Entries with Categories Global Affairs World order, diplomacy and governance .

ANALYSIS / Nerea Álvarez

Relations between Japan and Korea are not easy. The Japanese annexation of the peninsula in 1910 is still very much present in the Korean report . For its part, Japan has a distorted sense of history, the result of having assumed its guilt in the war in a forced way, forced by the punishment suffered in World War II and the US occupation, and not as a consequence of a process of voluntary assumption of responsibility. All this has led Japan to resist revising its history, especially that of its imperialist era.

One element core topic that hinders a sincere reconciliation between Japan and the neighboring countries that were invaded by the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century are the comfort women. This group of women, coming from China, the Philippines, Myanmar, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea (about 80% came from the latter country), are a consequence of Japan's expansion beginning in 1910. During this period, Japanese soldiers took approximately 70,000 to 200,000 women to comfort stations where they were sexually abused. These stations continued to operate in Japan until the late 1940s. According to the testimonies of the surviving women, Japanese soldiers took them away in various ways: kidnapping, deception and extortion are just a few examples.

According to the testimony of Kim Bok-Dong, one of the surviving women, the Japanese soldiers claimed that they had to take her to work in a uniform factory because they did not have enough staff. She was 14 years old at the time. The soldiers promised her mother to return her when she was old enough to marry, and threatened the whole family with exile if her parents did not allow her to leave. She was transported by ferry from Busan to Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan), along with thirty other women. They then took another boat to Taiwan and then to Guangdong province. There they were met by officials, who escorted them into a building where doctors were waiting for them. They examined their bodies and escorted them to their rooms. The women were repeatedly assaulted and raped. After several weeks, many contemplated suicide: "We were much better off dead" (Kim Bok-Dong, 2018). Many died due to the conditions they were subjected to, from disease, killed by Japanese soldiers in the last years of the war, or, if they had the opportunity, by committing suicide. It is estimated that about a quarter to a third of the women survived.

Long process

After the war and despite the facts being known, this dramatic past was relegated to history, without the necessary attention being paid to it. South Korea was not prepared to help these women (and North Korea had gone into absolute isolation). During the 1960s, relations between the ROK and Japan worsened due to the anti-Japanese policies of South Korean political leaders. In 1965, Tokyo and Seoul signed the Normalization Treaty, but it became clear that economic issues were the priority. Bridges of cooperation were built between the two countries, but the emotional conflict prevented and continues to prevent further relations in fields other than economics. Japan continues to claim that the Treaty of Normalization contains the arguments to rule out that these women have the right of standing before international tribunals, even though the text does not mention them.

Things began to change in the 1970s, when the Asian Women's association was formed in Japan, which began to shed light on this aspect of recent history. At first, even the Korean government ignored the problem. The main reason was the lack of evidence that the events had occurred, as the Japanese government had ordered the destruction of the compromising documents in 1945. In addition, Japan prevented the South Korean government from claiming additional reparations for damages incurred during the colonial period based on the 1965 treaty.

Southeast Asian culture played an important role in concealing the events that took place. The value of keeping up appearances in the oriental culture took precedence over denouncing situations such as those experienced by these women, who had to remain silent for decades in order not to be repudiated by their families.

When the Republic of Korea became democratic in 1987, the South Korean government began to attach importance to this issue. In 1990, President Roh Tae Woo asked the Japanese government for a list of the women's names, but the response from Tokyo was that the information did not exist because the documents had been destroyed. Socialist leader Motooka Shoji, a member of the Upper House of Japan's per diem expenses , called for an investigation, but Parliament claimed that the problem had already been resolved by the 1965 Normalization Treaty. In 1991, Kim Hak-Sun, one of the women who survived sexual exploitation, filed the first lawsuit and became the first victim to speak out about her experience. This marked the beginning of the struggle of a group of more than fifty Korean women who demanded an acknowledgement of the facts and an official apology from the Japanese government. Since January 8, 1992, "every Wednesday at 12 noon, the victims together with members of committee Korean and other social groups march in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The march consists of raising posters demanding justice and forgiveness and expressing their grievances in public".

The Tokyo government denied any involvement in the establishment, recruitment and structuring of the comfort women system from the beginning. However, an apology had to be issued in 1992 from the Cabinet's administrative office , although it was vague and too generic, addressed to all women for acts committed during the war. It was not until that year that the Japanese Government acknowledged its involvement in the administration and supervision of these stations. The UNHRC then determined that the Japanese government's actions represented a crime against humanity that violated the human rights of Asian women.

In 1993, Japan admitted to having coercively recruited Korean women. Coercion was the word core topic to disprove previous statements that these women were engaged in prostitution voluntarily. Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono stated that "the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations, and in the transfer of comfort women .... who, in many cases, were recruited against their own will." The Government of Japan offered its apology, regretting what had happened, but there was no compensation to the victims. In 1994, the International Commission of Jurists recommended that Japan pay $40,000 to each survivor. The Government wanted to structure a plan to pay the women with non-governmental funds, but the Korean committee for women abducted by Japan as sex slaves, founded in 1990 and composed of 37 institutions, did not allow it.

In 1995, Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi set up instructions of the Asian Women's Fund, which would serve to protect women's rights in Japan and around the world. In international eyes, this organization was seen as an excuse to escape the required legal responsibilities, since public money was raised, making the government's involvement almost imperceptible. In addition, a growing minority opinion of citizens sympathetic to the Japanese right-wing began to make itself heard, calling comfort women 'prostitutes', who did not need to be compensated in any way.

However, monetary compensation is one of the issues that has mattered least to this group of women. Their priority first and foremost is to restore their dignity. That the Japanese government has not become directly involved and does not silence opinions such as those of the right-wing minority is probably what affects them most. Above all, these women are fighting for Tokyo to publicly acknowledge the facts and offer an official apology for what happened.

The UN has continued to take on the role of mediator over the years. We find in several documents belonging to the UNHRC statements urging Japan to resolve the problem. In a document reviewing the organization' s first complaint (February 2, 1996) at committee on Human Rights, we find Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's response: "the issue of reparations was settled by peace treaties and the government will never pay compensation to the victims.

