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Japan’s Security Environment in Asia Pacific: A Tragic or Misery

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Authors: Mehtab Ali Bhatti and Kainat Akram*

The security threats can be to a great extent partitioned into two groups; traditional and non-traditional security threats. One’s focus would mainly be on the traditional security challenges of Japan. Tokyo deliberately perplexed the world. It emerged as non-western power but no one could expect about its dexterity, and it was serious trouble to Western and Asian powers because they were dependent on its impressive economy. Tokyo’s trade surpluses were, $44 billion in 1984, $56 billion in 1985 and $93 billion in 1986, which shows Japanese rulers’ strategies, growing technology, education system, and people’s countless struggle towards their homeland.[1]But during WWII, they lost their formidable economy as well as some of their major cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Aftermath, Japan experienced a tremendous financial crisis like debt. Ironically, Japan is one of the biggest debtor countries with the highest debt to GDP ratio of 222.2% in the world[2], which is a major threat for Japanese people.

Currently, Japan’s security environment is getting significantly severer with the sensational move in the global force balance, the development of new threats, for example, psychological oppression and cyberattacks, and the serious security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. Such threats effectively cross-national borders. In the Asia Pacific region, regardless of the centralization of countries that have enormous scope military ability including atomic weapons states, regional collaboration structures on security are not adequately regulated. North Korea’s proceeded with the advancement of atomic weapons and ballistic rocket programs just as its provocative conduct is compromising for Tokyo. China’s headway of its military capacity without straightforwardness and its further exercises in the ocean and air space are a danger for Tokyo. In addition, move in the global force parity and fast advancement of mechanical development, multiplication of weapons of mass annihilation, and the rise of threats that cross national borders, remembering international psychological oppression and dangers for the ocean, space, and cyberspace are additionally unavoidable threats to Japan’s security. In addition, issues identified with “human security,”[3] including destitution and advancement difficulties, and developing dangers to the global economy.

In this fast-moving world and cut-throat political competition era, the political dynamics of Asia Pacific region is changing with changing strategic environment, due to the geo-strategic consolidation among different countries, the focus of the entire world is tilted towards China’s owing to rapid development in terms of economic, political and military means. The ongoing protracted South-China Sea conflict of China with many ASEAN countries who are claimant of the cited territory and aggressive posture of nuclear power North Korea has made the region more prone to conflicts as well as an arms race in the region has frayed nerves, further, escalated the tensions. In this tense environment, Japan has been facing a potential threat from the opposite bloc to its very sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to Tokyo, following countries have posed an aggressive posture in the Asia-pacific, which is worrisome for Japan:

China

China-Japan Relations

In the Asia-Pacific region tensions are being seen worrisome as China is becoming more energetic about its claims over the South China Sea, its tactical and evident actions have spotted other surrounding countries and external interested countries like the United States. China and Japan both have flourished and innate abhorrence since 19th century and America is owing more hatred and tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.[4]It might be called upon that there is nothing invaluable in the East Asia-Pacific but historically it is all about pride and honor, and serious issue of Senkaku Island for Japan. And their tensions ousted from the first Sino Japanese war, then islands were given to Taiwan, and due to victory in WWII, these islands were recovered by China after surrendering of Japan. The aftermath of a new threat established from communist country China; US and Japan signed an agreement of San Francisco Peace Conference by allowing Japan to patrol in the island regions, and America provided types of equipment and economically supported Japan to counter rising power China in the Asia Pacific region and tensions rampantly encouraging until today.

In the 21st century, the ascent of Asia has drawn the consideration of the United States to concentrate particularly on the Asia-Pacific region. Because of its geostrategic significance and going to be an economic hub of the world, the development of Asia can be identified with the expanding economic exercises in which rising forces China, India, and Indonesia are assuming their crucial role. The major economic activities happen in the Asia Pacific, for instance, the main trade routes pass through the Asia Pacific, and the Indian Ocean where strait of malacca is a gateway to major economies like China, Japan, and South Korea. Particularly, in the Asia Pacific region, the US has its economic, strategic, and security interests. It includes the economic network all through the region, support of peace and soundness, and making sure about its allies particularly Japan and South Korea, and ensuring the claimants of the South China Sea to resolve their issues peacefully.

China’s Response towards American Pivot and Indo-Pacific Strategy

China’s rise as a great power in this changing dynamics of world politics does not lag behind and it is important to understand Sino-US relations in the purview of America’s past Asia Pivot strategy[5] and Trump’s Indo-pacific strategy.[6]There are multiple significant events by which it can be speculated that People’s Republic of China (PRC) is emerging as a great player, for instance, it has resisted western intervention three times in collaboration with Russia over the Syrian civil war in the Middle East; it also bring-up with the idea of making BRICS and establishing AIIB which is considered as the counterweight to America’s World Bank; through SCO, China has also influenced her role in the international politics; most significantly, it has come up with a ‘Belt and Road initiative’’ with CPEC which shows China’s soft power in the world. However, with this dynamic strategic architecture in the Asia Pacific, two contours are important – what made the US come up with a rebalancing strategy and how China responds to it.

