Monthly Archives: March 2005

Across the Bay on the Head Heeb on Lebanon

Lebanon-focused blogger Across the Bay offers a stirring endorsement and exegesis of a five-part analysis of the prospects in Lebanon by Jonathan Edelstein at the Head Heeb. I’ll just reproduce the combined conclusions here.

Jonathan’s conclusion is equally sober:

But all that will be decided in the future. In the coming months, Lebanon will begin to make the transition to its third republic. It will have to find a method of mediating inter-confessional relations that avoids the rigidity of the first republic and doesn’t depend on the artificial stasis of the second. The method it will choose is beyond prediction, and will be the product not only of the current crisis and the past five years’ political evolution but other factors that will emerge only as the post-Syrian order takes shape. This time, it seems that the Lebanese factions have both the experience and the will to find such a method. The path will be long and difficult, and there will be setbacks, but I’m optimistic about Lebanon’s new dawn.

Very well said. Finally, a level-headed article about Lebanon without the ideological bias, the venom, the contempt, the apologetics for Syria, and the thinly-veiled defense of authoritarianism. An excellent post all around.

And one that reflects the Head Heeb‘s wide coverage of the globe, with comparisons to Belgium, Canada, Fiji, Finland, and New Caledonia’s Nouméa Accord. Be sure to read the comments, as well.

via Belmont Club

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Niall Ferguson on the Potential for Deglobalization

Economic (and big-picture) historian Niall Ferguson has published an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs (reprinted on RealClearPolitics) on the possibility of a second round of deglobalization in the world economy, noting parallels to the situation before World War I.

The last age of globalization resembled the current one in numerous ways. It was characterized by relatively free trade, limited restrictions on migration, and hardly any regulation of capital flows. Inflation was low. A wave of technological innovation was revolutionizing the communications and energy sectors; the world first discovered the joys of the telephone, the radio, the internal combustion engine, and paved roads. The U.S. economy was the biggest in the world, and the development of its massive internal market had become the principal source of business innovation. China was opening up, raising all kinds of expectations in the West, and Russia was growing rapidly.

World War I wrecked all of this. Global markets were disrupted and disconnected, first by economic warfare, then by postwar protectionism. Prices went haywire: a number of major economies (Germany’s among them) suffered from both hyperinflation and steep deflation in the space of a decade. The technological advances of the 1900s petered out: innovation hit a plateau, and stagnating consumption discouraged the development of even existing technologies such as the automobile. After faltering during the war, overheating in the 1920s, and languishing throughout the 1930s in the doldrums of depression, the U.S. economy ceased to be the most dynamic in the world. China succumbed to civil war and foreign invasion, defaulting on its debts and disappointing optimists in the West. Russia suffered revolution, civil war, tyranny, and foreign invasion. Both these giants responded to the crisis by donning the constricting armor of state socialism. They were not alone. By the end of the 1940s, most states in the world, including those that retained political freedoms, had imposed restrictions on trade, migration, and investment as a matter of course. Some achieved autarky, the ideal of a deglobalized society. Consciously or unconsciously, all governments applied in peacetime the economic restrictions that had first been imposed between 1914 and 1918….

With the benefit of hindsight … five factors can be seen to have precipitated the global explosion of 1914-18. The first cause was imperial overstretch. By 1914, the British Empire was showing signs of being a “weary Titan,” in the words of the poet Matthew Arnold. It lacked the will to build up an army capable of deterring Germany from staging a rival bid for European hegemony (if not world power). As the world’s policeman, distracted by old and new commitments in Asia and Africa, the United Kingdom’s beat had simply become too big.

Great-power rivalry was another principal cause of the catastrophe. The problem was not so much Anglo-German rivalry at sea as it was Russo-German rivalry on land. Fear of a Russian arms buildup convinced the German general staff to fight in 1914 rather than risk waiting any longer.

The third fatal factor was an unstable alliance system. Alliances existed in abundance, but they were shaky. The Germans did not trust the Austrians to stand by them in a crisis, and the Russians worried that the French might lose their nerve. The United Kingdom’s actions were impossible to predict because its ententes with France and Russia made no explicit provisions for the eventuality of war in Europe. The associated insecurities encouraged risk-taking diplomacy. In 1908, for example, Austria-Hungary brusquely annexed Bosnia. Three years later, the German government sent the gunboat Panther to Agadir to challenge French claims to predominance in Morocco.

