Sunday, December 12, 2021

Eighty Years Ago, on December 7th Japan Assaulted More than Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Japan expanded its war on the Asian mainland south and eastward into the Pacific.

by Mindy L. Kotler

National Interest, Dec 7, 2021

Eighty years ago today, December 7, 1941, critical airfields and ports across Southeast Asia and the Pacific were ablaze and in ruin. In just seven hours, Imperial Japan’s surprise attacks cripled British and American forces in the Far East, exposed the Dutch East Indies to invasion, and pushed Thailand into submission. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was but one of many that day. Casualties of the “Associated Powers,” likely exceeded those in Hawaii. One result of these unprovoked attacks was the creation of alliances that endure to this day.

Japan coordinated attacks on the U.S. territories of Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Howland Island, and Midway and the British Empire in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Japanese forces invaded and bombed Thailand’s airfields. In Shanghai, Japan took control of the International Settlement after blowing up the last two British and American gunboats on the Yangtze, the HMS Peterel and the USS Wake.  

The first attack, 70 minutes before Pearl Harbor, was on British-Indian forces at Kota Bharu, on the eastern side of Malaya. Hours before, a British flying boat was shot down by Japanese aircraft while monitoring the progress of the Japanese fleet. The British Royal Air Force crew and their Royal Australian Air Force observer became the first Allied casualties of the war. The ensuing defense of northeastern Malaya was fierce and savage with high casualties on both sides. 

Soon after, Bangkok was bombed and Japanese troops landed to its south and at various points along the Kra Peninsula on the southeastern coast of Thailand. Again, the invaders met with stiff resistance. Despite determined Thai forces, the fighting lasted only five hours. Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram agreed to a ceasefire and formed an alliance with Japan. The Kota Bharu landings were a prelude to the drive down the eastern side of the Malay peninsula, while the Japanese troops landed in Thailand advanced with Thai soldiers down the western side to seize Singapore and its naval base--the cornerstone of British power in the Indo-Pacific. Japanese planes bombed Singapore that day in warning.

Japan’s early morning attack on Pearl Harbor on Hawaii’s Oahu, was followed by the bombardments of the American airfields on Midway and Howland Island in the equatorial Pacific. Two of the four Hawaii settlers on Howland were killed. For his selfless defense of Midway, First Lieutenant George H. Cannon became the first U.S. Marine in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor.

Guam was shelled, bombed, and invaded. The American territory fell two days later. Of the nearly 500 American military personnel taken to Japan from Guam as prisoners of war, five were female nurses. Japanese troops occupied Batan Island above Northern Luzon in the Philippines before mounting a full-scale invasion. This approach on Aparri on the coast of Cagayan Valley, believed by American war planners as impractical, caught the defenders off-guard and unprepared. The success of the surprise assault was played out just this past fall when U.S., Filipino, and Japanese forces held their first joint amphibious exercises near this Northern Luzon town.

Six hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese bombed Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport and pushed the defending British and Commonwealth troops to the defensive Gin Drinkers Line. The territory, however, was long regarded as indefensible. Nevertheless British, Indian, Canadian  units along with the Auxiliary Defence Units and Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) held out for two weeks against a Japanese force twice its size.

The Japanese attacked Wake Island about the same time as they bombed Hong Kong. The Americans on Wake Island were composed of 400 Marines, a handful of soldiers and sailors, 45 Chamorro Pan Am employees,  and 1,146 unarmed civilian contractors building an airfield. They proceeded to do what had never been done before or after, hold off an Armada for nearly two weeks. They did not surrender until December 23rd.

The last Japanese actions on December 7th were the bombing of the Iba and Clark airfields in southern Luzon, the Philippines. As in Hawaii, the Japanese caught the American planes on the ground and the defense weak. The guns of neither the ageing artillery batteries nor tank battalions defending the fields could reach the high flying Japanese planes. Whereas the attack on Pearl Harbor damaged the Pacific Fleet, the attack on the Philippines and other U.S. territories destroyed the Far East Air Force. 

The first battle casualty of the Armored Force in World War II, Pvt. Robert Brooks of Kentucky’s Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion, took place on Clark Field. Back at Fort Knox, the home of the newly formed Armored Force, the Commanding General Jacob Devers responded to the news by ordering that the main parade ground at the base be named after the young tanker. This distinction was particularly significant as Brooks turned out to be African American.

On December 7, 1941, Japan expanded its war on the Asian mainland south and eastward into the Pacific. The primary objective was to knock out American and British opposition to its advance into Southeast Asia. The ultimate goal was occupation of the Indo-Pacific, control over  its valuable natural resources, and supremacy over the region's seas. As the sun set, Japan's success seemed possible.

Instead, the day’s debacles forged alliances with a resolve to fight fascist expansionism East and West. The “Associated Powers” (Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States) became the Allies and expanded to include India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and free forces from Japan’s occupied territories. The shared bitter experience of Imperial Japan’s wanton brutality and deceits provided the emotional bond to this warfighting coalition. Ironically, these very alliances are what Japan today looks to in defending its homeland. 

Monday Asia Events December 13, 2021

BEYOND VACCINE DIPLOMACY: THE UNITED STATES AND COVID19 RECOVERY IN THE PHILIPPINES AND SOUTHEAST ASIA. 12/13, 9:00-10:30pm (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Pacific Forum International. Speakers: Sec. Carlito Galvez, Chief Implementer, National Task Force for COVID-19, Republic of the Philippines; Dr. Yanzhong Huang, Professor and Director, Center for Global Health Studies, Seton Hall University; Moderator: Angelica Mangahas, PhD Candidate, SAIS, Johns Hopkins. 

AMERICAN, CHINESE, AND INDIAN TRILATERAL PERSPECTIVES: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS-REPORT LAUNCH. 12/13, 9:00am (EST), ZOOM. Sponsor: Sigur Center, GW. Speakers: Ambassador Teresita C. Schaffer, served at US embassies in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, and from 1992-95 as US Ambassador in Sri Lanka; Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch, Founding President of the US-China Education Trust; Ambassador WEI Wei served as the Special and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam, the Republic of Singapore, and the Republic of India; Nirupama Menon Rao is a retired Indian diplomat, Foreign Secretary and Ambassador; David M. Lampton is Senior Fellow at the SAIS Foreign Policy Institute and Professor Emeritus at Johns Hopkins–SAIS; Professor JIA Qingguo currently serves as Professor and former Dean of the School of International Studies of Peking University.

JAPAN, THE U.S., AND ECONOMIC AND SECURITY POLICY LINKAGES IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT. 12/13, 9:15am (EST), ZOOM. Sponsor: Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Speakers: Tain Jy Chen, Professor of Economics, Taipei School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Emeritus, National Taiwan University; Sadamasa Oue, Senior Fellow, Asia Pacific Initiative; Lt. Gen. (retired), Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF); Shelley Rigger, Brown Professor of Political Science, Davidson College; Daniel Russel, Vice President, International Security and Diplomacy, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI); Moderator: Christina L. Davis, Director, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations; Professor of Government; Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. 

TRAFFIC LIGHT & QUIRINALE: A MORE JOINED UP FOREIGN POLICY FOR THE EU’S BIG THREE? 12/13, 10:00-11:30am (EST), 4:00-5:30pm (CET), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). Speakers: Riccardo Alcaro, Research Coordinator and Head of the Global Actors Programme, IAI Rome; Ronja Kempin, Senior Fellow, EU/Europe Division, SWP Berlin; Pol Morillas, Director, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB); Jean-Pierre Darnis, Associate Fellow, FRS Paris; Moderator: Zachary Paikin, Researcher, CEPS. 

NUCLEAR WEAPONS STOCKPILE STEWARDSHIP AND INERTIAL CONFINEMENT: HOW THE U.S. USES BIG SCIENCE TO ENSURE OUR AGING NUCLEAR WARHEADS WORK. 12/13, Noon-1:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsors: Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies; Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center. Speakers: Dr. Mark Anderson, Assistant Deputy Administrator, Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, National Nuclear Security Administration; Dr. E. Michael Campbell, Director, Laboratory for Laser Energetics, University of Rochester; Dr. Mark C. Herrmann, Deputy Program Director, Fundamental Weapons Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Dr. Kimberly Scott, Program Director, Office of Experimental Sciences, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Dr. Daniel Sinars, Director, Pulsed Power Sciences Center, Sandia National Laboratories. 

MODERNIZING INTELLIGENCE FOR THE GRAY ZONE. 12/13, 2:00-3:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: H.E. Michael Vickers, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; Moderator: Jake Harrington, Intelligence Fellow, International Security Program, CSIS. 