According to official reports, China has responded to the Indo-Pacific policy of America in two levels. Firstly, Chinese authorities have firmly denounced this US expressed policy and that they are mindful that US diplomatic moves would bolster its allies regarding the sea and territorial debates with China. Secondly, Chinese non-official media has harshly castigated US rebalancing strategy towards Asia. Some view this strategy as Cold-war like containment of China which was based solely against China because China’s ascent is representing a possible danger to America’s authority and its allies. “China in countering Pivot’s response has come up with ‘Marching West’ strategy, which aims at focusing China’s diplomatic and economic relations with the Eurasian countries,” according to Aaron Jed Rabena.[7] She is also of the view that China’s ascent is representing a likely threat to America’s hegemony.

Moreover, China’s reaction to the Asia-Pivot policy in past and current procedure of Trump can be shown by means of diplomatic and economic activities, for example, Belt and Road activity, Asian framework venture bank and reinforcing respective relations. The OBOR activity of China will fill two needs. Right off the bat, it will merge China’s delicate power, and besides, enhance economic collaboration with in excess of 60 nations. The Chinese reaction and its military modernization have made a serious mix and unsafe circumstance to the US Indo-Pacific technique with pervasive interests in the Asia-Pacific region. In this universe of complex association, war is certifiably not an attainable choice. America will never do battle with China since China is the second the biggest exchanging accomplice of America. Additionally, the Chinese reaction to this US procedure has been delicate as is obvious from March West methodology, OBOR, and AIIB activities. These steps are the projection of Chinese Soft power response to Obama’s rebalancing and Trump’s Indo-pacific strategy towards Asia.

North Korea

Rivalry is not Old-fashioned

Korean Peninsula has been remained a play chess match for foreign powers like Japan, the US, Soviet Union, and China—in 1910 Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Japanese empire but after the demise of Japan in 1945 and WWII, Korean Peninsula was partitioned into two South and North. Whereas, the North was occupied by the Soviet Union and the South was occupied by the United States. In 1948, re-unification negotiations were failed and two governments were stimulated; the Socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North and the Capitalist Republic of Korea (RK) in the South. In addition, the Korean War occurred in 1950’s, initiated by North Korea for invasion and the ceasefire occurred but peace treaty was not endorsed.[8]

In the contemporary era, the security environment of North Korea is very complex and instrumental. North Korea has one of the world’s biggest regular military powers, which, joined with its rocket and atomic tests. North Korea spends almost a fourth of its total national output (GDP) on its military, as indicated by U.S. State Department gauges.[9] Its brinkmanship will keep on testing regional and international associations planned for protecting stability and security.

However, North Korea has remained a part of Communist bloc, where Russia and China have been the back supporters. In the realist paradigm, ‘enemy of an enemy is friend,’ likely in this case, Russia supports North Korea and the US supports South Korea economically, politically, and militarily. Therefore, in the North Korean nuclearization, the role of China and Russia is very evident. On the other hand, in the economic advancement of South Korea, the American role is not far-seeing as evident.

North Korean Nuclearization a Dwelling Threat for Japan

North Korea’s quest for atomic weapons is a sensible procedure given that the system’s greatest security probability from international intercession. Additionally, for the North Korean system, atomic weapons have three strategic capacities, and with everyone, the US is directly in the middle. After that, they fill in as impediments; also, an instrument of international strategy; and thirdly, they are an instrument of residential legislative issues. The atomic weapons have given influence and a negotiating concession diplomatically associating with all the more impressive and increasingly effective on-screen characters, similar to the US and its partner South Korea and Japan.

North Korea’s nuclear missile testing has raised tensions in the Asia-Pacific region and created a global threat. It is an imminent threat to Japan as an ally of the US. Since 2006 North Korea has conducted 6 nuclear ballistic missile tests and one of them flew over Japan in 2017.[10]Due to nuclear tests, 15 members have voted against North Korea to the Security Council with US-drafted resolution, and new sanctions of North Korea’s textile exports have been alleged. In the reaction, North Korea had shown the backing of veto powers like China and Russia and aggressively indicated to devastate the US, Japan, and South Korea.

According to South Korean President Moon, they were against nuclear weapons in their state and they had withdrawn their nuclear weapons in the 1990s, “Nuclear weapons could not prolong the peace in the region,” said Moon, “They have provided $8 million through the United Nations to North Korean citizens for women pregnancy and to aid the poor and infants.[11]In the words of war, North Korea called South Korea as “traitors and dogs” of America and “dancing tune” to Japan and alleged that the US has troops in South Korea to destroy the North and its Asia- Pacific allies. Because of nuclear capability and conflict of the 1950s, in which America and South Korea were allied and had an aim to force North Korea for peace treaty but it rejected. North Korea continued to develop a ballistic missile program (Hwasong-14 with the range of 10,000 and Hwasong-15 with the range of 13,000 KM) which has been an impendent threat to Japan, South Korea as well as America. By measuring, America has put North Korea at the top list of terrorism promoter and designed unravished sanctions on North Korea.

