It is 100 years since we were supposedly getting over the war to end all wars, World War I, and forming the League of Nations with the purpose of preventing such a conflict and slaughter happening again. Regrettably, the only good that came out of it was the proposal to form the League of Nations; it was not much more than an idea though otherwise stillborn and we needed another World War before something solid resulted, the United Nations with some teeth, although they need sharpening. It was the time that the Chinese Communist party was formed and has just celebrated its centenary. What have we done in the time, apart from multiplying ourselves by a factor of 3, and perhaps upsetting the planet on the way. There are exciting scientific advances, of course, some of which we must use to address the wasteful manner in which we live.
The 1920s and 1930s were times of turmoil, new ideas. Socialism in the forms of nationalism and communism, each with an end result of forming a ruling elite, who would brook little or no interference from their perceived mission. The damage from WWI caused a Depression in the developed world, many of them democratic in form, and this meant they paid not or were not able to pay enough attention to the looming Nazi power growing in Germany. In China, the communist movement was putting down roots, establishing itself and, in the Far East the colonies of British India and the Dutch East Indies, the elite of those nations were listening with sympathy to the socialism that was being preached in Europe.
The end of WWII saw the proponents of each doctrine, social/communism and free market capitalism/democracy sharpen their dividing lines which led to the Cold War between east and west. However, this is too simplistic; Britain, for example, after WWII voted in a Socialist Labour government, which promptly set about nationalising key industries and created the National Health Service, all the basics of socialism, central government control. The key industries didn’t prosper, lacking accountability and arguably fleetness of the free market and in time, after Thatcher, were returned to the private sector. This was not entirely successful as times changed, but the National Health Service has been deemed a success in the overall scheme of things, looking after a nation’s health. Perhaps it was different because it only required a social accountability.
Returning to the division of doctrine, emerging from WWII, this saw the sharp divide of Europe between, on the one hand the Lenin/Stalin communist, centrally controlled regimes of the USSR which had gathered within their scope, whether they liked it or not, many of the countries of Eastern Europe. On the other hand, there were the democracies of Western Europe, which were bolstered by the USA. Germany was divided into two parts but Berlin, the capital, which lay in the Soviet jurisdiction, was a separate entity managed by the four allies who had together opposed the Nazis, namely the USA, the USSR, Britain and France. This arrangement continued, not without its problems, until the new president, Kennedy, in 1961 made a declaration against communism which alarmed Kruschev, the Soviet leader by now since Stalin had died. A Wall was put up by East Germany/ USSR in Berlin in 1961, which became a symbol of the freedom of the west against the restrictions that the Soviet Union enforced. The East German communist government was alarmed at the very large number of their skilled citizens who were defecting to the west; the Wall brought the number down to a trickle, lasting until 1989 by when times had changed.
In the East, China at war end was in the grip of a communist movement that was fighting to overcome the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai Chek. The communists prevailed and the nationalists departed for the island of Formosa, today Taiwan, taking with them the Emperor’s ancient, valuable signatures of office, a bone of contention. Meanwhile, Japan was healing from the bitter defeat inflicted on it from WWII with the help of the USA and was showing its resilience in recovery towards becoming one of the fastest growing economies.
The first test of the new communist China came in the early 1950s in the Korean peninsula, where they wholeheartedly backed the forces of North Korea in their fight against the armies of the south, backed by the USA and its Allies from the western democracies, including Australia. A truce was signed after a few years of hard fighting, with no side obviously prevailing, and Korea was divided between North and South. To this day they have entirely different styles of government, the communist north being dependent on China with the people languishing in poverty while their ruling elite are well off, and the South being one of the Asian ‘tigers’ and one of the most successful democratic economies. The difference is glaring.
The next conflict between communism and a semi pro-democratic form of government, the Vietnam War in the 1960s, had different origins. It was originally part of an anti-colonial struggle to depose the French from their Indo-China possession, which also included Laos and Cambodia. The defining moment came when the French forces were beaten by the N. Vietnamese at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, which was a signal for the French to withdraw. The North Vietnamese government was led by Ho Chi Minh, who had also studied communism in Europe and been persuaded by its ideas.
The American government had been watching closely and were very worried that if all of Vietnam were to fall to communism, it would lead to the rest of Southeast Asia in time succumbing also. As the leader of the ‘free’ world the USA stepped in and gradually increased its presence to the point that it was perceived as full-scale war. The North Vietnamese devised a way in which they could frustrate the American troops by building a network of underground tunnels from which they could appear unexpectedly and avoid direct confrontation with the better armed American troops. The war did not seem to have an end, and either it had to be escalated or the troops withdrawn. The former route would require going to Congress in Washington and, since the war was becoming increasingly unpopular with the public this was not something that the US government would want to do. The Nixon government of the early 1970s decided on a strategic withdrawal and so the whole of Vietnam was taken over by the communist government of the north, the condition which the US had feared. But times had changed. The world was changing. Some countries were prospering and trading. The old communist guard was getting on, some dying.