In the document in question, comfort stations are classified as military slavery. Japan responded by denying any subject legal liability, given the inability to retroactively apply international law at the time, the vagueness of the definition of comfort stations, the non-existence of anti-slavery laws during World War II, and the failure of international law to prohibit violations in situations of international conflict. In addition, he argued that the laws existing during the war could only apply to conduct committed by the Japanese military against citizens of a belligerent state, but not against citizens of Korea, since Korea was annexed and was part of Japanese territory.

In 1998, American attorney Gay J. McDougall submitted to the UNHRC a document concluding that the actions taken by the Japanese Armed Forces were crimes against humanity. Later that year, the UN adopted the text and changed the previous definition to rape stations.


Bronze statue of a "comfort woman" in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul [Wikipedia].


Understanding that does not come

Over the years, the problem has only grown and Japanese policy has moved away from a possible path of improving diplomatic relations with its neighbors. This problem of revising history is the basis of the political movements we have seen in Japan since 1945. The reforms imposed by the U.S. occupation and the Tokyo courts played a major role, as did the San Francisco Treaty, signed in 1948. All this has established in the Japanese population a passive acceptance of past history and its responsibilities.

Having been judged in the 1948 courts, the responsibility and guilt that the Japanese bore was believed to have been absolved. On the other hand, the US occupation of the archipelago, taking military control, affected the pride of the citizens. The transformation of the Economics, politics, defense and, above all, the Education also had its repercussions. Since Japan's democratic beginnings, policy has focused on passive defense, an anti-nationalist Education and foreign relations aligned with the interests of American power.

However, following the election of Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as Prime Minister in 2012, numerous changes have been introduced in the country's foreign and domestic policy, with reforms in fields ranging from Economics to Education and defense. Regarding the latter, Abe has focused largely on reintroducing military force in Japan through an amendment to article 9 of the 1945 Constitution. This shift is due to the party's own ideology, which wants to give Japan a greater weight in international politics. One of the points core topic in his government is precisely the position towards the controversial topic of comfort women.

In 2015, Shinzo Abe and the President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, signed a treaty setting out three goals to be achieved: Japan's official apology, the donation of one billion yen to a South Korean foundation for the benefit of these women, and the removal of the statue in memory of the comfort women erected in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. This treaty was the greatest achievement in the long process of the conflict, and was received as the solution to so many years of dispute. The first two objectives were achieved, but the controversial statue was not removed from its place. The arrival of President Moon Jae-in in 2017 complicated the full implementation of agreement. That year, Moon openly criticized the treaty as sidelining the victims and the Korean people in general. His presidency has varied certain of South Korea's strategic approaches and it is unknown exactly what he wants to achieve with Japan.

agreement pending

What can be concluded is that delaying the solution is not beneficial to either side. Leaving the problem open-ended is frustrating all countries involved, especially Japan. A case in point is the recent breakdown of brotherhood between the cities of San Francisco and Osaka in 2018 due to a statue in the U.S. town depicting victims of this conflict. It features three girls, a Chinese girl, a Korean girl and a Filipino girl, holding hands. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura and his predecessor, Toru Hashimoto, had written letters to their twin city since the resolution to build the memorial was drafted. Also, within the LDP itself, Yoshitaka Sakurada, called this group of women 'prostitutes' in 2016; shortly after establishing the 2015 treaty on this topic. That has provoked a negative response to the treaty, as it is believed that Japan does not actually seek reconciliation, but to forget the topic without accepting the responsibility that comes with it. 

The problem lies in how these countries deal with the dispute. The Republic of Korea, under President Moon, seeks to heal past wounds with new agreements, but Japan only aims to close the issue as soon as possible. Renegotiating a treaty is not the best option for Japan: even if it seeks the best solution for both sides, it would lose out. Should President Moon succeed in reaching a new agreement with Prime Minister Abe to solve the problems of the previous treaty, it would prove that the previous negotiations and the measures taken by Japan in 2015 have failed.

No matter how many apologies the Government of Japan has issued over the years, it has never accepted legal responsibility for its actions regarding comfort women. Until this happens, future scenarios where the discussion is settled cannot be projected. President Moon will renegotiate the treaty with Japan, but the chances of it working out are slim. All indications are that Japan has no intention of renegotiating the treaty or becoming position legally. If they do not reach a solution, relations between the two countries may deteriorate due to the emotional burden of the issue.

The root of the tensions lies in the historical past and its acceptance. Both Moon Jae-in and Shinzo Abe must reevaluate the status with critical eyes in relation to their own countries. Japan must begin to engage with past actions and the ROK must maintain a steady position and decide what its priorities are regarding comfort women. Only this can allow them to move forward in the search for the best treaty for both.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

[Josep Piqué. The world that is coming. Challenges, challenges and expectations of the 21st century: a post-western world with western values? Deusto. Barcelona, 2018. 254 pp]

review / Ignacio Yárnoz

The World to Come. Challenges, challenges and expectations of the 21st century: a post-Western world with Western values?

Europe may lose relative economic weight or, even worse, demographic weight and competitiveness, jeopardizing the sustainability of its welfare state. It may become less and less relevant on the global geopolitical stage and move away from the planet's new center of gravity. However, it remains an undisputed pole of attraction for the rest of humanity due to its peace, democracy, freedom, gender equality and opportunities, tolerance and respect. This is what the author Josep Piqué wishes to convey in El mundo que nos viene. We are talking about an economist, businessman and political leader - head of several ministries, including Foreign Affairs, during the government of José María Aznar - who has experienced firsthand the transition from a Eurocentric world to one that looks more to a thriving Asia.

The book is a good geopolitical analysis of the world, highlighting a fragmented European Union, a very strong China, a Russia nostalgic for its imperial past, a Middle East divided in wars between irreconcilable factions and an Anglo-Saxon world withdrawn into itself. Divided into different chapters depending on the geographical area , the book analyzes in depth each and every one of the topics.