COLLAPSE: THE FALL OF THE SOVIET UNION. 12/13, 4:00-5:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsors: National History Center; Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Vladislav Zubok, Author, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science; William Taubman, Bertrand Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Amherst College; Dina Fainberg, Associate Professor of Modern History, City University of London. PURCHASE BOOK:

JOONGANG ILBO-CSIS FORUM 2021: THE BIDEN ERA AND KOREA'S GLOBAL STRATEGY. 12/13, 7:30-10:30pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsors: CSIS; JoongAng Ilbo. Speakers Include: Yun Byung-Se, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea; Song Min-Soon, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea; Hong Seok-Hyun, Chairman, JoongAng Holdings; Park Myung-Lim, Director, Korea Peace Foundation; Wi Sung-Lac, Chairman, Pragmatic Foreign Affairs Committee, Presidential Campaign for Lee Jae Myung, Democratic Party of Korea; John J. Hamre, President, CSIS; Victor 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Monday Asia Events December 5, 2021

2021 GLOBAL FORUM ON COMPETITION. 12/6, 6:00-10:00am (EST), Noon-4:00pm (CET), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Speakers Include: Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, IMF; Mathias Cormann, Secretary-General, OECD; Frédéric Jenny, Chair, OECD Competition Committee; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General, WTO; Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UNCTAD; Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor, Columbia University.  

JOINING DEMOCRACY AND PEACE: HARNESSING THE INEXTRICABLE LINK BETWEEN THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS AND PEACEBUILDING. 12/6, 9:30-11:00am (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: U.S. Institute of Peace Institute (USIP). Speakers: Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, U.S.; Farhad Alaaldin, Chair, Iraq Advisory Council, Iraq; Maria Jimena Duzan, Host, “A Fondo” Podcast, Colombia; Glenda Gloria, Executive Editor, Rappler, Philippines; Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Nigeria; Oleksandra Matviychuk, Chair, Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine; Moderator: Lise Grande, President and CEO, USIP. 

ADVOCATES FOR DEMOCRACY IN CLOSED SPACES. 12/6, 10:00-11:30am (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers Include: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations; Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Amb. Isobel Coleman, Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming, USAID; Anna Dobrovolskaya, Executive Director, Memorial Human Rights Center; Glacier Kwong, Political and Digital Rights Activist, Hong Kong; Sopheap Chak, Executive Director, Cambodian Center for Human Rights; Luciano Garcia, President, Hagamos Democracia.   

STEPHEN HABER ON THE BATTLE OVER PATENTS: HISTORY AND POLITICS OF INNOVATION. 12/6, 10:00-11:00am (PST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Hoover. Speakers: Stephen Haber, Author, Senior Fellow, Hoover; Alexander Galetovic, Research Fellow, Hoover; Gerardo Con Diaz, Former William C. Bark National Fellow, Hoover. PURCHASE BOOK:

FORTIFYING THE FUTURE: BUILDING RESILIENCE IN THE AGE OF DISINFORMATION SESSION 2. 12/6, 10:00-11:00am (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: National Committee on American Foreign Policy. Speakers: Benjamin Haddad, Senior Director, Europe Center, Atlantic Council; Dominika Hajdu, Policy Director, Centre for Democracy and Reslience, GLOBSEC Policy Institute; Jakub Janda, Director, European Values Center for Security Policy; James Pamment, Associate Professor, Lund University; Moderator: Nicholas Thompson, CEO, The Atlantic. 

REBOOTING THE EU-U.S. DEFENSE RELATIONSHIP. 12/6, 11:00am-Noon (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), Johns Hopkins. Speaker: Sophia Besch, Research Fellow, AICGS, Johns Hopkins. 

VICIOUS CYCLE OF ELECTORAL VOLATILITY IN KYRGYZSTAN. 12/6, 11:00am-Noon (EST), LIVESTREAM. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Dr. Aijan Sharshenova, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, OSCE Academy; Bruce Pannier, Senior Correspondent for Central Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Amb. Kadyr Toktogulov, former Kyrgyzstan Ambassador to the U.S.; Paul Stronski, Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie. 

PROGRESS AT THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION AND US TRADE POLICY IN THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION. 12/6, 11:00am-12:30pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Speakers Include: Angela Ellard, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization; Joshua P. Meltzer, Senior Fellow, Brookings; Jennifer A. Hillman, Professor, GU; Moderators: Neena Shenai, Nonresident Fellow, AEI.

2021 HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON AWARDS: WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS. 12/6, 11:00am-Noon, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Speakers: H.E. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State, U.S.; H.E. Madeleine K. Albright, 64th Secretary of State, U.S.; Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Dr. Marina Pisklakova, Founder & Chair, ANNA – National Center for the Prevention of Violence; Guo Jianmei, Founder, Center for Women’s Law Studies and Legal Services; Dr. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage; Palwasha Hassan, Director, Afghan Women’s Educational Center. Location: Gaston Hall, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20007.

CONGRESS AND WAR: RECLAIMING ARTICLE I POWERS. 12/6, Noon-1:00pm (EST), LIVESTREAM. Sponsor: Cato. Speakers: Chris Murphy, Senator for Connecticut, United States Senate; Jordan Cohen, Policy Analyst, Cato; Gene Healy, Senior Vice President for Policy, Cato; Moderator: Eric Gomez, Director of Defense Policy Studies, Cato. 

HOW CAN CARBON MINERALIZATION HELP FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE? 12/6, Noon-1:30pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University. Speakers: Dr. S. Julio Friedmann, Senior Research Scholar, Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University; Dr. Peter Kelemen, Arthur D. Storke Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University; Sasha Wilson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Science, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Administrator, University of Alberta. 

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS MEETING. 12/6, Noon-1:30pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Gold Institute for International Strategy (GIIS). Speakers: Monica Crowley, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; David P. Goldman, President, Macrostrategy LLC, Asia Times, Economist, WSJ; Ambassador Hisham ElNakib, Advisor to Egyptian Mission to U.N.; Marc Black, Senior Law Enforcement Fellow, GIIS; Adam Lovinger, Vice President of Strategic Affairs, GIIS.

CHINA’S POWER: UP FOR DEBATE 2021 - DEBATE 2: BEIJING’S CRACKDOWN WILL STIFLE CHINESE TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC INNOVATION. 12/6, 4:00-5:15pm (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Rui Ma, China Tech Analyst, Main Writer and Co-Host, Tech Buzz China; Matt Sheehan, Fellow, Asia Program, Carnegie; Moderator: Bonny Lin, Director, China Power Project, CSIS. 

NATIONAL READINESS FOR GREAT POWER COMPETITION. 12/6, 5:00-6:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Institute of World Politics. Speaker: General Joseph L. Votel (Ret.), Commander, U.S. Central Command. 

SPECIAL SCREENING OF UK DOCUMENTARY “JAPAN’S WARTIME SEX SLAVES” AND PANEL DISCUSSION. 12/6, 7:30pm (GMT), 2:30pm (EST), IN PERSON (University of Oxford) and VIRTUAL. Sponsors: Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA); Comfort Women Action for Redress and Education (CARE). Speakers: Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Journalist, Unreported World; Dr. Maki Kimura, Lecturer in Gender and Politics, University College London; Christina Lamb, Journalist, Sunday Times; Moderator: Dr. Alexis Dudden, Professor, University of Connecticut. Location: Magdalen College Auditorium, University of Oxford. Request link from; [article about Japanese rightwing harassment]

duplicate? SPECIAL INTERVIEW OF UK DOCUMENTARY “JAPAN’S WARTIME SEX SLAVES” COMFORT WOMAN SURVIVOR YONG-SOO LEE. 12/6, 10:00am (GMT), 5:00am (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsors: Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA); Comfort Women Action for Redress and Education (CARE). Speaker: Yong-soo Lee. Request link from []

SHEDDING TAIWAN'S 'INVISIBILITY CLOAK': GLOBAL AND REGIONAL PROSPECTS. 12/6, 8:00-9:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Sigur Center, Elliot School, GW. Speakers: Liang-Yu Wang, Deputy Representative, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S.; Pasha L. Hsieh, Associate Professor and the Associate Dean (Faculty Matters & Research), Singapore Management University Yong Pung How School of Law; Michael Mazza, Nonresident Fellow, Global Taiwan Institute and German Marshall Fund of the United States; Moderator: Deepa Ollapally, Associate Director, Sigur Center, Elliot School, GW. 

TOWARDS POST-COVID-19 FISCAL POLICY AND DIGITALIZATION IN ASIA. 12/6, 10:00pm-12:00am (EST), 12/7, Noon-2:00pm (JST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI). Speakers Include: Odd-Per Brekk, Deputy Director, Asia and Pacific Department, IMF; Paolo Mauro, Deputy Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF; Ruud De Mooij, Assistant Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF; Dharitri Panda, Finance Ministry, India; Sangwook Nam, Ministry of Economy and Finance, Republic of Korea; John Beirne, Research Fellow, ADBI.

