June 10, 2007

Former Taiwan President Lee Says Island `Independent’ (Hiroshi Suzuki, June 9, 2007, Bloomberg)

Taiwan is an independent nation and should strive to free itself from China’s influence, former President Lee Teng-hui said on the last day of a trip to Japan.

“Taiwan has been independent, and the Taiwanese people have the clear belief that it is theirs,” Lee, 84, told reporters in Tokyo today. “Taiwan should start walking toward a new direction of freedom and democracy, or else remain forever within China’s fluctuating political influence.”

Japan’s government distanced itself from Lee’s 11-day trip to avoid angering China, which considers Taiwan its own territory and was infuriated by Lee’s emphasis on Taiwan’s sovereignty during his 12 years in office. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki earlier this week said Lee came to Japan “as a private citizen” unrelated to any government relationship.

China’s government was “very dissatisfied” with Lee’s trip, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing on June 7.

One salutary step we could take vis-a-vis China is to officially repudiate the one-China policy and fully recognize the independence of one of our best allies.



April 23, 2007

US experts call for new trade system (Krishna Guha, April 20 2007, Financial Times)

[The Atlantic Council of the US], which is chaired by two former US commerce undersecretaries, said the struggle to complete the Doha round showed that it was no longer possible to make meaningful progress in a global negotiating system that operated through consensus. It said economies willing to offer large tariff and subsidy cuts need to be able to deal with the “free rider” problem by not extending the same terms to everyone regardless of whether they made equally big concessions – the so-called MFN principle.

A coalition of pro-free trade states should be able to exclude non-participants from taking advantage of tariff cuts in specific product lines, though not from sectoral agreements.

Stuart Eizenstat, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, said this proposal would be compatible with World Trade Organisation rules and the coalition of the willing would agree to use the existing WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

Mr Eizenstat said whether the current Doha trade round yielded an agreement or not, it should be the last of its kind. “The world is moving too fast for this kind of consensus-driven, five, six, seven, eight-year rounds.”

In order to preserve sovereignty, the rulings ought to be merely advisory.


February 2, 2007

Britain will never join an EU army (Liam Fox, 2/02/07, Daily Telegraph)

At a practical level, those who favour a greater role for the EU have three essential problems – the lack of defence spending among EU members, the lack of a common approach to foreign policy and the question of democratic accountability.

I often refer to the fact that Britain spends just 2.5 per cent of its GDP on defence, the lowest figure since 1930. Yet, while this is low by Britain’s standards, it is much more than many of our European partners spend. Germany spends only 1.4 per cent of its GDP on defence. For Spain, the figure is a mere 1.3 per cent, and Holland 1.7 per cent. Austria spends just 0.7 per cent and is considering reducing it further.

This is theoretically not an insurmountable problem, but to overcome it requires a revolution in thinking, and a transformation, particularly among low-spending countries, which shows no signs of even stirring on the horizon.

The idea that any of the EU states would ever be willing to contemplate spending on a scale that would match the level of protection afforded by the American defence umbrella is laughable. It is an issue that is likely to grow in significance when the British public awaken to the fact that, in combined Nato missions such as Afghanistan, British taxpayers and troops are carrying a disproportionate burden because too many of our European allies are unwilling to shoulder their fair share.

The second problem relates to foreign policy. Defence policy inevitably follows foreign policy: it is about projecting the force when needed to support your foreign policy objectives. Any common defence policy must act in step with a co-ordinated foreign policy. History teaches us that national self-interest will usually trump supra-national aspirations. Events in the Balkans since 1990 have shown how difficult it is to merge individual countries’ foreign policy objectives.

The crisis in the Balkans cruelly exposed the gap between EU rhetoric and the ability to act effectively. Unable to keep a peace that did not exist and unwilling to involve themselves in conflict, Europe’s Hour had indeed come, but it failed to live up to the challenge. It was America that was the prime mover in saving the Balkans from Euro-paralysis.

Better to follow America than”lead” Europe.