In the meantime, India and Indonesia, each with current large populations and significant colonial histories, had leaders who had learned in Europe about socialism/communism. However, the countries they would be serving had large other complex problems to resolve. In India’s case they had to deal with its partition with a mainly Islamic country, Pakistan, on each flank. The Nehru led, mainly Hindu, faction had much sympathy with socialism and were suspicious of the west and western aid agencies such as the World Bank, which were not allowed in to help develop the country. India, for the rest of the century, moved slowly but did not make a move to either communism or the western democracies, perhaps because it inherited a system in which much power rested within the state governments. The national or federal government operated from Delhi in the form that the British left behind.
Indonesia spent the first few years from independence in 1947, establishing itself as a whole. Soekarno, the first president, was a gifted orator, and was a firm believer in socialism/communism, but was a poor administrator. The country had to fend off two break away actions in the 1950s in North Sulawesi and West Sumatra provinces, which were put down with some ferocity. An interesting development was Soekarno’s leading with the 1955 Non- aligned Movement which was held in Bandung. This firmly put him in the neutral camp, although his time in Europe had imbued him with left leanings. His inability to take the country out of poverty was greatly frustrating the political elite in Jakarta and when he was deemed to show his leanings towards communism, the Army with the elite had had enough. He had to go and forcibly resigned, bringing Soeharto to power. The USA, who had watched the moves carefully while, at the same time, being involved in Vietnam, were much relieved.
Soeharto made it clear that he had no liking for a communist form of government. He was also quick to realise that he needed the brains from the private sector to handle the economy. He appointed the Berkeley ‘mafia’, UC Berkeley trained economists to deal with the major problems of food, water and education to lift the country out of poverty which they did very successfully for thirty years. The country was run as a benign autocracy with a guided parliament which re-elected Soeharto every 4 years, until the Asian Financial Crisis struck and caused him to step down. However, well by then it was aligned with the western powers and was invited to join the G-17, the organisation of the world’s richest economies.
It should be added that the grouping of Southeast Asian nations – region that my colleague prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic calls “the most multilateralised portion of Asia – Asia’s hope” – as the formed an alliance, ASEAN, in August 1967, to establish itself as an independent bloc, headquartered in Jakarta. Currently, there are now 10 countries in the bloc, originally five, with widely differing forms of government.
Come the latter part of the last century, other feuds, some centuries old, reared up to cause some alarm. They were not ostensibly part of the main struggle between rigid rules, centrally controlled communist regimes and the free market western economies, but the one of the Middle East involving several differing elements, on the face of it based on Judaism and its three offset branches, Jewry, Christianity and Islam. On his occasion the struggle had some of its roots in the Balfour declaration of 1917, endorsed in 1926 at a commonwealth conference, and the contrary non-acceptance of Israel after WWII, as a homeland for the Jewish people, by the Palestinians. It has widened out in a determination by a right-wing Islamic fundamentalist group to form a purely Islamic country, a caliphate. It fed off old rivalries and brought differing factions into conflict. It is not settled to this day, and Syria, a land of ancient civilizations, has been torn apart with a refugee crisis that has caused much discomfit in Europe. The politics of the Middle East are very complicated, variations of squabbles centuries old, and possibly unresolvable at this time. They, however, don’t seem to directly affect the main thrust of the proponents of the secular division between the democratic approach and communism to government. Although both the USA and Russia have an involvement, it is not their most important issue, although takes up time.
There are other disruptions in Africa and South America, but not greatly affecting the outcome of the main struggle between left and right. In much of Africa, where colonial power had held sway for many years and where a huge number of slaves had been shipped across the Atlantic to support the American and Caribbean plantations, little had been done to prepare the indigenous peoples to govern themselves. The extractive industries that were put in to take out minerals needed in Europe had systems in place which were devised to ship out the minerals to the controlling country. There was little or no attempt to better the country, in terms of education, infrastructure and skills development, where the extraction had taken place. The result was that the elite of the country, gaining independence, carried on the way things had been before independence and became hugely rich, while the poor just became poorer and poorer. A terrible legacy of colonialism! And certain countries in the north have, in the past few years, been severely affected by fundamental Islamic factions.
In the case of South (Latin) America, we have a mix of countries and the way they are run, significantly influenced by their Spanish or Portuguese legacy. The main problem is the growing and manufacture and the export of drugs and the emigration of people to the USA to get away from poverty. There is no major war ongoing although there have been attempts by some internal factions to take over a specific country for personal gain, which meets with the people’s resistance.
However, China is a large country with a centrally controlled communist regime in charge. In the past 30-40 years, with the passing of Mao Tse Tung and the accession of Deng the strict rigidity of the rules of government were eased and the economy started to grow. As a result, their economy has grown steadily, if not spectacularly at times, albeit from a comparatively low base and is now one of the largest in the world. They are not averse to taking new ideas from the west, sometimes openly but other times by stealth, which is of considerable concern to the west, which have established the norms, rules and rights of business. There was hope in the 1980s that they were changing and welcoming some democratic freedoms, but this altered in 1989 when a student demonstration was brutally quashed at Tienmanman square. The leaders had taken fright, things were getting out of control, and freedoms had to be curtailed and brought back under control. This was also a warning to the western democracies; there was only one way to do business in China and that was the Chinese way.
