There has been increasing acceptance that to understand importance of the nature of conflict and post conflict process with the effect of gender roles and masculinity in recent years all over the world (Cockburn,1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). Meanwhile, gender issues have come into prominence within all base of society and concerning to prominence of conflict, their effect on situations of armed conflict and peace process are particularly marked in the academic literature(Moser and Clark, 2001). Some feminist scholars claim that considering and studying conflict without gender is incomplete and biased yet, the different roles and behaviors of women, men determine the way that how conflicts and peace process playout (Cockburn,1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). In other words, social expectations with the effect of stereotypes have impact upon the way that people play in efforts to armed conflict and peace process (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). Furthermore, the notion of the victim has been characterized by masculinity dominated gender stereotypes (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). Gender power is seen to create an assumption that women are only “victims of conflict”, whereas; men are “heroes” and “perpetrators” (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001)
Politicization of rape has been another conspicuous component of victimization of women in order to overshadow active participation and agency of female combatants and create a single –sided and subjective understanding of armed conflict (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra, 2007 Moser and Clark, 2001). On the other hand, stereotypical gender roles and politics of victimhood have played crucial role in terms of effectiveness of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process in conflict areas to keep stable peace and equality between male and female combatants (Carlson andMazurana,2004 MacKenzie, 2009). Female combatants are excluded from these policies because of stereotypical assumption that women are as only victims and symbol of peace and innocence (Carlson andMazurana,2004 MacKenzie, 2009). Regarding these, it is significant to understand that how gender norms and stereotypes interact with armed conflict and post- conflict re-integration process (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra, 2017,) In this essay, I particularly focus on the notion of gender roles, its substituted components such as power, agency and politics of victimization in detail to challenge supposition that men are “perpetrators of conflict”; whereas, “women are victims and peace envoy” and to demonstrate that how stereotypical understanding of conflict impact upon both understanding of armed conflict and integration policies in post- conflict zones with case study and empirical qualitative analysis from Sierra Leone.
Gender Roles, Masculinity and Stereotypes
“Gender refers to socially politically constructed roles, behaviors and attributes that a society considers which one most appropriate and valuable for women and men”(Gender Analysis of Toolkit for Saferworld, 2013; pg.2) Nonetheless, “gender norms are sets of expectations about how people of each gender should participate in society from masculine or feminine perspective and are produced by culture, education, social construction and media” (Gender Analysis of Toolkit for Saferworld, 2013: pg.2). Masculinity refers to anything which is associated with men, just as femininity refers to anything which is associated with women (Gender Analysis of Toolkit, for Saferworld 2013). At the same time, with the effect of constructed gender roles women and femininity are associated with positivity, peace, emotional, innocence, victim, need for protection, nursing, affection, maternity, care and motherhood, whereas; men are associated with war, perpetrators, autonomy, aggression, heroism, rational and protection (Cockburn,1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). However, many feminist scholars have emphasized that “gender is not only way to differ women and men but it also is a system of power and agency which shapes to lives, relationship and access to resources within a society, conflict and post- conflict because both agency and power as concepts have applicability”(Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997). In social sciences, agency is described as the capacity of individuals to act and make their own choices independently (Cockburn, 1999; 2001, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001, Yuval Davis, 1997).
According to feminist authors, it is important to distinguish between official power and informal power correspond to notions of male and female power to promote a distinct divide between men as powerful and women as powerless and needy respectively (Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001).On the other hand, Cockburn, analyses “how the importance of gender differentiation and local constructions of masculinities and femininities is embedded in issues of agency and power”(Clark and Moser, 2001: pg.5)She identifies the significance of gendered power relations in order to indicate that stereotyping underestimates people’s role as social actors in different moments of conflict (Clark and Moser, 2001). In each stage, it is the contextually specific female and male stereotyping, positioning and agency in patriarchal gender systems (Clark and Moser, 2001). Also, Sharoni and Butalia challenge the relation between gender, power and agency with the assumption that “power is a male monopoly, whereas, women are perceived as powerless and lacking of agency in armed conflict and political violence” (Clark and Moser, 2001, pg: 8). Therefore, stereotypical essentializing and labelling of women as ‘victims’ particularly of sexual abuse or rape and men as ‘perpetrators’ ‘heroes’ and ‘defender’ on the behalf of the nation and their wives, children and honors have universal phenomenon (Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001). In other words, many versions of constructed gender roles with the effect of hegemonic masculinity are constituted in the practice of fighting: “to be a real man is to be ready to fight and, to kill and to die” on the behalf of honor of the nation, flag, women and children” (Cockburn,1999; 20001Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001).