August 24, 2006

The new axis of intervention (John Feffer, 8/25/06, Asia Times)

There is a new force in foreign policy: the “axis of intervention”. Two allies are official members: the United States and Israel. With its recent invasion of Somalia, Ethiopia has joined the grouping. A fourth nation, Japan, is petitioning for membership. […]

The new axis of intervention targets not only sovereign states such as North Korea and non-state actors such as Hezbollah. With the news of Israeli attacks against Red Cross vehicles and a clearly marked United Nations observation post in Lebanon, the real target of the axis of intervention becomes clear: the institutions of international law. By resorting to military force and scorning diplomacy, both Israel and the United States have undermined the UN and key global agreements such as the Geneva Conventions. It remains to be seen whether Japan and Ethiopia will sign on to this larger agenda.

The possibilities of global cooperation opened up by the end of the Cold War have come to a dead end. The axis of intervention promises a future that resembles the distant past, what the English theorist Thomas Hobbes called the “war of all against all”. It is a world, ironically, where both aggressive countries like the US and Israel and aggressive non-state actors like al-Qaeda and the Islamic courts will feel right at home.

Even under traditional sovereignty, states that can’t control non-state actors–like al Qaeda or hezbollah–are, be definition, not sovereign. In order to be considered sovereign you have to exercise authority over the entire territory you claim.

However, more importantly, we have Redefined Sovereignty to have a normative component and now require that governmens be consensual and protect the inalienable rights of those they govern. It’s hard to imagine a less Hobbesian development.

Meanwhile, if Mr. Feffer can be excused not understanding the revolution that the United States has effected in sovereignty over the course of its history, it’s less easy to excuse his failure to acknowledge that the axis also includes Britain, Australia, Canada, Poland, etc.


August 23, 2006


August 21, 2006

Tokyo looks Down Under (Purnendra Jain, 8/22/06, Asia Times)

During his recent visit to Tokyo, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer raised the prospect of signing a security pact with Japan in his discussion with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and and the front-runner prime-ministerial candidate, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

This is a significant development in the countries’ bilateral history, marking a great transformation in Australia’s attitudes toward Japan. […]

A further development in the bilateral defense and strategic relationship occurred in the early 2000s through its triangulation with the United States, the principal ally of both Australia and Japan. The three national governments began official moves to initiate their first formal dialogue on issues of regional security in 2001.

In turn we’ll bind both to India.


July 7, 2006

PM’s new agenda relies on Bush’s help (JAMES TRAVERS, 7/07/06, Toronto Star)

What’s on Stephen Harper’s mind is now on his lips. Anyone who bothers to listen will learn what’s worrying the Prime Minister and where his government will lead Canada this fall.

In conversation here with George W. Bush and later with the press, Harper made it crystal clear the federal government’s first priority is an open America. “If the U.S. becomes more closed to its friends, the terrorists win,” he told reporters at the White House.

That’s much, much more than a war-on-terror bumper sticker. In a handful of words Harper connected the most important dots in a multi-layered relationship: Security, the economy and a border that must remain a conduit, not a barrier. […]

Prospering in that economic climate requires not only robust investment in the country’s bricks and mortar but also in its social infrastructure. It demands hard and immediate reconsideration of policies that cross the spectrum. Making Canada more competitive means adjusting education to meet the higher needs of the knowledge economy and reforming current immigration practices to ensure new arrivals can contribute to the economy and fulfill Canada’s promise.

It also will lead to changes in a tax system that currently discourages marginal workers and corporate innovation.

None of that will be easy and may well be impossible if the United States, bruised from its foreign adventures and unsure of its neighbours, withdraws into a shell.

Tougher border controls already legislated for 2008 by Congress are just one symptom of a disease that would poison trade and tourism.

Harper’s prescription is holistic medicine. He’s aligning Canada with the U.S. internationally while working with an equally concerned Bush administration on first slowing new border controls and then ensuring the range of acceptable documents will keep people, goods and services flowing. […]

Bush might have been reading from Harper’s briefing notes when he emphasized the importance to the U.S. of trade with Canada. More surprising, he made a point of volunteering that the two countries would go beyond fighting terror to end genocide.

Both are important presidential asterisks attached to a relationship that inevitably tilts toward the interests of the dominant partner.

In effect, Bush was acknowledging both Ottawa’s concern about sharing future continental prosperity and the Canadian worry that waging war in Afghanistan is keeping it from making peace in Darfur.

Mr. Harper has drunk deeply from the cup of Bush/Howard/Blairism.