First of all, the author emphasizes the status that the Anglo-Saxon world is experiencing, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, countries that have renounced their world hegemony for the sake of a retreat into themselves. In the case of the United Kingdom we speak of the divorce with the European Union and in the case of the United States we speak of the policies of President Donald Trump, such as the withdrawal of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) with Japan, Chile, Canada, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. Paradoxically, in the face of the attitude of these two actors, there is the rise as a power of a China that no longer conceals its actions, that no longer wants to be the silent power that Deng Xiaoping formulated.

Russia and its actions abroad are also analyzed from different perspectives, but mainly taking into account Russia's obsession with its security. As the author argues, it is a state that is very sensitive to its borders and tries to keep the enemy poles as far away as possible, which implies a policy of influence on the states adjacent to its border. This explains its reactions to the change of side of the Eastern European countries and their gradual incorporation into the European Union or NATO. Nor can we forget the gas topic , the implications of the melting of the Arctic ice, the oil fields in the Caspian Sea or other issues that the author reviews.

If we look at the situation in the Middle East, the status does not seem to be leading to a lasting peace. Neither in the panorama of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nor in the different proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, without forgetting the failure of the different Arab Springs. This status leads the author to analyze in historical perspective how all this has happened. On the other hand, he analyzes the complexity of the different cross interests between Turkey, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran that complete the chessboard that represents the Middle East.

Finally, we should not forget the chapter that Josep Piqué reservation for his main thesis formulated at the beginning of this article: the future of the European Union. As he himself points out, Europe represents the neo-Western synthesis in a post-Western world. However, it must realize this potential and benefit from it. As Piqué argues, the attractiveness of the European Union both as an integrator project and for the liberal and democratic values it represents should be a card that the EU should play more in its favor. However, it also faces challenges such as the rise of nationalism and anti-Europeanism, Russian interference in internal affairs or the lack of credibility of European institutions. All this in the framework of the strong economic recession of 2007 that the author also analyzes as a good economist of degree program. Finally, we should not forget some final notes dedicated to the implications of new technologies, Latin America and the opportunities that Spain has.

All this together represents a complete journey through the world of geostrategy - in the review of the regions of the planet only a accredited specialization to Africa is missing -, in which all the keys that a person with an interest in the International Office should take into account when analyzing the current situation are detailed.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

skill of the two powers to have instructions in the Indian Ocean and to be active in strategic neighboring countries.

Rumors of possible future Chinese military use of area in Gwadar (Pakistan), where Beijing already operates a port, have added a great deal of attention in the last year to the rivalry between China and India to secure access to points in the region that will allow them to control the Indian Ocean. India regards this ocean as its own, while for China it is vital to ensure the security of its energy supplies from the Middle East.

Chinese work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015.

▲ China's work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015 [US Navy].

article / Jimena Puga

The two major Asia-Pacific powers, China and India, are vying for regional supremacy in the Indian Ocean by establishing military instructions and economic agreements with bordering countries such as Pakistan. The Indian Ocean, which borders Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, is home to one of the most crucial and strategic points for international trade. Nearly 40% of the oil extracted from the sea is produced in the Indian Ocean, which also has rich mineral and fishing deposits.

Five years ago China began its major territorial reclamation in the South China Sea, and the country has established a territorial status quo in its favor without receiving any international impediments, in order to counter the US military presence in the region, established during the Cold War, and which controls the South China Sea and all goods coming from Africa, the Middle East and the Strait of Malacca. This territorial expansion of the Middle Empire began in December 2013; since then China has built more than average dozen more artificial islands, located in a strategic location through which a third of global maritime trade passes, and has deployed military assets on them.

However, the creation of these islands has caused great damage to the region's marine ecosystem. The coral reefs that China has destroyed in order to use them as a base for the establishment of its islands provided food and shelter for numerous marine species, as well as supplies for Asia's most important fishing companies. However, thanks to this territorial expansion China is in a better position not only for maritime and air control of the area but also to continue to advance its strategy of power projection in the Indian Ocean and part of the Pacific to satisfy its plans for power and supremacy in the region.


In early 2018, some reports suggested that China plans to set up a naval base next to the port it is developing in Gwadar, in Pakistan, although Pakistani authorities deny that Beijing has requested that the facilities be put to that use. In any case, the docking of military vessels at area in Gwadar would connect that point with the country's recent military and naval base built in Djibouti - the first China has abroad - as part of a growing network own of instructions air and naval along the Indian Ocean.

India, the greatest power among regional countries, is responding to Chinese expansion with unexpected strength. Delhi aspires to control the most strategic maritime trade points in the Indian Ocean including the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz and the Mozambique Channel. In addition, India is gaining access to the instructions of its foreign allies in the region. In 2017 it signed a logisticsagreement with the US that would mean free access to US military installations across the region (agreement which perhaps has something to do with the US desire to create an alternative to the Silk Belt and Road Initiative and curb the rapid growth of the Asian superpower).

In January 2018, India also announced the agreement logistical exchange with France involving free access to French military facilities in Djibouti, namely in the Red Sea and on the island of meeting, south of the Indian Ocean (perhaps to counter Sino-European agreements). Finally, India is also building strategic relations and infrastructure near the Persian Gulf. And after years of negotiations, Delhi has managed to formalize a agreement with Iran to modernize and expand the port of Chabahar, near the Strait of Hormuz. While it is true that the vast majority of agreements are commercial in nature, they have enough potential to increase India's access and influence in Central Asia.

In response to Beijing's military base in Djibouti, New Delhi has begun seeking access to new facilities in Seychelles, Oman and Singapore. From Tanzania to Sri Lanka the two Asian powers are attempting to increase their military and economic presence in countries along the Indian Ocean in their mission statement for regional supremacy. Finally, it is possible that India's 2017 request for drones from the US was aimed at goal monitoring Chinese activity in the ocean.

"My Chinese colleagues have explicitly told me that if the U.S. continues to fly over and navigate in what they self-described as 'their waters,' China will shoot down the corresponding intruder," said Matthew Kroenig, a CIA and Pentagon analyst. "Maybe it's just a bluff, but if China were to shoot down an American plane, it would be the perfect scenario for a U.S. military buildup. It's hard to see President Trump or any other American leader turn his back on this issue."


