Archive for September, 2010

Globalization and Sovereignty: a Challenge for Diplomacy?

September 29, 2010 1 comment
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by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

Globalization and the emergence of non-state actors have raised the question: Quo Vadis state sovereignty? For the past three centuries, the world as we know it has been defined by the interaction among states as primary actors which originated from the Westphalian system. Through sovereignty, states assert their supreme and exclusive authority over its territory, its freedom from any higher legal authority, and  independence from interference from other states.   The concept of sovereignty is however challenged by the rise of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social movements, transnational business corporations, transnational terrorists, and supra-national organization. Sovereignty is also being questioned by those who espouse intervention on humanitarian grounds to protect citizens under illiberal regimes. For them, sovereignty could not be used as justification for non-interference in matters such as “crimes against humanity” which in International Law is considered as jus cogens or peremptory norms

My assessment is that sovereignty in the 21st century  remains relevant; yet it is undergoing pervasive change and persistent continuities characterized by both order and disorder. To grasp this paradox is to locate this discourse on the interactive tensions between fragmentation and integration. James Rosenau argues that the post Cold War era is an age of fragmentation and that there is a need for a new concept beyond the limiting scope of sovereignty. His argument is that the world cannot be simplified in terms of interactions of states and institutions because humans are the key actors within a state. Humans as actors are non-linear, multi-perspective, have inherent traits and are socially conditioned.  With the absence of a new conceptual framework, nation-states remain central.

The concept of sovereignty is changing pervasively.  Thomas Friedman described the world as “flat”. A world where economies are interconnected and people-to-people exchanges are no longer defined by strict boundaries.  Despite the diminishing role of the state as an exclusive authority in rule-making, it still has the capability to pool resources, restrict territorial borders, protect weak sectors in the market economy, and power to act as ‘traffic manager” to the interaction of non-state actors.  The world has also become more complex. Even in ‘melting pot’ countries, U.S. citizens have asserted their identities as Filipino-American, African-American, or as American Jews whose loyalties are divided.  Multiculturalism is also argued to weaken the state and the state’s ability to rally broad consensus and support. Internet has also made territorial boundaries porous.  Apart from globalization,  issues of morality, justice and ethics in politics and business have been raised.


Challenge to Diplomacy

Diplomats will have to contend with the diminished role of the state in shaping outcomes with the increased influence of NGOs, social movements, and transnational organizations. The world economy is interdependent and the  ‘low politics’ of economy has become a top agenda of states veering away from traditional ‘high politics’ of security. The information age has also made diplomacy virtual.   These paradigm shifts necessitate governments to adjust their ways of interaction with other relevant actors in a pluralistic world.  This does not mean total relinquishing of its diplomatic initiatives to non-state actors since this will only further diminish its authority.  New questions are raised such as:  What is the new function of diplomacy in the information age?  Should sovereignty be defended? How could diplomacy remain relevant in the information age and globalization?

Two implications could be drawn from globalization and information age. First is how can diplomacy continue to pursue foreign policy goals and second, how can diplomacy influence and assist non-state actors  in a multi-centric world.  In the new era, information is power. Diplomats could easily access information that will be useful in bilateral, regional and global negotiations. For security purposes, information and new technologies make it possible for the U.S find accurate information on countries developing nuclear weapons and avert terrorist threats. Virtual diplomacy could be used to aid diplomats in performing their duties, prevent war, and increased cooperation and coordination on various multilateral issues with other states.

On the second implication, diplomats have a role in managing and assisting non-state actors through joint cooperation and partnership. For instance, governments promoting migrants’ rights could have allies with social movements and NGOs in providing services and advocating human rights. At the same, time diplomats need to adapt its communications styles and develop expertise on specific issues.  Diplomats may work in providing opportunities for transnational corporations to increase trade and investments and build stronger ties abroad. Furthermore, international organizations and supra-national organizations are new arenas of diplomacy in influencing outcomes and creation of norms and social contracts on issue areas such as climate change, financial and trade infrastructure, and cooperation against human trafficking and other transnational crimes.