May 12, 2006

Japanese Discovery of Democracy (Masaru Tamamoto, 10 May 2006, The Japan Institute of International Affairs)

Those familiar with post-1945 Japanese foreign policy will readily notice that bringing ideological difference to the fore is new. After the collapse of its empire by the defeat in war, Japan had refrained from expressing value judgments on how other nations organize themselves-empires are exactly about organizing the lives of other nations. Today’s new talk of democracy is one manifestation of the debate as to whether Japan should begin to adopt a more assertive foreign policy. Supporting the emergence of new democracies has become a part of the foreign policy agenda, though not central.

Elevating democracy above totalitarianism, liberty above tyranny, of course, had been the language of the United States in the Cold War. Cold War thinking and habits linger in the way Tokyo and Beijing frame their security structures with each other. And Japanese pundits who pit democratic Japan against dictatorial China surely have in mind the United States as audience. Emphasizing democracy is their way of reaffirming the bond of Japan’s alliance with the United States in the face of rising China. But the United States is not quite buying the Japanese rhetoric. Washington’s China policy is engagement, and its slogan is turning China into the world’s “responsible stakeholder.” While Washington has not entirely given up on “transformational diplomacy,” there is increasing impatience with the way Japan handles China; there is even concern that the U.S.-Japan security treaty might turn into a burden if Japan’s alienation in East Asia were to worsen.

Many Japanese analysts agree that Japan now faces a fluid and unstable strategic environment-the issue is the rise of China and nuclear brinkmanship of North Korea. Throughout the Cold War and beyond, Japanese foreign policy has had a simple architecture. How to maintain the American relation was key, and most all else flowed from that relationship.

Following the defeat in war in 1945, Japan recoiled from the harshness of international power politics. The American victors offered vanquished Japan a deal, which was sealed with the U.S.-Japan security treaty: The United States extended a security umbrella over Japan in exchange for the use of Japanese territory as America’s forward military base. The United States acted as Japan’s buffer to international power politics, while Japan happily pursued the life of economism. In this way, the security treaty became Japan’s highest source of authority, the functional successor to the prewar emperor, “sacred and inviolate.”

The Cold War provided Japan with a stable strategic environment, the threat of nuclear annihilation of humanity notwithstanding. And there was nothing much that Japan could or was willing to do to affect the deadlock of mutually assured destruction. This Japan could not make any value judgments about the world, according to Kiichi Miyazawa who would be prime minister in the 1990s. So the goal of Japanese foreign policy was to establish friendly relations with as many countries as possible, while under the protection of the United States, the final guarantor of Japan’s willful innocence of international politics.

The question today is: To what extent should Japan continue to depend on the United States to frame its place in the world? While there is a handful of younger parliamentarians espousing the brave vision of a Japan independent and responsible for its own security, the bulk and core of the Japanese foreign policy establishment sees no wisdom in imagining a world without American protection. The current dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq as part of the American “coalition of the willing”-Japan’s first military venture abroad since 1945 without United Nations cover-is not unrelated to the Japanese calculation of the rise of China; the American insurance premium has gone up.

Sometimes, on some questions, the student surpasses the master.


May 10, 2006

Poland revives cold-war tactic: democracy via radio: Beamed nightly into next-door Belarus, Radio Racja supplements state-run media (Andrew Curry, 5/11/06, The Christian Science Monitor)

[H]ere in a ramshackle building not far from the Belarussian border, a Polish-funded team of reporters is offering an alternative to the state media monopoly in neighboring Belarus – a country they refer to as Europe’s last dictatorship.

Mindful of the Western support that sustained their own opposition movement in the 1970s and ’80s, Poles are resurrecting a tool that went out of style at the end of the cold war: radio.


May 9, 2006

India and US to explore the Moon (BBC, 5/09/06)

India and the US are to conduct joint research experiments on the Moon.

Under an accord between the countries’ space agencies, India’s first unmanned lunar mission will carry two scientific payloads from the US agency, Nasa.

Indian officials called the deal a “milestone”. The Indian spacecraft is due to be launched in early 2008.

The Nasa instruments will scan the Moon’s surface for minerals and ice. Devices from the European Space Agency and Bulgaria will also be on board.

The deal is being seen as another sign of increasingly close ties between Washington and Delhi after years of Cold War suspicion.

By the time the Atlanticists and Realists figure out that Europe is a nullity George P. Bush may be president.