PEARL NECKLACE OF CHINA. 1-Hong Kong; 2-Hainan; 3-Paracel Islands (disputed); 4-Spratly Islands (disputed), 5- Sihanoukville and Raum (Cambodia), ports; 6-Itsmo de Kra (Thailand), infrastructure; 7-Cocos Islands (Myanmar), antennas; 8-Sittwe (Myanmar), port; 9-Chittagong (Bangladesh), port; 10-Hambantota (Sri Lanka), port; 11-Marao (Maldives), offshore exploration; 12-Gwadar (Pakistan), port; 13-Port Sudan; 14-Al Ahdab (Iraq), oil exploitation; 15-Lamu (Kenya), port. Chart from 2012; missing to note China's first overseas military base, in Djibouti, inaugurated in 2017 [Edgar Fabiano].



The moves by both powers stem from the fear that the other countries will join in coalition with their opponent in the future, but they also do not want to completely abandon the expansion of economic relations with each other by altering the regional order too drastically.

This power of the weak has limitations, but it has so far worked to the benefit of both India and China. Due to globalization, particularly in the economic sphere, weaker states have adopted asymmetric strategies to extract resources from their neighboring superpowers that aspire to be leaders on the international stage. Often, these border countries had to choose a superpower to obtain resources, as was the case during the Cold War. The difference in this era of globalization is that these states can extract concessions and resources from both Beijing and Delhi without formally aligning themselves with one of them, as is the case, for example, with Vietnam. The absence of a bloc rivalry, as was the case during the Cold War, and the high levels of economic interdependence between India and China make it easier for many of the smaller states to avoid signing an alliance with one of these leaders.

India's subtle strategy involves developing entente with Japan and the member countries of the association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as with the United States. Specifically, the quadrilateral negotiations initiated between India, Japan, the US and Australia are another stabilizing mechanism vis-à-vis China.

However, the strategies of the smaller states in South Asia have limitations. Although China is offering greater economic attendance , these countries, except Pakistan, are unlikely to form military alliances with China because if they do, it would provoke a negative response from India, the dominant power in the region, and the United States, the international superpower that still has a strong naval presence in the Indian Ocean. We are witnessing a new dynamic of diplomatic relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

This new trend of rapprochement with smaller countries translates into an inclination to use economic appeal to persuade neighbors rather than military coercion. How long this trend will continue remains to be seen. India's new strategies with other international powers may be the key to complicating the freedom of action and decision that China is having in the military realm, especially in this time of peace. What is clear is that China's aspiration for supremacy is visible by all countries that are part of the Asia-Pacific region and will not be as easy to establish as the Empire at the Center thought.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security and defense World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

[Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back. America and Our Imperiled World. Alfred A. Knoff. New York, 2018. 179 pp.]


review / Emili J. Blasco

The Jungle Grows Back. America and Our Imperiled World

At this point in the century it is already clear that the consecration of the liberal system in the world, following the breakup of the communist bloc at the end of the Cold War, is not something that is going to happen inexorably, as was thought. It is not even likely. The divergent models of China and Russia are gaining adherents in the states. Democracy is on the decline, also in Western societies themselves.

It is the jungle that is growing back where a garden had been successfully spread. This is the image Robert Kagan uses in his new book to warn that the United States should not abdicate its responsibility to lead the effort to preserve the liberal world order. For Kagan, the liberal system "was never a natural phenomenon," but a "great historical aberration." "It has been an anomaly in the history of human existence. The liberal world order is fragile and impermanent. Like a garden, it is always besieged by the natural forces of history, the jungle, whose vines and weeds constantly threaten to cover it," he says. It is an "artificial creation subject to the forces of geopolitical inertia," so that the question "is not what will collapse the liberal order, but what can sustain it."

Kagan is still considered a neoconservative by the media label , even though his positions are in the mainstream of American Republicanism (the majority for decades, until the rise of Donald Trump; in fact, in the 2016 campaign Kagan supported Hillary Clinton) and his work is carried out at the rather Democratic Brookings Institution. He does advocate clear U.S. leadership in the world, but not out of self-assertion, but as the only way for the international liberal order to be preserved. It is not that, by sponsoring it, the United States has acted disinterestedly, for as one of its builders, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, said, in order to protect the "American experiment in life" it was necessary to create "an environment of freedom" in the world. But the other Western countries, and others where the regime of freedoms of democratic societies has also spread, have also benefited.

Kagan's central thesis is that while there was U.S. self-interest in creating the international architecture that ordered the world after World War II, it benefited many other countries and ensured the victory of free societies over communism. Crucial to this, according to Kagan, is that while Washington sometimes acted contrary to the values it preached, it generally abided by certain rules.

Thus, the United States "did not exploit the system it dominated to gain lasting economic advantages at the expense of the other powers of the order. Simply put: it could not use its military dominance to win the economic competition against other members of the order, nor could it treat the competition as zero-sum and insist on winning every time" (the latter is what Trump intends). It is true that the United States benefited from being the major player both economically and militarily, "but an element core topic in holding the international order together was the perception by the other powers that they had reasonable opportunities to succeed economically and even at times surpass the United States, as Japan, Germany, and other nations did at various times."

Kagan admits that Washington's willingness to engage in large doses of fair play in the economic sphere "did not extend to all areas, especially not to strategic affairs. In these, "order was not always based on the rules, for when the United States felt it necessary, rightly or wrongly, it violated the rules, including those it claimed to defend, either by carrying out military interventions without UN authorization, as it did on numerous occasions during the Cold War, or by engaging in covert activities that had no international backing."

It has been an order that, in order to function, "had to enjoy a certain Degree of voluntary acceptance by its members, to be not a competition of all against all, but a community of like-minded nations acting together to preserve a system from which all could benefit." "The order was kept in place because the other members looked upon American hegemony as relatively benign and superior to other alternatives." test of this is that Western European countries relied on Washington despite its overwhelming military superiority. "In the end, even if it did not always do so for idealistic reasons, the United States would end up creating a world unusually conducive to the spread of democracy."

