] See: Chapter VII. Article 39 – 43. ‘Action with Respect to Threats to Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ Charter of the United Nations.

[13] Douglas Little. American Orientalism. The United States and the Middle East since 1945. Chapell Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, 11.

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

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