Having said that, building upon the imaginary of familial symbolism as another significant result of stereotyping of patriarchy constructed gender roles, because label women as naturally positive, peace envoy, victim and needy for protection (Cockburn,1999; 20001 El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001)To illustrate, images of motherland tend to be symbolized as a woman who is biological reproducer of nation, victim, needy and lacking of agency, whereas enemies tend to be symbolized as a male who threatens, damages or embargos motherland(Cockburn,1999; 2001, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2001) As a result, in this way, it is easy to leave aside women’s agency, roles and potentials in armed conflict, and gain them unacknowledged roles; whereas, to gain men activate roles as the most agent social actor responsible for both armed conflict and peace process (Cockburn, 2000, El- Bushra,2017, Jacobson et al..2000, Moser and Clark, 2000, Yuval Davis, 1997).
Politics of Victimization: Sexual Abuse, Rape and Violence Against Women
The notion of the ‘victim’ is always feminized by male power women and children are victims, whereas, men are aggressor (Clark and Moser, 2001, Turshen, 2001). The problem is even more complicated and problematic when ‘victim’ is related with ‘lack of agency’ because the notion of victim has become a socially constructed identity which adulterates women experiences and participation of armed conflict (Clark and Moser, 2001, Turshen 2001). That is why, the concept of victim has been attached with sexual violence, and rape against women during armed conflict (Clark and Moser,2001) Having said that, Caroline Moser outlines three categories of violence, citing political and economic violence in addition to the more common reported social or interpersonal violence (Moser, 2001). This informative definition has played significant and advanced role in terms of understanding of gender and armed conflict because it leads to understand the specific reasons of rape and sexual violence during armed conflict (Moser and Clark 2001, Turshen, 2001). On the other hand, sexual violence and conflict have been complicated and controversial themes in terms of armed conflict and political violence in accordance with women’s rights and agency (Clark and Moser, 2001; Cockburn, 2001; Turshen, 2001)
Moser’s analysis about different types of political violence interrogates the political of rape and sexual abuse as an aspect of political and economic violence during armed conflict(Moser, 2001). Moreover, Moser describes her analysis from the aspect of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women yet, both sexual abuse and rape are gendered and male dominated activities because of ideologically male power dominated gender roles, relations, agencies and identities stereotypically (Moser, 2001; Turshen, 2001). In other words, the gendered continuum of rape has been significant role as a systematic strategy of armed conflict because rape during the armed conflict is a socially constructed and male power dominated (Moser, 2001; Turshen,2001). At the same time, it has a traditional sexist role as a result of stereotypical gender relations between men and women (Moser, 2001; Turshen,2001). Especially, systematic and militarized rape and sexual abuse are among the strategies of men to commodify women by disregarding women’s agency and active roles(Turshen, 2001) because militarized rape has been directly related role as a function of formal institutions such as the states’ national security, defense of military arm, and honor of the country(Turshen, 2001).
Meredith Turshen describes the relationship between systematic rape and commodification of women agency in detail. Turhsen claims that “concepts of virtue and family honor objectify women, as does to need to protect a woman’s virginity for the reputation of her family” (Turshen, 20001: pg. 65) in order not to acknowledge women’s individual rights as society’s inalienable property (Turshen, 2001). In this way, militarized and systematic rape have cultural significance role for commodification of women by being honor of the nation, family and state (Moser, 2000, Turshen,2001) because “behind the cultural significance of raping ‘enemy’ women lies at the institutionalization of attitudes and practices that regard and treat women as property and honors of the state” (Turshen,2001: pg. 60). To add more, both biased gender roles and politics of victimization against women have negative impact upon both the understanding of active participation of female combatants in armed conflict and post conflict re- integration, rehabilitation policies(Carlson andMazurana,2004 Cockburn 2000, MacKenzie, 2009, Moser, 2000). In conjunction with these indications, the active role of female combatants in armed conflict has become a crucial theme in gender and conflict studies
Women as Actors in Armed Conflict in Sierra Leone: Stereotypes versus Evidence
Female combatants’ role, agency and active participation remain invisible during armed conflict because of male power dominated gender roles, whereas; women participate in armed conflict actively (Coulter, 2008, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). The number of female combatants in armed forces have increasing in recent years despite armed forces have traditionally known asmale dominated institutions (Brett 2002, Coulter, 2008, Coulter et al.. 2008MacMullin and Loughry 2004, Mazurana et al. 2002). Especially, “in many of the African ‘independence wars’, often with a socialist agenda, women’s liberation was seen as sufficient and essential component of the overall struggle” (Nzomo,2002, Coulteret al.. 2008). At the same time, particularly, in African armed conflict women have shown themselves as capable as men in terms of performing acts and what is worse, local populations and data prove that female fighters are even more brutal and cruel than male fighters (Coulter et al… 2008, Coulter, 2008, Carlson, 2004). That is why, it is significant to understand what women do in actual fact of armed conflict (Coulteret al .. 2008). However, there is a tendency even in studies of women, gender and war, women do not participate in armed conflict actively because of some stereotypical assumptions (Cohen, 2013, Coulter, 2008, Mazurana and Carlson 2004). To illustrate, women have either supporting roles such as cooks, cleaners, and sexual slaves to male combatants or are victims of the armed conflict regardless of their death ratio and symbol of innocence, peace, peace envoy or stereophonic icons of war in conjunction with gender biased stereotypes and politics of victimization (Cohen, 2013, Coulter, 2008 Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). Hence, understanding the role of female fighters and combatants technicality in armed conflict has related with other subjects such as victimization, violence, gender and sexual abuse(Cohen 2013, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). In this part of the essay, I critically analyze women’s role as perpetuators of conflict in order to challenge the general stereotypical understanding of armed conflict with case study about Sierra Leone.