Kagan disagrees that after the dissolution of the USSR the world entered a "new world order". In his opinion, what was called the "unipolar moment" did not really change the assumptions of the order established at the end of World War II. So it made no sense that, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world was thought to be entering a new era of irrepressible peace and prosperity, and that this made the gardener's role of the United States unnecessary. The withdrawal from the world carried out by Trump and initiated by Obama (Kagan already in 2012 published The World America Made, in defense of American involvement in the world), would be allowing the return of the chaotic vegetation of the jungle.

The Jungle Grows Back is in the format of a small book, typical of a restrained essay that aims to convey some fundamental ideas without trying to overwhelm the reader. Despite pointing out the dangers of the liberal order, and noting that the United States maintains an attitude of retreat, the book offers an optimistic message: "This is a pessimistic view of human existence, but it is not a fatalistic one. Nothing is determined, neither the triumph of liberalism nor its defeat".

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

The text attempts to avoid stagnation, but does not open the door to decisive transformation

Cubans will vote in referendum next February 24 on the project of the new Constitution C by the National Assembly in December after a period of enquiry popular. In the preamble of the project the reference letter was introduced at the last minute to the goal communist which already existed in the 1976 Constitution, but which had not been initially incorporated in the draft, so that the final text is even less novel.

Building of the committee Central of the Communist Party of Cuba

▲ Building of the committee Central of the Communist Party of Cuba [framework Zanferrari].

article / Alex Puigrefagut

Six decades after the Revolution, Cuba leaves behind the surname Castro, with the arrival in April 2018 of Miguel Díaz-Canel as head of state, and is preparing to approve a new Constitution, which will replace the one promulgated in 1976, to symbolize this new time. This new Magna Carta, whose initial text was C by the National Assembly in July 2018, then submitted to three months of popular enquiry for the presentation of amendments and finally C as by the deputies on December 22, has as its goal main objective to seek the modernization of the Cuban State and the sustainable development of the same, without losing the essence and the main ideals of the socialist ideology of the State.

entrance At the end of the Castro era at the helm of Cuba, the State has found it necessary to include in the new essay the socioeconomic transformations carried out in the country since the previous Constitution came into force, as well as to partially modify the State structure to make it more functional. It is also worth mentioning the willingness to recognize more rights for citizens, although with limitations.

When examining the constitutional project , four aspects are particularly noteworthy: the specification of the ideology of the State, the figures and Structures of the State and the government, the question of private property and finally the redefinition of citizens' rights.

Maintenance of socialism

The text C initially by the National Assembly did not include the reference letter at goal to reach a communist society, a fundamental point that was present in the previous Constitution. The article 5 of the 1976 Magna Carta established that society "organizes and orients common efforts towards the high goals of the construction of socialism and the advance towards a communist society".

The omission of this point was really only a change of language, since at no time was the idea of socialism abandoned, in fact, the socialist character of the Cuban State was ratified. In the words of Esteban Lazo, president of the National Assembly, this new Constitution "does not mean that we are renouncing our ideas, but rather that in our vision we are thinking of a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country". However, in case there were any doubts, after the period of popular deliberation, the Assembly introduced as an amendment the express accredited specialization to communism in the preamble of the final text, given the alleged pressure from the most immobilist sectors.

The new Constitution reaffirms the socialist character of the Cuban regime, both in the economic and social spheres, giving a leading role to the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as the highest power in society. The socialist nature of the Cuban State is underscored by the maintenance of the single-party system.

Presidential limits

The new Constitution includes some changes in the state structure. The most outstanding characteristic is that the Antillean country will have a president of the republic as head of state and a prime minister as head of government, in contrast with the current status of the same position for both functions: president of the committee of State and of Ministers. Everything indicates that this distinction will result more in a distribution of work than in a division of powers between the two positions, so this change will not be transcendental, given the control that will continue to be exercised from the PCC.

Another transformation in the political system is the elimination of the provincial assemblies for the creation of provincial governorships, with the goal to give a greater decentralization to the administrative power and a greater dependence of the legislative command on the executive.

As for the presidential term, the new Constitution limits it to five years, with the option of a single reelection for the same period. This change is important since it should lead to a rotation of members, and it is assumed that with this there would also be a renewal of ideas both within the Party and the Executive. The purpose is to avoid the stagnation of a historic generation without new ideas.

Finally, the president will be elected directly by the deputies of the National Assembly; in other words, Cuba does not give entrance to the direct election of its leaders, but maintains the indirect election system.

Private property

The document includes several forms of property, among them socialist property, mixed property and private property. The accredited specialization to the latter does not imply its formal recognition, but the confirmation of a internship whose extension the new Constitution endorses. This implies, therefore, the recognition of the market, a deeper participation of private property and the welcome to more foreign investment to enliven the country's Economics .

This need to reflect in the Constitution the greater participation of private property has occurred because, in many cases, the contribution of property and foreign investments have exceeded in the internship what was established in the previous constitutional framework . But this step will also lead to greater control in this area.

These changes in the economic sphere are aimed at goal to support the adjustments initiated by Raúl Castro a decade ago to boost economic growth and counteract the embargo established by the United States more than fifty years ago; in addition to fixing some of the country's labor force in the private sector as self-employed workers, especially in micro and small enterprises.

Citizen's rights

Finally, regarding the redefinition of citizens' rights, the constitutional project establishes a new functioning in the interaction of the State with the population through the flexibilization of economic, legal and civil rights. From the approval of the new text, the Cuban State must guarantee citizens the extension of Human Rights, although only in accordance with the international treaties ratified by the Caribbean country.

This, which despite this limitation could be seen as an opportunity for citizens, in reality has little of an opening, because although Cuba has signed United Nations agreements on political, cultural, civil and economic rights, it has not actually ratified them. Thus, in principle, Cuba should not be obliged to recognize these rights.