Monday, November 22, 2021

This Week on Asia November 20-26, 2021

11/22, 3:00am (EST), 5:00pm (JST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS), Temple University Japan. Speaker: Akira Igata, Executive Director, Center for Rule-Making Strategies, Tama University; Moderator: Robert Dujarric, Co-Director, ICAS, Temple University Japan. 

BIRTH OF THE STATE: THE PLACE OF THE BODY IN CRAFTING MODERN POLITICS. 11/22, 4:00-6:30pm (CEST), 10:00am (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Speakers: Charlotte Epstein, Author, Senior Researcher, DIIS; Finn Stepputat, Senior Researcher, DIIS; Robin May Schott, Senior Researcher, DIIS; Stefano Guzzini, Senior Researcher, DIIS; Rune Lykkeberg, Editor-in-chief, Information.  PURCHASE BOOK:

DEBATE: “China’s growing assertiveness is mainly driven by a sense of insecurity and perceived threats.” 11/22, 1:30- 2:15pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Michael Swaine, Director, East Asia Program, Quincy Institute; Evan Medeiros, Penner Family Chair, Asian Studies, Walsh School of Foreign Service, GU; Bonny Lin, Director, China Power Project, CSIS. 

THE GLOBAL STATE OF DEMOCRACY REPORT - GLOBAL LAUNCH. 11/22, 5:00-7:00pm (CET), 11:00am-1:00pm (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). Speakers: Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships; Dr. Jürgen Zattler, Director-General for International Development Policy, 2030 Agenda; Dr. Seema Shah, Head of Democracy Assessment Unit, International IDEA; Dr. Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General, International IDEA; Christophe Deloire, Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders; Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa; Mu Sochua, former Vice-President, Cambodia National Rescue Party; Moderator: Massimo Tommasoli, Director of Global Programmes, International IDEA. 

INDO-PACIFIC EMPIRE: CHINA, AMERICA AND THE CONTEST FOR THE WORLD’S PIVOTAL REGION. 11/22, 4:00-5:15pm (EST), LIVESTREAM. Sponsor: Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Speakers: author Rory Medcalf, Head, National Security College, Australia National University; Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow and Director, Indo-Pacific Security Program, CNAS; Dr. Michael Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, CSIS; Thomas Wright, Director, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution; Moderated by: Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer, CNAS.

FORGING THAILAND – US CLIMATE AND ENERGY PARTNERSHIP. 11/23, 8:00-9:15am (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: East-West Center in Washington (EWCW). Speakers: H.E. Manasvi Srisodapol, Ambassador of Thailand to the United States of America; Mr. Kulit Sombatsiri, Permanent Secretary, Thailand Ministry of Energy; Mr. Harry R. Kamian, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources, United States Department of State; Mr. Mark W. Menezes, former Deputy Secretary of Energy, United States Department of Energy; Ms. Verinda Fike, Regional Manager for the Indo-Pacific, US Trade and Development Agency; Mr. Noppadol Dej-Udom, Chief Sustainability Officer, Charoen Pokphand Group Company Limited (C.P. Group); Ms. Courtney Weatherby, Research Analyst and Deputy Director, Energy, Water, and Sustainability, Southeast Asia, Stimson Center; H.E. Piper Campbell, Former Head of the US Mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) & Adjunct Professorial Lecturer, American University.

11/23, Noon-1:00pm (EST), ONLINE. Sponsor: Hudson Institute. Speakers: Henry Sokolski, Executive Director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center; John Lee, Senior Fellow, Hudson; Moderator: Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Defense Concepts and Technology, Hudson. 

A CONVERSATION WITH JAMES MULVENON. 11/23, 12:30-2:00pm (EST), Washington, DC. Sponsor: Asian Studies Program, Walsh School of Foreign Service, GU. Speakers: James Mulvenon, Director of Intelligence Integration, SOS International; Moderator: Michael Green, Professor of International Affairs, Walsh School of Foreign Service, GU. 

CHINA–US COMPETITION IN AI: DESTABILISING AND INTENSIFYING. 11/24 9:00-10.30am (EST), 10:00-11.30pm (SGT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: IISS. Speakers: Dr James Johnson, author Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Warfare: USA, China, and strategic stability (2021); Dr Greg Austin leads the Cyber, Space and Future Conflict Programme at IISS and is based in the Singapore office; Meia Nouwensleads IISS research on China's Digital Silk Road.

PARTNERS IN DETERRENCE: US NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND ALLIANCES IN EUROPE AND ASIA. 11/24, 8:30-9:30pm (EST), 11/25 12:30–1:30pm (AEDT) ONLINE. Sponsor: ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. Speakers: author Emeritus Professor Hugh White, Australian National University; Professor Caitlin Byrne, Griffith University; Professor Andrew O'Neil, Griffith University; Professor Stephan Frühling, Australian National University. 

STATE OF DEMOCRACY IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC REPORT LAUNCH. 11/24, 6:00-7:30pm (CET), Noon-1:30pm (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). Speakers: H.E. Audrey Tang, Digital Minister of Taiwan; Leena Rikkila Tamang, Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific, International IDEA; Dr. Edward Aspinall, Professor, Coral Bell School of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University; Dr. Imelda Deinla, Associate Professor, Ateneo School of Government, Philippines; Dr. Nematullah Bizhan, former government official of Afghanistan; Moderator: Dr. Mark Evans, Professor, Center for Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, University of Canberra. 

11/24, 9:00am-5:30pm (CEST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Speakers: Thant Myint-U, Historian, Conservationist, Former Danish Presidential Adviser; Moe Thuzar, Fellow, and Co-coordinator of the Myanmar Studies Programme at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore; Jason Tower, Country Director, Burma, United States Institute of Peace (USIP); Marco Bünte, Professor at the Institute of Asian Politics and Society, University of Erlangen- Nürnberg ; Morten Pedersen, Senior Lecturer, University of South Wales; Michael Lidauer, Associate of the Myanmar Institute; Lisbeth Pilegaard, Director, Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD); Myat The Thitsar, PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts -Lowell; Mikael Gravers, Emeritus Associate Professor, Aarhus University. 

PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES FOR EXPANDING TAIWAN'S ECONOMIC SPACE AND ACCESSION INTO COMPREHENSIVE AND PROGRESSIVE AGREEMENT FOR TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (CPTPP). 11/24, 9:00-10:30am (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Global Taiwan Institute (GTI). Speakers: Terry Cooke, Founder, China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia; Shihoko Goto, Deputy Director for Geoeconomics, Wilson Center; Amb. Michael Reilly, former Director, British Trade and Cultural Office, Taipei; Riley Walters, Deputy Director, Japan Chair, Hudson; Moderator: Russell Hsiao, Executive Director, GTI. 

CORPORATE SUBSIDIES BY CHINA, THE EU, AND THE US: TIME FOR REFORMS? 11/25, 5:00am (EST), 6:00pm (SGT),WEBINAR. Sponsor: Hinrich Foundation. Speakers: co-author, Simon Evenett, Founder, Global Trade Alert; Weihuan Zhou, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney, Australia; Gary Sampson, Professor of International Trade, Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne, Australia; Moderator: Kaewkamol (Karen) Pitakdumrongkit, Deputy Head, Centre for Multilateralism Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. 

THE GLOBAL STATE OF DEMOCRACY REPORT - STOCKHOLM PRESENTATION. 11/25, 3:00-5:00pm (CET), 9:00-11:00am (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). Speakers: H.E. Ann Linde, Foreign Affairs Minister, Sweden; Dr. Seema Shah, Head of Democracy Assessment, International IDEA; Benedicte Berner, Civil Rights Defenders; Erik Halkjaer, Reporters Without Borders; Birgitta Ohlsson, National Democratic Institute; Moderator: Dr. Miguel Angel Lara Otaola, Senior Democracy Assessment Specialist, International IDEA. 

10 MONTHS AFTER THE MILITARY COUP – WHERE IS MYANMAR HEADING? 11/25 DAY 2. 11/25, 10:00am-Noon (CEST), WEBINAR. Speakers: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Speakers: Christian Lund, Professor, Copenhagen University; Kirsten McConnachie, Professor, University of East Anglia; Elisabeth Rhoads, Postdoc, Lund University; Anders Baltzer Jørgensen, Emeritus Researcher and previous Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Annika Pohl Harrisson, Postdoc Researcher, Aarhus University; Susanne Kempel, Researcher and independent consultant; John Nielsen, Senior Analyst at DIIS and Former Danish Ambassador to Myanmar; Helene Maria Kyed, Head of Research Unit, DIIS. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Biden And Xi Move Back From The Brink

By Daniel Sneider, Lecturer, International Policy at Stanford University and APP Member
Toyo Keizai, November 18, 2021

The three-and-half-hour virtual summit meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not, and could not, solve the fundamental problems that have driven the two great powers toward confrontation. But both men clearly wanted to challenge the misperception that they are on the brink of conflict, and to prevent an unintended escalation of tensions that might become impossible to manage.