De-nuclearization Fiasco

Tokyo is currently carefully watching the process of dialogue moving toward a U.S.- North Korea exchange and is worried that dealings on denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula may reject Japan’s unsafe perspectives. A senior authority of the Japan Ministry of Defence concerning the highest point among Trump and Kim Jong-un of 2018 stated, “We ought not to have an idealistic view that North Korea will relinquish the atomic weapons which it has at long last obtained.”[12] Therefore, to adapt to the North Korea emergency, Abe regularly underscores the significance of the U.S.- Japan partnership. There is no uncertainty that security ties among Japan and the U.S. have fortified further under the Abe administration.

Other Global Threats to Japan

According to the realist school of thought in international relations, global world order is anarchic, and power centric; its effects are, no trust in Anarchy, constant competition for power, zero-sum game, and relative gains. Further two types, 1. Defensive realism (states are security maximizers and seek survival, status quo, and states are not inherently aggressive) and 2. Offensive realism (States are power maximizers, in the absence of complete hegemony states act offensively and use its power as any can i.e. the US invasion of Iraq 2003).

The rapid progress of technology and shift in the global power is a major threat for all states but Japan has regular emerging threats like in the Asia-Pacific region. The proliferation of conventional and unconventional weapons is increasing which indicates threats at large, besides this, global terrorism, maritime risks, and cyberspace are disparate challenges to Japan. Japan is actively seeking an active role of self-defence and peacekeeping and increasing its technology to combat in the Korean Peninsula and to counter China’s growing power in the Asia-Pacific as well as in the World. State sovereignty is absolute, particularly which showed Japan through its heavy Defence budget and its measures taken in the Senkaku island, recently fiscal defence budget in 2016-17 was nearly $42 billion.[13]It was a non-western state which defeated Russia and attacked the US and its economy was second largest in the world. No doubt, Japan is the most industrialized and thick technological country that emerged again after World War II.  

Concluding Remarks

The dynamics of the international geostrategic environment in which the world politics is transforming from unipolarity to multipolarity with China emerging as a great power due to its military modernization, advanced technology, and growing economy and commercial connectivity in the entire Asia, which is alarming for the US but regionally it is an irked threat for American allies particularly Japan and South Korea.

By witnessing China as emerging power, American Asia pivot/rebalancing strategy and Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy towards Asia in order to counter the growing influence of China. America and its allies should not perceive Chinese rise in terms of military and economy as a threat to world peace and aggressor because PRC has always been peaceful in dealing the problems of the world and the norms of non-interference are prevailing but no compromise on territorial claims—have been immersed in the Chinese foreign policy.

The United States’ concern over denuclearization of North Korean nuclear assets is not acceptable to Kim’s regime due to the prestige and status quo of the state but has vague threats from the US forces in South Korea. Even after the President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in 2018, the US ally Japan is claiming that North Korean regime poses a genuine and inescapable danger to their security regardless of bringing down of regional pressures following the summit.

China has reacted to America through the procedure of ‘Looking West and Marching West’. A few researchers are of the view that the opposition between two significant forces depicts another virus war, however, I differ that since China won’t utilize its military alternative, China wants to grow economically and it wants to have an influence on the world through soft power. In a nutshell, I would say that the US must integrate with China rather than to contain it and appreciate its emergence as a responsible stakeholder.

Nonetheless, Japan’s reaction should comprise of two distinct methodologies: the anticipation of decay and the improvement of its security environment the essential reaction will be the discouragement of heightening through the improvement of Japan’s safeguard capacity and the upgrade of the Japan-US collusion. It is additionally significant for Japan to acquire and fortify international comprehension and backing for its position through protection discretion remembering that for multilateral exchanges. International help can upgrade Japan’s situation in managing the difficulties, and yet, the effect would stay roundabout. Japan can’t depend on unrealistic reasoning and ought to investigate other options too.

* Kainat Akram did Bachelor of Arts from Government College University Faisalabad. She also did Masters in Science (M.Sc) in Gender and Women Studies from Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad.


[1] Robert C. Christopher, “Don`t Blame The Japanese,” The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 19, 1986 (https://www.nytimes.com/1986/10/19/magazine/don-t-blame-the-japanese.html), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[2]H. Plecher, “Japan: National debt from 2014 to 2024,” Statista, May 6, 2020 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/270121/national-debt-of-japan/), accessed on July 18, 2020.