“The Sierra Leone civil war began on 23 March 1991, when a small rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front, entered southeaster part of the country from Liberia. The war continued in varying degrees of intensity throughout the 1990s, and pace was officially declared on 18 January 2002. The rebels were accused of committing widespread atrocities namely, cutting off people’s limbs, creating mass destruction. The war has been described as one of the more brutal in the late twentieth century, its levels of brutality compared to that of Rwanda or Cambodia in the 1970s. Approximately, 75.000 people were killed, and many more injured. Also, the war was particularly destructive in the rural areas, in particular the diamond rich east. Today, after two peaceful post- war elections the country enjoys a fragile stability.”(Coulter, 2008:pg.58)
Furthermore, Sierra Leone civil war is not only a case as one of the most brutal conflict, it is also a controversial issue in terms of female combatants because most of them were abducted from rebel forces. Coulter, 2008).Despite, some of them were abducted by rebel forces, they had active participation in formation of armed conflict (Coulter,2008, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). That is why, the category of female fighters in Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002) challenges the gendered stereotypes of women as ‘victim’ of armed conflict because of lacking of agency or women have essential services in armed conflict namely, carrying water, washing clothes, finding food, cooking or sexual slave, whereas” men are labelled as the perpetrator, power and heroes of the armed conflict (Coulter,2008, Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). During the discourse of the Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002), it is estimated that between 10 and 30 percent of all fighters were women and girls (Richards, 1996;89; Mazurana and Carlson, 2004: McKay and Mazurana, 2004; 92, Save the Children, 2005). Also, during and after the civil war, stories of brutality of combatant women became a popular and interesting theme especially in terms of gender studies as an example to challenge stereotypical and male power dominated assumptions and to show that female fighters would be more cruel, cold- blooded than men (Coulter, 2004, Cohen, 2013). In Sierra Leone, many female combatants actively participate armed conflict as fighters who kill, and behave both civilians and enemies mercilessly (Coulter,2008, Cohen, 2013). Also, being messengers between rebel camps, spices, communication technician or distributor of weapons to boy and girl fighters and to train them how to attack enemy forces are other decisive roles of female fighters during armed conflict (Coulter, 2008).Dara Kay Cohen and Chris Coulter analysis war time rape and female fighters in civil war with original evidences including interviews with ex-combatants and survey data, which prove that female combatants perpetrated rape and sexual abuse, violence against civilians (Cohen, 2013 Coulter, 2008). Particularly, interviews with ex- combatants in Sierra Leone reveal how gender roles mislead understanding of conflict. For instance, Aminata and Ramatu as ex- female combatants in armed conflict report that,
“If you are not trained and you meet your, enemy, how can you fight to rescue your life? Women were really fighting. If you saw us entering Waterloo on the 5th of January, to enter the city, (Freetown) you would not have been able to look at our faces. We were bloody. We were like slaves, very dirty. So to ask about women fighting! Some were even braver than men” (Interview with Aminata, female ex- fighter in Sierra Leone, January 2004, Coulter, 2008: pg,5).
“All members of the fighting party, including the women and the girls, would then drink the blood so they would not be afraid during the attack. They would then cut the person’s throat turn them upsdie down: and ‘squeeze them from toe to head’ to drain their blood into bucket”. (Interview with Ramatu T, female ex- combatants in Sierra Leone).
Furthermore, the results of empirical data display to what extent female combatants have active role and are cruel. Cohen analyses that, there is a hypothesized correlation between the large number of women fighters and high levels of civilian rape (Cohen,2013). In fact,
“data from Sierra Leone indicate that the proportion of women in an armed group is positively associated with the sexual violence committed by the group and the date contradict one of the central observable implications of the traditional perspective: groups with more women not only committed rape but actually committed more rape than did groups with fewer women” (Cohen 2013: pg.399).Allin all, empirical analyses, interviews and data from Sierra Leone indicate that female combatants commit an offense in armed conflict just as male combatants do.
