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[Mai'a K. Davis Cross, The Politics of Crisis in Europe. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 2017. 248 pages]
review / Mª Teresa La Porte [English version].
The main thesis of the extensive research presented in this work is condensed in one of its last conclusions: 'Indeed, what the crisis over Iraq, the constitution, and the Eurozone have revealed is that even in the face of extreme adversity, and even when the easy route of freezing or rolling back integration is on the table before them, Europeans routinely choose more Europe, not less' (p. 235). The author justifies this assertion by arguing that the perception of existential crisis that periodically plagues the European Union is a social construct, initiated and orchestrated by the media and public opinion shapers who control the elaboration of narratives and determine public perception of the facts. Media coverage amplifies a problem that, although undeniable, does not question the existence of the European Union. This negative vision provokes in citizens what Cross calls 'integrational panic', generating a feeling of catastrophe that is multiplied through political discourse. The absence of a 'real crisis' would be demonstrated by the fact that, after these apparent catastrophes, there is a noticeable advance in European integration and a renewed desire to find a consensus.
The book presents an analysis of three recent 'crises' that the European Union has gone through: the dispute over participation in the Iraq war (2003), the discussion over the European Constitution (2005) and the economic crisis in the Eurozone (2010-12). Each of the cases comprises a qualitative and quantitative study of international leading media content, an examination of public opinion reaction and a monitoring of political decision making. Despite the difference between the case studies, the author finds a common patron saint to all of them that allows the comparative study and is developed as follows: emergence of the conflict that provokes the discussion, negative reaction of the social instigators elaborating alarming narratives, perception of existential crisis by the citizenry, state of 'catharsis' (catharsis) in which tensions are relaxed and a serene reflection on the events takes place, and, finally, the resolution phase in which political measures are adopted that reinforce European integration (European Security Strategy, 2003 (European Security Strategy); Lisbon Treaty, 2009 (Lisbon Treaty); European Fiscal Compact, 2012 (Fiscal Compact)).
The European Union is understood as a project in the process of development: 'a work in progress, a project that is perennially in the middle of its evolution, with no clearly defined end goal' (p.2). The disagreements between the member states, in relation to foreign policy or to the Degree integration, are typical of an ambitious initiative, which is in the process of maturing and which is always moving forward with the agreement of each and every one of its members. However, the study does not underestimate the real difficulties faced by the Community institution, which are present throughout research.
Of particular interest is the close monitoring of the social dynamics generated by the interpretation of the 'crisis of existence' of the European Union. The processes of elaboration of narratives by the media, the multiplier effect through the discourses of political actors and experts, and the reaction of European and global public opinion provide a knowledge on the political impact of social behavior that should be further considered in the discipline of International Office. The study devotes special attention to the resolution of the crisis and the phenomenon of 'catharsis' that occurs as a consequence of political reflection. This stage would begin when the options are broadened and different solutions begin to be assessed, the political elites recover their decision-making power and the consideration of potential opportunities to generate consensus and advance integration begins. As the author remarks, catharsis does not eliminate tensions, but it allows an open discussion that concludes with a positive proposal .
The scientific review of the concept of 'crisis' in the main intellectual perspectives of subject is also a positive contribution: the systemic, behavioral and sociological views. Based on the previous production, the author contributes a new concept 'integrational panic' which she defines as 'a social overreaction to a perceived problem'.
The criticism coming from academia, while not failing to underline the interest of approach of work, considers the political analysis of each of the conflicts analyzed to be insufficient and claims that the book does not reflect well the complexity of the problems facing Europe. In particular, she questions whether the Brexit crisis and the rise of Eurosceptic parties do not dismantle the argumentation set out in these pages. The author includes a brief commentary on both issues (the British referendum coincides with the publication of the book) arguing that both problems respond to a national and not a European policy conflict, but the review considers it incomplete.
In any case, the relevance of work is justified for several reasons. Firstly, its novelty: although the crises that the European Union has gone through have been studied before, very few studies have done so in a comparative way and concluded common behaviors. Secondly, and although it is a debatable thesis , the analysis of the effect of the media and public opinion leaders on the existential crisis of the EU contributes to a more accurate and realistic political evaluation of the phenomenon. Finally, the research favors a better management of these periods of turbulence, allowing to reduce the wearing effects of a constant discussion on the survival of the institution inside and outside Europe.
[Admiral James Stavridis, Sea Power. The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans. Penguin Press. New York City, 2017. 363 pages]
review / Iñigo Bronte Barea [English version].