[3] Catia Gregoratti, “Human Security,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dec. 14, 2018 (https://www.britannica.com/topic/human-security), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[4] Kerry Brown, “The Most Dangerous Problem in Asia: China-Japan Relations,” The Diplomat, Aug. 31, 2016 (https://thediplomat.com/2016/08/the-most-dangerous-problem-in-asia-china-japan-relations/), accessed on July 19, 2020.

[5] Matt Schiavenza, “What Exactly Does It Mean That the U.S. Is Pivoting to Asia?” The Atlantic, April 15, 2013 (https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/04/what-exactly-does-it-mean-that-the-us-is-pivoting-to-asia/274936/), accessed on July 18, 2020.

[6] Sun Chenghao, “What is the prospect of the U.S. Indo- Pacific strategy?” News CGTN, Nov. 07, 2019 (https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-11-07/What-is-the-prospect-of-the-U-S-Indo-Pacific-strategy–LqCA9M3YKA/index.html), accessed on July 18, 2020.

[7] Niklas Swanstrom and Par Nyren, “China’s March West: Pitfalls and Chalenges in Greater Central Asia,” Institute for Security & Development Policy, Jan. 10, 2017 (https://www.isdp.eu/publication/chinas-pitfalls-challenges-gca/), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[8] Liam Stack, “Korean War, a ‘Forgotten’ Conflict That Shaped the Modern World,” The New York Times, Jan. 02, 2018 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/world/asia/korean-war-history.html), accessed on July 21, 2020.

[9] Eleanor Albert, “North Korea’s Military Capabilities,” Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 20, 2019(https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-koreas-military-capabilities), accessed on July 17, 2020.

[10] David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Han, “North Korean Nuclear Test Drawn U.S. Warning of ‘Massive Military Response,’ The New York Times, Sept. 02, 2017 (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/world/asia/north-korea-tremor-possible-6th-nuclear-test.html), accessed on July 19, 2020.

[11] Choe Sang-Hun, “Kims Says He’d End North Korea Nuclear Pursuit for U.S. Truce,” The New York Times, April 29, 2018 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/29/world/asia/north-korea-trump-nuclear.html), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[12] Koji Sonoda, ”Japan’s Security Alliance Dilemma,” The Diplomat, March 24, 2018 (https://thediplomat.com/2018/03/japans-security-alliance-dilemma/), accessed on July 21, 2020.

[13] Japan-Defence Budget, Global Security.org, 2015 (https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/japan/budget.htm), accessed on July 21, 2020.

Mehtab Ali Bhatti is pursuing degree of strategic studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His major areas of interest include political science, international affairs and security studies.

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Foreign fighters a ‘serious crisis’ in Libya

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The 20,000 foreign fighters now in Libya represent “a serious crisis” and “a shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty”, UN Acting Special Representative Stephanie Williams said on Wednesday, during the latest meeting under the country’s political dialogue forum. 

Seventy-five people from across the social and political spectrum of Libyan society are taking part in the forum, aimed at establishing a transitional body that will govern the country in the lead-up to elections next year.  

“You may believe that these foreigners are here as your guests, but they are now occupying your house.  This is a blatant violation of the arms embargo”, said Ms. Williams, who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). 

“They are pouring weapons into your country, a country which does not need more weapons. They are not in Libya for your interests, they are in Libya for their interests. Dirou balkom (take care). You have now a serious crisis with regard to the foreign presence in your country.” 

Chaos, ceasefire and dialogue 

Following the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya descended into chaos, resulting in the country being divided between two rival administrations: the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the west, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), located in the east. 

The sides agreed a ceasefire in October in Geneva, after mediation led by Ms. Williams. Provisions included the withdrawal of all military units and armed groups from the frontlines, and the departure of mercenaries and foreign fighters from the country.   

The ceasefire paved the way for the start of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), with a first round of talks held in Tunis from 7- 15 November.  The outcome was a roadmap to elections on 24 December 2021:  the 70th anniversary of Libya’s independence. 

Women participants also issued a statement outlining a series of principles and recommendations for improving women’s participation in the political process and governance.  

The second round of talks began last week, with Wednesday marking the third virtual meeting of the parties.  

Corruption, misgovernance and ‘political tourism’ 

Ms. Williams highlighted ongoing challenges in Libya, pointing out that some 1.3 million citizens are expected to need humanitarian assistance in January. 

She also reminded participants of the country’s “terrible” electricity crisis, stating “I am not pointing fingers.  This is a crisis in the west and in the east. You have a crisis of corruption. You have a misgovernance crisis, and now you have only 13 of 27 powerplants that are functioning.” 

Although around $1 billion is needed immediately to avert a complete collapse of the electrical grid, she said “this is very difficult now because of the divisions in the institutions, and because of the epidemic of corruption and this kleptocratic class that is determined to remain in power.” 