Nowhere was that goal more visible than on Taiwan, the one issue that poses the greatest risk of drawing China and the U.S. into war. Xi and Biden spent considerable time discussing Taiwan, according to the U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Both men carefully restated their long-held positions – for China, strong opposition to any steps that would move Taiwan toward a declaration of independence. For the U.S., a line is drawn against “any effort to shape Taiwan’s future by anything other than peaceful means,” as Sullivan told the Brookings Institution after the meeting.

But Sullivan notably repeated the American adherence to the existence of “One China” and to the series of joint statements going back decades that reiterate this position, a message clearly meant for the Chinese audience. The summit discussion aimed, he said, at avoiding any “destabilizing actions” by either side, to “manage risk and ensure that competition doesn’t veer into conflict,” to avoid unintended conflicts that arise out of miscommunication.

“Both sides fear it has been spinning out of control -- the mutual demonization and mirror-image tit for tat escalation -- and want to put a floor under it,” says Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council, a former senior official, and Asia expert. “I think the idea was to give the bureaucracies in both nations a mandate from the top to seek mechanisms to manage differences and also where to cooperate – climate, Iran, maybe North Korea and Afghanistan all have some overlap of interests.”

The step back from confrontation may have influenced the resistance from the White House to the Japanese desire for an early visit to Washington by Prime Minister Kishida Fumio after his election triumph. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry openly sought a White House meeting as early as later this month. But the White House politely pushed the date back, perhaps into next year.

This was mainly driven by Biden’s heavy domestic schedule and the need to accommodate the visits of other allies. But in the view of some, the White House also wanted to put some space between the Xi summit and a Kishida visit, worried it would be viewed as an attempt to balance the effort to improve relations with China.

For the new government in Japan, the summit could pose a challenge. On one hand, it strengthens the hand of those in the cabinet who advocate a more balanced approach toward China, combining efforts to pursue engagement with measures to ensure economic security. On the other hand, Kishida may face pressure from hardliners in the Liberal Democratic Party who are eager to tighten military cooperation with the U.S. on Taiwan and advocate a more rapid defense buildup.

Limited results on the issues
It would be naïve, however, to overplay the summit results. Beyond the acknowledgment that escalation is in neither side’s interest, there was no visible movement on the agenda of issues presented by both leaders, a list aired frequently during the past 10 months. President Biden ran through China’s dismal human rights record, from Tibet and Xinjiang to Hong Kong; unfair trade and industrial practices; the military buildup in the South China Sea and the threats to freedom of navigation, and the need for a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific.’

The Chinese responded with their own accusations of American responsibility for creating a new Cold War. The American crimes, Xi reportedly told Biden, included advocacy of high-tech decoupling, economic sanctions, and forging military alliances to confront China, as well as using Taiwan to contain China and interfering in China’s internal affairs.

The meeting did avoid the harsh tones and public posturing that were displayed at the beginning of the Biden administration at the meeting of senior officials held in Alaska. “Both sides seem to acknowledge that runaway escalation is in neither side’s interest,” former senior State Department official Ryan Hass told a Brookings Institution panel discussing the summit. But while the meeting placed a floor under the relationship, there is also a clear ceiling on any substantial progress, he warned. “Neither side wants to be seen as softening,” Hass, now at Brookings, said.

Domestic issues come first in both countries
Both leaders are mainly absorbed by problems at home. President Biden’s popularity is sliding in the face of renewed concerns over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, unease over the economic future amidst rising inflation and supply chain disruptions, and the impasse in the U.S. Congress which has stalled key legislation including a new massive spending bill. Domestic priorities clearly shaped the summit with Xi – the meeting only followed the passage of a massive $1 trillion infrastructure spending package, motivated in part by the competition with China.

President Biden “is unwilling to jeopardize his ability to achieve higher priority objectives by making concessions to Beijing merely to create the appearance of a better relationship,” observed Stanford China expert Thomas Finger, a former senior American intelligence official.

Xi is under no less onerous internal pressures, generated by slowing growth, a collapse of the real estate bubble, and a politically-motivated crackdown on China’s private sector tech entrepreneurs. This is compounded by a growing crisis of energy supply and rising prices in the global energy sector. Market reforms are stalled and “a severe economic slowdown has therefore become a near-term worry, not a distant one,” wrote China economy analyst Daniel Rosen in Foreign Affairs earlier this month. “Xi is running out of time,” Rosen warned.

The open economic warfare between China and the U.S., begun under the Trump administration and largely continued with Biden, has been a major factor in driving the strategic competition between the two countries. And it has been useful to both leaders in justifying other policies – in the Chinese case, internal repression and economic autonomy, if not decoupling and in the U.S. case, domestic spending on infrastructure and industrial rejuvenation, as well as ‘buy American’ measures.

There were some glimmers of potential breaks in this economic clash. The climate agreement reached in Glasgow between China and the U.S. was a surprise and could lead to cooperation in other areas, including on public health and energy. Apparently, the two leaders did spend some time exploring the current energy situation, not only shortages of supply but also price rises. Increased production of American natural gas for the Chinese market could potentially ease shortages in that market and also offer some significant reduction in the use of more carbon-intensive fuels like coal.

But overall, the summit offered few signs of progress in managing the economic collision that was set in motion in the previous administration and even longer ago. The absence of an elaborated trade policy by the Biden administration was painfully evident at the summit.

Biden reportedly pushed for the implementation of the Phase One agreement reached by the Trump administration, including Chinese purchase commitments, but there is no evidence that is feasible. And there are no talks on the agenda with China beyond that.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Trade Representative and Commerce Secretary are on their way to Asia without any vision of a broader regional approach, though Sullivan made a passing reference to a preliminary discussion on an agreement on digital trade.

“The open question for the broader relationship is whether the US and China can constructively manage the slow-motion collision that is now unfolding between their very different worldviews,” commented former trade negotiator Stephen Olson and now a senior researcher for the Hinrich Foundation.

Cooperation and engagement will take place, Olson wrote after the summit, but the clear differences between China and the U.S. will not go away. “They can however be responsibly managed in a way that ameliorates the fallout. That is in the best interests of both countries, and it will be the defining challenge in US-China relations for the foreseeable future. Whether the Biden-Xi summit moved us any closer to meeting that challenge, however, remains to be seen.”

For now, a small opening has been made
For now, the best that can be hoped for is that the small opening in the otherwise relentless talk of confrontation and potential war will hold up and lead to more serious negotiations among senior officials. A lessening of harsh rhetoric in the media may be one immediate outcome. The summit yielded an agreement to ease restrictions on visas for American reporters, allowing their return to China, in exchange for reciprocal access for Chinese journalists from official media. Some steps to ease travel restrictions on business and academic visits may follow.

The Chinese media coverage reflected the official line, treating it as a positive shift but also as a win for the regime. “The tone is steadfast but not aggressive,” commented a scholar who closely monitors social media in China. “The Chinese government was relieved. Trump was very aggressive and unpredictable. Biden seems predictable and conciliatory.”

How long this mood will last remains to be seen.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Monday in Asia November 8, 2021

Richard Katz
former editor of the The Oriental Economist Report and APP member started a new blog called “Japan Economy Watch on Substack. While it’s mostly about the Japanese economy and economic policy, it also covers Japanese politics and US economic conditions and policy, particularly in the areas of trade policy and finance. You can reach it and subscribe for free HERE.
SYMPOSIUM ON GLOBAL MARITIME COOPERATION AND OCEAN GOVERNANCE 2021. 11/8, 8:00pm-8:40am (EST), 11/9, 9:00am-9:40pm (CST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsors: China-Southeast Asia Research Center on the South China Sea (CSARC); National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS). Speakers Include: E. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, China; Mr. Wu Jianghao, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China; Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations; Wang Hong, Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Administrator of State Oceanic Administration, China; H.E. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Former Philippine President; Michael Lodge, Secretary-General, International Seabed Authority; Adnan Rashid Nasser Al-Azri, Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. 

JAPAN HELD ITS HALLOWEEN ELECTION—WHAT NOW? 11/8, 8:30-9:30am (EST), 10:30-11:30 pm (JST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsors: Stimson; The Canon Institution of Global Studies (CIGS). Speakers: Kuni Miyake, Research Director for Foreign and National Security Affairs, CIGS; Hiroyuki Akita, Commentator, Nikkei; Moderator: Yuki Tatsumi, Director, Japan Program, Stimson.