In 1997, the lease that the UK government held over the territories that encompassed Hong Kong was coming to an end and the territories were due to be handed back. There was some discussion on trying to extend the lease but this was really a non-starter. One of the terms that the British extracted in the departure agreement was that for the first 50 years the conditions which had been set up for the citizens of Hong Kong would be honoured. China agreed to approve the idea of ‘’one country and two systems’’. However, in recent times with Comrade Xi Jaoping feeling that his and the Chinese government’s power is on the increase he could ignore the agreement. There have been unsettling very large demonstrations in Hong Kong as Beijing turns the screw on democratic freedoms, and Hong Kong is brought in line with direct central government policy.
Furthermore, the government is trying to bring the Uighur people, who are of Islamic faith and live in Xinjiang to the west of China, the largest province, into line by brainwashing them. The Uighurs have been treated to genocide, and are also used, not much better than slaves, to pick Xinjiang cotton, which is a significant and high quality product of this region. This is another worrying example of communist control, as George Orwell highlighted in his book entitled 1984. The UN and the American government have raised the issue strongly, but have been told it is a matter of terrorism!
In the past two decades or so the Chinese have ‘made’ small islands in the South China sea expanding their territorial waters illegally. The ASEAN countries have wakened up to this and showing signs of alarm as China are using these islands as military outposts. In short, they are testing the reaction of the Eastern ASEAN countries, who realistically are not strong enough to resist. The USA are aware of this and watching carefully. It is still China’s government’s aim that Taiwan, R.O.C., comes under Beijing control.
The Chinese government would appear to have a policy to ensure that the country has the ability to widen its borders and, further afield, to secure by whatever means is most suitable the resources that the mother country requires. This would put it in a very strong position among all nations and supersede the work of past dynasties, justifying its central control. A communist Empire.
The other main country which espouses communism as per Leninism is, of course, Russia, which has always vied with the democracies of the west, unlike China which was rather left on its own, distance being a factor, until recent decades. After Kruschev, in the 1980s there was a time for a modicum of ‘honesty’ from the Russian government. They could not keep up with the economy of the USA with which they were attempting to compete. They released their hold on several European countries, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and withdrew their border to a north-south line bordering Belarus and Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia and into the Black Sea. They retained a small piece of territory next to Lithuania which gives them a better outlet to the Baltic Sea and recently they took the Crimea illegally to secure a position in the Black Sea.
A few of the ‘freed’ countries have adjusted themselves in the years that have followed, for instance the peoples of Czechoslovakia decided to split along nationalistic lines into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. One has to draw attention to the former Yugoslavia, formed as a country of the southern Slavs, which was not part of the Soviet hegemony, which separated somewhat bloodily into its discrete parts, with the demise of Tito. This was the strongman who emerged from WWII and kept the disparate parts of Yugoslavia together and prevented the Soviets from adding it to the total taken. The countries that evolved from Yugoslavia were Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo.
The European Union has greatly enlarged since these countries became independent, could exercise their freewill, and confirmed their willingness to join the EU after invitation. The bloc now adds up to 27 member states and the centre of gravity which was firmly in the west, has shifted eastward significantly.
Russia has to deal with a significant, admittedly rather unwieldy, EU, as well as the powerful alliance, NATO, The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which was set up at the end of WWII to protect the western democracies with the involvement of the USA from any potential aggression of the USSR. Since the partial rapprochement of Russia in its adjusted format, over the past 3 decades, there is much less pressure on NATO. It doesn’t stop Russia trying to meddle with the former countries of the Soviet on their borders. Belarus has a regime that is close to the Russians, not necessarily the will of the people, and Ukraine, while looking west towards the EU, has had to fend off Russian aggression in recent times in which they lost Crimea. In the complex Middle East situation Russia offers support to parties that are opposed to western supported ones, for example Assad’s Syria. But overall, Vladimir Putin’s Russia does not pose as much of a long-term threat as the apparent threat offered by China. There is, from the people themselves, a wish to open up the country. However, this can be expected to take some time; change will be slow.
To return to the east, ASEAN as a bloc, partly modelled on the EU, is still feeling its way. In recent times, the military coup occurring in Myanmar has taken ASEAN by surprise. Their offer to mediate has been firmly rejected at the ASEAN annual meeting. This was to be expected as the military have been involved in actions against some of the Myanmar people almost continuously since Independence and in recent years the military have exercised utmost savagery against the Rohingya people. The country is of great strategic value to China and hence the Myanmarese can rely on their backing. Its value, apart from Myanmar’s considerable resources, e.g. the Jade mines of Kachin province, a nice earner for the military elite, lies in the fact that Myanmar provides a gateway to the Indian Ocean and thence access to China’s significant resources in Africa, where they have been slowly entrenching themselves for the part of half a century.