Meanwhile, human rights abuses are a daily reality nationwide, with reports of kidnapping, arbitrary detentions and killings, and estimates indicate that there are nearly 94,000 cases of COVID-19, though the actual number could be higher. 

“While there is a lot of political tourism going to different countries and capitals, the average Libyans are suffering, and the indications of improvement for their situation are not there,” said Ms. Williams. 

‘Time is not on your side’ 

For the UN envoy, the LPDF is the best way for Libya to move forward.  Underscoring that there is “a direct cost for inaction and obstruction”, she warned participants that the clock is ticking. 

“I know that there are many who think that this whole dialogue is just about sharing power, but it is really about sharing responsibility for future generations”, she said. 

“This is my ask of you as we have the discussions today in going forward, because, and I will say it again, time is not on your side.”

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The Need to Reorient New Delhi in the Indo-Pacific

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Beijing’s overt expansionism in South Asia and the South China Sea (SCS) continues to threaten India’s maritime security. The rise of China as an Asian military and global economic power has also disrupted the inherent security and multilateralism of the Indo-Pacific region (IPR).

In response, New Delhi along with others has adopted the concept of the Indo-Pacific. However, over the last decade New Delhi’s orientation in the IPR has been particularly “Pacific-oriented”, resulting in a less than comprehensive approach to India’s maritime security priorities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s Strategic Goals in the Indo-Pacific

China’s so-called “peaceful rise” has been betrayed by Beijing’s growing territorial designs in South Asia and the SCS; the ongoing buildup along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and China’s militarised outposts in the SCS are evidence to this. These designs have also been operationalised through economic measures under its predatory Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the “silk road” is a challenge to India’s maritime security.

India’s strategic competition with China has provoked the expansion of national material capacity and foreign policy measures. These are aimed at developing and preserving collective regional security and multilateralism, in India’s primary and secondary interest areas.

However, over the years, New Delhi’s adoption of the IPR concept has witnessed a disproportionate emphasis on the eastern sub-region of the Indian Ocean (EIO) in terms of its maritime security priorities, resulting in a Pacific-oriented approach. A number of factors have brought about such an orientation.

A Pacific-Oriented Approach and the EIO

First, India’s strategic advantage along the “Indo-Pacific straits”. The “Malacca dilemma” gives New Delhi an edge over China’s energy supply-lines, and regional trade from the IOR to the western Pacific Ocean. This advantage is furthered by the development of material capacities, most significant of which has been the establishment of India’s first integrated command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Command’s (ANC) surveillance and kinetic capabilities not only improves India’s own security status, but also signals its contribution in preserving collective regional security in the EIO, for example, through the India-Australia-Japan-US Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), or Quad.

Second, the origins of the IPR concept in the now famous “confluence of the seas” speech delivered by PM Shinzo Abe to the Indian Parliament in 2007. The  mention of,  “[a] “broader Asia” that broke away geographical boundaries…”, or Southeast Asia, highlighted the political locus of the IPR’s confrontation with an “assertive China”. The continued militarisation of the SCS, growing tensions in East Asia, and the US-China strategic competition, helps perpetuate Southeast Asia’s prominence in the IPR discourse.

Third, New Delhi’s continuation of the “Look East” policy as the “Act East” policy (AEP)  in 2014. Building on historical ties with Southeast Asia, New Delhi placed ASEAN at the core of the AEP. ASEAN is also considered “central to India’s footprint in East Asia”. These foreign policy measures, focused on developing resilient trans-regional connectivity and supply-chains, flow past the EIO, from the Andaman Sea, through the Malacca strait, to Southeast Asia and beyond.

Fourth, and finally, India’s growing importance in the US-China strategic competition. China’s economic influence in Southeast Asia, along with its large military capabilities, poses a threat to the US’s position as an influential extra-regional power. The recently ratified Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has been the latest in a list of disruptions to the US’s predominance in the IPR. 

As India’s maritime goals continue to converge with that of the US and its regional allies – Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Korea – New Delhi’s interests will stretch further into the Pacific theatre, to the SCS, East China Sea and Western Pacific. In fact, some suggest that the idea of a military command on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was in fact, first discussed by President Bill Clinton and PM P.V Narashima Rao as a deterrent against China in 1995.

Furthermore, the US defines the IPR as, “…the region which stretches from the west coast of India to the western shores of the United States…”, thereby excluding the WIOR from its strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific theatre. This explains why the sub-region is understated in India’s IPR discourse. 

While Indian Navy (IN) manoeuvres in the region have been generally limited to the IOR, the recent Galwan Valley clash saw an IN warship deployed to the SCS; coincidentally, during an ongoing US naval exercise in the area. There is also a growing call for the expansion of IN presence to the Western Pacific, beyond its mission-based deployments.