Another highlight of the relaxation introduced is article 40, which criminalizes discrimination "on grounds of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic origin, skin color, religious belief, disability, national origin or any other distinction harmful to human dignity". In the initial text that went to instructions , the recognition of same-sex marriage was introduced, but citizen rejection led to an amendment that finally withdrew the express protection of same-sex marriage.

After analyzing the main novelties of the constitutional project , it can be determined that the Cuban regime perceives a certain need for change and renewal. The new Constitution goes somewhat in that direction, but although it tries to avoid stagnation, it does not open the door to a decisive transformation either: neither complete continuity -although there is more of this- nor revolution within the system. It is clear that the new generation of leaders, with Miguel Díaz-Canel at the helm, can be seen as a continuity of the Castro regime, for the simple fact that the Castros directly determined the successor, in addition to the fact that many of their ideals are the same as those of the generation that made the revolution. But on the other hand, Cuba is certainly forced to slightly modify its course in order to be more present in the international system and to seek a more functional state and government.

(Updated January 3, 2019)

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

[Pedro Baños, El dominio mundial. Elementos del poder y claves geopolíticas. Ariel. Barcelona, 2018. 366 p.]


review / Manuel Lamela

  World domination. Elements of power and geopolitical keys

If your previous submission, The Keys to World Dominationserved as guide to introduce us to the vast world of geopolitics and International Office, in his new work, Colonel Pedro Baños Bajo, reveals to us and sample the key elements and instruments for world domination and how these are used by the various actors in their constant struggle for power on a global scale. We are on the verge of a paradigm shift in the international scene, and this process, as the author explains, will be led by demography and technology.

In his business to democratize geopolitics, Pedro Baños uses a clear and precise language to facilitate the understanding of the work. Numerous illustrations in the book are accompanied by brief explanations to get a broader view of the topic to be treated.

The elements of world power is the name given to the first half of the book, which is divided into nine different parts that, according to the author, are key to understanding the game of world power. In this first half of the book we will deal with current and extremely important issues on the international scene. From the hybrid threat, which is a new way of waging war, to the role of intelligence services today, and including the transcendental importance of natural resources and demographics. It is certainly a comprehensive analysis for those seeking a brief explanation of the major challenges that threaten to destabilize our current social order. It is true that some of the explanations can be defined as simple, but this need not be understood as a pejorative characteristic. The author's ability to synthesize extremely complex issues may encourage the reader's curiosity and lead him to other great works where he can delve deeper into more specific topics.

In the second part of the book we find a more concrete analysis in which the author focuses on only two factors: technology and demographics. The population imbalance, the great migratory flows and what some call the fourth industrial revolution are some of the issues that Colonel Baños highlights in his analysis. In the author's opinion, the transformations to which these two elements will be exposed will mark the course of humanity in the coming years. In this more incisive study, the author sample tells us how vulnerable human society is in the face of the future changes that are to come and how this presumed weakness will make conflicts difficult to avoid in the near future. Pedro Baños argues that despite the belief that we live in a perfectly organized and structured society, the reality is far from the latter, since it is a reduced group human being who is in charge of directing and leading the destiny of all humanity as a whole.

Despite distilling a certain pessimism throughout the work, Pedro Baños decides to conclude his analysis with a message of hope, advocating for a united humanity, manager and solidarity with its environment.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Global

The cancellation of the new CDMX airport, already more than 31% built, sows doubts about the economic success of the new administration.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador arrives to the presidency of Mexico facing the economic world, to which he has put up a fight with his advertisement to paralyze the works of the new airport of the capital, despite the fact that a third of the works have already been carried out. The desire to make clear to the economic power who rules the country and to bury what was to be an emblematic bequest of the PRI -whose historical hegemony he hopes to replace with his own party, Morena- may be behind the controversial decision.

Image of the projected NAICM created by Fernando Romero Enterprise, Foster and Partners

▲ Image of the projected NAICM created by Fernando Romero Enterprise, Foster and Partners.

article / Antonio Navalón

The Mexican PRI returned to the presidency of the country in 2012, led by Enrique Peña Nieto, with the promise of making a major investment in public infrastructure that would put Mexico in the world's showcase. The stellar work chosen was the construction of a new airport, whose project was commissioned to architect Norman Foster and which the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) saw as the inheritance that would always be attributed to it.

This great project was to overshadow any negative bequest of Peña Nieto's term, which has been especially marked by corruption cases and historic record violence figures. Although useful for political marketing, increasing the air traffic capacity of Mexico City (CDMX), whose metropolitan area has 23 million inhabitants, is a necessity for boosting the national Economics .

The US$13.3 billion project was one of the largest investments in the country's history. Named Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de Ciudad de México (NAICM, later simplified as NAIM) and located at area in Texcoco, a little further away than the current facilities in use, the new infrastructure was to be developed in two phases. The first phase consisted of the construction of a large terminal and three runways, which were initially planned to be ready by 2020, but whose entrance in service had been postponed to 2022 due to construction delays. The second phase would see the construction of three additional runways, plus a second terminal, which would be ready for operation from 2035.

Plans called for NAICM to have the capacity to transport between 70 and 135 million passengers annually, thanks to an operating volume of between 115 and 135 slots per hour. These figures gave a long-term deadline potential benefit of more than $32 billion, according to government estimates.

The project sought first of all to solve the serious air saturation problem suffered by the current Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, caused by the low performance capacity of the two runways that operate simultaneously. In addition, the construction of the NAICM was based on the hope of turning CDMX into a world logistics hub, with the potential to multiply the current airport's cargo transport capacity fourfold.

The level of freight transport in this macro project would be able to reach 2 million tons per year, thus becoming, as its promoters assured, the main distribution center in Latin America. NAICM's ambition, therefore, was to become a reference not only in the American continent but also worldwide, both in the transfer of tourists and in the transport of goods.

NAICM construction began in 2015 and to date 31% of the work has been completed. Although this Degree of completion represents a slight delay compared to the original schedule, the foundation and channeling works are already finished and high Structures intended to hold the wide roof can be seen on the surface. However, despite this progress and the investment already made, the country's new president has announced that he is completely burying the project.

