Asia Studies Discussion Group- Semester 1 2013


For Australia: Looking North for the Future

Public discourse in Australia now heavily favours an Asian-centric worldview. Gone are the days we looked across the Atlantic for leadership and inspiration. A look at our head of state or the once mighty Europe that Britain is tied to (rather reluctantly might I add), and it is clear that we are unlikely to gain much from the continent. Both Washington and the European Union face their own uphill fiscal battles, in the process holding the world economy recovery hostage. It is no myth that the Asian giants in the East (bar Japan) have largely helped carry the global economy following the global financial crisis, though the largest of the economies- China and India are experiencing slower than forecasted growth. For example, last week The Economist reported that China grew at 7.4% in the third quarter of this year whilst the other comparable economies- India and Indonesia, grew at 5.3% and 6.2% respectively. These are truly impressive figures given the times.


On current economic trends, it is clear that a global economic power shift from West to East is happening and will continue for some time. In fact, a recent study by the National Intelligence Council has projected that China will overtake the United States as the largest economy in the world before 2030, the previously projected timeline for that change. This is the radical transformation in economic power that is now predicted by mainstream economists and policy makers. That is a world we must all prepare for. From investment decisions, to developing emerging markets and developing sophisticated networks of value-adding chains will all be affected by the economic trends that have the ability to predict the future. Australia’s future is inextricably tied to the wealth, prosperity and stability of our Asian neighbours.


On security matters, that distinction is less clear and the United States army, navy and air force are far superior than the rest of the world put together. The balance of power will still heavily favour the West, but China has shown that it too seeks to leverage some of its newly found economic prosperity into military strength. If that trend continues, we are likely to see more clashes over maritime areas and islands territories between various countries in the region. China has taken a more aggressive posture in securing its energy resources, particularly in response to the chokepoints of Malacca. It has simultaneously built strong relationships with countries with close proximity to the Indian Ocean to that end (much to the dislike of India of course). The projected scarcity in resources in the near future and the continuing demand for electricity in China’s hubs will see the demand for power double in China’s cities by 2030 according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Such domestic pressure to deliver a stable energy supply will only exacerbate the chance of conflict in the Indian Ocean between China and some of her neighbours.

My own minor thesis explores the potential chance for conflict between China and India, two of the biggest players in Asia. There are two strong reasons to believe that though conflict between them is unlikely, it is not a foregone conclusion. The first is that China and India have failed to resolve their border dispute since partition, culminating in a short but full-scale war between the two countries in 1962. The second is that, whilst China has been building strong alliances with India’s neighbours, India has moved more forcefully on its ‘Look East’ approach. That policy, often termed ‘counter-encirclement’ by military strategists mean both countries are lurking in each other’s traditional areas of influence. C. Raja Mohan looks at these two areas in some detail in his latest book Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific. All point to either a security dilemma or an element of strategic calculus played by most powers in the region. The U.S. pivot toward the Asia-Pacific, however insignificant on the ground (as most of the proposed re-orientation of forces won’t be complete till 2020) demonstrates further why Asia is, and will remain a complex geographical hotspot for some time. To further complicate matters, the election of the nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan, mean that her territorial spats with China are unlikely to don’t recede any time soon.

As we Australians begin to grasp some of the complex realities of the region and the rich cultural tapestry and economic opportunities it has to offer, we must move beyond the government’s ‘Asian Century’ rhetoric and truly integrate ourselves with Asia. As former Australia Prime Minister stated in his Keith Murdoch Oration in November last year, “Australia is front and centre in the fastest growing part of the world as never before”. Whilst simultaneously recognising that Asia faces its own challenges during this hyper-economic expansionary period, Australia is faced with a great historic opportunity to open our doors and embrace the future. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again today.

It is to this end, that I hope to launch a study group that will bring together the brightest students from diverse areas as politics, business particularly finance and economics students, energy and environmental sustainability. The discussion group would meet for 2 hours each week, beginning week 1 of Semester 1, 2013 to discuss latest reports, studies, polls and research on Asia. The criteria to apply to join this study group is below:

–       Expertise in a particular field- in economics, politics, energy & environment, finance.

–       Interest in Asia: Japan, South Korea and emerging powers like China, India and Indonesia.

–       Able to commit 2 hours each week to discussion groups with key readings to be completed each week. Participants can suggest readings for upcoming sessions.

If this study group interests you, email me at:


Power to the East? Sort of..

A global power shift has been occurring over the last decade from West to East, that fact is undeniable. To calculate this arithmetically in a hypothetical case study, let us assign total world power a numeric value of 1000. In the 18th century, Asia held roughly half the percentage of global output, that is roughly 500 units. One could reasonably claim then that Asia had a strong hold on global power in the mid 1700’s. However, Asia missed the great industrialization period that led to booming economies in both Western Europe and the United States. By the end of the 20th century, Asia’s share of global power had been reduced to the equivalent of 200 units.

Over the last two decades, as Asian economies have prospered and their cultures have spread rapidly across the globe, thanks to a globalized world with low information barriers, Asia looks to reclaim its historic share of global power, say 500 units, a point Joseph Nye illustrates well in The Future of Power. So what does this shift of power mean for the future of world politics given the European Union’s dire straits today? Where does its current trajectory lie? There are two important things to note here: Firstly, financial crises are cyclical and it’s only a matter of time before Europe gets back on its feet. Asia went through its own financial crisis in 1997/’98, and today all those East Asian economies have recovered and are thriving. The American political scientist John Mearsheimer wrote in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics that the 1997/’98 Asian financial crisis brought out a stronger, more united region by fostering a “new geopolitics” in the region. In the aftermath of the crisis, the European Union may come to a similar result.