Taking note of President Xi’s recent upbeat speech at the Centenary of the Chinese Communist Party, it is clear that the government of China feels confident that they are now in a strong position to push on with expanding their strategic aims. These will be pushed ahead by fair means or foul, honestly or not, by stealth if need be. If anyone dares to oppose them will get a ‘’bash’’ on the head! It is a warning to the western Allies. ASEAN should be concerned about the South China Sea.
Russia, in the next phase, will want to not upset matters too much and be reasonably content to have matters stay as they are. A significant revenue for them is oil supply to the EU. They have a growing mood in the populace that wants more freedom. This will be difficult to resist.
The Middle East has rumbled on for centuries. A solution does not appear to be likely in the short term although the majority of people just want peace so that they may live with a feeling of security. They cannot reach this position because the leaders feel they have some God-given mission to achieve first. There are pockets relatively peaceful, e.g. The Emirates.
The Liberal democracies of the west have some internal voices of dissent, but at the moment their biggest problem is dealing with a refugee crisis caused by the Syrian mess, and the peoples coming from Africa running away from poverty. These are all heading for Europe. The other area where there is a significant problem is the southern USA where there is an unrelenting movement of peoples coming from Central and South America, trying to escape poverty and/or poor government.
The problem has become larger in the past half century; the population has tripled without our becoming aware. The CO2, not surprisingly, has also increased which has alarmed some scientists, and the two issues may be related, because we breathe out CO2 as well as significantly use up more resources some of which, in turn, generate CO2. We must remember, however, that carbon dioxide is a building block of life; below 150 ppm the world starts dying, both flora and fauna. The world, whatever political persuasion, communist or democratic, has to take notice of the climate issue which is to be highlighted at the COP26 conference in November this year. It is interesting that the leading countries espousing these opposite forms of government, China and USA, are responsible for 36% of the CO2 output of the world, each of them, so far, shy of taking a leadership role. Will we see much progress on this issue if they don’t take a leadership role?
Science, building on what came before, has achieved almost unbelievable advances in less than a century. One of the foremost of them was finding the properties of the silicon chip, which led to the computer, becoming commercially available from the 1960s and thereafter aiding all aspects of scientific endeavour. Now we are looking at the digital age, and on into quantum mechanics and artificial intelligence. We have broken the barriers of space and there is a veritable limitless opportunity to be explored.
On the other hand, there are many more of us, 8+ billion as against 3- billion in the 1960s and we haven’t yet resolved the problems of poverty, pollution and paucity of some of our key resources, such as water, or why we have an apparent climate crisis. The problems have only become bigger, which means the millennial and subsequent generations who will be brought up with the new sciences from a young age will have plenty to do. What sort of government will they have dictated to them or will they resolve a better system that embraces the better points of each, so long as there is adequate freedom of action?
The world is changing; almost two thirds of its population already live in Asia and there is a shift in the ethnic balance. The United Nations is more important than ever; it has disappointed in not getting involved in a positive and robust way in certain disputes where a form of genocide has taken place, but they are constrained by their remit. Perhaps it requires a change of location from NY to reflect the changing population distribution and a time to review their raison d’etre.
The new generation have inherited a number of problems but, at the same time, they have the skills and tools to deal with them. One can but hope they do use them and with common sense.
The New High Seas Treaty: Takeaways and answering the hard questions
On 04 March, Rena Lee, President of the UN Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), announced that “the ship has reached the shore,” referring to the last compromise and successfully negotiated to stumble block of this historic treaty, which marked the apogee of over two decades of negotiations to protect the ample internationally ungoverned space of the ocean. The last time the countries came together to gather political will during geopolitical tensions to protect biodiversity was on 01 December 1959 during the cold war to declare Antarctica a place for peace and science.
The draft agreement of the ‘The New High Seas Treaty’ emphasises the need to address the planet’s largest unregulated biosphere for the sustainable use of resources and biodiversity protection. It covers the expansive portion of the ocean beyond national boundaries and will provide a legal framework for designating vast marine protected areas (MPAs) to protect against marine life degradation and sharing of resources. It is necessary to identify, monitor and regulate vulnerable areas to address the commitment of protecting 30 Percent by 2030 endorsed by COP 15 in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022. Exit options and other unique provisions for the Arctic or China Sea and other geopolitically tense areas are also mentioned to avoid disagreements and conflicts within the agreement.
The stumbling block of this treaty was how to appropriately share marine genetic resources (MGR) and wealth, which separated the Global South and North. Due to their potential for application in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, MGR, which are made up of the genetic material of bacteria, corals, krill, seaweed, and deep-sea marine sponges, are gaining more scientific and commercial interest.
