The month of July 2019 witnessed China assertive postures undermining the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling (PCA verdict of July 2016) which dismissed China’s claims of sovereignty on the South China Sea islands. It has forcefully reiterated its illegal ‘sovereign’ jurisdiction on South China Sea and the adjoining areas. On July 19,Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang has asked China to end violations of Vietnamese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and withdraw its survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 from Vietnam’s waters. China has carefully undermined the UNCLOS and has sent its survey ship in Vietnamese EEZ. The purpose was to earmark and assert its ‘self-declared rights’ on the waters closer to the other claimants. Earlier, this month China Coast Guard ship Haijing 35111 threatened Vietnamese vessels by maneuvering dangerously. The Vietnamese supply ships were providing logistical support to Japanese-owned oil rig- the Hakuryu-5 which was leased to Russian oil company Rosneft. The location of the incident was 370 km off Vietnam’s southeast coast in exploration Block 06.1. Rosneft, has leased Japanese rig to explore oil and gas in Vanguard Bank. It is also involved in Block 05.3/11, and has been developing the Nam Con Son Pipeline project in Vietnam.
The recent activity of oil and gas exploration undertaken by Rosneft started on May 12, 2019.Addressing Chinese threats, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had earlier stated that “As far as we know, the company has already made a statement that it works exactly in line with the obtained licenses”. A Russia jurist has also asked Vietnam to seek international support to protect its interests and rights in the South China Sea. In response to Kremlin statement, China’s foreign ministry admonished saying “any state, any organization, any company or individual cannot, without obtaining permission from Chinese authorities, carry out exploration activity in the maritime area under China’s sovereignty”. This is complete disregard for international law and norms governing international order at sea.
For China, Vietnam has always been a challenge because of its close ties with major powers such as the US, Russia, Japan and India. The group sail which was undertaken by India, Japan, Philippines and US in early May 2019 further increased the anxiety of China. During the group sail the four countries undertook activities such as underway replenishment, formation manoeuvering, and cross-deck flying. Tensions between China and Vietnam escalated when Haiyang Dizhi 8(Chinese survey ship) conducted a 12-day survey of waters escorted by the three Chinese coastguard vessels as China has tried to intimidate the international community, and the Vietnamese navy to accept its suzerainty in those waters. The incident has been deplored and criticized by the US National Security Adviser Michael Bolton. He said ‘China’s coercive behavior towards its Southeast Asian neighbors was counterproductive and threatened regional peace and stability’. US state department has called China’s recent incursions as “bullying behaviour”. Chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs Eliot L. Engel in a strong statement said, “I stand with Vietnam and our regional partners in condemning this aggression. The international community must continue to uphold the rules-based order and international law. I call on China to immediately withdraw any and all ships from the territorial waters of its neighbors, and to put an end to these illegal bullying tactics”.
Strategic experts have often referred to this strategy of China as the salami slicing approach but the recent encroachment and area access denial activity along with three months’ fisheries ban and using its naval ships to earmarked its self-proclaimed ‘sovereign’ maritime waters is dangerous for the freedom of navigation and the security of the maritime trade. This time China’s salami slicing has gone a step further and it is ‘Hammer and Tongs’ approach where hammer follows the tongs to meet its strategic objectives. The history of developments in South China Sea in the last decade has been dangerous and at times leading to minor skirmishes. This involves the stalking of the US ships in 2009 and China’s use of fishermen militia to meet its dual objectives of patrolling through civilian means and using force to impose its will. In 2011, Chinese patrol boats intruded 120km near the Vietnamese coast and snapped a submerged cable drawn by Binh Minh 02(the survey ship). Further, these assertive maneuvers have led to anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam in the past and also attacks on the Chinese manufacturing units. Earlier in 2019 China has used fishing boats militia to harass US ships in South China Sea.
From Vietnam’s perspective, the recent developments have aggravated tensions because of ASEAN’s inaction and US ambiguity about these islands. In the current context there are three possibilities which need to be undertaken by major dialogue partners such as India, the US, Japan and Korea along with Australia. Firstly, it should strengthen its dialogue with dialogue partners on specific issues of security to a certain extent, defining South China Sea as special case. Secondly, the non-traditional security issues have crippled ASEAN in terms of addressing core security issues and developing a politico –security community. Thirdly, ASEAN nations should recognize status quo related to the islands occupied by the claimants, and work towards unilaterally adopting the Code of Conduct in South China Sea.
The recent draft agreement on Code of Conduct (CoC) is irrelevant as China never takes any international or regional obligation in word and spirit. China, on its part, has enforced de facto sovereignty over Paracel Islands. The basic issue is the resources both energy and mineral resources in South China Sea, and given the fact that Blue economy is gaining traction the crisis might further aggravate. Chinese fishermen militia has been matched with Vietnamese fishing community are vying for the third richest fishing ground in the world. The problem so gets compounded with the inactivity of the multilateral organizations, confusion among the claimant states, and the possibility of China exploring the bilateral solution with countries such as Malaysia and Brunei.