Secondly, those who suggest the European Union’s demise is inevitable should be weary of making such overarching judgements so soon. As Paul Krugman noted in the New York Times the other day, Europeans are increasingly rejecting the austerity measures forced on them by the Merkel-Sarkozy duo (the latter no longer holds the Presidency). First the Greeks and now the French. It’s simply a matter of time before Europe favors pro-growth policies and recovers from its slump.

The European Union, despite its current setbacks, continues to be viewed much more favorably as an intermediary actor to solve international disputes than any other international actor. Europe’s embrace of soft power tools and strategic culture of public diplomacy over hard power mechanisms has increased its global appeal over the last four decades. One financial crisis may damage its reputation in the short term, but will hardly tarnish it, as some commentators claim.

Meanwhile, in China, the region’s economic power house, the country continues to face its own internal challenges; from human rights and democratic protests to wide scale corruption and internal party struggles within the Community Party. In the last year alone, we’ve watched the unfolding of the high-speed train crash scandal, the case of the ruthless and corrupt Communist Party Chief Bo Xillai caught out and most recently, the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng made international news for speaking out against false imprisonment and persecution. Hardly, a country running smoothly. China’s retreat from the Indian Ocean after a more aggressive posture in early 2009 is proof that China is not ready to lead nor play the role of a serious global power.

Japan, another major economy in the region has little interest in playing a more serious role in global politics, not to mention its domestic focus on recovery after the Fukashima nuclear disaster.

My point is that the so called ‘old-world order’ still matters. And Europe will be back.

Lessons from Iraq

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Todd

NEW YORK- Washington seems geared towards its third war in just eleven years. War Propaganda is in no deficit on Capitol Hill, reminiscent of what we witnessed pre-March 2003 when U.S troops marched into Baghdad under the “Coalition of the willing” umbrella, toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in just four weeks. Since then, we’ve watched Maliki’s Iraq plunge into sectarian warfare, deep corruption, and chaos.  Hardly a ‘mission accomplished’.

By characterizing Iran as an armed, existential threat, like it did with Iraq in 2003, and drawing arbitrary distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ regimes characteristic of the Bush years (think ‘Axis of Evil’ speech), Washington is leaving little wiggle room for any effective diplomacy. Former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans rightly pointed out that “the real world is a place of gray shades, not black or white”.  The ongoing aggressive war campaign on Capitol Hill should be viewed with deep suspicion and should be subject to rigorous public scrutiny to ensure Washington does not stumble into Iraq 2.0.

Following, America’s unilateral launch of the Iraq war, under the “Coalition of the Willing” umbrella, the international community began to seriously question the precedent being set in U.S foreign policy and whether Iraq was the first in a string of pre-emptive attacks to come. The contradictions were clear from the beginning. In February 2001, Colin Powell stated that Saddam Hussein was not a threat, nor did Iraq develop any significant capabilities with respect to weapons of mass destruction. Yet only twenty-four months later, he infamously addressed the United Nations General Assembly asserting that Iraq was aggressively rebuilding its WMD program and would likely share its technology with Al-Qaeda.  Today we hear a similar argument, that is, a nuclear Iran would likely be aggressive and contribute towards destabilising the region’s relative harmony in the last two decades.  Members of the GOP itching to go to war against the Persian state claim that Iran, like Iraq (pre-2003), would transfer nuclear materials and technology to notorious terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

Washington is unlikely to muster international support for a war against Iran, given its track record in Iraq.  Further, the moral wounds and bruises of Abu Ghraib have not yet healed. Unable to muster international support for a military intervention, like Iraq in 2003, America and its staunch ally in the Middle East, Israel, are likely to stumble into a full blown war with Iran without mapping a comprehensive policy outlining the goals of the mission and a clear exit-strategy from the Persian Gulf. America would find itself embroiled in another conflict in the Muslim world marred by deep antagonism towards the West and a hostile international community, in the midst of an economic downturn at home. It would also likely deal a severe blow to the wave of democratisation movements across the region, particularly in neighbouring Syria, as Assad’s brutal regime continues to massacre its own people and seems unlikely to cede power anytime soon. Waging a war on another Muslim country in the region would likely shift momentum away from pro-democracy movements and further strengthen Arab despots who, as a result, could justify state repression as a tool to keep the West out.

Furthermore, as Colin Kahl, former U.S Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East pointed out, “any war with Iran would be a messy and extraordinarily violent affair, with significant casualties and consequences”, and unlike Iraq, Iran has developed strong proxy relationships capable of inflicting disproportionate destruction.

A more limited military approach; a surgical strike to take out several Iranian facilities as Israel did on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981 will likely backfire as it could spur strong domestic support for an Iranian nuclear weapon at a time when the regime itself is vulnerable to the forces of the Arab Spring. The Israeli strike that took out the suspected Syrian nuclear site Al Kibar relatively successfully in 2007 cannot be used as precedent to strike the Natanz or Qom nuclear sites in Iran. In contrast to Syria, the Iranian nuclear program is far more advanced, dispersed and beneath ground, making it difficult to wipe out its program entirely through airstrikes. Should Washington consider conventional war as it did in Iraq, it would be useful to understand that, while it would likely “win” a conventional war against Iran, Tehran is unlikely to play by the rules and would most likely use tactics like guerrilla warfare and air strikes on Israel through its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah to launch a strong offensive. Moreover, any disruptions or minor conflicts on the  Strait of Hormuz, would be economically disastrous for the West given that about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the strait.