Elections and enquiry

The presidential elections of July 1st were won by the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (inaugurated on December 1st). Former leader of the PRI, thanks to which he served as mayor of the capital, over time he drifted to the left: he first joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and, after losing two elections for the presidency of the country, he created the National Regeneration Movement (Morena). In July, Morena won a majority in both chambers of congress and also conquered the CDMX government, giving AMLO, as the new president is commonly known, broad powers to carry out his policies. While he fell 17 votes short of a qualified majority in the Senate that could change the Constitution, he could gain allies for that purpose.

During the election campaign, Lopez Obrador defended the cancellation of the new airport project alleging its high cost, and raised the possibility that, as an alternative, some improvements could be made to the current airport and the Santa Lucia airport, a military base in the area of the Mexican capital that could be enabled for international flights. But Morena's candidate assured that he would make a enquiry to know the opinion of the Mexican people and that he would abide by the results.

Without waiting to take office as President, Lopez Obrador had Morena carry out this enquiry, which was not organized by the Government but by a political party, and furthermore did not take place in the whole country but in 538 municipalities out of the 2,463 that exist in Mexico. The ballot boxes, set up between October 25 and 28, voted "no" to NAICM: with a participation of only 1% of the national electoral body, 69% voted for the alternative of Santa Lucia and 29% voted to continue the works in Texcoco. López Obrador announced that, in application of result, he will halt the works for the new airport, despite the investment already made.

Some popular movements and also naturalists calling for the preservation of the natural environment applauded the advertisement, but there were also protest marches against the decision in the streets of downtown CDMX. The private sector has greatly regretted the purpose decision to cancel the NAICM project . Leading businessmen in the country and organizations such as the Confederation of Mexican Industrial Chambers (CONCAMIN), which represents 35% of Mexican GDP and 40% of employment in the country, came out in defense of the original project and asked López Obrador to reconsider his decision. Their argument is that any alternative will fall short of the demands of growing air traffic, weighing down the country's development . They also argue that any decision other than continuing with the construction of the NAICM will be more expensive than completing the planned airport [1].


Airport Infrastructure Proposals


Economic impact

For CONCAMIN, "the current airport lacks the infrastructure and any improvement would not fix the fundamental problems it has", and a bet on the Santa Lucia base "would be a waste of time and money, which will create problems rather than solve them", according to the president of this business association , Francisco Cervantes.

José Navalón, of CONCAMIN's Foreign Trade and International Affairs Commission, of which he is a member, warns that López Obrador's decision will be a major blow to Mexico's macroeconomic and financial system. In his words, "it is still too early to assess possible consequences, but it will be necessary to see if Mexico has the appropriate airport infrastructure, in terms of competitiveness and connectivity, for what is the second largest Economics in Latin America". In any case, for the moment "there has been a problem of lack of confidence in the markets, which has been immediately reflected in the fall of the peso and the markets" [2].

Indeed, while López Obrador was greeted in July with a rise in the markets, because his resounding victory seemed to augur stability for Mexico, his inauguration in December is being accompanied by an "exodus" of investors. The peso has fallen nearly 10% against the dollar in August, the stock market is down 7.6% and in October alone investors sold 2.4 billion dollars in Mexican bonds.

"The main questions that investors are asking today," Navalón continues, "is whether it is safe to invest in Mexico and how often this subject of decisions that do not follow any subject of legality will be taken," as important companies will be affected by the cancellation of a project in progress. He also warns that "the election of Bolsonaro in Brazil, whose profile is a magnet for foreign investment, may directly affect investment in Mexico".

The big question is why López Obrador maintains his decision against the new airport, in spite of the economic penalty it will mean for the Government and the risk of investor flight. We must understand that Mexico has always been a country that has been led by economic power. With its attitude towards NAICM, it aims to clearly mark the line of separation between political and economic power, making it clear that the era of economic power is over. A second reason is that NAICM was going to be the PRI's inheritance and López Obrador probably seeks to destroy any subject of association of this macro project with the party he intends to bury.



[1] CONCAMIN Document "Airport Proposals" 2018.

[2] Personal interviews with Francisco Cervantes and José Navalón.

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

[Justin Vaïsse, Zbigniew Brzezinski. America's Grand Strategist. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, 2018. 505 p.]


review / Emili J. Blasco

Zbigniew Brzezinski. America's Grand Strategist

Zbignew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter, is one of the great names in U.S. foreign policy in recent decades. In some respects comparable to Henry Kissinger, who also went directly from the University - where both were colleagues - to the Administration, the latter's greater renown has sometimes obscured Brzezinski's degree program . Justin Vaïsse's biography, written with access to Brzezinski's documentation staff and first published in French two years ago, comes to highlight the singular figure and his own thinking of one who had a continuous presence on the discussion on the action of the United States in the world until his death in 2017.

Born in Warsaw in 1928 and the son of a diplomat, Brzezinski arrived with his family in Canada during World War II. From there, he went to Harvard and quickly rose to prominence in the academic community in the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen and lived for the rest of his life. If in the 1940s and 1950s, the leading positions in the Administration were nurtured by an older generation that had led the country through the war and established the new world order, in the following decades a new group of statesmen emerged, in many cases from the leading American universities, which at that time had acquired an unprecedented preeminence in the gestation of political thought.

This was the case of Kissinger, born in Germany and also emigrated with the war, who was first National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, and also under Gerald Ford. The next president, Jimmy Carter, brought Brzezinski, who had advised him on international issues during the election campaign, to the White House. The two professors maintained a respectful and often cordial relationship, although their positions, ascribed to different political camps, often diverged.

For biographical reasons, Brzezenski's original focus - or Zbig, as his collaborators called him to overcome the difficulty of pronunciation of his surname- was on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Relatively early on he came to the conclusion that the USSR would be unable to maintain the economic pulse with the West, so he advocated a "peaceful engagement" with the Eastern bloc as a way to accelerate its decomposition. This was the doctrine of the Johnson, Nixon and Ford Administrations.