The pertinent question which arises at this juncture is whether the international community and ASEAN would do anything to resolve the crisis or would wait for the Chinese diktats on the subject with occasional assurance of peace and tranquility in the strategic waters. The major players should undertake group sail on a regular basis and also surveillance sorties to create conditions and make China understand that any provocative measures would draw international attention and also global powers. As already countries such as France, UK and Canada have expressed concerns related to the developments in South China Sea. The other issue is whether these activities undertaken by China dilutes the provisions of Article 2(e)- ‘Renunciation of the threat or use of force’ of Treaty of Amity and Cooperation(TAC) which is a necessary prerequisite for engagement with ASEAN. China entered TAC with ASEAN in 2003. If it is so then the discussion should be started in the ASEAN and its associated organizations. Any dialogue partner which violates the provisions should be removed from the organization.
For Vietnam it is imperative to look for possibilities to protect its interest in the EEZ and not only statements in Non-Aligned Movement but the issue must be raised at UN also. The questions are that whenever it comes to implementing the UNCLOS related to P-5 countries and the provisions thereof, the international community looks the other way. Vietnam also should seek attention of other dialogue partners and brief the envoys of the dialogue partners on this. Countries like India, Japan, the US and Australia would have to activate Quad to take proactive and responsible approach. Otherwise not only freedom of navigation but also over flight would be hampered in a ‘hammer and tongs’ way. China must also not forget that coaxing and coercive maneuvers have at times forced smaller countries to engage and invite big players and lease those bases.
Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century
For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.
In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.
Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.
On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.
In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;
“I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.
As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.
For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;
“For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.
Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.
The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.
 Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.
Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it
Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.
However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.
To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding.
To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it. Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”
Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.
Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.
Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.
Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.
Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.
Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.
Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.
For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy. This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not. If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention. This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts. One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well.
Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding. Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.
Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.
A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.
Authentic Justice Thus Everlasting Peace: Because We Are One
The ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a good thing. We thank God for it. Be it between two individuals or institutions or nations or the internal colonial and colonized, war does not do anything except cause more immediate or future mass misery and human destruction. Our continued memories of our interpersonal and international and internal colonial and civil wars and the memorials we erect to remember them recall and record wounds and pains we never get over.
So it becomes a bothersome puzzle as to why we human beings still just don’t get that war like oppression leads to nowhere except to more human devastation. And we should have learned by now but have not that peacemaking like ceasefires mean nothing without justice.
It is the reason why I constantly find myself correcting those who stress Peace and Justice.No Justice No Peace is more than a cliche.It is real politic emotionally, economically, socially, and spiritually.
Our American inner cities like those in every continent where culturally different and similar people live cramped impoverished lives and nations and colonial enclaves with such unequal wealth remind us of their continued explosive potentialities when peace is once again declared but with no justice.Everyone deserves a decent quality of life which not only includes material necessities but more importantly emotional and spiritual freedoms and other liberations.Not just the victors who conquer and rule and not just the rich and otherwise privileged.
And until such justices are assured to everyone peacemaking is merely a bandaid on cancerous societal or International conflictual soars which come to only benefit those who profit from wars which are bound to come around again when there is no justice and thus peace such as family destroying divorce lawyers, blood hungry media to sell more subscriptions , arms dealers to sell more murderous technologies, politicians needing votes so start and prolong wars, and military men and women seeking promotion while practicing their killing capacities.
So if those of us who devoutly practice our faiths or our golden moral principles, let us say always and pray and advocate justice and peace always as a vital public good and do justice then lasting peace in our personal lives and insist that national leaders, our own and others do the same in their conduct of international affairs and affairs with those who are stateless in this global world.
All such pleading is essential since we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God who created all of us in God’s image as one humanity out of everlasting divine love for all of us so we should love each other as God loves all of us leading to desiring justice and thus lasting peace for each and every one of us.
This is difficult for those in international affairs to understand who take more conventional secular approaches to historical and contemporary justice and peace challenges as if our universal spiritual connectivennes ( not to be confused with the vast diversity of organized religions)as human beings which makes us all brothers and sisters has no relevance. But if we are going to find true enduring peace we have no alternative but to turn our backs on increasingly useless secular methods which go either way, stressing peace then justice or justice then peace and understand how much we must begin to explore and implement approaches which we look at each other as spiritually connected brothers and sisters in which it is the expectation that peace only comes and lasts when through the equal enjoyment of justices for every human being, we restore our universal kindred rooted in the everlasting love of God and thus for each other, no matter the different ways in which we define God or positive moral principles which originate in understandings that we human beings in all our diversities are one and thus brothers and sisters.
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