The presence of a rogue regime sponsoring terror was a fourth source of instability. The chain of events leading to war, as every schoolchild used to know, began with the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip. There were shady links between the assassin’s organization and the Serbian government, which had itself come to power not long before in a bloody palace coup.

Finally, the rise of a revolutionary terrorist organization hostile to capitalism turned an international crisis into a backlash against the global free market. The Bolsheviks, who emerged from the 1903 split in the Russian Social Democratic Party, had already established their credentials as a fanatical organization committed to using violence to bring about world revolution. By straining the tsarist system to the breaking point, the war gave Lenin and his confederates their opportunity. They seized it and used the most ruthless terrorist tactics to win the ensuing civil war.

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Bhutan’s Constitutional Reforms

The Acorn notes efforts by the King of Bhutan to move his realm toward a constitutional monarchy dedicated to Life, Liberty, and Gross National Happiness.

While King Wangchuk is not about to become a relic any time soon, Bhutan’s movement towards becoming a constitutional monarchy is impressive, not least because there is no real pressure on the King to change. Tiny as it may be, in a subcontinent where democratic traditions are eroding rather alarmingly, Bhutan’s progress towards constitutional rule is a very welcome development.

Drawing a parallel with Nepal is inevitable — because of the warning it holds out for both countries. The moral of the story is that once a constitution come into effect, bad things will happen if the King insists on reliving the old days.

To the King’s further credit, he wants the Constitution to be short and sweet, with only 34 articles. And perhaps the steps toward GNH can be enumerated in Clouds 1-9.

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Who Made Tokugawa Foreign Policy?

In 1643, during the early days of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868), a party of Dutch sailors from the yacht Breskens were captured on northern Honshu and repeatedly interrogated by Japanese officials.

Each time the men from the Breskens had been interrogated on a certain topic, they were first asked the main questions informally. Later, these were repeated on a formal occasion before the councilors and in the presence of the shogun himself. In other words, the interrogations were rehearsed beforehand. When the group first arrived in Edo, the main question had been whether they had been in league with the second Rubino group [of Jesuit missionaries in disguise], which had just arrived off Kyushu. They were first confronted with the Jesuits on 26 August at Inoue’s mansion in Hitotsubashi, and later on 5 September, before the shogun and his councilors at Hotta’s country mansion in Asakusa. On both occasions, the Dutchmen established their enmity toward the Roman Catholics to the satisfaction of their Japanese judges, and it was clear that the two groups had not been in cahoots….

All the interrogations revolved around the same theme: were the Dutch in league with the Portuguese and Spanish or not? This must have been [Shogun Tokugawa] Iemitsu‘s particular obsession. Were the Dutch in the pay of the Iberians to bring priests ashore, or to spy for good places to do so, or as the vanguard for a joint attack on Japan? Iemitsu may have considered the recent truce between Portugal and Holland as the first step toward such an alliance directed against Japan. The reports of ships firing their guns off the Japanese coast, together with the capture of a group of determined Jesuit priests off Kyushu for the second year in a row, may have been perceived by the shogun as indicative of a grand European design–headed by the Pope and the King of Spain and supported by Portugal and Holland–to dethrone him in revenge for the persecutions of Christians in Japan and the execution of the delegation from Macao in 1641.

The discussion within the bakufu pivoted on the following questions: Was Holland preparing to ally itself with Portugal? In that case, the shogun had reason to fear their combined sea power. Was Holland willing to become Japan’s vassal? Then the prisoners needed to be treated with care. The less factual support there was for the idea of an evil alliance between Holland and Portugal, however, the more awkward it became for the Japanese side to admit that they had arrested their own “friends.” It was, therefore, necessary to establish the existence of some other illegal act that could serve as the reason for the arrest. Hence the insistence, during the interrogations, that the shooting of guns off the Japanese coast had been contrary to the shogun’s laws.

Although there are no Japanese sources left that report this discussion, we find all the arguments of the anti-Dutch side reflected in the questions asked of the prisoners from Nambu during their inter- rogations. However, the eventual release of the prisoners and the continuing relationship with the Dutch East India Company are clear evidence that the pro-Dutch side within the bakufu finally carried the day.