In the era of globalisation and its communication society, where everything is closer and distances seem to fade away, the body of water between continents has not lost the strategic value it has always had. Historically, the seas have been both a channel for human development and instruments of geopolitical domination. It is no coincidence that the great world powers of the last 200 years have themselves been great naval powers. The dispute over maritime space is still going on today and there is nothing to suggest that the geopolitics of the seas will cease to be crucial in the future.
These principles on the importance of maritime powers have changed little since they were set out in the late 19th century by Alfred T. Mahan. Today, Sea Power. The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans, by Admiral James G. Stavridis, who retired in 2013 after leading the US Southern Command, the US European Command and the supreme command of NATO.
The book is the fruit of Mahan's early reading and an extensive degree program of nearly four decades on the seas and oceans with the US Navy. At the beginning of each explanation of the different sea spaces, Stavridis recounts his brief experience in that sea or ocean, then continues with the history, and the development they have had, until arriving at their current context. Finally, there is a projection of the near future of the world from the perspective of marine geopolitics.
Pacific: China's emergence
Admiral J.G. Stavridis begins his voyage in the Pacific Ocean, which he categorises as "the mother of all oceans" because of its immensity, since it alone is larger than the entire land surface of the planet combined. Another remarkable point is that in its vastness there is no considerable landmass, although there are islands all over the world subject, with very diverse cultures. This is why the sea dominates the geography of the Pacific like nowhere else on the planet.
The great dominator of this marine space is Australia, which is very much aware of what might happen politically in the island archipelagos in its vicinity. It was Europeans, however, who explored the Pacific well (Magellan was the first, around 1500) and tried to connect it with their world in a way that was not merely transitory and commercial, but stable and lasting.
The United States began its presence in the Pacific with the acquisition of California (1840), but it was not until the annexation of Hawaii (1898) that the huge country was definitively catapulted into the Pacific. The first time this ocean emerged as a total war zone was in 1941 when Pearl Harbour was massacred by the Japanese.
With the return of peace, the Japanese revival and the emergence of China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong caused trans-Pacific trade to overtake the Atlantic for the first time in the 1980s, and this trend is still continuing. This is because the Pacific region contains the world's major powers on its shores.
degree program At area geopolitics a major arms race is taking place in the Pacific, with North Korea as a major focus of global tension and uncertainty.
Atlantic: from the Panama Canal to NATO
As for the Atlantic Ocean, Stavridis refers to it as the cradle of civilisation, since the Mediterranean is included among its territories, and even more so if we consider it as the nexus between the peoples of the Americas and Africa and Europe. It has two great seas of great historical importance, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
Undoubtedly the historical figure of this ocean is Christopher Columbus, since his arrival in America (Bahamas 1492) initiated a new historical period that ended with practically the entire American continent being colonised by the European powers in the following centuries. While Portugal and Spain concentrated on the Caribbean and South America, the British and the French concentrated on North America.
During the First World War, the Atlantic became an essential transit zone for the war development as the United States transported troops, war materials and goods to Europe during the conflict. It was here that the idea of an Atlantic community began to take shape, leading to the creation of NATO.
As for the Caribbean, the author sees it as a region that is rooted in the past. Its colonisation was characterised by the arrival of slaves to exploit the region's natural resources for purposes of economic interest to the Spanish. In turn, this process was characterised by the desire to convert the indigenous population to Christianity.
The Panama Canal is a driving force for the region's Economics , but Central America is also sailing along the coasts of the countries with the highest violence fees on the planet. Admiral Stavridis sees the Caribbean coast as a kind of Wild West, which in some places has evolved little since the days of pirates, and where drug cartels now operate with impunity.
Since the 1820s, with the Monroe Doctrine, the United States carried out a series of interventions through its navy to bolster regional stability and keep Europeans out of places such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Central America. In the 20th century, politics was dominated by caudillos, and soon communism and the Cold War came with them to the Caribbean, with Cuba as ground zero.
Indian Ocean and Arctic: from unknown to risky
The Indian Ocean has less history and geopolitics than the other two great oceans. Despite this, its tributary seas have gained geopolitical importance in the post-World War II era with the rise of global shipping and the export of oil from the Gulf region. The Indian Ocean today could be seen as a region for wielding smart power rather than hard power. While the slave trade and piracy have dwindled almost everywhere, they are still present in parts of the Indian Ocean. It is a region where countries around the world could work together to combat these common problems.
The history of the Indian Ocean does not inspire confidence about the potential for peaceful governance in the years to come. An important core topic to unlock the region's potential would be to resolve the existing conflicts between India and Pakistan (a conflict with the risk of nuclear weapons) and the Shia-Sunni divide in the Persian Gulf, issues that make it a very volatile region. Due to tensions in the Gulf countries, the region is today a kind of cold war between the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shiites, led by Iran, and between these two sides, the United States, with its Fifth Fleet, is at the centre.