Women’s and Girl’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Policies in Sierra Leone
International policy makers classify Disarmament, Demobilization and Re- integration programs as one of the most crucial components for post- conflict areas to keep peace process and gender equality stable (Carlson and Mazurana ,2004). Indeed, DDR programs have played essentialrole in terms of peace- keeping process for The United Nations and other international peace operations because they build secure field in post conflict zones by improving human capacity(Carlson and Mazurana, 2004). The World Bank has defined a successful DDR program as the key factor for an effective transition from war to peace (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004). The United Nations defines disarmament as “.. the collection of small and light and heavy weapons within a conflict zone” (Carlson andMazurana,2004: pg,8). Demobilization is described “as both the formal disbanding of military formations and the release of combatants from a ‘mobilized’ state”; (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004: pg,8)whereas, reintegration refers “initial reinsertion such as the short – term arrival of an ex- combatants into his| her former home or into a new community and long-term reintegration” (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004: pg,8). However, the lack of recognition women’s active role and participation in armed conflict leads to doubled victimization of female combatants in reintegration and rehabilitation policies in post conflict areas (Carlson andMazurana,2004 MacKenzie, 2009). Sierra Leone’s case study of female ex- combatants evidently demonstrates the negative impact of gender roles on post- conflict integration and rehabilitation programs in terms of particularly females (Carlson and Mazurana,2004 MacKenzie,2009).
“DDR programs started to be implemented in Sierra Leone from 1998 to 2003 and it has been supported from the United Nations, the World Bank. From the time of its implementation in 1998, 72,500 former combatants passed through the program, including 4,751 women (6.5 percent)” (Carlson, Mazurana, pg:6).
In theory, female combatants have been included in DDR processes but, as Mazurana and Carlson noted, “most programmes are more effective in reaching out to male fighters than female fighters who are constantly underserved” (Mazurana and Carlson 2004:pg 2). Also, DDR program in Sierra Leone was seen as a fundamental and indispensable element for the country’s transition out of civil conflict (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). However, MacKenzie, Mazurana and Carlson critically examines the recommendations of DDR programs into the country. In her analysis, MacKenzie demonstrates that the extent to which females participated as combatants, in contrast to low numbers participated in DDR programs (MacKenzie, 2009). On the other hand, Mazurana and Calrson’s study and analysis about DDR programs and female fighters in Sierra Leone strengthen MacKenzie’s analysis. Mazurana and Carlson state that majority of the women and girls as ex- combatants and fightersneither participated nor benefited from DDR programs in Sierra Leone (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004). That is why, ex- female combatants are excluded from the society in Sierra Leone (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004, MacKenzie, 2009). On the other hand, there are some specific reasons to understand exclusion of female fighters from DDR programs in Sierra Leone. MacKenzie, Carlson and Mazurana explain these specific reasons of exclusion of women combatants from DDR process in detail.
The one of the most important reasons is that the representative of the stereotypical and historical understanding of women roles such as “camp followers”, “sex slaves” or wives of male leaders (MacKenzie, 2009) to explain why DDR programs failed in terms of female fighters in the post conflict context in Sierra Leone. The second important reason is the requirement of weapon in order to be defined as combatant (MacKenzie, 2009). In Sierra Leone, Coulter found that half of the interviewed female ex- fighters claimed that they had actually wanted to disarmand re- integrate but only a handful could participate because out of those 22 percent stated that the reason for this was that they did not have access to a weapon (Coulter ,2004, MacKenzie, 2009). In addition, MacKenzie, Carlson and Mazurana regard international and local communities responsible because of their stereotypical, male power dominated attitudes toward female combatants as another reason to explain the exclusion of female combatants from DDR programs (Mazurana and Carlson, 2004, MacKenzie, 2009).MacKenzie criticizes that the international organizations and media concentrate on just female victims (MacKenzie, 2009).”There are many examples of internationally supported programs directed at female victims of conflict; whereas, there are few programs (in fact almost none) that are directed at ex-female combatants” (MacKenzie, 2009; pg, 245)Finally, MacKenzie focuses on importance of leaving aside traditionally male dominated gender roles in order to keep stable peace and (gender equality) in Sierra Leone (MacKenzie, 2009). Briefly, Sierra Leone’s DDR process failed to attract women combatants compare to male combatants yet, females’ active experiences, roles, and agencies during the armed conflict were not acknowledged because of the assumption that women and girls are only victims, and symbol of innocence, peace, sex slaves and cooker in armed conflict (Carlson and Mazurana, 2004, MacKenzie, 2009).
Male power dominated gender roles and stereotypes have crucial impacts upon both understanding of armed conflict and post- conflict disarmament, reintegration policies in conflict zones because women are labelled as peace envoy, sign of innocence, sex slaves and victim; whereas, men are labelled heroes, and perpetrator of armed conflict. At the same time, politics of victimisation toward just females to underestimate their agency and power in armed conflict have another impact upon shaping of armed conflict. However, in reality, females have active participation as combatants in armed conflict and commit an offence like male combatants do. Sierra Leone civil war has plays important role in order to challenge this male power dominated understanding of armed conflict because female combatants have participated actively in conflict and committed rape just like men combatants have done. Results of both qualitative and quantitative research about Sierra Leone indicate that groups with more women not only committed rape but actually committed more rape than did groups with fewer women. Despite the fact that, female combatants have active participation in armed conflict, they are excluded from Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process in post- conflict context because of male dominated stereotypes and understanding of conflict in Sierra Leone. Also, attitudes of both international and domestic communities and NGOs toward female fighters as a victim of the conflict led to exclusion of female fighters from DDR process into the country. In other words, DDR process failed to integrate ex- female combatants into the society.