Objectively speaking, it is highly unlikely that Iran will abandon its pursuit of developing a nuclear capability owing to a fragile geopolitical neighbourhood and  a nuclear armed Israel on its periphery. Add to that the wide belief in the U.S defence community that Israel is preparing to launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran and you have a recipe for disaster as the seeds of mistrust on both sides spiral out of control.

The Republican presidential candidates have so far condemned President Obama’s more cautionary approach in dealing with Iran, pledging a tougher approach upon ceasing the high throne. The GOP’s portrayal of the Islamic Republic as an irrational, radical Anti-west regime shifts international public debate away from smart policy options, towards the “us” versus “them” mantra Bush and Blair espoused after 9/11.

There are indeed lessons to be learnt from the Iraq experience. Firstly; intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion was skewed, highly politicized, and taken out of context. Repeated warnings from the intelligence community not to use flawed intelligence were ignored by the Bush administration, according to Paul R. Pillar, who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. Policy makers in Washington should heed the lessons from Iraq and pay more attention to intelligence officers this time around. There is little evidence to suggest that Iran has made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon capacity. The IAEA Report on Iran released in November 2011 should not be conflated, as there is little reliable evidence to suggest definitively, that Iran has recently resumed operations at its nuclear sites, though admittedly if it was weaponizing its behaviour might be indistinguishable from its present course. Joseph Cirincione and Elise Connor at the Ploughshares Fund estimate that it would take Iran at least three to five years to weaponize. Though the real concern with Iran’s nuclear program is that it may continue to enriching uranium up to twenty percent, thereby reducing the breakout threshold, should Ayatollah Khomeini and Ahmadinejad decide to given an order to weaponize in the near future.

So far, the preferred method in dealing with Iran has been tightening sanctions on the regime. In an effort to choke the regime and force them to come to the negotiating table, the Obama administration placed an executive order to restrict Iran’s access to international financial institutions.

For now, the Obama administration is likely to tighten sanctions and continue covert operations against specific targets and sites, according to Shashank Joshi, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Tighter sanctions will continue to place strain on Iran’s economy, given its heavy dependence on oil exports in the international market. Playing the waiting game will have two desirable effects: firstly, it gives Washington’s dual-track policy of diplomacy and sanctions enough time to work, and secondly, it gives military planners additional time to develop comprehensive policy options, should Iran pursue its nuclear weapon ambitions aggressively.

At this stage, however, Iran like Iraq in 2003, has agreed to the partial admission of IAEA inspectors. Last time however, they were not given legitimate opportunity to verify Saddam’s nuclear ambitions. We can ill-afford another Iraq, not with the knowledge we have today.

If Washington does not heed the lessons from war-torn Iraq, and decides to unilaterally attack Tehran tomorrow, history will not be too kind to America.

A follow up: The Dangers of Launching a War on Iraq

After some comments and thoughts from a few colleagues and friends, I felt I should add a few more points to my original article on Iran’s nuclear program titled ” The Dangers of Launching a War on Iraq”.

What’s most concerning at this stage is that Israel is putting serious pressure on Washington to launch such a war, or at the very least, to support a war against Iran. To date, the Obama administration has shown some restraint in the war mongering department but it may have no choice but to support a limited military air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the near future. Another point my colleague pointed out on which I thought I should address; is whether Israel would unilaterally strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. On this point, it is important to remember that Israeli air force capability is no where nearly as proficient as that of the Pentagon, and it is more likely than not that following such an operation, Iran would aggressively move to building a nuclear weapon; moving its operations further beneath ground and into more secret locations.

Perhaps this is the only place Washington has some leverage at this stage, especially given its possession of the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, capable of penetrating up to 200 feet of reinforced concrete and therefore the only military tool capable of destroying the Natanz facility and potentially even the less active nuclear site in Qom.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insists that Iran is an existential threat to its survival as a state; and on the other,  Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme leader of Iran who continues to maintain unequivocally that his country is NOT pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

A chance of such a strike in numbers? When I asked Joseph Cirincione, an advisor to the State Dept and President of Plough Shares Fund, a nuclear security group in Washington, he gave it a 50/50 chance that Israel will launch such a strike in the next few months, before Iran supposedly enters the “Zone of Immunity”.

What would such a strike look like? I recommend this article by Ehud Eiran ” What Happens After Israel Attacks Iran”.

For those who are curious as to whether containment is possible if Washington or Israel strike Iran’s facilities, I would also recommend the article above.

Containment strategies would be unlikely to work given Iran’s strong ties to proxy networks that would disproportionately harm U.S and Israeli interests in the region, given the decentralized nature of the regime’s affilitations with Hezbollah for example. A conventional war is unlikely, and though Washington would “win” such a war, it would come at an enormous cost to both American and Israeli interests in the region. Iran is a sovereign country that is still a party to the NPT and since 2004, there has been little material evidence to suggest that it is pursuing such a program.

Don’t forget they’re legally entitled to enriching their uranium upto 20% under the treaty. Some argue that Iran is following a Japan strategy, that is developing a strong nuclear capability and thereby reducing the break out period, if a decision were ever made to build an actual weapon. Perhaps this is true, even then, Iran as a sovereign country is not partaking in any illegal activity. Israel and Washington’s policies may further drive Iranian leader’s over the edge with their constant war threats. Every possible pressure must be applied on both countries to restrain from such a result.

Other articles to look out for: Matthew Kroenig’s article: “Best Time to Attack Iran” and Colin H. Kahl “Not Time to Attack Iran”.

The ‘Responsibility to Protect’: a neo-colonial project?