In theory, the shogun’s power was supreme in Japan, but the resolution of the Breskens affair shows that even Iemitsu’s megalomania had its limits. In spite of all the insinuations of a Portuguese-Dutch partnership, in spite of the resemblances found between Catholicism and Protestantism, and between the Spanish city of Manila in the Philippines and the Dutch city of Batavia on Java, in the end common sense prevailed over paranoia. For this containment of the shogun’s suspicions, it is clear we can primarily credit three men: Sakai Tadakatsu, Matsudaira Nobutsuna [who with Dutch ships suppressed the Shimabara Rebellion in 1638], and Inoue Masashige (ex-Christian holding the post of inquisitor). And with this realization we have also defined who among Iemitsu’s top advisers were principally responsible for Japan’s foreign policy during the reign of the third shogun.

SOURCE: Prisoners from Nambu: Reality and Make-Believe in Seventeenth-Century Japanese Diplomacy, by Reinier H. Hesselink (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2002), pp. 120-122

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Retrospective on Iris Chang

On 17 March, The Times (of London) published a retrospective on the inseparable life and work of Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking.

THOSE who knew Iris Chang used to worry about how she could cope with the gloom of her chosen work. But when they visited the house in California that she shared with her husband and saw him playing with their two-year-old son by the swimming pool in the backyard, they were reassured….

Her book brought international acclaim and controversy, and many spoke of a stellar future. It was not to be. In November she killed herself, no longer able to bear the weight of horrors from seven decades ago….

Orphans, rape victims and Holocaust survivors all wanted to bare their souls to her, finally relieving themselves of agonies sometimes decades old. They felt encouraged by the passion that she brought to the sort of grievances few of them could tackle on their own.

Chang cried when they cried. She was enraged even when they no longer were. It was unthinkable for her just to pass the paper tissues and wait until people had composed themselves again. Chang invited memories of atrocity and abuse with a seemingly limitless appetite….

But her success had its price. The book became a touchstone of renewed rivalry between Japan and China. Both nations had been content to allow the massacre to fade into the past, but in the 1990s China found itself in the ascendant and a long-suppressed sense of outrage burst out. Anti-Japanese museums sprang up across the country. Japanese nationalists responded by attacking the book and its author. Death threats were issued….

“The pressure on her from Tokyo was unbearable,” says Yang Xiaming, one of Chang’s research assistants in Nanjing. “She was afraid of travelling to Japan because she feared for her life.”

But the Japanese attacks were the easy part. With her newfound fame, Chang felt compelled to visit Chinese communities around the globe to hear more horror stories of Japanese occupation, forced prostitution in so-called “comfort houses” and nerve gas experiments on prisoners in Manchuria. After these encounters with people who would often approach her in tears, she felt utterly drained even hours later. Friends said that she was beginning to look frail, and she admitted to them that her hair was coming out. The more of others’ suffering she absorbed, the more her old energy and intensity drained away. Each horror story seemed to pull her down a little farther….

In the months before her death, Chang was researching a new book on Japanese wartime atrocities. Despite feeling unwell, she flew to Kentucky to interview survivors of the Bataan Death March. They recounted to her how thousands of American PoWs were killed during the occupation of the Philippines, some forced to bury their best friend alive or, if they refused, for both of them to be buried alive by a third friend, with the chain continuing until the Japanese soldiers found a PoW who complied….

On November 6 she spoke to Paula Kamen, whom she knew from university, and told her that she was struggling to deal with the magnitude of the misery she had uncovered, listened to and written about. She begged to be remembered as lively and confident. It was the last conversation they would have. Two days later, Chang was even more despondent than she had previously been. Her husband tried to calm her down but eventually fell asleep.

At some point in the night, Chang got into her white 1999 Oldsmobile, taking with her a six-round pistol that she had bought from an antique weapons dealer to defend herself from attackers. She drove to a country road, loaded the pistol with black powder and lead balls, aimed it at her head and fired. She was found a few hours later, along with a farewell note to her family….

In Nanjing, Professor Sun Zhaiwei says that being an historian can be “torture of the mind”.

“Nuclear scientists wear protective clothing and have their health checked by doctors. Perhaps we historians of the extreme need similar measures. Yet for now we have to take care of ourselves.