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The Nuclear future of East Asia
In the face of North Korea and China’s continuous expansion and advancement in their nuclear arsenal in the past decade, the nuclear question for East Asian countries is now more urgent than ever—especially when U.S.’s credibility of extended deterrence has been shrinking since the post-cold war era. Whether to acquire independent nuclear deterrent has long been a huge controversy, with opinions rather polarized. Yet it is noteworthy that there is indeed gray zone between zero and one—the degree of latency nuclear deterrence.
This paper suggests that developing nuclear weapons may not be the wise choice for East Asian countries at the moment, however, given the fact that regional and international security in the Asia-Pacific is deemed to curtail, regardless of their decision to go nuclear or not, East Asia nations should increase their latency nuclear deterrence. In other words, even if they do not proceed to the final stage of acquiring independent nuclear deterrent, a latent nuclear weapons capability should at least be guaranteed. Meanwhile, for those who have already possessed certain extent of nuclear latency—for instance, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan—to shorten their breakout time whilst minimize obstacles for a possible nuclearization in the future.
The threat is ever-present—The Nuclear North Korea
Viewing from a realist perspective, the geographical locations of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have always been a valid argument for their nuclearization—being surrounded by nuclear-armed neighbors, namely China and North Korea—these countries have witnessed an escalation of threat on an unprecedented scale since the cold war.
Having its first nuclear weapon tested in 2006, the total inventory North Korea now possess is estimated to be 30-40. With the misstep of relieving certain sanction during the Trump era, North Korea was able to revive and eventually expand its nuclear arsenal, making future negotiation between the Biden administration and the Kim regime much harder and less effective. Not only has North Korea’s missile test on March 25—which is the first since Mr. Biden’s presidency—signaled a clear message to the U.S. and her allies of its nuclearization will and stance, Pyongyang’s advancement in nuclear technologies also indicates a surging extent of threat.
For instance, North Korea state media KCNA claimed that the latest missile launched was a “new-type tactical guided projectile” which is capable of performing “gliding and pull-up” manoeuvres with an “improved version of a solid fuel engine”. In addition to these suspected “new type of missiles” that travels in low-attitude, the diversity of launches Pyongyang currently possess—from short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) to submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), as well as the transporter erector launchers (TELs) and the cold launch system—increase the difficulty in intercepting them via Aegis destroyer or other ballistic missile defense system since it is onerous, if not impossible, to detect the exact time and venue of the possible launches. Indeed, the “new type of missile” could potentially render South Korea’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) useless by evading radar detection system through its manoeuvres, according to a study from 38 North at The Henry L. Stimson Center.
Moreover, the cold launch (perpendicular launch) system used by the North also indicates that multiple nuclear weapons could be fired from the same launch pad without severely damages caused to the infrastructure. Shigeru Ishiba, the former Defense Minister of Japan, has noted that not all incoming missiles would be able to be intercepted with the country’s missile defense system, and “even if that is possible, we cannot perfectly respond to saturation attacks”.
The Chinese nuclear arsenal
According to the SIPRI yearbook 2020, China’s total inventory of nuclear deterrent has reached 320, exceeding United Kingdom and France’s possession of nuclear warheads, of which London and Paris’s nuclear deterrent were considered as limited deterrence. In spite of the fact that China’s current nuclear stockpiles is still far less that what the Russians and Americans have, its nuclear technologies has been closely following the two military superpowers. For instance, the Chinese have successfully developed Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRVs) and Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (MARVs)—its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) DF-41 is capable of equipping up to 10 MIRVs while its Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) DF-21D could carry MARV warhead that poses challenges to the BMD systems—these advancement in nuclear technologies are the solid proof that the Chinese nukes are only steps away from Moscow and Washington. Yet China’s nuclear arsenal remains unchecked and is not confined by any major nuclear arms reduction treaty such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), of which US and Russia has just reached a mutual consensus to extend the treaty through Feb 4, 2026.
In addition to China’s expansion of military capabilities and ambition in developing hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and new MARVs, there is no lack of scepticism of its no-first use policy, especially with Beijing’s coercive diplomacy and provocative actions in the East and South China Sea, regarding “freedom of navigation” and other sovereignty rights issues. These all raise concerns and generate insecurity from neighboring countries and hence, East Asia states i.e. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan would inevitably have to reconsider their nuclear option.