The agreement is legally binding and establishes a new global authority for the high seas, complete with an executive body called “COP,” a secretariat, and a scientific council. It is based on certain principles and approaches like the polluter-pays principle, the principle of the common heritage of humankind, the freedom of marine scientific research, and other freedoms of the high seas.
In addition, an approach for maintaining and restoring ecosystem integrity, including the carbon cycling functions that support the ocean’s role in climate while also increasing ecosystems’ resilience, is practiced. Signatories are also tasked with conducting environmental impact assessments before exploitation, exchanging marine technology with other littoral states, and monitoring the space for other threats.
What are the High Seas and the threats present on them?
States currently govern up to only 200 nautical miles of seas from their coasts, delineated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). But beyond the nautical boundaries are the high seas, which only one percent are protected. States have access to freedoms, including the right to overfly, navigate, and install underwater cables. The high seas cannot be the subject of any claims to sovereignty. Once expressed as desolate, it is now considered a treasury of rich biodiversity and marine resources. However, they are being exploited by technological advances enabling them to deplete fisheries and seabed minerals. Deep-sea ecosystems may change or be destroyed by machine-aided excavation and gauging of the ocean bottom. As a result, there will be a loss of species in addition to fragmentation or loss of the structure and functionality of the ecosystem.
Increasing cargo ship transportation and their Bilge Dumping practices also threaten the open ocean. Bilgewater, which gathers in the bottom of a ship, is a mixture of fluids from the engine room and other potentially harmful materials like lubricants, cleaning agents, and metals like lead and arsenic. It is expensive to process this oily effluent, whether by treating it to eliminate contaminants or by discharging it at the port. Some ships simply dump it into the ocean with portable pumps, which can be a significant hazard to marine life, to save operational expenses.
Another threat in the high seas is the Great garbage patch, which carries and culminates tonnes of plastic debris released through river exits. They are carried and formed by ocean currents and “gyres.” There are five gyres in the ocean. One in the Indian Ocean, two in the Atlantic Ocean, and two in the Pacific Ocean. Garbage patches of differing sizes are located in each gyre. Cleaning up these garbage heaps and systematically disposing of them is a heinous task.
In addition, Climate change is heating the oceans, which may result in a mass extinction of marine life like the Permian Extinction experienced 250 million years ago, which extinguished 90 percent of marine species. The oceans have mitigated the worst of climate change by absorbing 90 percent of the heat caused by global warming and providing us with 50 percent of the oxygen.
What are the existing treaties on High Seas, and what are their issues?
About 20 international organisations oversee human activity in the high seas in accordance with UNCLOS, although their authority is constrained. In the shipping industry, for instance, the International Maritime Organization is in charge of safety and pollution control, whereas regional fisheries management organisations are in charge of particular fish populations. Yet, a lot of marine species migrate and regularly switch between various environments into the wild ocean which are unprotected from human activities.
The International Seabed Treaty is less concerned with conserving the environment and more interested in advancing the ultimate extraction of valuable mineral accretions from the seabed. Exploratory mining licences have never been denied. The contracting entity does environmental impact assessments; they are not independently verified and investigated. The ISA dismisses the worries of environmental groups like Greenpeace about defending the seabed from similar mining in the future or from the several very detrimental environmental side effects that would be involved.
What does the treaty pose to International Security?
First, an increased presence of private players. The implementation process of the treaty will see an increased presence of private maritime players as the agreement does not apply to the Navy warships. However, they are expected to behave reasonably with the agreement. Ocean conservation is currently led by non-governmental organisations funded by philanthropists, bureaucrats, and governments.
Second, increased monitoring and surveillance. To assess environmental impacts, monitor and traffic control ships, and provide constant surveillance over an expansive area will require advanced remote sensing and imaging technologies. There will be a need for marine spatial analysis and planning to track human activities and the ecosystem. New marine technologies must be exchanged between the developing and developed states to explore the deep ocean and seabed’s for research and exploitation. Increased monitoring will be a critical challenge for the littoral states to move their submarines in stealth and secrecy.
Third, potential for new marine resource-induced conflict. Though the agreement states that the marine samples and genetic coding will be shared, it does not mention who can further exploit the resources and with whom it shares. Does it share with the states involved in the exploration or those proximate to the resource.? Here, Global North faces the question of the free-riding problem and whom to free-ride its services.
Political Philosophy: An Attribute of a Superpower
In the modern science of international relations, defining the essential features of modern superpowers has remained a bone of contention. What makes a true superpower stand above the rest? Is there a universal set of traits that distinguishes a few leaders from many outsiders? Until now, the key criteria for a “superpower” have mainly been considered by scholars in a material way.
A superpower must have economic potential that far exceeds that of other countries, military power, critical technologies, a developed scientific and industrial base, and human capital. The totality of such material opportunities provides measurable, albeit not controversial, criteria for ranking countries. The situation with non-material factors is much more complicated. Their quantitative measurement is difficult, if not impossible. Their assessment is too subjective and potentially vulnerable to distortion. Whose culture is stronger? Whose ethics are correct? Whose value system is better? Such questions lead to value-oriented disputes, but do little to distinguish the superpowers from other players in the international arena. Meanwhile, this is where one of the most important criteria lies.