“Maybe that was Iris’s problem — she cared for the dead but failed to take care of herself.”

via Arts & Letters Daily

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International Trade in the Sulu Sea, 1791

Amasa Delano accompanied the McCluer Expedition to the Sulu Sea in 1791.

Commodore McCluer’s hope for the Sooloos was to build up a better feeling toward the English. The matter of trade would be looked into of course; but trade would follow the good feeling. The Sooloos offered many useful items for trading purposes–sago, pearls, bêche-de-mer, gold dust, turtle shells, ivory, camphor, birds’-nests, and so on.

The birds’-nests held a special interest for Amasa. While in Canton he had seen mandarins and Hong merchants paying fabulous prices for birds’-nests. They made soup of the nests. In Timor Amasa learned that a tiny bird, small as a small swallow, collected a white, glutinous substance from the foam of the sea as it rolled up on the beach and made nests of it in the caverns and crevices of cliffs beside the sea.

Malays in Timor would dive into the sea to enter the mouths of the caverns where the tiny birds were and collect their nests.

Their example so stirred Amasa that he had himself “lowered fifty feet by a rope into a chasm between the cliffs, and there caught the swallows upon the nests, and plucked their nests. The nests were of the size of a quarter of a large orange peel, they were white like isinglass, and a single nest weighed about an ounce.”

Amasa’s craving for first-hand knowledge of strange customs led him to try out a bird’s-nest soup. He found it “possessing an agreeable aromatic flavour.”

The need of fresh provisions had to be met while at Sooloo. It was known that fat cattle were to be had there for little money–two or three Spanish dollars for a bullock, and take it out in trade. Goats were plentiful. Amasa swapped a knife or a goat. Hogs, sheep, and fowls of every sort abounded. Vegetables and fruits of many kinds and in quantities and fish of excellent quality and in great numbers were to be had for trifles and toys. Green turtles, big ones– five-hundred-pound fellows–could be had for what the buyer felt like paying. And as for rice, a shipload of rice was cheaper than a kettle of salt cod back in Boston.

For trading purposes the [HMS] Panther carried plenty of “cheap cotton goods, white and colored calicoes, also opium, knives, scissors, razors, small looking-glasses, spy-glasses, perfumes, bergamot, essence of lavender and lemon, curious toys, and a few fine goods.”

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Chinese Blog Posting on China-NK Relations

NKZone carries an English translation of an interesting Chinese blog forum post about relations between China under Mao and North Korea under Kim Il-sung. Here are a few highlights.

In 1959, when China embarked on the disastrous “three years of hardship” (the Great Leap Forward), NK seized the opportunity to urge Chinese-Korean graduates and other qualified personnel to take part in the NK Chollima (thousand mile/flying horse) movement, and set up border reception posts to welcome them back from abroad (presumably NK/USSR, etc).

China’s Great Leap Forward actually began in 1958, but perhaps the scale of the disaster wasn’t so obvious until 1959. North Korea’s Chollima (‘thousand league horse’) also leapt out of the starting gate in 1958, and also began seriously stumbling in 1959.

In 1966 when the Cultural Revolution broke out, Kim Il-sung was deeply worried and had no idea what was going on in Mao’s mind. But when the Red Guards came up with the slogan, “Chairman Mao is the red sun in the hearts of all the peoples of the world”, started putting up big character posters and said they wanted to arrest the capitalist roader Kim Il-sung [!], he thought to himself, I am the red sun of our country, how can it be Mao Zedong! He was furious and had a martyrs’ memorial garden from the Korean war destroyed, including the grave of Mao’s oldest son Mao Anying (1922-50).

The NKs set up loudspeakers on the border at this time, flagrantly attacking the Chinese Communist Party and proclaiming, “Chairman Kim Il-sung is the red sun in our hearts,” and even more audaciously building a dam on the Yalu river to divert water and creating a drought in China. The Chinese also set up loudspeakers, attacking Kim as a “Korean revisionist”. This was the doing of the Red Guards and “rebel faction” while the official media kept quiet, but relations between the two sides atrophied.

Kim later saw what chaos the Cultural Revolution had created and how the “capitalist roaders” in China had been overthrown, so when he visited Beijing he apologised to Mao and admitted his mistakes. He promised to rebuild the martyrs’ memorial garden, while Mao said friendship came first and mistakes were secondary.

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