Reorienting New Delhi Towards the WIOR

This Pacific-orientation has resulted in the omission of the western sub-region of the Indian Ocean Region (WIOR) from India’s strategic approach to the IPR. The use of the term “Indo-Pacific straits” for those between the EIO and Southeast Asia, already exclude the sub-region from India’s strategic approach to the IPR.

A comprehensive approach to the IOR should obviously entail an emphasis on India’s maritime security priorities in both sub-regions of the IOR.

This in turn will allow New Delhi to realise its interests in the larger Indo-Pacific theatre.

The WIOR is physically a much larger arena, with different regional and extra-regional actors. However, it is a significant arena within the IPR for much of the same reasons as the EIO

The main obstacle of the WIOR, when placed within the IPR concept is that India’s approach to the region diverges greatly from its current IPR partners. Differing priorities, conflicting interests and historical contexts, for example with regards to Pakistan and Iran, have generally muted the region.

The decision to hold the second phase of the 2020 Malabar Exercise in the Arabian Sea is a welcome move in reinforcing the sub-region in India’s IPR approach. New Delhi’s reception of the recently signed Maldives-US defence agreement is also a sign of India’s slow reorientation to the WIOR.

India’s position in the WIOR gives it a number of strategic advantages. The Indian peninsula along with the Lakshadweep Islands and Laccadive Sea, offers New Delhi a unique edge in protecting and overseeing much of the world’s goods trade from the Atlantic Ocean, and energy supplies from West Asia to the Pacific Oceans. The development of material capacities in this arena will act as a springboard for the further enhancement of collective regional security.

The growing participation of extra-regional actors in the WIOR, such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the EU, signals to New Delhi the need to include the region in its IPR approach. Pursuing mutually beneficial security and economic arrangements with actors besides its existing IPR partners will also help circumventing current contrasts in maritime priorities and geostrategic interests.

More importantly, China’s growing military and economic presence in the Arabian Sea, through the “string of pearls” and the “maritime silk road”, remains a threat to India’s traditional ties to, and its status as a net-security provider in the WIOR. The Chabahar Port in the Balochistan-Sistan province in Iran is one such economic interest that has seen much controversy; the recent exclusion of India from the Zahedan railway project, and the subsequent agreement of a $400 billion strategic partnership between China and Iran.

The WIOR is also of concern to India due to extant interests, such as maintaining a strategic advantage vis-a-vis Pakistan, enhancing trade with Afghanistan and East Africa, piracy/terrrorism in the Arabian Sea, and energy supplies from the Middle East.

Conclusion

To secure India’s maritime priorities in the IOR, but also consolidate its vision for the IPR, New Delhi needs to reorient itself, determine its strategic advantages in the WIOR, and develop national capacity and foreign policy measures equivalent to those in the EIO.

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On the Universality of the “Logic of Strategy” and Beyond

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Just like several other scholars, military strategist Edward Luttwak argues that “the universal logic of strategy applies in perfect equality to every culture in every age”.[i] This implies that there is indeed one logic inherent to strategic thought, which, according to Luttwak, “cannot be circumvented […] and must be obeyed”.[ii]Mahnken further underpins the idea of the universality of the logic of strategy with the argument that war is a human activity and human nature has not changed throughout time.[iii]When considering Colin Gray stating that “there is an essential unity to all strategic experience in all periods of history because nothing vital to the nature and function of war and strategy changes”, it seems rather natural to accept a certain inevitability of strategic conclusions.[iv]

It is therefore necessary to pose the question which implications the existence of a universal logic of strategy might entail. If such a universally valid logic is assumed to exist, those who understand – or rather master – it best and manage to uncover its underlying cognitive mechanisms will be the most successful actors within the international system as they will be more able to foresee and therefore counter the strategies of possible opponents.

Additionally, to investigate the notion of a logic of strategy is particularly relevant considering the prospect of future wars. If there is a logic of strategy, which is further universally valid, then neither the scenario of a militarized outer space, nor the invention of highly lethal, insuperable biological weapons or the increasing development of and reliance on artificial intelligence will have any substantial, altering effect on it. This thought is congruent with Colin Gray, who claims that it would be a major fallacy to fall prey to the assumption that the invention of ever more modern weapon systems might change the presumed continuity inherent to strategy.[v] In this respect, it must also be emphasized that a certain trust in a universally valid logic of strategy must be handled carefully and must not confine strategic thinking. Hence, the notion of a logic of strategy hints towards the very practice of strategy.[vi]

The term “strategy” itself evolved over time and certainly captured a different meaning before World War One than it does today. This caesura was introduced by Freedman, who argues that this experience led to a widening of the concept “strategy” and to several attempts of redefinition, thus diverging from earlier notions of the concept as provided by von Clausewitz and others.[vii] However, Whetham points out that the notion of strategy and its inherent logic already permeated pre-modern eras, even if it was not yet considered or referred to as such by the respective protagonists.[viii]Approaching the term from a contemporary perspective, Gray very prominently defines strategy as “the bridge that relates military power to political purpose”.[ix]Angstrom and Widen engage with the term similarly when they write that strategy must be viewed as a rationalist process that reconciles “the political aims of war and the military aims in war”.[x] The notion of strategy can therefore be boiled down to the combination of means, ways and aims.