In spite of having advanced BMD system, for instance, Aegis Destroyer (Japan), THAAD (South Korea), Sky Bow III (Taiwan), the existing and emerging nuclear arsenal in Pyongyang and Beijing still leave East Asian states vulnerable under a hypothetical attack as mentioned above. Future could be worse than it seems—merely having deterrence by denial is not sufficient to safeguard national security—particularly with a shrinking credibility of U.S.’s extended deterrence since the post-cold war era.
America’s nuclear umbrella and the Alliance Dilemma
Theoretically speaking, alliance relations with the U.S. assure a certain extent of deterrence by punishment against hostile adversaries. For example, U.S. is committed to defend Japan under the 1960 Mutual Defense Treaty. Yet in reality, security could never be guaranteed. In a realist lens, state could not rely on others to defend their national interests, especially when it puts America’s homeland security at risk. Is U.S. willing to sacrifice Washington for Tokyo? Or New York for Seoul?
Strong rhetoric or even defense pact would not be able to ensure collective security, let alone strategic ambiguity, which is a strategy adopted by Washington for Taipei that is neither a binding security commitment nor the stance is clear. Regardless of the prospect of a better future than mere war and chaos, state should always prepare for the worst.
Besides, with Trump’s American First policy continuously undermining alliance relations in the past four years, East Asian countries may find it hard to restore mutual trust since diplomatic tracks are irreversible, despite Biden’s administration intention and effort to repair alliance and U.S.’s integrity as the global leader.
Moreover, even if alliance relations and credibility of extended deterrence is robust at the moment, but the bigger question is—could and should East Asian countries shelter under America’s nuclear umbrella forever? If they choose not to go nuclear, these states would be constantly threatened by their nuclear-armed neighbors, without a credible direct (nuclear) deterrence to safeguard national security; and forced to negotiate, or worse, compromise in the face of a possible nuclear extortion.
Undeniably, horizontal nuclear proliferation is always risky. Not only is it likely to deteriorate diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, but also generates a (nuclear) regional arms race that eventually trap all nations into a vicious circle of security dilemma due to the lack of mutual trust in an anarchical system, which will consequently lead to a decrease in regional, as well as international security.
Yet with the expansion and advancement of Pyongyang and Beijing’s nuclear arsenal, regional and international security is deemed to curtail, regardless of East Asian countries’ decisions to go nuclear or not. As the official members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Japan’s and South Korea’s withdrawal may encourage other current non-nuclear weapon state to develop nukes. However, current existence of the NPT has already proven futile to prevent North Korea from acquiring its own nuclear weapons; or Israel, India and Pakistan, who are UN members but have never signed any of the treaties, to join the nuclear club.
The major concern about nuclear proliferation is never about the amount of warhead one possesses, but if they are in the wrong hands; for instance, a “rogue” state like North Korea. It is almost certain than none of the latent nuclear East Asia states would be considered “rogue” but just developed nations with rational calculation. In fact, the actual risk for these states joining the nuclear club in reality is not as high as most imagined. It may, indeed, help further bolster alliance relations between U.S., Japan and South Korea if they are able to come to some mutual consensuses in advance—developing independent nuclear deterrent is not an approach of alienating America’s presence as an effective ally but to strengthen security commitment with each other, and that US would support her allies in the Asia-Pacific in such attempt. The current existence of extended deterrence should not be a barrier for nuclearization. Rather, it should act as an extra protection for allied states.
Pave the way for future nuclearization
Admittedly, the road for any East Asia countries to go nuclear would be tough. Taipei’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons would imaginably trigger provocative response from Beijing, if not impossible, a pre-emptive strike that could lead to an escalation of war. Same situation goes for Seoul and Pyongyang even though the risk is relatively lower. As for Japan, although direct military confrontation is less likely comparing to Seoul and Taipei, the challenges Tokyo face for its nuclear option is no easier than any of them.
As the sole nation that has suffered from an atomic bomb explosion, Japan’s pacifism and anti-nuclear sentiment is embedded in its culture and society. According to a public opinion poll conducted by the Sankei News in 2017, 17.7% of the respondents agreed that “Japan should acquire its own nuclear weapons in the future” whilst 79.1% opposed to that idea. Despite having the imperative skills and technologies for an acquisition of independent nuclear deterrent (the breakout time for Japan is estimated to be about 6-12 months), Japan also lacks natural resources for producing nuclear warheads and has to rely heavily on uranium imports. Upholding the three non-nuclear principle since WWII, Japan’s bilateral nuclear agreements with the U.S., U.K, France and Australia specified that all imported nuclear-related equipment and materials “must be used only for the non-military purposes”. Violation of these agreements may result in sanctions that could cause devastated effect on Japan’s nuclear energy program, which supplies approximately 30% of the nation’s total electricity production. These issues, however, are not irresolvable.