In summary, sovereignty could be described by change and continuity, order and disorder, integration and fragmentation. In a globalized world, the scope of diplomacy has been enlarged beyond the traditional state system that was constructed during the Treaty of Westphalia. The emergence of non-state actors such as NGOs, transnational corporations, supranational bodies, and transnational crimes has opened the door for other actors in shaping the world order.  Apart from globalization, there is also a rise in localization.  The growing importance of identity and culture have expanded our understanding of the way diplomacy is being practiced in a more complex and pluralistic world. Diplomacy finds its relevance in persuasion and negotiations as well as in championing the need for new social contacts that will define the new world order. States remain to be relevant as “traffic managers” in a globalized world. Transnational diplomacy remains vital in managing complexity and in achieving common interests among multi-stakeholders in a multi-centric world.  As the concept of sovereignty is changing, so does diplomacy need to adapt to these changes.


ASEAN Way: Moving Forward

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by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

To view “ASEAN Way” as all about consensus is inconclusive. From the standpoint of negotiations and decision-making, the “ASEAN Way” is better viewed as a code of conduct that seeks to guide rather than seen as a method of explicit rules of procedure.

Jürgen Haacke found six norms that may be inferred in the way ASEAN conducts its business. These norms are: “sovereign equality”, “non-use of force and peaceful conflict-resolution”, “non-interference and non-intervention of ASEAN in unresolved bilateral conflicts”, “quiet diplomacy”, and mutual “respect and tolerance”.

From a western realist standpoint, “ASEAN Way”  is not effective since the realists view use of power as leverage in negotiations. However, the “ASEAN Way” may derive more sympathies from liberals who view the importance of international cooperation. ASEAN diplomacy may also be supported by constructivists who view international affairs as being defined by identity and ideas. From the perspective of   ASEAN leaders, there is no clear definition of “ASEAN Way”.  Rodolfo Severino, former secretary-general of the Southeast Asian organization, said that ASEAN leaders emphasize friendship, understanding, consensus, and non-intervention to promote regional peace and stability.  For example,  the five initial member countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines  Singapore and Thailand) emphasized their shared common interests rather than their divergent socio-political and economic backgrounds. As a behavioural norm, the “ASEAN way” made it possible for diverse member-states, form a regional identity.

Strengths of ASEAN Way

The process of consultation allows members to discuss in an informal manner their shared interests. Thorny bilateral issues are avoided and conflicting regional issues are not discussed until such time when everybody is comfortable  to do so. The benefit of ASEAN’s consensus approach is empowering members to have an equal say in shaping the agenda. Revolving chairmanship and consensus deter any single member from dominating the other members. For instance, larger states like Indonesia cannot dominate the agenda of the sub-regional body.

Consultations and consensus are the most enduring features of ASEAN. Despite its slowness, once consensus is reached, agreements are easily implemented. During the Vietnam Invasion, the principle of non-intervention of ASEAN was apparent.  It was only when the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was created that  leaders were able to discuss more openly some of the critical security concerns of the region.

Critics point out ASEAN’s weakness in solving complex and persistent conflicts of this century. They view “ASEAN Way” as being too soft on the problem.   For decades, diplomacy has been played out in the West, especially since WWII, through “carrots and sticks” strategies. By using threats or actual use of force and economic sanctions, major powers have proven that they could compel or coerce the adversarial party to change its behaviour. Considering the success of coercive diplomacy in preventing major wars during the Cold War (i.e. Cuban Missile Crisis), critics sees ASEAN’s lack of teeth to promote peace or to curb human rights abuses in member states (i.e. constructive engagement with Myanmar).

In my view, the “ASEAN Way” has proven to be an alternative in regional multilateralism.  For ASEAN, its soft regional approach has allowed its member-countries with conflicting bilateral concerns (i.e. Malaysia-Philippine territorial disputes) to sit at the same table by leaving behind their animosities for the time being. On the issue of Myanmar’s human rights violations, many ASEAN members have openly criticized the military regime and are polarized.  However, all agree to ASEAN’s “constructive engagement” with Myanmar.  It is still early to say whether Myanmar is adjusting its governance as a result of socialization and ‘peer pressure’ from its fellow members.  For ASEAN, harsh diplomacy is counter-productive. For ASEAN leaders, humanitarian considerations are important and could be best achieved without the use of sanctions. Economic sanctions and suspension of relief assistance only exacerbates the suffering of the people and should be avoided.

ASEAN’s diplomatic culture may in the long-run serve peace. In forging regional security cooperation, it has rejected a more militarized form of regionalism. The preference of ASEAN towards non-confrontational engagement has its roots in the various material constraints and incentives it has faced.     For ASEAN, the “policy of friendship is better than a policy of containment”.  As a way to move forward in regional cooperation, ASEAN has engaged East Asia through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, Republic of Korea), and the East  Asia Summit. In the ARF powers like the United States, China, India and Japan participate in the ASEAN regional multilateralism.  By default, ASEAN is in the “driver seat” in East Asian institutionalization. ASEAN is the only venue where Japan, Korea, and China could dialogue  despite their bitter past.   Since there is no clear acceptable leader in the region, ASEAN has provided its leadership and good offices for greater regional cooperation.  China’s active relationship in ASEAN has provided a fresh impetus in the emerging East Asian community.