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) represents a dramatic shift in the post Westphalian nation-state. States have voluntarily accepted the right of the international community to intervene in cases where governments are unable or are the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes, mass atrocities and genocide. Sceptics of the doctrine like Mahmood Mamdani argue that the doctrine will be abused by the big powers for their own self-interest in continental Africa. The premise of this argument exploits the past wretched colonial history that most African nations are still battling with today. This paper will negate the argument that RtoP and international justice are merely facades for a larger western agenda to recolonise Africa in three parts. Firstly, RtoP represents a significant movement away from the traditional notion of sovereignty. Mamdani’s assertion that the concept was born out of Western capitals and forced down the throats of Africans is a lie. Secondly, RtoP has advanced the norms of international justice, particularly the International Criminal Court. Mamdani and his colleagues argue that the ICC is a Western court designed to try Africans. Nothing could be further from the truth, Africans were heavily involved in the creation of the court and the subsequent operations of the court, both administratively and referring cases to the ICC. Thirdly, Mamdani misrepresents the Darfur conflict in his book Saviors and Survivors as a conflict between Arabs and Africans and argues that calls intervention by the international community in Darfur were unwarranted as the situation did not meet the criteria of a ‘genocide’. This paper argues that Mamdani and his colleagues have oversimplified the RtoP doctrine as a ‘neo-colonial’ project that will give credibility to African dictators who will continually evade justice and commit crimes against humanity.

In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) coined the phrase ‘The ‘Responsibility to Protect’. This linguistic shift radically altered the traditional notion of sovereignty. By adopting the principle in 2005, the United Nations General Assembly accepted that states were responsible for the protection of their populations, and if they failed to do so adequately in the face of mass atrocities, the international community had a duty to intervene (UNGA Resolution 1674, World Summit 2005). The shift had begun in 2000 when Kofi Annan had made a powerful statement in the Millennium Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, “If humanitarian intervention is indeed an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica- to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”(Annan, 2000). The RtoP doctrine was introduced to bridge that traditional gap between two contradicting norms of international law, that of state sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. The doctrine was mildly successful in negating the old arguments that RtoP would be misused by the West to legitimise their military and opportunistic interventions, often branded ‘old militarism in a new bottle’ (Bellamy, 2009).

Humanitarian interventions’ were not uncommon through the 20th century, take for example India’s intervention in the Pakistan civil war in response to atrocities taking place in Bengal, Tanzania’s attack on Uganda to bring down its leader Ida Amen or Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea to allegedly end the inhumane policies of the Poll Pot regime (Soroos,1985). It is clear that Mamdani’s claim that great powers would abuse the RtoP doctrine as premise to cover their unilateral interventions in smaller, weaker states in Africa is farfetched.(Luck, 2010; Newman, 2009; Mamdani, 2008). Mamdani cites Russia’s unilateral intervention into Georgia in 2008 or Kouchner’s advocacy that RtoP was applicable when Myanmar refused entry to emergency relief after cycle Nargis (Serena, 2010). For Mamdani and his supporters RtoP is simply the ‘humanitarian intervention’ characteristic of the Cold War era world order (Bellamy, 2009). Even Evans acknowledges this danger. Mamdani however fails to engage more deeply with the doctrine’s benefits in tackling the humanitarian challenges of the 21st century. Notably, whilst he criticises the doctrine and makes the argument that RtoP should be abandoned in its African ambitions, he fails to adequately give an alternative. Perhaps the best one can draw from his argument is that the African Union should be responsible for ensuring mass atrocities and human suffering are averted. This argument has little credit, given the African Union is severely underfunded and under-resourced, lacks adequate technical and technological expertise in interventions and is still in its youth, combating problems of corruption and legitimacy (Cohen, 2006). In rebuttal that RtoP tends to be overly militaristic and interventionist, supporters of RtoP such as Evans can point to the Kenyan case, where the principle was invoked and diplomatic measures were pursued to bring an end to the violence that took over the country in the aftermath of the 2008 elections (Bellamy, 2010).

Alex de Waal, a supporter of Mamdani’s position on RtoP and humanitarian intervention argued in the immediate aftermath of the doctrine being accepted by the international community that the Global South would soon realize its fatal mistake in accepting the doctrine because it was simply the old humanitarian intervention repackaged (De Waal, 2007). What both Mamdani and de Waal both miss is that RtoP was a moving away from the ‘right to intervene’ towards embracing more soft power mechanisms of preventing atrocities and suffering on a mass scale. Both fail to acknowledge the strong Global South support for the doctrine, take for example African National Congress (ANC) member and liberation fighter, Cyril Ramaphosa or former Filiopeno President Fidel Ramos who were strong advocates of RtoP and party to the Canadian government backed Commission (Just, 2009). Furthermore, to prove that there is strong support for the doctrine in Africa, I will point to the African Union Constitutive Act which has at its core, the right for the African Union (AU) to “intervene in a member state in the presence of grave circumstances such as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity (Constitutive Act of the African Union, July 2002).

Take the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for example, in recent times has meaningfully engaged with human rights discussions and pushed forward human rights discourse in the continent (Schabas, 2007). To suggest that these initiatives are not those of Africans but of Western imperialists are to ignore how far Africans have come in their battle to fight human rights abuses. There has also been strong initiative and cooperation between Africa and Europe, most notably the EU-Africa Summit in 2007, which aimed at combating crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, including the punishment of those crimes under international law (Max Du Plessis, 2008). Scholars such as Mamdani have chosen to ignore the normative developments in Africa in their fight against human rights abuse.