TAKING STOCK OF NEW FED AND ECB MONETARY POLICY FRAMEWORKS. 11/8, 9:00-10:30am (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Hutchins Center, Brookings. Speakers: Ben S. Bernanke, Distinguished Fellow in Residence, Economic Studies, Brookings; Richard Clarida, Vice Chair, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; Philip R. Lane, Member, Executive Board, European Central Bank; Julia Coronado, President & Founder, Macropolicy Perspectives; Bill Dudley, Former President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Aysegul Sahin, Richard J. Gonzalez Regents Chair in Economics, University of Texas at Austin; Tiffany Wilding, Executive Vice President and North American Economist, PIMCO; Moderators: Rachana Shanbhogue, Finance & Economics Editor, The Economist; David Wessel, Director, Hutchins Center, Brookings. 

MOBILIZING FOR ELECTIONS: PATRONAGE AND POLITICAL MACHINES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. 11/8, 10:00-11:15am (EST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Asia Center, Harvard University. Speakers: Meredith Weiss, Professor of Political Science, University at Albany; Allen Hicken, Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan.

SUSTAINABILITY, EQUALITY, PEACE: INTEGRATING CLIMATE CHANGE & WPS AGENDAS. 11/8, 11:00am-12:15pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsors: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security; United Arab Emirates Mission to the United States; Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN); Rural Women Energy Security (RUWES). Speakers: HE Pekka Haavisto, Finland's Minister for Foreign and European Affairs; HE Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN; Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate, U.S. Department of State; Ann Cairns, Vice Chairman, Mastercard; Gertrude Kenyangi, Executive Director, Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (SWAGEN), Uganda; Nafisah Abubakar, Head of Secretariat, Rural Women Energy Security (RUWES), Nigeria; Zonibel Woods, Senior Social Development Specialist, Asian Development Bank; Moderator: Amb. Melanne Verveer, Executive Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

BENEFITS AND PROSPECTS OF FREE TRADE IN ENVIRONMENTAL GOODS. 11/8, Noon-1:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Cato. Speakers: H.E. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA); Former Rep. James Bacchus (D-FL), Adjunct Fellow, Cato; Maureen Hinman, Co‐​Founder and Chairman, Silverado Policy Accelerator; Inu Manak, Research Fellow, Cato. 

ELECTION WATCH 2022: ONE YEAR OUT. 11/8, Noon-1:15pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Speakers: Michael Barone, Senior Fellow Emeritus, AEI; John C. Fortier, Senior Fellow, AEI; Henry Olsen, Senior Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Center; Norman J. Ornstein, Senior Fellow Emeritus, AEI; Moderator: Karlyn Bowman, Distinguished Senior Fellow, AEI. 

US-CHINA TECH COMPETITION AND EUROPE'S DEMOCRACIES. 11/8, 2:00-3:00pm (CEST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). Speakers: Nigel Inkster, Senior Advisor, Cyber Security and China, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS); Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Senior Fellow, Asia program, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP); Luke Patey, Senior Researcher, DIIS. 

2021 ELECTIONS: RESULTS AND IMPLICATIONS. 11/8, 2:00-3:00pm (EST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Elaine Kamarck, Founding Director, Center for Effective Public Management; Amy Walter, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, The Cook Political Report; Chris Stirewalt, Senior Fellow, AEI; John Hudak, Deputy Director, Center for Effective Public Management; Moderator: Juan Williams, Senior Political Analyst, Fox News Channel. 

JAPANESE LEGAL SYSTEM. 11/8, 8:00pm (EST), 11/9, 10:00am (JST), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsors: Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies (YCAPS); Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. Speaker: Tim Webster, Law Professor, Western New England University. 

SHAPING THE PRAGMATIC AND EFFECTIVE STRATEGY TOWARD CHINA: DEFENSE AND ECONOMIC SECURITY. 11/8, 8:00-10:00pm (EST), 11/9, 10:00am-Noon (JST), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF). Speakers: Kazuko Kojima, Professor, Keio University; Heigo Sato, Professor, Takushoku University; Toshiya Tsugami, President, Tsugami Workshop Ltd.; Tsuneo Watanabe, Senior Fellow, SPF; Eric Heginbotham, Principal Research Scientist, Center for International Studies, MIT; James Schoff, Senior Director, SPF USA; Mireya Solis, Director and Senior Fellow, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, Brookings; Nicholas Szechenyi, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, Japan Chair, CSIS. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Monday in Asia November 1, 2021

. 11/1-2 (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsors: Peterson Institute (PIIE); Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), National University of Singapore (NUS). Speakers: Adam S. Posen, President, PIIE; Danny Quah, Dean, LKYSPP, NUS; Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister, Singapore; Chad P. Bown, Reginald Jones Senior Fellow, PIIE; Michael Buchanan, Head of Portfolio Strategy & Risk Group, Temasek; Muhamad Chatib Basri, former Indonesian Finance Minister; Jacqueline Poh, Managing Director, Singapore Economic Development Board; Tsai Ming-Kai, Chairman, MediaTek Inc.; Moderator: Danny Quah, Dean, LKYSPP, NUS. 

CULTIVATING CLIMATE: US-CHINA RELATIONS AND GLOBAL CLIMATE COOPERATION. 11/1, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School. Speaker: Jiaqi Lu, Predoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School; Moderator: Henry Lee, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School. 

. 11/1, 12:30-1:30pm (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Center for American Progress (CAP). Speakers: Tobias Harris, Senior Fellow for Asia, CAP; Sheila Smith, John E. Merow Senior Fellow for Asia Pacific Studies, Council on Foreign Relations. 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Biden’s New Policy On Trade With China

– Old Wine In Old Bottles

By Daniel Sneider, Lecturer, International Policy at Stanford University and APP member

Toyo Keizai, October 27,2021

After nine months of review, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai delivered a much-anticipated speech earlier this month, touted as the unveiling of the Biden administration’s “new approach” to trade with China. Instead, to the disappointment of many trade policy experts, including backers of the administration, the senior U.S. official offered no new policies beyond vague statements.
Rather, Tai began with implementing the policies left behind by Donald Trump.

“The speech essentially affirmed the shift of U.S. trade policy on China begun under the Trump administration,” former trade negotiator Clyde Prestowitz told Toyo Keizai.

“It was a bit softer in tone than the Trump administration,” added Prestowitz, a prominent advocate of a tough approach to China, “but certainly not a step back to the ‘positive engagement’ policies of five Presidents. She did not really offer a policy.”

In her speech, Tai focused first on the implementation of the Trump administration’s Phase One agreement with China, a deal centered on Trump’s obsession with the outdated idea that balance of goods trade figures are the only measure of success.

Even though Biden criticized that view, Tai made it clear that the Trump tariffs imposed to enforce that agreement remain in place, with a restart of the process where American firms can seek selective exclusion from those tariffs.

The senior trade policy official expressed the intention to talk to China about its industrial policy favoring the state-controlled firms and its non-market practices, none of which was addressed in the Trump policy. But she offered no concrete path to such negotiations. And while there was a nod to the need to coordinate with allies in Europe (but not Asia), the outlined policy remained anchored in the unilateralism of the previous administration and a similar ‘Buy American’ strategy.

“There was nothing new and we seem to be doubling down on ineffective policies,” commented Brookings Institution expert Mireya Solis. She points to the clear disconnect between being critical of Trump’s approach to China, and then stating that your main initiative is to see through the implementation of the flawed Trumpian agreement.

“My conclusion was that the administration’s policy, at least in the short term, will be enforcement of Trump’s phase one deal,” commented former senior official and trade policy expert William Reinsch, who hosted Tai’s speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. “This is ironic, since the question I am asked the most about the administration’s China policy is how it is different from Trump’s. The answer now appears to be not by much.”

Industrial, not trade, policy

The Biden administration is clearly imprisoned by the deep political divide in the U.S. and focused on passing bills to spur infrastructure and social welfare spending. A tough approach to China remains one of the few issues on which there is some bipartisan agreement and Biden has used the need to compete with China as a primary motivation for his domestic policy agenda.

The Tai speech also conveyed the sense that there has been shift, beginning in the previous administration and continued now, to industrial policy replacing trade policy.

“The question for Biden is not so much what to negotiate with China because it is clear that we are not going to change China’s trade and industrial policies,” says Prestowitz, whose most recent book focused on the struggle with China for global leadership.

“So, the question is what we are going to do about ourselves. The Chips Act hard infrastructure stuff passed by the Senate is a taste of that.”