As a model of regional multilateralism and institutional building, “ASEAN Way” has influenced the other regional groupings. An example is the way African Union is trying to pattern its norms based on the ASEAN model.   ASEAN is also engaged with the world. It has successfully managed the Cambodian conflict in 1990 in coordination with the international community.  During the Cold War, when South and North Vietnam reunified under communism, ASEAN strengthened its relationships with the U.N. and the U.S.  Likewise, the U.S. engaged ASEAN to counter the spread of communism. This mutual cooperation is one example of how both parties influence each other through the exploration and development of shared interests.  In this light, we could see that ASEAN Way does not only exert influence in the region and in East Asia but also the world in shaping an alternative diplomatic cultures and security cultures. The strength and relevance of ASEAN in international politics, is therefore indisputable.

Diplomacy and Use of Force: two sides of a coin?

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

Neville Chamberlain (L) and Adolf Hitler (R) in summit diplomacy in Munich

Diplomacy is usually associated with peace building and creating an environment of cordiality and cooperation among states for the pursuit of national and common interest.  The tools of diplomats are negotiations and persuasion while traditional military tools are guns and weapons. The duties of diplomats and military are difference. One prepares for war while the other prepares war. These dichotomies are not simple. For a strategist, both diplomacy and force are part of a state’s foreign policy instrument.  In the practice of state craft, military and diplomacy are part of one continuum.

Two perspectives of force and diplomacy

There are two distinct perspectives between the force and diplomacy nexus. For the realists, the use of threat or use of force is essential in the pursuit of power.  Hans J.Morgenthau, a proponent of the use of force in diplomacy, advocates that foreign policy is best achieved by combining force and diplomacy through coercive diplomacy, for instance.

On the contrary, the liberal perspective questions the use force to achieve peace. The classic liberal theory, which is rooted in the writings of Immanuel Kant, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, rejects the realist perspective of international relations which is classified as a “zero-sum game”.  An assumption espoused by liberals is the “democratic peace theory” which lends to the notion that democracies are inclined to avoid wars among fellow democracies.  Liberalism argues that economic interdependence and political integration produce peace.  However, some liberal scholars, does not preclude avoiding war altogether. Some advocates the “just war” doctrine which has its roots from the writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. “Just war theory” justifies the use of force if the aim is to defeat evil and the result is geared towards the common good.  A liberal may also view coercive diplomacy’s utility to threaten an adversary rather than actual its actual use.  Therefore the effectiveness of coercive diplomacy could be gauged by how it could coerce the  other party by escalation tension as a last ditch effort to achieve peace.

“hard power” vs. “soft power”

In modern diplomacy, Joseph Nye’s concept of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power provides a framework in the usefulness of military force and economic sanctions vis-à-vis persuasion and negotiation. To contextualize these two concepts, it would be useful to explore the differences between ‘hard’ and ‘soft power’.  By definition, “hard power” is about coercing your opponent to adhere to your will through threat and use of force while “soft power” is about attracting your ally to share your goals through cooperation and dialogue.  In terms of objectives, “hard power” seeks to annihilate, contain, and defeat the enemy while “soft power” seeks to persuade through mutual understanding and search of common interests.  Their techniques are different. “Hard power” relies on sanctions to foes through threats and use of force, while “soft power” coaxes partners through meaningful exchange and negotiations. “Hard power” is offensive, competing and zero-sum game while “soft power” is defensive, collaborative and a win-win game. The natural consequence of “hard power” is that i produces fear, suspicion and torment while “soft power” encourages trust and confidence.

The dissimilarities of the two viewpoints can be polarizing when situated in the context of an institutional milieu or applied in practice. The usual set-up of the military and foreign ministries as distinct, detached, and removed from each other produces divergent cultures.    However, it may also be argued that the separation of armed forces and diplomacy has been adjoined by the concept of “civil-military operations” veering away from “all-out war” approach to an “all-out peace” approach.  This is manifested by the military engagement in community-building and disaster and relief operations such as in the Philippines.