This is not to ignore the humiliation, pain and subordination Africans suffered under colonialism (Obadina, 2008). Europeans had exploited Africa for its vast mineral resources and cheap labour for most of the 20th century and upon independence, most of these states were left with poor institutional capacities, arbitrarily constructed societies and political hierarchy. Few will forget their experience under colonialism. However Mamdani and those who support his argument that RtoP will be misused by Western powers to force-feed their agenda onto Africa are merely exploiting these sentiments. There is also a tendency for many educated Africans to portray Westerners for their woes, blaming their current political, economic social turmoil on the West (Obadina, 2008). This populist sentiment has allowed many African leaders and dictators to cling onto power as they fight the imaginary white man (Obadina, 2008).

Another major criticism surrounding RtoP has been the emphasis on pursuing international justice; that is, the persecution of those responsible for committing mass atrocities. Most notable in this routine criticism is that the ICC is a creation of western powers designed to target Africans (Obadina, 2008). Mamdani’s arguments that the ICC is out to get Africans rests on two pillars: firstly, that the ICC was created solely by Western imperial powers, and secondly, that it was forced down the throats of African leaders who were forced to choose between accepting the court or bidding goodbye to development aid (Pheku, 2008).

In rebuttal, African leaders have embraced the ideals and objectives of the ICC, as embodied in the African Union’s core principles including the ratification of the Rome Statute by thirty African countries (Max Du Plessis, 2008).  African states were also very active in the formation of the court. Consider that 4 of the 18 judges of the Court are African, the Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou  Bensouda is Gambian and the Vice President of the Court, Akua Kuenyehia is Ghanaian. The Court itself represents the ICC even better than the UN Security Council does. The arguments by Mamdani and those in his side of the court would have you believe otherwise. Furthermore, in recent years, African leaders have spent significant political capital tackling the culture of impunity that is prevalent across the continent, particularly crimes against humanity and mass atrocities. (Mochochoko, 2005).

Add to that the growing support for the International Criminal Court within African civil society, including over 90 NGOs scattered around the continent in Kenya, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia and claims that the ICC is not in the best interests of Africans is an overly exaggerated and artificially constructed concept for those seeking fame (as in scholars such as Mamdani) or the cosiness of some African dictators (Mochochoko, 2005). The Responsibility to Protect and the pursuit of international justice is intrinsic to changing the culture of impunity in the continent. The large amount of public pressure within African states has also translated into added support for the doctrine and the pursuit of justice.

Mamdani does have a valid concern in that the four countries standing before the ICC currently are African countries namely, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur. However upon closer examination, it is clear that the first three were self-referrals and the last, was referred to by the United Nations Security Council. Mamdani overlooks this pivotal point as it would inconvenient his argument that Westerns are using the ICC as a mask to pursue their colonial interests (Fritz, 2008).  Perhaps what is most frustrating about radicalists like Mamdani who ruin the good work of the ICC and the justice element of the Responsibility to Protect is that they fail to propose any meaningful measures to combat the current humanitarian crisis we face, whether it be human rights abuses in Damascus or it mass atrocities in the weakly governed areas of the eastern Congo. Mamdani’s argument that the ICC is part of some new ‘international humanitarian order’ in which big powers have unilaterally given themselves the power to be  arbitrars of justice rests on little or no empirical evidence. It rests on the oversimplification of Africa’s problems on its wretched colonial history. It is easy to see why approaching that line of argument can be tempting, however as an intellectual argument it has gained little traction (Mamdani, 2008).

In fact I would argue that Africa has more to gain from the work of the International Criminal Court than any other continent. A senior African legal adviser in the ICC’s Registrary agreed on this point, stating that no other continent had fallen prey to the widespread culture of impunity than Africa (Mochochoko, 2005). It is no surprise that African leaders have decided to tackle this culture head on by first assisting in the creation of the Court and later, would refer multiple cases to the Prosecutor, including the famous Ugandan case in 2003 when it referred its situation to the Court which ultimately resulted in the arrest warrants for five senior commanders of the Lord’s Revolution Army and its leader Joseph Kony (Max Du Plessis, 2008). In this case, like the other African cases, the Court has not undermined state sovereignty; rather it has strengthened their legitimacy and pursuit of criminals (Slaughter, 2003). The Responsibility to Protect doctrine has strengthened the mandate of the International Criminal Court.

Richard Just points out that Mamdani’s book Saviors and Survivors fails to correctly define genocide correctly. Mamdani’s defines genocide as “killing with intent to eliminate an entire group”(Mamdani, 2009). Yet the Genocide Convention adopted in 1948 defines genocide as”an attempt to eliminate a group in whole or in part” (Just, 2009). The factual and definitional mistakes only begin here and there many more that could be listed. What’s more important however is that this misstep by Mamdani undermines his credibility, he ignores facts that are inconvenient to his argument and most of all he is out of touch with humanity. His book fails to provide a serious alternative to RtoP on what the international community should do in the event that we are faced with mass atrocities, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Instead his book advocates overly simplistic and naive proposals to solve Africa’s human rights woes. He ignores comments such as those made by Jandaweed leader Musa Hilal who said “We should change the demography of Darfur and it of African tribes” (Just, 2009). If that does not constitute genocide, it’s hard to find a conflict that fits his definition of the term. Either way, even those who don’t refer to Darfur as a genocide agree that the loss of 300,000 lives in conflict in the region constitutes mass human suffering that warrants a response from the international community. By characterizing the Save Darfur movement as one that begged the U.S. government to invoke RtoP together together with neoconservatives of the Bush administration, the author lost all credibility in his advocacy of non-intervention in the Darfur conflict (Just, 2009). Mamdani’s mischaracterization of the human rights activists as intellectual descendents of European colonialists proves this point.