Working with allies – not so fast

The absence of a global or even a regional trade strategy based on working with allies and partners was particularly disturbing to some observers. In the policy speech, there was only a brief mention of working with European allies in the U.S.-E.U. Trade and Technology Council to combat “non-market practices” but no mention at all of working with Japan, Korea and others on technology security and supply chain management issues.

The emphasis instead was on building domestic industrial competitiveness and defending industries such as steel and solar panels from foreign competitors.

“Mostly, the USTR is talking about continuing with the managed trade approach of the Trump administration, one that that undercuts cohesion with our allies because the purchasing commitments are discriminatory,” comments Solis, who directs the Center for East Asia Policy Studies and Japan Studies at the prestigious Washington thinktank, the Brookings Institution.

The erratic impulsive character of Trump’s Twitter-fueled trade policy is thankfully gone, but the use of tariffs as the main tool remains intact. And this extends to allies. The Biden administration has yet to lift the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, or questioned the use of Section 232 which imposed those import controls on the grounds that they threatened national security. “Allies are being told two different things --work together on China but things must be produced here,” says Solis.

Meanwhile, opportunities for collaborating with our partners in Asia that could create more effective tools for dealing with China were simply not mentioned in the ‘new’ policy. The most obvious one is the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which China has now applied to join.

Trump withdrew from the TPP on his first day in office and a return to the TPP is considered out of the question politically since it faces opposition from both the Democratic and Republican parties. But there are other avenues for multilateral cooperation that are not so politically problematic – the priority should be forming a digital economy partnership agreement that would set market and regulatory standards for the digital economy. A kernel of such a deal has already been formed by New Zealand, Singapore and Chile, now joined by South Korea.

The lack of American leadership is a particular challenge for Japan which has made economic security a priority, aiming to protect critical technologies and diminish the risk of supply chains that are dependent on China.

There is an obvious convergence of interests on this with the U.S., Europe, South Korea and others. But the decision of Japan to move ahead with the CPTPP, hoping that the U.S. would eventually return, offers a precedent for the exercise of independent leadership.

China’s application to join the CPTPP poses a new challenge for Japan. On one hand, the Chinese decision, even it was done for purely cynical reasons to embarrass the U.S., does potentially force China to carry out reforms needed to conform to the tough global standards set by the agreement. The Chinese, however, will likely seek to gain access based on the membership requirements set for Vietnam which allow some exceptions from immediate compliance for its large state-run sector.

If China were allowed to do this, it poses the danger of watering down the CPTPP to the point where it puts no effective pressure on China to open its economy to real competition. Japan and Australia are certain to push back on this but it will be a difficult political battle.

“It will expose how much Japan and other economies are in the front lines, and we are nowhere, we are missing in action,” Brookings expert Solis told Toyo Keizai. “How long can they wait if we don’t signal that we have a pulse.”

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Monday Asia Events, October 25, 2021

. 10/25, 9:00-10:00pm (EDT), 10/26, 10:00-11:00am (JST). ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Yokosuka Council On Asia Pacific Studies (YCAPS). Speaker: James D.J. Brown, Associate Professor, Political Science, Temple University, Japan Campus; Moderator: Michael Okamoto, Director, Getting to Know Japan Series, YCAPS.

WORLD BANK MENA ECONOMIC UPDATE, OCTOBER 2021. 10/25, 9:00-10:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Middle East Institute (MEI). Speakers: Ferid Belhaj, Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, World BankL Roberta Gatti, Chief Economist, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank; Paul Salem, President, Middle East Institute (MEI); Moderator: Karen Young, Senior fellow and Director, Program on Economics and Energy, Middle East Institute.

WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN: NO HOPE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS? 10/25, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Middle East Institute (MEI). Speakers: Rina Amiri, Senior Fellow, Center on International Cooperation and Center for Global Affairs, New York University; Sahar Halaimzai , Non-resident Senior Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council; Nilofar Sakhi, Non-resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; Heela Yoon, Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; Moderator: Iulia Joja, Project Director, Afghanistan Watch. 

US AIR FORCE GENERAL MARK D. KELLY. 10/25, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), Washington, DC (WEBINAR AVAILABLE). Sponsor: Mitchell Institute. Speakers: General Mark D. Kelly, Commander of Air Combat Command, United States Air Force. Location: Capitol Hill Club, 300 First St SE, Washington, DC 20003.

RUSSIAN RELATIONS WITH CENTRAL ASIA AND AFGHANISTAN. 10/25, Noon-1:30pm (EDT). Sponsor: Harriman Institute, Columbia University. Speakers: Artemy Kalinovsky, Professor of Russian, Soviet, and Post-Soviet Studies, Temple University; Nargis Kassenova, Senior Fellow and Director, Program on Central Asia, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University; Ivan Safranchuk, Director, Center of Euro-Asian Research, MGIMO; Ekaterina Stepanova, Director, Peace and Conflict Studies Unit, National Research Institute of the World Economy & International Relations (IMEMO); Moderator: Alexander Cooley, Director of the Harriman Institute, Columbia University; Moderator: Joshua Tucker, Director of the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, New York University.

THE EXPANSION OF THE OPIUM TRADE IN AFGHANISTAN. 10/25, Noon-12:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Heritage. Speakers: Lawrence Baumeister, Former Supervisory Special Agent, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; Moderator: Paul J. Larkin Jr., Rumpel Senior Legal Research Fellow, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, Heritage.

IP INFRINGEMENT AND STATE SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY. 10/25, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), WEBCAST. Sponsor: Hudson. Speakers: Kristen Osenga, Austin E. Owen Research Scholar and Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law; Kevin Madigan, Vice President, Legal Policy and Copyright Counsel, Copyright Alliance; Rick Allen, Co-Founder, Executive Producer, and Director, Nautilus Productions; Moderator: Devlin Hartline, Legal Fellow, Forum for Intellectual Property, Hudson.

FASTEST PATH TO ZERO: ADVANCED NUCLEAR. 10/25, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsors: Third Way; College of Engineering, University of Michigan. Speakers Include: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA); Josh Freed, Senior Vice President, Climate and Energy Program, Third Way; Dr. Aditi Verma, Visiting Scholar, Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard Kennedy School; Dr. Sola Talabi, Advanced Reactor Committee Member, National Academy of Sciences. 

BANGLADESH: A DEVELOPMENT SUCCESS STORY. 10/25, 1:00-2:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Shahidul Islam, Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States; Dan Mozena, Former U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, 2011-2015; Farooq Sobhan, Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister, Bangladesh; Rubana Huq, President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association; Tamara Hasan Abed, Senior Director, BRAC; Moderator: Daniel F. Runde, Senior Vice President, CSIS.

IDENTIFYING CORROSIVE CAPITAL FROM CHINA IN THE AMERICAS AND THE CARIBBEAN. 10/25, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Center for International Private Enterprise. Speakers: David Shedd, Former Acting Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; Parsifal D’Sola Alvarado, Founder and Executive Director, Andrés Bello Foundation; Jessica Ludwig, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy. 

GUNS, GUERILLAS, AND THE GREAT LEADER: NORTH KOREA AND THE THIRD WORLD. 10/25, 4:00-5:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Benjamin R. Young, Author, Assistant Professor in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Virginia Commonwealth University; Jean H. Lee, Senior Fellow, Wilson Center (WWC); Hazel Smith, Professorial Research Associate, Korean Studies, School of Oriental and African studies, University of London; Moderator: Christian F. Ostermann, Director, History and Public Policy Program, Wilson Center (WWC); Moderator: Eric Arnesen, Professor of History, GW; Moderator: Gregg Brazinsky, Fellow, Wilson Center (WWC), Professor of History and International Affairs, GW. PURCHASE BOOK:

HONG KONG GOES CARBON NEUTRAL. 10/25, 5:00-6:00pm (PDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). Speakers: Kam-sing Wong, Secretary for the Environment, HKSAR Government; Moderator: Patrick Suckling, Non-resident Senior Fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). 

US-JAPAN RELATIONS IN THE POST-COVID WORLD. 10/25, 5:00-6:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Reischauer Center, SAIS, Johns Hopkins. Speaker: H.E. Koji Tomita, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States. 

DISCUSSION WITH UN'S SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF IDPS. 10/25, 7:00-8:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University. Speaker: Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, United Nations. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Democracy is all about history


History is not about feelings. It is about what happened. 
We must take responsibility for our history.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Democracy is messy

Your brain on authoritarianism: 
The inside forces that drive people to turn on democracy
WBUR, This program aired on October 5, 2021

Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale. Author of several books, including "Our Malady" and "The Road to Unfreedom." (@TimothyDSnyder)

Lisa Feldman Barrett, professor of psychology at Northeastern University. Chief science officer for the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital. Author of “7 1/2 Lessons About the Brain." (@LFeldmanBarrett)

Interview Highlights

On the history of philosophical thought and democracy

Timothy Snyder: "We don't even need 2021 to tell us. There's a long tradition of philosophical thought about this. From Plato, who has Socrates say that none of us is self-sufficient, all the way up to Rousseau, who has a book called Emile about how you have to educate people to work in public. We've known for a very long time that if you want to have a complex form of politics, the kind that you described in your introduction, you have to have individuals who are educated in a certain way, and who are aware of what they are doing, who have a kind of reflectiveness.