The term “logic” shall in this essay be understood as a rational process of reasoning that is based on various premises and finally leads to the acceptance of a valid conclusion.[xi]Considering that the sub-discipline of strategic studies was traditionally occupied with the question whether and to what extent strategic action is subject to historical, economic, social and technological regularities and patterns – thus whether certain premises indeed necessarily lead to specific strategic conclusions – the assumption of a specific “logic of strategy” does not seem far-fetched. Therefore, this essay argues that indeed a universally valid logic inherent to strategy can be identified, having overcome the constraints of time and space. However, this logic is not the only one. Strategy further operates along the lines of a time- and space-bound, actor-specific logic, which is why strategy must be perceived through a multidimensional lens – and which finally makes strategy so difficult.

On the logic of strategy

When approaching the notion of a logic of strategy, it is necessary to emphasize two preconditions. Firstly, the utility of the use of military force as an important tool of statecraft must be acknowledged.[xii] Secondly, one has to consider the general overarching perception of international politics that widely underlies the field of strategic studies, namely the notion of an anarchic self-help system with independent states at its center, which are all armed to a certain extent and therefore find themselves in security dilemmas.[xiii] Within this framework we will now consider what might constitute the logic of strategy.

When elaborating on the question whether there exist “guidelines” that inform strategic thinking, Gaddis concludes that the fact that strategists do not always have to start from square one increases the likeliness of a certain logic of strategy.[xiv] According to Angstrom and Wilden, the logic of strategy unfolds as its design necessarily bases on three core pillars.[xv]Firstly, military and political ends are perceived as two distinct aspects that need to be put into accordance, the application of military means serving the political ends. Moreover, the actor being concerned with strategy does not have unlimited resources at his/her disposal. Therefore, the aspect of the scarcity of resources is to be viewed as a cornerstone or fixed determinant of the underlying logic of strategy. This is a crucial factor because, as Gray points out, examples like Imperial France, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union all demonstrate that the pursuit of political ends beyond one’s means is bound to fail.[xvi]Thirdly, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that the logic of strategy builds on the confrontation of opposing wills, which accounts for strategy’s interactive and consequently dynamic nature.[xvii] This component might be captured best by Beaufre, who approaches strategy as “the art of the dialectic of two opposing wills using force to resolve their dispute”.[xviii] It is crucial to highlight that the “opposing will” belongs to an intelligent, capable opponent. These three elements that define the logic of strategy are further interlinked, leading to repercussions among them.

As strategy describes the use of military means for the achievement of political ends, several authors have thus attempted to categorize the possible ways to use force. For instance, Robert Art distinguishes four functions of the use of force: defense, deterrence, compellence and swaggering.[xix] Why is this categorization important when reflecting on the logic of strategy? This is because the possible ways to use force (independently of which form the specific “force” takes) are not time-bound. When for example thinking of deterrence, one might be tempted to assume that this specific way to use force is inextricably linked to the deterrence function of nuclear arms in combination with the principle of mutually assured destruction (MAD). However, as Lonsdale vividly illustrates, Alexander the Great already mastered the interplay of military power and psychological effects and made use of coercion and deterrence in order to expand and sustain the newly shaping borders of his empire.[xx] This demonstrates that the logic of strategy operates on the basis of a certain toolkit of ways to use force, which have persisted over time.

Another aspect which could be interpreted as part of a universal logic of strategy might be its inherent paradoxicality. This feature is above all emphasized by Edward Luttwak, who postulates that the whole strategic sphere is permeated with a paradoxical logic deviating from day-to-day life’s ordinary “linear” logic.[xxi] He underpins this notion by referring to the proverb “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, the idea of nuclear deterrence (thus the interpretation of one’s readiness to attack retaliatory as genuinely peaceful intent) or by providing specific examples.[xxii] In this sense he draws attention to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and claims that the Japanese were able to create a momentum of surprise only by neglecting crucial preparations.[xxiii] This means that within the realm of strategy, Luttwak’s paradoxical logic finds thorough application as the straightforward “linear” logic is viewed rather predictable and is therefore more likely to be punished.

In sum, the aspects outlined above could be perceived as being universally valid, throughout time and space. However, as will be argued, there is more to the logic of strategy that must be considered.