Mamdani and his colleagues have failed to keep up with the transformation of human rights and justice at the international level, ignoring the acceptance by the international community of the RtoP doctrine and holding onto sovereignty as if Africa’s main security threats are western military adventures (Murray, 2004). The African Union has moved much further to promoting human rights, support for democratic institutions and culture and good governance (Max Du Plessis, 2008). If the AU is a strong supporter of these international norms, what motives lie behind Mamdani and his colleagues’ assertion that these norms are Western values forced onto Africans? Mamdani’s solution to combat humanitarian abuses and injustice in the continent is to allow the African Union to deal with these problems. Yet, it is fatal to ignore that the AU is severely under-resourced and cannot adequately enforce these values on the continent (Mills, 2008).

In conclusion, this paper has argued that the RtoP doctrine has been misrepresented by Mamdani and colleagues as a neo-colonial project forced down the throats of Africans. Instead this paper has shown that African leaders and civil society were strong in their support for such a doctrine, including the adoption of the principle in the charter of the African Union. Furthermore, arguments that Mamdani’s oversimplification of RtoP and the establishment of the International Criminal Court as western ideals in his book Saviors and Survivors is a gross misrepresentation of the continent’s views. In contrast, Africa has embraced the RtoP principle and has shown strong support for the pursuit of international justice through multiple self-referrals of situations to the ICC. Lastly, this essay has demonstrated the weakness in Mamdani’s arguments that human rights activists who argued for intervention in Darfur were not in fact neoconservatives tied to the Bush administration nor European colonialists; rather they were genuine activists who wished to stop the bloodshed in Sudan. It is clear that the only beneficiary to Mamdani’s claims that RtoP and international justice are simply neo-colonial projects have been the anti-West, ruthless dictators club that include Mugabe, Gaddafi and others.

The European Union’s failed approach to Arab Spring

Few predicted that an act of self-immolation in Tunis by a desperate street-vendor would lead to a contagion that would spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, toppling many a dictator in the process. In certain respects, the geo-political and strategic structures of the region are now changing, though few can accurately predict what the final outcomes will be.

Western capitals were certainly taken by surprise at the rate the revolutions spread across the region, and consequently, were placed under pressure to take a stance on the protest movements in each country, particularly given that many were Western-friendly regimes. Their most shamefully delayed response was reflected in the European Union’s approach to the Arab Spring. The EU’s behaviour was characteristic of a decade old policy; the European-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) agreement, that has been rendered obsolete by the sudden shift in the narrative of the region. Therefore the EU was ill-equipped to deal with the sudden crises and revision of the status quo and its policy proved to be ineffective and irrelevant.

In addition, the double-standards that were being applied to different countries has proventhat the EU has lost all legitimacy as a coherent and effective international actor. For instance, the EU chose to extend its support only towards opposition movements that it considered to have a high chance of success. In Egypt, there was much hesitation from Brussels, Paris and Berlin, culminating in a series of spontaneous and weak demands for an end to the bloodshed. It was only on 4 February 2011, when Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign, that the European Council released a statement condemning the acts of violence and those who encouraged it. Furthermore, only a few weeks before Mubarak’s resignation, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon was on holiday in Egypt courtesy of Mubarak’s regime, including a luxury cruise on the Nile. The revelation of this strikes a severe blow to the legitimacy of the EU and its member-states.

In Tunisia, the EU was a fragmented and heterogeneous spectator as the majority of EU states opted for a ‘wait and see’ approach so as not to offend the regime, in case the protestors were unsuccessful in overthrowing the government. This approach proved to be futile as support for the protestors only came once Zane El Abiding had been overthrown, undermining the legitimacy of the EU. It is clear that the EU has failed to formulate a blueprint, comprehensive policy direction for the region. Rather, its responses have been a string of reactive policies towards the events in the region.

The failures of the more recent European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) also weaken its credibility towards the MENA region. EU member states’ were concerned that a change in leadership in capitals such as Cairo and Tunis would have serious geopolitical implications. Those feelings were not completely unwarranted given Egypt’s frosty relationship with Israel in recent times. In fact, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and the ENP, admitted this sentiment, “too many of us fell petty to the assumption that authoritarian regimes were a guarantee of stability in the region”. Many EU states were reluctant to cut ties with repressive, authoritarian regimes that were quashing protestors because of deep economic ties with many of these autocracies.

Additionally, under the most recent initiative, the ‘Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean’, a series of humanitarian aid and other funding was provided by the EU to deal with the immediate humanitarian calamities and unstable political landscape in the MENA region. Through this scheme, Morocco will be given €139 million to raise living standards in rural areas and to support gender equality as a result of a new constitution that will curb the powers of the King. Similarly, Algeria would receive €35 million for its cultural and transport sector. The decision to support these semi-authoritarian regimes on a ‘more for more’ approach questions the legitimacy of the EU as an international actor, especially as pledges for constitution reform in both Algeria and Morocco appear farcical.

Whilst optimists within the EU envision a Euro-Mediterranean community of democracies, it is highly unlikely that such a union will come about, given the fragile nature of many MENA countries. The EMP, the ENP and the Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean initiatives constitute as proof that the EU has failed in its approaches towards dealing with the Arab Spring and subsequently emphasises that it should not be regarded asa serious international actor in the foreign policy arena.

The EU has been described as a civilian power, normative power and soft power. How would you characterise the EU’s power potential?