"Democracy's about reflection. It's about seeing the world, it's about self-correction. Which means that it's not at all the default form of politics. Historically speaking, it's quite exceptional. And I think one of the problems we have in America is that we've kind of come to think that freedom just means, 'Whatever I happen to think, whatever I happen to be convinced of, whatever I feel like doing at this very moment.' And that notion of freedom is highly manipulable by larger forces, by media, especially by social media. And that version of freedom is probably incompatible with democracy. Because it makes reflection something that we just don't do."

On the 'most important purpose' of our brains

Lisa Feldman Barrett: "We don't have brains because brains are rational. They allow us to be rational and controlled in some deliberate way. That's not really the pinnacle of brain evolution. We have brains because brains are important for regulating bodies. And if you look all the way back to the dawn of when brains evolved, they evolved for the ... most important purpose ... to really regulate the systems of your body. So your brain, you can think is running like a budget for your body, all the systems inside your body.

"So right now, as we're talking, as our listeners are listening, there's a whole drama going on inside each of us that we're really largely unaware of because our brains are basically taking care of regulating our hearts, our lungs and so on. We can talk about it as a body budget, and the brain doesn't budget money. It's budgeting glucose, and salt, and oxygen, and water and so on to keep us alive and well. And the two most expensive things your brain can do is move your body around, like when you're exercising or just dragging yourself out of bed in the morning.

"And learning something new, particularly in conditions of uncertainty. And so learning something new, something unexpected, particularly when circumstances are uncertain, doesn't have to be a bad stress. Because a bad stress just means that your brain is preparing your body for a big metabolic outlay that isn't replenished after the fact. But you know, people who exercise every day know that if they replenish what they spend, it's just a good investment. And so education can be that as well."

On the hardships of American life, and the importance of monitoring brain health

Lisa Feldman Barrett: "In addition to all the political uncertainty and the difficulties that come from economic hardship and so on, there is also day to day ambiguities that are built into American life, and that make our body budgets just a little harder to keep in balance. Like the casual brutality of everyday life where people speak to each other in ways that you don't know if those harsh words are a greeting of friendliness, or a threat to your physical well-being. And we can't use salty words on air, so I won't give you specific examples.

"There is a certain degree of social isolation that everyone is experiencing, even people who are very wealthy. And you know, we are social animals. We evolved to have socially dependent nervous systems. So you don't manage your body budget on your own. Other people metaphorically make deposits and withdrawals. And one thing that seems important here is that when you join a social movement, you surround yourself with people who are like-minded. Who think the way that you do. Whose behavior is very predictable to you, because you're predictable to them.

"And that actually gives your body budget a bit of a break. It makes it just easier to get through the day when other people are very predictable to you. Because in the end, the best thing for a human nervous system, for your body budget, is another human. But the worst thing also is another human. And being around people who are unpredictable or who believe things that you don't believe ... you pay some metabolic taxes for that. And it doesn't really matter how monetarily impoverished or enriched you are. You'll pay that tax."

On the benefit of making eye contact and talking with each other, despite differences

Lisa Feldman Barrett: "We have this amazing capacity, when we talk about connecting with each other, that's not just a metaphor. So when we're in the same room with each other and we are communicating, our breathing and our heart rates can synchronize, our movements can synchronize. We regulate each other's attention by eye contact. Making eye contact can actually make someone pay more attention to you. It can direct what they pay attention to and so on.

"So in a very real way, we are the regulators and caretakers of each other's nervous systems as much as our own. And this is really important. Because it means that we are even for the briefest moment, creating a social reality that is different from one where everyone is in their own little sort of informational silos.

"And I just want to make a point. We haven't really talked about social reality and then what that is. But almost everything we're talking about here, democracy, the presidency, politics and so on. This is in the domain of social reality, where a group of people basically by collective agreement claim, make up a reality and then it becomes true. Like we impose the function of currency on little pieces of paper and then poof, those little pieces of paper have value, to trade for material goods.

"So much so that they influence people's actual [reality]. And so when people talk to each other and when they communicate with each other, that is the basis of a more robust social reality. When a president all of a sudden starts doing something that's different than other presidents did, and the public who elected that president don't do anything, or implicitly agree that it's OK. Then in fact, by definition, it becomes OK because the rule is defined by social reality. And the only antidote there is for people to actually communicate with each other."

On the role democratic institutions have in pushing back

Timothy Snyder: "We've identified, let's say, three problems. Social media, wealth inequality, the lack of a welfare state. If we solved all of those problems, would Americans all be perfect angels of democracy? No. But would America be a sounder democracy? And would people in general behave better? In general, have more time for one another? In general, be better listeners? And in general, be more open to the facts? Yes, in general, they would be.

"So I would say first, let's do all the things that we know would work and then confront the issue, which I agree ... exists of bad will. I mean, of course, there are people who don't like democracy. Of course, there are people who love authoritarianism. One of them was just the president of the United States. We got to watch it for four years and we're still watching it.

"So of course, there's also a moral side to this. And when one speaks of institutions and one speaks about neurological structures, there's still something left over, which is ethics. Democracy is also an ethic. I also think democracy leads to good outcomes. I have an ethical commitment to democracy. I think everyone has the right to be represented. And we can't leave that aside. That's of course, also part of the picture."

Monday Asia Events October 18, 2021

MEI DEFENSE LEADERSHIP SERIES WITH NATO MENA DIRECTOR GIOVANNI ROMANI. 10/18, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Middle East Institute (MEI). Speaker: Giovanni Romani, Head of Middle East and North Africa, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, NATO.

A ROADMAP TO END THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. 10/18, 11:00am-Noon (EDT), WEBCAST. Sponsor: International Monetary Fund (IMF). Speakers: Elizabeth Schulze Multi-Platform Reporter, ABC News; Gita Gopinath, Chief Economist and Director, Research Department, IMF; Ruchir Agarwal, Senior Economist, Research Department, IMF.

IRANIAN PUBLIC OPINION AS RAISI TAKES THE STAGE. 10/18, Noon-1:30pm (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council. Speakers: Nancy Gallagher, Director, Center for International and Security Studies, University of Maryland; Kevan Harris, Assistant Professor, Sociology, UCLA; Azadeh Zamirirad, Iran Researcher and Deputy Head of the Africa and Middle East Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs; Moderator: Barbara Slavin, Director, Future of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council. 

CHINA’S WAR ON RELIGION. 10/18, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Hudson. Speakers: Xiaoxu Sean Lin, Director of Communications, Falun Dafa Association; Robert A. Destro, Professor of Law, Catholic University; Nury Turkel, Senior Fellow, Hudson; Moderator: Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson.
MAXIMIZING MILITARY POWER BY MINIMIZING BUREAUCRATIC BARRIERS. 10/18, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Gen. James L. Jones (Ret.), Executive Chairman Emeritus, Atlantic Council; MajGen Arnold Punaro (Ret.) , CEO, Punaro Group; Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council; Moderator: Missy Ryan, Staff Writer and Pentagon Correspondent, Washington Post.

THE MOSAIC APPROACH: A CRITICAL MINERALS SUPPLY CHAIN REPORT. 10/18, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Peter Harrell, Senior Director for International Economics and Competitiveness, White House National Security Council; Jane Nakano, Senior Fellow, Energy and National Security Program, CSIS; Moderator: Duncan Wood, Vice President for Strategy and New Initiatives, Wilson Center. 

FUTURE FOREIGN POLICY SERIES FEATURING REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO. 10/18, 3:30-4:30pm (EDT), WEBCAST. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Hon. Joaquin Castro, Member, United States House of Representatives; John Hudson, National Security Reporter, Washington Post; Emma Ashford, Senior Fellow, New American Engagement Initiative, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; Moderator: Aude Darnal, Associate Director, New American Engagement Initiative, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. 

COVID-19 IN CHINA’S TWITTER DIPLOMACY' WITH GUEST SPEAKER WENDY LEUTERT. 10/18, 4:30-6:00pm (EDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. Speaker: Wendy Leutert, GLP-Ming Z. Mei Chair of Chinese Economics and Trade, Columbia University. 