We can suggest that a noticeable difference between a superpower and other states, along with the superiority of material factors, is the presence of a systemic and consistent political philosophy of international relations. The superpower offers its own unique view of how exactly the world should be arranged, according to what rules it should exist, what its goal is, and why this particular superpower is legitimate in its role. Moreover, political philosophy is neither a set of slogans and clichés, nor a pretty wrapper or simulation. It is neither an ideology nor a utopia. All of the above may be derived from political philosophy, but not exhaust its content. We are talking about a special interpretation of key political concepts in relation to international relations—power, authority, justice, equality, etc. Such an interpretation should be based on a deep intellectual tradition and one’s own practical experience, which make the arguments of the proposed political-philosophical doctrine convincing both for oneself and for others.
Can a country represent a value only due to material factors? Undoubtedly. Ultimately, the state can concentrate significant power and live exclusively in accordance with the principles of realism, pursue a pragmatic policy, advance its material interests, and achieve dominance where possible. However, bare realism will sooner or later mark the boundaries of legitimacy. The dominance of the bayonet and the purse strings will have shaky ground without a clear understanding of why and for what it exists.
Can a country broadcast an influential political philosophy while lagging behind materially? Also definitely. At a certain moment, it can be a model of stoicism or heroism, a carrier of innovative and attractive ideas. But without a material base, there is a risk that these will just remain hot air, remaining good wishes alone.
It is noteworthy that there are surprisingly few countries that have material power and at the same time have their own political philosophy. It would seem that creating a political-philosophical doctrine is much easier than designing a missile or a nuclear bomb. One can unite “smart people”, edit the results of their “brainstorming”, write basic works, and make manuals for propagandists—that’s all. In fact, many of these creations crumble and get lost in the information noise. There are single copies in the hands of single carriers—the same superpowers.
Does the political philosophy of a superpower need to be “sovereign”? Should it be based only on the nation’s intellectual tradition? Certainly not. It is extremely difficult to find exceptionally original political and philosophical doctrines with global influence. As a rule, we are talking about a mixture of universal ethical principles, categories of such major political and philosophical doctrines as liberalism, socialism or conservatism, nationally specific views and principles, and even religious doctrines such as Christianity or Islam.
In the modern world, only two countries can be distinguished which combine both significant material potential and their own political philosophy: the US and China.
The politico-philosophical core of the United States is well known and widely replicated at all levels, from university essays and textbooks to propaganda videos and social media posts. It is based on liberal principles with their appeal to the supremacy of the human mind, the idea of “negative freedom”, justice as fairness, equality of opportunity within the framework of uniform rules, as well as the ideas of democracy derived from them as the optimal form of government and the market as a means of organizing the economy. This political and philosophical code is a product of the European enlightenment and the specific experience of organising the internal life of European countries, which was embodied on the basis of American political experience and multiplied by their material strength. The European roots of US political philosophy have allowed it to easily take root in the soil of numerous Western countries, although in some places it contradicts individual interpretations “on the ground”. It is also important that there is a powerful modernist potential in such a political philosophy. The political philosophy of the United States and the modern West in general is a philosophy of emancipation, liberation and reason-based progress.
The political-philosophical core of the People’s Republic of China is much less well known, simply because Beijing has not strived to actively promote it abroad. The political philosophy of China has long remained largely nationally oriented. However, it has a systemic and deeply reflected character, which yields a high potential outside the PRC. It is based on a view of international relations as a non-zero sum game, the idea of the collectivity of international relations, and a departure from rivalry as the leitmotif of world politics. Modern Chinese political philosophy’s powerful Marxist element gives it a modernist potential, combined with the experience of solving the key problems of China itself. It combines the ideas of people’s democracy with successful experience in solving the problem of poverty, overcoming backwardness, and reducing the sharpness of social inequality. In the modern world, China appears as a country whose ideas have been tested in practice. Yes, many successes have been made possible by integration into the Western-centric global economy. But here, too, China pursues its own philosophical line—a non-zero sum game, borrowing Western experience and combining it with Chinese traditions. Marxism is one example of a Western doctrine which China has used to its advantage.
Will there be a clash between American and Chinese political philosophies? Most likely, yes, because China is increasingly perceived in the US as a long-term threat. China avoids copying and mirroring the American allegations against itself by promoting the idea of a non-zero-sum game and thereby turning its political philosophy into an even more visible alternative. One can argue for a long time about what is primary in the contradictions of the powers—material factors or ideas? Obviously, if necessary, differences of ideas can be used for political mobilisation and the consolidation of allies. The more systematic such ideas are, the easier it is to draw dividing lines.
Are the political philosophies of the US and China self-sufficient for them? No. Both the US and China combine their political philosophies with the principles of realism. Like many other players, they proceed from the risk of worst-case scenarios and prepare for them, accumulating resources for mutual deterrence. However, political philosophy allows you to maintain the global legitimacy of your influence or to claim it.