Finally, the Arctic is currently an unknown quantity. Stavridis sees it as both a promise and a danger. Over the centuries, all oceans and seas have been the site of epic battles and discoveries, but there is one exception: the Arctic Ocean.
It seems clear that this exceptionality is coming to an end. The Arctic is an emerging maritime frontier with increasing human activity, rapidly melting ice shelves and significant hydrocarbon resources coming within reach. However, there are major risks that will dangerously condition the exploitation of this region, such as weather conditions, unclear governance due to the confluence of five bordering countries (Russia, Norway, Canada, the United States and Denmark), and geopolitical competition between NATO and Russia, whose relations have deteriorated in recent years.
[Graham Allison, Destined for War. Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Boston, 2017. 364 pages]
This is what has been called Thucydides' trap: the dilemma faced by a hegemonic power and a rising power that threatens that hegemony. Is war inevitable? When Thucydides narrated the Peloponnesian War, he wrote about the inevitability for domineering Sparta and the emerging Athens of thinking of armed confrontation as a means of settling conflict.
The fact that these two Greek polises necessarily thought about war, and eventually came to it, does not mean that they had no other options. History has shown that there are: when Wilhelmine Germany threatened to outwhelm Britain's naval strength, the attempt at sorpasso (accompanied by various circumstances) led to World War I, but when Portugal was overtaken by Spain in overseas possessions in the sixteenth century, or when the United States replaced Great Britain as the world's leading power at the end of the nineteenth century, the transfer was peaceful.
The call to Washington and Beijing to do everything possible not to fall into the trap described by the Greek historian is made by Graham Allison in Destined for War. Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? The Dean The founder of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government reviews several historical precedents in his book. The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the same university, where Allison is a member, has researched them director, in a program called Thucydides's Trap.
This concept is defined by Allison as "the strong structural stress caused when an emerging power threatens to unseat a reigning power. In such a status, not only extraordinary or unexpected events, but even ordinary flashpoints in international affairs can trigger large-scale conflicts."
This structural stress is produced by the clash of two profound sensitivities: the emerging power syndrome ("the reinforced sense that an emerging state has of itself, its interests, and its right to recognition and respect"), and its inverse image, the reigning power syndrome ("the established power exhibits a growing sense of fear and insecurity as it faces signs of decline").
Along with the syndromes, both rival powers also experience a security dilemma: "A rising power may disregard the fear and insecurity of a ruling state because it knows that it itself is well-intentioned. Meanwhile, his opponent misinterprets even positive initiatives, taking them as excessively demanding or even threatening."
The use of military force
Allison starts from the fact that China is already catching up with the United States as a power. It has done so in terms of the volume of its Economics (China has already surpassed the U.S. in purchasing power parity) and in relation to some aspects of military strength (a report Rand Corporation predicted that by 2017 China would have "advantage" or "approximate parity" in 6 of the 9 conventional capacity areas. The author's assumption is that China will soon be in a position to wrest the scepter of the greatest superpower from the United States. Arrived before this status, how will both countries react?
In the case of China, its millennial outlook will likely lead to an attitude of patience, as long as there is some small progress in its development. purpose to increase its global specific weight. Since 1949, China has only resorted to force in three of 33 territorial disputes. In those cases, China's leaders waged war – limited wars, conceived as notice to their opponents – even though the enemy was equal or greater, urged by a status of domestic unrest.
For Allison, "as long as events in the South China Sea generally move in China's favor, it seems unlikely that China will use military force. But the trends in the balance of power were to turn against it, particularly at a time of internal political instability, China would initiate a limited military conflict, against an even larger and more powerful state like the United States."
For its part, the United States can choose several strategies, according to Allison: adapt to the new reality, undermine Chinese power (trade war, foment provincial separatism), negotiate a lasting peace, and redefine the relationship. The author does not give a committee firm, but it seems to suggest that Washington should move between the latter two options.
Thus, he recalls how Britain understood that it could not rival the United States in the Western Hemisphere, and how from there a partnership between the two countries, manifested in the First and Second World Wars. That would have to involve accepting that the South China Sea is a area of Chinese influence. And this is not out of mere condescension, but because the United States is proceeding with a real clarification of its vital interests.
Despite its positive tone, Destined for War is one of the essays of the American establishment where the end of the American era and the passing of the baton to China are most openly announced (it does not seem to envision a multipolar or bipolar world, but rather one of primacy of the Asian power). He is also one of the least emphasises – less, of course, than he should – on the strengths that the United States maintains and the problems that could undermine China's coronation.