A combination of the two approaches may prove to be effective versus the use of a single approach. Absolute “hawkishness” of the Adolf Hitler sort or pure “dovishness” of the Neville Chamberlain category could be fatal.   The combination of  “hard” and “soft power” is what  Nye refer to as “smart power”. However, its mismanagement could again be disastrous as exemplified by Western power’s intervention in Afghanistan which could be described as “neither here nor there”.   A key question to be pondered is the pros and cons of using force or threats of force to accomplish foreign policy objectives.

A case in point of the success of “soft power” is  South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s “sunshine-policy”.  It was the first time that Seoul engaged  Pyongyang that resulted in the warming of relations.  The policy which was largely adopted by President Roh Moo-hyun yielded positive results and created an environment of peace. However, the policy of current President Lim Myung-bak to pressure North Korea has resulted in skirmishes and exchange of threats from both sides.  In this example, hard power approach was counter-productive.

Force, Diplomacy and Ethics

In conclusion, diplomacy is generally perceived as diametrically opposed to the use of force. A key issue to be explored beyond the relationship of force and diplomacy is the role of ethics and moral sustainability in international relations. The Gulf War and the unilateral intervention of the United States in Iraq opened a Pandora’s box and raised questions of moral and ethical use of force.  In the “just war” doctrine, force could only be justified if it attains the common good and does not produce negative and “evil” consequences. Therefore, the challenge of states is how to justify the use of force if its main concern is the pursuit of narrow national interest.  Consideration of ethics must then guide international relations.

Challenges for American diplomacy in the current U.S.-China relations

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in New York, the United States, Sept. 23, 2010. (Xinhua/Huang Jinwen)

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

The relationship of China and the United States (U.S.) will shape the 21st century.

For nearly two decades since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has enjoyed unparalleled leadership in shaping the new world order.  However, the rise of China as an emerging major power  is a threat to the pre-eminence of the U.S. in the region.  For instance, China’s deepening socio-economic relationship with ASEAN has raised worldwide concerns over its strategic consequences and raised new areas for U.S. diplomatic engagement with China.  Sino’s economic integration with Southeast Asia has raised questions in Washington whether it is China’s pretext to eventual regional hegemony.

Compared with its predecessor, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration seemed to have shifted from unilateralism to multilateralism.  For instance, Obama’s visit to China last year was an effort of the U.S. to strengthen ties beyond Bush’s economic cooperation. The U.S. sought to expand bilateral relations including issues related to regional security, energy use, climate change and cultural exchanges. Obama also acknowledged that U.S.-China relationship is huge and complex.  He invoked the need for both countries to work on areas of common interest and to have open dialogue on areas of disagreements.

The security challenges for U.S. diplomacy in the current U.S.-China relations could be illuminated by three International Relations perspective. From the U.S. realist perspective, China’s rise is a threat to Pax Americana. This view supports the idea that China’s military build-up  should be viewed with suspicion and therefore must be controlled and  pre-empted through coercive diplomacy.    The liberal approach, however,  lends support to Obama’s multilateral engagement with China in fostering political, economic, and cultural cooperation.  The liberal perspective views economic interdependence as crucial to the peace in the region.    And beyond economic issues,  collective action is required in other areas such as resolving the recent financial crisis, climate change, and nuclear disarmament.  According to the liberal perspective, China’s authoritarian regime may evolve into a more open political system by its integration in the world economy.  For the constructivists, who view ideas and identities as forces that shape interests, the challenge for U.S. diplomacy is how to promote democratic reforms in China, persuade China’s emerging leaders to adopt moderation on Taiwan Straits issues, and promote modern western cultures  and norms in China  through “soft power” approaches.

The challenge for U.S. diplomacy under the Obama administration is how to maintain and strengthen U.S. position of global leadership. In the Asian region, particularly in Southeast Asia, China  could be classified as both as a regional and an emerging global power.   Although China’s diplomacy has made inroads in regional economic integration, security structure in the region remains dominated by the U.S. and its bilateral alliance.  The strength of the U.S. is its perceived moral leadership and its readiness to assume a social and political burden that leadership entails; virtues that are yet to emerge from China as it faces scrutiny over human rights concerns and suspicions over its real intentions.

On the other hand, the U.S. has to realize that it could no longer remain complacent in the status quo it has enjoyed for the past few decades as a global leader. The future of the region is inextricably linked with U.S.-China relation.  One way for the U.S. to keep its leadership role in the region is  to strategically engage China in a shared leadership role within Southeast Asia in the future.

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