Does Russia have its own political philosophy? The answer so far is rather negative. Russia has returned in its foreign policy to the principles of realism, which was already an achievement for its time. But it is too early to talk about a systemic and deeply developed political philosophy. There is a set of still-fuzzy, sometimes contradictory ideas and concepts, as well as their interpretations and slogans derived from them. The system of Russian views clearly lacks modernist potential. The question of whether it is necessary in itself can be a matter of debate, but it is clearly built into the system of views of the United States, China and smaller powers. Russia has recent experience in the collapse and loss of its political and philosophical project, which began long before the collapse of the USSR. Perhaps it is the Soviet experience that continues to yield a persistent and unconscious allergy to political philosophy. It is also possible that both the US and China, at some point, will also face the same problem that the Soviet Union experienced—the separation of their doctrine from the real state of affairs. Perhaps, a lack of political philosophy is now Russia’s advantage. Russia will develop its own unique experience, which will allow it to avoid the mechanical copying of other people’s ideas, mixing them in its own practice. The maturation of political philosophy takes time, as does the cultivation of its material base.
From our partner RIAC
Learning Multilateralism on Obama’s National Space Policy
In June 2010, Obama’s new National Space Policy (NSP) emphasizes a broad continuity between its main goals and the overarching themes originally developed by the Eisenhower administration, such as the use of space and strengthening space stability. Other goals evolved directly from original U.S. space policy goals, including expanding international cooperation, nurturing U.S. space industry, and enhancing the assurance and resilience of mission-critical functions enabled by commercial, civil, scientific and national spacecraft and supporting them infrastructure. Thus, National Space Policy of U.S and also National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) of U.S is seeking to emphasizes international cooperation through its pillars and also point from policy
Five Pillars of National Security Space Strategy of U.S
The National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) provides a roadmap for the implementation of US space policy and the achievement of U.S space objectives. It consists of five basic principles or pillars that prescribe the framework.
Promote the Responsible, Peaceful and Safe Use of Space
The NSSS first pillar calls on the United States “to lead in improving security, stability and responsible spatial behavior” and to develop transparency and confidence-building measures that “encourage responsible spatial action and peaceful use”. As stated in the National Space Policy, there are specific steps that include national and international actions that aim to promote safe and responsible spatial operations, improve information collection and sharing, which is to prevent collisions between spatial objects, protect critical spatial systems and infrastructure support, with special emphasis on critical interdependence and reinforcement of space and information systems.
Provide improved U.S Space Capabilities
The NSS second pillar calls on the U.S. to improve space capabilities and energize the U.S. industrial space base. In addition, the existence of a strong industrial base and staff support is also one of the U.S. country’s best insurance policies, in the strategic, operational, economic and technological fields referred to in the new defense strategy.
Partnering with Responsible Nations, International Organizations, and Commercial Firms
The third pillar calls for greater involvement and partnership with other space-based countries, relevant international organizations and business actors. To guard the third pillar in US Space Policy and ready to face future strategic circumstances, the US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is one of the main organizations responsible for safeguarding these benefits in the face of changing strategic circumstances and the US uses the National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) as means to maintain this benefit. Meanwhile, there is a specific geographical responsibility area (AOR) that is not assigned to USSTRATCOM. So that the responsibility is only limited to below sea level, which is used as a place for strategic U.S. submarines operating, up to 22,000 miles above the surface of the earth.
United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) engage actively in this pillar and have signed more than 29 agreements with several business entities that were then used to share situational awareness with many selected information partners. Recently, U.S. country in this case it has been authorized to negotiate similar agreements with non-U.S. government agencies and intergovernmental organizations, to work with space actors who are supposed to be responsible for the process of sharing and exchanging space flight information security. Also, USSTRATCOM actively seeks further partners, in particular those with whom little or no previous commitment has been made. State U.S. has also partnered with old friends and allied countries such as Australia, Canada, Britain and other NATO allies who are always involved with them. Moreover, this is done while looking for new opportunities to work with potential partners in Europe, the Asia Pacific, Latin America, South America, the Middle East and Africa.
Prevent and Deter Against U.S Space Infrastructure
U.S. space infrastructure basically an U.S. component vital. This is seen in how U.S. want to protect this asset. Space defense also certainly requires a full understanding of the operating environment, which allows U.S. warnings. to be recognized and effective protection of U.S. assets, provide resilience, and use alternatives when challenged. This fourth NSSS pillar, which is “preventing and deterring U.S. space infrastructure,” includes operations to gain and understand the location, activities, ownership and purposes of space-based objects. In point of Prevent and deter against U.S space infrastructure mentioned about international cooperation; the point is;
“Sensitivity to space situations (SSA) enables all our operational activities. An important way to increase SSA’s capacity and capacity would be to expand partnerships and increase international cooperation. To this end, we want to transform California’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) into a Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC).”– U.S Department of Defense
Initially, such a step would enable us to influence individual strengths in full cooperation with U.S closest partners and, in accordance with national policies, provide a framework and environment that might help meet the needs of common space security. In addition, such a transition would conform to the mandate of the NSSS “build coalitions of like-minded nations that share space”.This partnership would allow the U.S. to act in a coordinated manner, synchronize U.S. efforts and promote responsible spatial behavior with these partners to ensure long-term spatial sustainability.