Undeniably, it may take time and effort to negotiate new agreements and to change people’s pacifism into an “active pacifism”, yet these should not be the justifications to avoid the acquisition of independent nuclear deterrent as ensuring national security should always be the top priority. It is because in face of a nuclear extortion, the effectiveness of a direct nuclear deterrence guaranteed by your own country could not be replaced by any other measures such as deterrence by denial via BMD system or deterrence by punishment via extended deterrence and defense pact. Therefore, if there are too many obstacles ahead, then perhaps the wiser choice for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan at the moment is to increase their nuclear latency deterrence, shorten the breakout time and pave their way clear for future nuclearization. In other words, to keep their nuclear option open and be able to play offense and defense at its own will when the time comes.
Nevertheless, in addition to strengthening one’s latency nuclear deterrence, as well as obtaining a more equal relationship in the official and unofficial alliance with America, East Asian countries that have similar interest and common enemies should united to form a new military alliance which included security treaty regarding collective defense like the NATO; and focuses more on countering hybrid warfare like the QUAD. If Japan, South Korea and Taiwan ever choose to go nuclear, a common mechanism could be established to ensure that these states would pursue a minimum to limited deterrence capability that do not endanger each other’s security but rather to strengthen it, which would help minimizing the destabilization brought to regional security while constituting a more balanced situation with nuclear-armed rivalries.
After all, proliferation may not be the best solution, it is certainly not the worst either.
From our partner International Affairs
Test of Agni Prime Missile and India’s Counterforce Temptations
South Asia is widely regarded as one of the most hostile regions of the world primarily because of the troubled relations between the two nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan. The complex security dynamics have compelled both the countries to maintain nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis each other. India is pursuing an extensive and all-encompassing military modernization at the strategic and operational level. In this regard, India has been involved in the development of advanced missiles as delivery systems and improvement in the existing delivery systems as well. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are solely aimed at India; however, India aspires to fight a ‘two-front war’ against Pakistan and China. Therefore, the size and capability of its nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are aimed at countering both threats. However, most of the recent missile delivery systems made by India appear to be more Pakistan-centric. One recent example in this regard is the recently tested nuclear-capable cannisterized ballistic missile Agni Prime, which is insinuated as Pakistan-centric. These developments would likely further provoke an action-reaction spiral and would increase the pace of conflict in South Asia, which ultimately could result in the intensification of the missile arms race.
Just quite recently, on 28th June 2021, India has successfully tested an advanced variant of its Agni missile series, namely Agni Prime or Agni (P). The missile has a range between 1000-2000 kilometers. Agni Prime is a new missile in the Agni missiles series, with improved accuracy and less weight than Agni 1, 2, and 3 missiles. It has been said that the Agni-P weighs 50 % less than the Agni-3 missile. As per the various media reports, this missile would take the place of Agni 1 and 2 and Prithvi missiles, however officially no such information is available. This new missile and whole Agni series is developed as part of the missile modernization program under the Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) integrated guided missile development program.
Agni-P is a short missile with less weight and ballistic trajectory, the missile has a rocket-propelled, self-guided strategic weapons system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Moreover, the missile is cannisterized with the ability to be launched from road and rail. The DRDO claimed that the test flight of the missile was monitored by the telemetry radar stations and its trajectory met all the objectives of the mission successfully with high level of accuracy. Agni-P missile because of its range of 1000 to 2000 km is considered a weapon against Pakistan because within this range it cannot target China. Although, India already has different missiles in its inventory with the same range as the newly developed and tested Agni-P missile, so the question arises what this missile would achieve.
Since the last few years, it has been deliberated within the international security discourse that India’s force posture is actually more geared towards counterforce options rather than counter-value options. Although, India’s nuclear doctrine after its operationalization in 2003, claims “massive retaliation” and “nfu” but in reality with developing cannisterized weapons like Agni-P, Agni 5, and testing of hypersonic demonstrative vehicles, India actually is building its capability of “counterforce targeting” or “splendid first strike”. This reflects that India’s nuclear doctrine is just a façade and has no real implication on India’s force modernization.
These developments by India where it is rapidly developing offensive technologies put the regional deterrence equation under stress by increasing ambiguity. In a region like South Asia, where both nuclear rivals are neighbors and distance between both capitals are few thousand kilometers and missile launch from one side would take only a few minutes in reaching its target, ambiguity would increase the fog of war and put other actors, in this case, Pakistan in “use it or lose it” situation, as its nuclear deterrent would be under threat.
In such a situation, where Pakistan maintains that nuclear weapons are its weapons of last resort and to counter threats emerging from India, its nuclear deterrence has to hold the burden of covering all spectrums of threat. It might be left with no choice but to go for the development of a new kind of missile delivery system, probably the cannisterized missile systems as an appropriate response option. However, as Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is based on principle of “CMD” which allow Pakistan to seek deterrence in a cost-effective manner and also by not indulging in an arms race. Therefore, other than the threat of action-reaction dynamic developments like Agni P by India, would make weapons more accurate and lethal, subsequently conflict would be faster, ambiguous, and with less time to think. In such a scenario, as chances of miscalculation increase, the escalation dynamics would become more complex; thus, further undermining the deterrence stability in South Asia.