Perceptions of the European Union have changed remarkably over the last decade.  In the early 1980’s, many questioned whether the EU was even a serious international actor (Bull, 1982). Now the debate is what kind of international actor the European Union is. As such, this essay will outline why the European Union has become a major power within global politics and the type of power the EU has become. Defining power can be difficult, particularly given the subjective nature of the concept.  Weber describes it as “the chance of a man, or a number of men to realize their own will in communal action, even against the resistance of others”. Yet, like all definitions of power, it fails to adequately differentiate the difference between power and influence. For the purposes of this discussion, I will use the dictionary’s definition of power, which states that power is the ability to do things in a given social context and affect others to get the outcomes you desire. The European Union’s power potential should be viewed through this lens. “We are one of the most important, if not the most important, normative powers in the world” stated European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in a 2007 interview. Does his statement reflect how the EU is perceived and its ability to wield power as an international actor or is it ignorant of the vast complexities that underpin the EU’s actor hood? To suggest that the EU is merely a civilian, soft, smart or normative power is to oversimplify the debate, which does injustice to the EU’s power potential in the twenty-first century. Duchene defines the EU primarily to be a ‘civilian’ power. He argues that the EU’s power is derived from its capacity to exert a large degree of influence on third parties, based on its own successful model of using economic and political models of security and stability (Duchene, 1972). In contrast, Manners argues that the EU’s power is rooted in its normative behaviour exemplified in its model (Sjursen, 2006). Whilst Manners and Duchene’s arguments have some credit, both fail to account for the growing competency and shared EU foreign policy objectives. This essay will argue that the European Union cannot be pigeonholed into any one stream of power, rather it embodies strong elements of a ‘soft power’ and increasingly the potential to transform into a fully-fledged smart power.

A historical analysis into the formation of the EU can be useful in defining the EU’s power potential in today’s global politics. When the European Community was proposed in the 1950s, Churchill proposed that a United States of Europe with strong defence capabilities, akin to the United States of America be established. In particular, Churchill was insistent upon a European Defence Community with a standing European army. However, a war-weary Europe rejected Churchill’s proposal and decided instead to develop a European Community based on the pooling of steel and coal industries to make inter-state war difficult (Riotta, 2011).

The EU is a unique international actor and as mentioned earlier, it cannot be pigeonholed into any particular paradigm. Rather this paper suggests that the EU’s past actions reveal that it utilises ‘soft power’ as its primary form of influence. Furthermore, realists fail to account for the large degree of institutionalized multilateral cooperation embodied in the Common Security and Defence Policy (and its predecessor the European Security and Defence Policy), further straining traditional concepts of power relations(Grieco 1997). In rebuttal, Euro-sceptics and traditional realists argue that “When all you have is a pen, everything looks like a treaty” in reference to the EU’s lack of hard power (Van Ham, 2011). Consider that the CSFP and its predecessor the ESDP now comprise a central part of Europe’s security architecture. Neorealists fail to account for such institutionalized multilateral cooperation. In many ways, the EU has challenged traditional concepts of power, especially the dominant neo-realist branch of international relations. I would suggest here that the EU’s soft power capacity has been improved through its ability to adopt a common security and foreign policy agenda. This gives Europe a chance to engage in Soft power 2.0 or ‘smart power’ as suggested by Nye in the 2007 Center for Strategic and International Studies report (CSIS, 2007). Though the report was aimed at America, the European Union has been the clear driver of this concept. It has been able to innovate and transcend traditional notions of power, by relying on soft power and in more recent times utilising valuable elements of hard power. This paper suggests that the EU has the distinct advantage of a well harnessed and effective ‘soft power’ approach that will only legitimise its pursuit of a ‘smart power’ strategy in the twenty-first century.

The EU by its nature has the unique ability to muster international support for its foreign policies. In stark contrast to the American culture of over-militarization and low tolerance for long-term investments with distant pay-offs, the EU has been able to demonstrate long-term commitment to strategic projects, particularly with respect to institution-building and development (Gray, 1994, pp.593, 597). In addition, EU policy has been less confrontational and belligerent, and has the potential to succeed where U.S ‘hard power’ militarism has failed (Van Ham, 2010 pp.577). This legitimacy and attractiveness lie at the heart of the EU’s power potential.

The EU’s unique international role has allowed it to transcend beyond the Hobbesian anarchic system of international relations. Instead, it embraces the Kantian goal of perpetual peace. The ‘warrior’ mentality associated with neo-realist’s account of power politics has been challenged by the world’s largest economic bloc. The EU has often been labelled as a metro sexual power in that it has abandoned traditional hard power macho mechanisms to exert influence on the global stage (Parag Khana, 2004). Van Ham characterises this power to be weak, arguing instead that the EU shed feminine aspects of its behaviour and join the “exclusive rank of super powers run by supermen”(Parag Khana, 2004 pp.58; Van Ham, 2010 pp.587,589 ). Therein lies the tragedy. Van Ham and other sceptics of the EU’s soft power fail to recognise that the EU’s gentler, kinder and soft power approach is its greatest asset (Van Ham, 2010 pp.587). Its embrace of the soft power approach is part of a moving trend away from neorealist notions of power politics. In any case, classical realist approaches cannot be used to characterise EU relations even if it did decide to rely on hard power because neo-Realism is premised upon the state as a central actor.