Going Beyond Strategy’s Universal Logic

In the following, the attempt should be undertaken to challenge the notion that there is indeed only a logic of strategy. One could firstly argue that strategy, bridging between military means and political objectives, is not only grounded in the specific universal logic as outlined before but that strategy is also always a choice among several available options. Then the question follows, if all options available would theoretically all be equally feasible, require the same resources and are similar in terms of effectiveness, which strategy would be adopted? One could argue that this depends on the involved actors, which, even if acting under the premise of rationality, are rooted in their specific historical, social and political contexts.

Strategy is therefore clearly not designed within a vacuum. The contents of strategy do not only derive from what was described above as composing the universally valid logic of strategy. If we return to the definition of “logic”, the term was understood as a process of thought, which leads from several given premises to a valid conclusion under the condition of rationality. Therefore, also the given time- and space-bound circumstances under which a certain strategy is formulated could be considered as forming their own logic. Angstrom and Widen summarize these circumstances as strategic context, which unfolds along the lines of six dimensions of politics (without claiming to be exhaustive): geography, history, ideology, economy, technology and the political system.[xxiv] Instead of treating them as mere contextual factors, it is important to consider the respective as constituting their own logic, along which strategy is aligned. However, Angstrom and Widen emphasize that these actor-specific factors only bear limited explanatory power and that it is difficult to assess to what extent these factors influence the design of strategies.[xxv] This, nevertheless, does not invalidate the notion that these actor-, time- and space-specific circumstances should be considered as another logic by itself. Acknowledging the existence of more than one logic of strategy penetrating the realm of strategy would further emphasize the importance of the specific embeddedness of strategy – without undermining the significance of the above identified universally valid logic of strategy. One would consequently accept that when it comes to strategy, one encounters several logics in action.

Conclusion

When returning to the initial question, which implications the existence of a logic of strategy would have, specifically regarding the prospect of success, it is worthwhile to consult Richard Betts, who asks “Is Strategy an Illusion?”.[xxvi] He argues that effective strategy is often impossible due to the unpredictability and complexity of the gap between the use of force and the aspired political ends.[xxvii] However, it is indeed because of this overwhelming complexity in which strategy operates that its underlying logics should be reflected upon. Gaddis refers to the universally valid features of the logic of strategy as a “checklist”, which shall be considered to contribute to the design of a successful, effective strategy.[xxviii] As was demonstrated above, it is nevertheless also crucial to consider the additional specific time-and space-bound logic of strategy. To understand the strategy of potential opponents, it makes sense to deconstruct its logical foundation, to consider the universally valid logic of strategy but also the respective underlying actor-specific logic. Strategy thus operates along a multidimensional logic, both universally valid and time- and space-bound. This is what makes strategy difficult but acknowledging this conceptual aspect might notwithstanding contribute to its further mastery.


[i]Luttwak, Edward N., The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2012), vii.

[ii]Ibid., viii.

[iii]Mahnken, Thomas G., The Evolution of Strategy… But What About Policy? Journal of Strategic Studies 34 no. 4 (2016), 52.

[iv]Gray, Colin S.,Modern Strategy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1.

[v]Gray Colin S., Why Strategy Is Difficult. JFQ (1999), 8.

[vi] Cf. Lonsdale, David J. and Colin S. Gray (eds.), The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011).

[vii]Freedman, Lawrence. The Meaning of Strategy: Part I: The Origin Story. Texas National Security Review 1 no. 1 (2007), 90-105.

[viii]Whetham, David, The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present. Edited by John Andreas Olsen and Colin S. Gray. War in History 21 no. 2 (2014), 252.

[ix] Gray, Modern Strategy,17.

[x]Armstrong, Jan and J. J. Widen,Contemporary Military Theory. The Dynamics of War (New York: Routledge, 2015), 33. Original emphasis.

[xi]Hintikka, Jaakko, Logic. Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessible via: https://www.britannica.com/topic/logic [accessed: October 25th 2020].

[xii]Art, Robert J., To What Ends Military Power? International Security 4 no. 4 (1980), 35.

[xiii]Gilpin, Robert G., No one Loves a Political Realist. Security Studies 5 no. 3(1996), 26.

[xiv]Gaddis, John Lewis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy. The National Interest 8 no. 10 (1987), 29.

[xv] Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 46.

[xvi]Gray, Why Strategy Is Difficult, 10.

[xvii] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory.

[xviii]Beaufre, André, An Introduction to Strategy (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 22.

[xix] Cf. Art, To What Ends Military Power?

[xx]Lonsdale, David J., The Campaigns of Alexander the Great. In: John A. Olsen; Colin S. Gray (eds.). The Practice of Strategy: From Alexander the Great to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011)33.

[xxi]Luttwak, Edward N., Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid., 6.

[xxiv] Cf. Armstrong and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 36-43.

[xxv] Ibid., 42-43.

[xxvi] Cf. Betts, Richard K., Is Strategy an Illusion? International Security 25 no. 2 (2000), 5-50.

[xxvii]Ibid., 5.

[xxviii] Gaddis, Containment and the Logic of Strategy, 38.

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