India’s counter-force temptations and development of offensive weapons are affecting the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia. The deterrence equation is not getting affected just because India is going ahead with the development of offensive technologies but because of its continuous attempts of negating the presence of mutual vulnerability between both countries. Acknowledgement of existence of mutual vulnerability would strengthen the deterrence equation in the region and help both countries to move forward from the action-reaction spiral and arms race. The notions such as the development of offensive or counterforce technology or exploiting the levels below the nuclear threshold to fight a war would not be fruitful in presence of nuclear weapons. As nuclear weapons are weapons to avert the war and not to fight the war.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems & The Annihilistic Future
The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones were introduced as a useful means to military, commercial, civilian and humanitarian activities but yet it ends up in news for none of its original purposes. Drones have rather resulted as a means of mass destruction.
The recent attacks on the technical area of the Jammu Air Force Station highlights the same. This was a first-of-its-kind terror attack on IAF station rather the Indian defence forces that shook the National Investigation Agency to National Security Guard. The initial probe into the attacks directs to involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based out of Pakistan, in the drone attacks as the aerial distance from the point of attack was just 14 kilometers. The attacks took place via an Electric multi-rotor type drone between 11:30 P.M to 1:30 A.M on 27th June, 2021.
The above incident clearly points out the security issues that lie ahead of India in face to the asymmetrical warfare as a result of drones. The Indian Government after looking at the misuse of drones during the first wave of the pandemic realised that its drone regulations were nowhere sufficient and accountable and hence passed the Unmmaned Aircraft Rules, 2021. These rules imposed stricter requirement for obtaining license and authorisations by remote pilots, operators, manufacturers or importers, training organisations and R&D organisations, thereby placing a significantly high burden on the applicants but at the same time they also permit UAS operations beyond visual sight of line and allowing student remote pilots to operate UAS.
But these rules still don’t have any control on the deadly use of drones because multi-rotor drones are very cheap and readily available and what makes them lethal is their ability to be easily detected, additionally the night time makes it even worse. Their small size grants them weak radar, thermal, and aural signatures, albeit varying based on the materials used in their construction.
The pertinent issue to be understood here is that these rules can never ensure safety and security as they cannot control the purpose for which these drones maybe used. There are certain factors that are to be accounted to actually be receptive to such imminent and dangerous threats. Firstly, significantly increasing urban encroachments in areas around defence establishments, particularly air bases, has proved to be fatal. If frontline bases like Jammu or be it any other base when surrounded by unbuffered civilization poses two pronged problems, first it acts as high chances of being a vantage point for possible attackers and second, it also hampering the defence mechanism to come to an action. It is not limited to drone concerns but there have been cases of increased bird activity that has once resulted in engine failure of an IAF Jaguar and has caused similar problems all along.
Another important factor is that of intelligence. The Anti-drone systems will take their time to be in place and it is still a distant call to ascertain how effective will these systems be, so in the time being it is pertinent to focus on intelligence which may include sales and transfers of commercial drone, or the hardware that is required to build a basic multi-rotor drone. These are not something extraordinary because it is even in news when Pakistani drones were being used to supply weapons and ammunition to terror networks on Indian soil. Also, the past experience in handling ISIS have shown the weightage of intelligence over defensive nets.
Intelligence is no doubt a crucial factor in anticipation of drone attacks but what cannot be done away with is the defense mechanism. Efficient counter-drone technology is the need of the hour. DRDO has developed such technology that could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. It is claimed that solution consists of a radar system that offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro drones when they are 4km away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection of micro drones up to 2 km and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 km and is equipped for both soft kills as well as hard kills.
Hence, the above analysis brings out the need of the application of an international instrument because the technology used in such drone attacks is at an evolving stage and the natural barriers still have an upper hand over be it either flying a pre-programmed path aided by satellite navigation and inertial measurement units (IMUs), or hand controlled to the point of release or impact, both methods have significant limitations as satellite and IMU navigation is prone to errors even when it comes to moderate flight ranges while manual control is subject to the human limitations such as line of sight, visibility as well as technical limitations such as distance estimation of the target, and weak radio links. An example of this could be the Turkish-made Kargu-2 model of killer drone can allegedly autonomously track and kill specific targets on the basis of facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the AI becomes better and better, these drone attacks become more and more terminal.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic is an eye opener for India as well as the world as none of the countries considered the possibility of bio-defenses or made a heavy investment in it even when there was awareness about lethal effects of genetic engineering. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to invest heavily in research and make the development of defensive technologies a national priority else the result of artificially intelligent killer drones would be much more catastrophic.
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