The EU is a unique international actor that cannot be pigeonholed into the existing frameworks of the current international order. The European Project in many ways is a new phenomenon, and even though it has existed for some time now, few scholars have been able to accurately describe its position on the global stage. Kagan is accurate in describing Europe’s neglect of power politics as embodied in its choice to remain militarily weak (Cooper, 2003, p.159). Europe’s strategic culture has shifted dramatically in the post WWII period. In particular, its embrace of public diplomacy and other soft power tools has increased its appeal to third parties. Europe’s characterisation as a ‘soft power’ is more appropriate than a ‘normative’ power as the latter implies an emphasis on value judgements, which can often conflict with the EU’s foreign policy goals. In particular, soft power values public diplomacy highly. The EU’s public diplomacy strategy has been highly effective. If Nye’s definition of public diplomacy is taken to analyse its effectiveness, it is evident that the EU has mastered the art of public diplomacy. In particular it has been able to build lasting relationships with key individuals over many years through scholarships, exchanges, training, seminars, conferences and harnessing strategic communication methods (Nye, 2004 pp.107-111).  Nye describes this approach as a “two-way street” in which the EU has been able to engage with civil society on development issues, improved information-sharing capacities and providing guidance, advice and economic incentives; of which are attributes of the soft power approach (Nye, 2004, pp.77). For example, in a poll conducted in the 1980s in Eastern Europe, Western Europe outranked the United States as the preferred model for economic growth, democracy and individual freedoms for its citizens (Pisano-Ferry, 2010; Nye, 2004, pp.77).

Since Europe’s resources are not drowned in traditional hard power mechanisms, it has allowed it to contribute significantly towards developing its soft power tools. This is particularly evident in Europe’s contribution of more than half of all overseas development assistance to poor countries, four times more than the United States (Nye, 2011). This adds enormous legitimacy to the EU’s soft power agenda. Add to that, in recent times Europe has embraced limited elements of military power, but has done so wisely. It is reasonable to suggest then that Europe is in a transformative phase, moving from being purely a ‘soft power’ towards engaging in ‘smart power’ mechanisms. Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe’s vast contribution to peacekeeping operations under the banner of multilateral organisations. Take the EU’s policy towards Iran’s nuclear programme for example; it has demonstrated a less confrontational and belligerent foreign policy approach. If I may speculate here, it is more likely that EU policy will bring Iran closer to the international community than the hard stance taken by the United States. Though it one can only speculate as to whether ‘European diplomacy’ will always succeed (Hyde-Pryce 2008). The recent development of limited hard power mechanisms and greater cohesion in European security and defence policy embodied in the CSDP will not undermine the EU’s soft power. Rather, given they are primarily designated for peaceful purposes; they will only increase the EU’s legitimacy (Krotz, 2009).

As suggested earlier, the European Union has built on its soft power mechanisms to develop limited mechanisms of military power that will bolster its reputation as a ‘force for good’ in international power politics. The smart power narrative the EU is moving towards has allowed it to combine soft and hard power resources into formulating successful strategies for 21st century problems (Nye, 2011). This approach has built on the EU’s soft power approaches, particularly its investment in alliances, partnerships and institutions, but has added to it smart military tools. The EU’s embrace of such hard power mechanisms is a recognition that elements of hard power can be utilised to advance a progressive cause(Evans, 2003).This smart narrative has allowed the EU to invest in joint military Research & Development, defence procurements and engagements in highly efficient military operation (Schmitt, 2003). According to Van Ham, this element of military power has allowed the EU to transform into a “fully fledged statal entity on a continental scale” (Van Ham, 2010 pp.585-587).

A new smart power might well be on the rise as the EU’s influence grows on the global stage. Firstly, it has built a smart power strategy, particularly regarding the utility of ‘hard power’ in conflict zones. In stark contrast to the U.S. where foreign policy tends to be over militarized and the Pentagon’s funding dwarfs that of the State department, the EU has opted for a multilateral approach that utilizes the UN, thereby adding legitimacy and cost-effectiveness to its military operations (Nye, 2011 pp.144). Recognising that the utility of traditional methods of military power have diminished, the EU has embraced a new generation of strategies and methods that have been tailored to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This striking new level of efficiency is a key factor as to why the EU is becoming a ‘smart power’. As Nye suggests, promoting democracy, human rights and the development of civil society are not necessarily best handled with the barrel of a gun (Nye, 2011 pp.144).

The EU has pursued ‘smart power’ strategies robustly in recent times. In particular, it has been successful in designing strategies and demonstrating skilful leadership in pursuing this agenda (Nye, 2011 pp.291). Sjursen suggests in her article What kind of power, that the adoption of a more cohesive foreign policy embodied in the CSDP raises concerns about the EU’s military ambition. Yet when examined closely, after Lisbon the EU has not adopted a different foreign policy agenda, nor is it likely to in the near future. Rather, the CSDP is part of a well designed strategy to pursue a smarter EU foreign policy (Sjursen, 2006). In many respects the EU’s smart strategy is paying off. In a recent poll for example, the vast majority of Americans agreed that the European Union had an important role in solving the world’s problems, even though militarily it remains quite weak (Nye, 2011).

In conclusion, whilst the EU partially fits Duchene’s characterisation of a ‘civilian power’ in that it emphasises multilateral cooperation, improved governance and democratic norms, it fails to explain why the EU has increasingly embraced military interventions. Manners ‘normative power’ characterisation of the EU also fails to provide a clear, all-encompassing definition of the EU’s role as an international actor. Instead this essay has argued that elements of Duchene’s civilian and Manners’ normative concepts of power exist within the framework of the EU’s soft power approach. In recent times however, the soft power characterisation of the EU has proven inadequate, particularly given the growing militarization of EU foreign policy.  The EU has moved to embrace limited elements of ‘hard power’ that it had previously neglected. It has devised a series of new generation smart strategies that will utilise elements of both hard power and soft power, giving it the potential to be a ‘smart power’ or soft power 2.0 as described by Nye.