JAPAN UNDER PRIME MINISTER KISHIDA: THE LDP PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND THE UPCOMING HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTION. 10/18, 4:00-5:00pm (PDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Freeman Spolgi Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. Speakers: Rieko Kage, Professor of Political Science, University of Tokyo; Dan Smith, Gerald L. Curtis Visiting Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy, Columbia University; Moderator: Kiyoteru Tsutsui, Director of the Japan Program and Deputy Director of Shorenstein, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University. 

THE FUTURE OF THE U.S.-ROK ALLIANCE. 10/18, 5:00pm (PDT), ZOOM WEBINAR. Sponsor: Korea-Pacific Program, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego (UCSD). Speakers: Ko Yunju, Director General, North American Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea; Stephan Haggard, Professor and Director, Korea-Pacific Program, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UCSD. 

A GEOECONOMIC ALLIANCE: THE POTENTIAL AND LIMITS OF ECONOMIC STATECRAFT. 10/18, 6:30-7:30pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: United States Study Centre (USSC) Australia. Speakers: Dr. Stephen Kirchner, Director of International Economy, USSC; Christine McDaniel, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center; Dr. Ben Herscovitch, Research Fellow, Australian National University; Moderator: Susannah Patton, Research Fellow of Foreign Policy and Defence, USSC. 

RETHINKING JAPAN’S RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. 10/18, 8:00-9:00pm (EDT), WEBINAR. Sponsor: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. Speakers: Kenji Shibuya, Director, Soma COVID Vaccination Medical Center, Soma City, Fukushima, Research Director, Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research; Moderator: Christina L. Davis, Director, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations; Professor of Government, Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Responsible Statecraft

Has neo-Orientalism killed our ability to sense the limits of Western influence?

The failure of Afghanistan should open our eyes to the fact that we don’t really know other countries and cultures at all.

by Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Quincy Institute, SEPTEMBER 28, 2021

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his conviction that the people of Iraq would welcome “liberation” by the United States and Britain. He refused to listen to warnings that Britain’s imperial record in Iraq would in fact lead them to regard British military intervention with instinctive distrust and hostility.

Yet Blair was also the first British prime minister to apologize in public for the crimes of the British empire. As with Western liberal internationalists in general, this acknowledgement of past national sins did not qualify in any way Blair’s assumption of the right to lecture other nations on their sins, tell them how they should be governed, and invade them in the name of building democracy. This combination of attitudes is inexplicable in rational terms — but makes perfect sense as a manifestation of secular religion. In a religious context, how often have loud public confessions of personal sinfulness provided the justification for ferocious condemnation of the sins of others? 

This combination is to be found in those American liberal internationalists who have acknowledged and apologized for systematic American support for savage Middle Eastern dictatorships — only to demand that people in the Middle East trust their promises that this time, a U.S. administration is really, truly sincere about bringing democracy to the region. Why on earth, on the basis of all past evidence, should any Arab or Iranian trust such promises? Indeed, on the basis of their past record, would you buy a used car from these drummers for democracy?

Blair’s combination of ideological fanaticism and the total historical illiteracy on which it depends was starkly revealed in his July 2003 speech to the U.S. Congress justifying the invasion of Iraq:

“Ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit and anywhere, any time, ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same. Freedom not tyranny. Democracy not dictatorship.” 

This belief permeated the rhetoric of the Bush administration after 9/11, the U.S. National Security Strategy of 2002, and the “Freedom Agenda” for the Middle East. In the words of that NSS:

“The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom – and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise…People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children – male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society…”

In a somewhat less blatant form, this continues to form the core ideological doctrine of most of the Western media and vast range of Western institutions, including those aid ministries engaged in promoting “governance reform” elsewhere in the world. 

The denial of the importance of local histories and traditions, as well as the lessons drawn from the imperial history of the West, is intrinsic to the American and European sense of ideological mission in the world, which underpins their claims to global and regional hegemony. It is also to some extent intrinsic to how the Western bureaucracies concerned operate. Bureaucracy, as well as ideology, demands universal templates, universally applicable. For the bureaucracy to function smoothly (as opposed to the achievement of actual change), local expertise is more a hindrance than a help. 

Furthermore, the fact that in many parts of the world, the priority of personal safety (known in British officialdom as “The Duty of Care”) means that Western officials can barely travel outside the capital cities, or even outside their own embassies and international hotels. After a couple of years, having failed to develop any serious knowledge of one society, they hop on to try to implement identical programs in another society — which they also fail to study. The result: programs that have only the most tangential relationship to local reality, and consequently, don’t stand the remotest chance of even limited success.

For example, British officers and officials working in Helmand province of Afghanistan were on the most part completely ignorant of the local Battle of Maiwand in 1879, in which Afghans defeated a British army. Every Helmandi knew of this battle, and most were convinced (absurdly, but still) that a key motive for the British military presence today was to get revenge for Maiwand.

Academia has played its own part in undermining the West’s ability to engage meaningfully with political, social and economic developments elsewhere in the world. Recent decades have seen a steep decline in history and area studies (and foreign languages in the United States and UK). Their place has been taken by disciplines based overwhelmingly on Western liberal prejudices masquerading as objective general theories, with “rational choice theory” as the crassest version of this.  

Additional pressure against the serious study of other cultures has been provided by the legions of academics who have adopted crude and conformist versions of Edward Said’s “Orientalism” thesis, whereby every Western attempt to study other cultures on their own terms can automatically be suspected of Western quasi-racist “essentialism” and denounced accordingly. This has had an especially destructive effect in the area of anthropology.

The weird thing about this is that this supposedly “anti-colonial” ideology not only denies any autonomous culture to other peoples in the world, but contains an implicit assumption that all human beings (unless warped by evil Western influences) are at heart Western liberal college professors. This is in fact a nice liberal-sounding version of the famous statement of the U.S. Marine general in Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket: “Inside every Gook there is an American waiting to get out.”

All too often, these illusions are fostered by liberal urban intellectuals and activists from the countries concerned, who have tremendous emotional and practical incentives to present their countries as intrinsically modern (with modern implicitly defined in entirely Western terms). Emotionally, this serves their own passionate desire to be part of the West and treated as equals by their Western colleagues. Practically, they soon learn that if they want Western jobs and money it is a good idea to reinforce Western ideas. As urban intellectuals, they may also be sincerely ignorant of most of their own country, as well as sincerely contemptuous of its population. 

Since such people are often the only ones to whom Western journalists and officials seriously listen, the result can be a sort of copulation of illusions. When I visited Afghanistan in 2002-2003, I was initially deeply amused to hear from newly-arrived Western officials, relying on Afghan information, that Afghanistan in the 1960s had been “a successful democracy”, with strong middle classes. The joke wore pretty thin, however, after I had heard this garbage for the third time, and realized the degree to which it was contributing to these people’s delusions about the prospects for Afghan democracy.

What has happened in Afghanistan should provide the impetus for a soul-searching debate in the West about our entire approach to programs of democratization and “governance reform” in other countries. For while the Western military effort in Afghanistan failed only relatively (in the sense that while Western forces failed to achieve their goals, they were not actually defeated), Western efforts at democratic state-building failed totally and unconditionally. There is literally nothing left of them. Nor were the Afghan classes whom we had trusted and fostered prepared in the last resort to fight and die for the system that we had jointly created.

The critical importance of local history, culture, and tradition applies both to the Western defeat and the Taliban victory. For contrary to years of self-deceiving Western and Afghan government propaganda, a central element in Taliban success was their deep rootedness in Pashtun rural culture and its core values of conservative religion, familial loyalty, and resistance to infidel occupation — including past attempts at conquest by the British Empire. This appears very clearly from Taliban propaganda, poetry, and the recorded conversations of Taliban fighters.

These values are deeply alien to contemporary Western liberal ones; but no honest person can deny any longer either the tremendous resilience and courage they gave to the Taliban struggle, or the fact that in the end, these values and those who held them prevailed over the values and the Afghan people that we had tried to foster.

The final lesson of the Afghan debacle is that while it might be possible in principle to imagine recrafting Western aid institutions and programs so as to be more appropriate to the countries that they are trying to change, this is virtually impossible in the case of counterinsurgency campaigns. The deep local knowledge required to manage the core political element of a counterinsurgency cannot be developed in advance,  and when U.S. forces have actually become engaged in a counterinsurgency, it is impossible to build up this knowledge quickly enough to shape basic policies, even if the will to do it is present in our military, civilian and academic bureaucracies. 

We should have learned this from Vietnam. If we fail to learn it from Iraq and Afghanistan, it will suggest that our political systems and political cultures have become intellectually, morally, and institutionally fossilized to a degree reminiscent of the Soviet Union under Brezhnev. We may think that democracy will save us from this fate, but democracy, like God, helps those who help themselves