Prepare to Defeat Attacks and Operated in a Degraded Environment
The final pillar of the NSSS calls on the United States to prepare to defeat space attacks and operate in a degraded environment. This approach will generally always include activities to provide critical space capabilities for U.S. missions. and coalition forces. Besides that, it is also used to ensure the success of the mission through architecture and alternative means, even if necessary, under all conditions of conflict and pressure.
The guarantee mission includes the need to maintain and protect the capabilities of the US critical space itself, US allies and partner countries, and also to improve the resilience of critical space systems, increase the use of alternative means and resources to secure the space mission, not to mention the ability to operate in a stressed environment if and when the capacity is degraded.
Several successive U.S. administrations have sought to maintain the leadership of the country in the field since the United States entered space. There’s no exception to the Obama administration. It openly emphasizes efforts to strengthen U.S. in its National Security Space Strategy and National Space Policy. Leadership in outer space in particular. These efforts include reassuring U.S. allies ‘ commitment to collective self-defence in space-related forums and activities; promoting regulations and encouraging interoperability within these regulations; promoting security, stability and responsible space behaviour, facilitating new market opportunities for U.S. commercial space capabilities and services, advancing appropriate risk-sharing amounts.
Recall Multilateralism from Obama’s Space Policy
The Obama administration incorporates multilateralism into one of the policy’s six major objectives, the policy’s goals of expanding international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities are mentioned. The space policy of Obama will make U.S. space policy more conducive to multilateral space efforts. In its National Security Space Strategy and National Space Policy, the U.S. adopted the National Security Strategy, which aims to maintain and enhance the benefits of U.S. space advertising capabilities resulting from national security. The NSSS set specific goals for enhancing security, stability, to accomplish the tasks assigned by the NSSP. And space security; maintaining and enhancing strategic space-based national security; maintaining and enhancing the US’s strategic space-based national security benefits; and energizing the space-based industrial base that supports US national security.
Obama’s new National Space Policy (NSP) highlights a broad continuity between its main goals and the overarching themes originally developed by the Eisenhower administration, such as the use of space and enhancing space stability. Obama still wishes to emphasize international cooperation, which can be seen under the heading. “Space operations should be conducted in ways that emphasize openness and transparency in order to increase public awareness of activities” and, “All nations have the right to explore and use space for peaceful purposes under the NSP Principles and the other side mentioned in the NSP Goals, which is Support International Cooperation”.
At this stage, the National Space Policy and National Security Space Strategy during Obama administration indirectly also applied the Multilateralism. This can be seen in policies that emphasize and invite to conduct international cooperation in space matters. For example, are, Obama fully supported the life of NASA through increased funding budget to NASA through NASA authorization act 2010 and U.S was hosted the International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board Joint Statement 2010 and also Obama through U.S NSP and NSSS implement multilateralism efforts towards Global Positioning System (GPS) Cooperation.
This is stated in the National Space Policy and National Security Space Strategy of U.S issued during Obama administration. One of the most obvious instances of U.S. international cooperation for peaceful space purposes is demonstrated by the International Space Station (ISS). Aboard the ISS, 15 countries cooperate, sharing international flight crew, several globally distributed launch vehicles, operations, training, engineering and development facilities. In addition, communication, the Global Positioning System (GPS) Cooperation, and the ISS Multilateral Coordination Board.
The approach taken by President Obama is very different from his predecessor. He was aggressive with space policy by issuing the 2010 United States of America’s National Space Policy and the 2011 Strategy for National Security Space. President Obama spoke about the contributions of civil and commercial space capabilities in his space policy. The US has also committed to encouraging and facilitating the growth of the US commercial space sector that supports the country’s domestic needs. Thus, the space success heritage and its transformation also pose new challenges. The possibilities of using space were limited to just a few nations when the space age began and there were limited consequences for irresponsible or unintended behavior.
Lastly, Obama also abandoned the unilateralism of Bush and pursue/emphasizing multilateralism would be given top priority in dealing with international affair. Platform of multilateralism efforts during Obama period are concentrate in joint scientific and research program. To support joint scientific and research program in space, Obama make decision to extend the life of U.S on International Space Station in order to giving more U.S contribution and offer transparency scientific research program at International Space Station (ISS) and the decision of Obama based on writer perspective change U.S view in term of space towards more opened transparency and cooperation among other states. Even though, U.S still want to be leader in space, at least this multilateralism effort which mentioned by Obama on his speech and also each point of NSSS and NSP can bring a new perspective about U.S in space.
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