However, from the mid-1970s, the USSR faced its evident decline with a headlong rush to try to resettle its international power, both in terms of strategic arms and its presence in the Third World. Brzezinski then shifted to a tougher stance toward Moscow, which brought him into frequent confrontation with other figures in the Carter Administration, especially Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Carter had arrived at the White House in January 1977 with a certain appeasement speech , although without ceasing to be belligerent in terms of Human Rights. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 reinforced Brzezinski's thesis .

Carter's short presidency gave little room for the National Security committee to score special triumphs. The biggest, albeit the joint work of the presidential team, was the signature of the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt. But the fiasco of the attempted rescue of the hostages at the Tehran Embassy, which was not Brzezinski's direct responsibility, weighed down an Administration that could not have a second term.

Situated on the right of the Democratic Party, Brzezinski is described by Vaïsse as a "fellow traveler" of the neoconservatives (the Democrats who went over to the Republican side claiming a more robust defense of U.S. interests in the world), but without being a neoconservative himself (in fact, he did not break with the Democratic Party). In any case, he always remarked his independence and was difficult to pigeonhole. "He was neither a warmonger nor a pacifist. He was hawkish and dovish at different times," says Vaïsse. For example, he opposed the first Gulf War, preferring extreme sanctions, but was in favor of intervening in the Balkan War.

After leaving the Administration, Brzezinski joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington and maintained an active production of essays.

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews

essay / Manuel Lamela

The skill to communicate, to weave alliances, to generate a narrative... These are characteristics of what today is understood as public diplomacy. Although it covers a wide variety of issues and areas, we can say that we are referring to power in its communicative facet, for which States compete in a degree program of ideas with the aim of appropriating the "story" and generating greater influence on a global scale. This struggle for the domination of thought is not new, but in the last half of the 20th century concepts were generated to illustrate this conflict between States, which perhaps before the Cold War was in the background, and programs of study appeared to analyze this subject of strategies. In spite of this, it is enough to take a look at the classics to see clear references to what we currently understand by Public Diplomacy; thus, in works such as Sun Tzu's "Art of War", great importance and value is given to information, both internal and external, and its control is presented as a synonym of triumph in most cases.

Despite the novelty of the concept, Public Diplomacy has undergone several changes and transformations with the entrance of the new century. Along with the importance of non-state actors already present in the last century, we now find a significant increase in the weight of individuals in shaping or influencing the policies of their States. The increase is undoubtedly due to the emergence and "democratization" of the Internet and more recently to the total dependence of populations on the use of social networks. Leaving aside discussion on whether social networks bring benefits or rather their uncontrolled use generates deficits, which is not relevant in this analysis, what is clear is that social networks create a clear status of vulnerability conducive to state intervention and control, both domestic and foreign.

Given this metamorphosis in terms of diplomacy, various concepts have begun to be coined, such as diplomacy at network, cybersecurity diplomacy, etc., which are currently present in most State strategies and encompass the phenomena discussed in the previous paragraph. Within these new strategic plans, think tanks acquire great relevance and importance as generators of ideas and shapers of public opinion given their hybrid nature of combining internship with theory and their mission statement to bring the foreign policy of their various States closer to the general public. Think tanks are, without a doubt, a clear example of the exercise of soft power. They position themselves as ideological pillars in the construction of new narratives, generating a competitive advantage over the rest.

Anglo-Saxon history and leadership

The Anglo-Saxon hegemony in cementing the values and ideas that constitute the liberal international order is closely related to the origins of the first think tanks and their role within those societies. Modern think tanks emerged during World War II as safe rooms where the U.S. Army could develop and plan war strategies. Rand Corporation is founded in 1948 with the goal of promote and to protect U.S. interests abroad. Funded and sponsored by the Administration, RAND will inspire and serve as an example for the emergence of new think tanks linked to the US government. Although most of the renowned think tanks appeared in the 1950s, there are several earlier examples, both in American and British society, that illustrate more clearly why they were leaders in the degree program generation of ideas.

At the end of the 19th century, the Fabian Society was founded in the United Kingdom, a syndicalist organization that laid the foundations for the creation of the Labor Party. On the other side of the Atlantic, examples abound: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, created by former President Herbert Hoover, emerged prior to the 1920s and exemplify the importance of this subject of associations in American society. But if there is one case worth highlighting, it is that of the Brookings Institution, which was founded in 1916 under the name of the Institute for Government Research (IGR). This philanthropic corporation is one of the first private organizations dedicated to the study and analysis of public policy at the national level; over the years, its importance and relevance grew to become the most prestigious and influential think tank in the world.

From the 1980s onwards, the think tank phenomenon multiplied and spread to continental Europe, where associations dedicated to analysis and research in these fields began to be created. Intellectual production in the old continent had become worryingly scarce after the war. So the need to put the ideas machine back to work was vital to give meaning to the new united Europe and to gain some independence from the Anglo-Saxon world. Today 55% of the world's think tanks are divided between the USA and Western Europe.

With the entrance of the new century we have seen an important increase in the issue of think tanks in the Asian continent, with the mission statement of rebranding and redirecting Western ideas and even generating their own ideas, popularly known as the "Asian Way". Undoubtedly, the irruption of China as a great world power is essential in the increase of think tanks in Asia. The "sleeping dragon" seeks to consolidate its global position with the creation of a new diplomacy that exports the Chinese statement of core values to all corners of the world, a process in which the new Silk Road will play a fundamental role as a distribution channel. Along with China, the other threat to Western domination is Russia, which, thanks to its high quality in terms of human capital in intelligence and diplomacy, is always positioned as a fierce competitor, despite the fact that its material resources are smaller. In the case of Latin America and Africa, its contribution continues to be residual and its influence is limited to the regional level; issue think tanks from these two continents account for less than 20% of the world's think tanks.

Typology of think tanks

Two different forms of think tanks have already been mentioned in this analysis: the case of RAND as a association closely linked to the US government and the case of Brookings as an independent organization. Within the think tank community there is a great diversity and we can categorize them according to their funding, whether or not they present ideology, their composition, their approach discipline... Today the most important classification of think tanks is the one provided annually by the University of Pennsylvania with its report "Think Tanks and Civil Society Program". This report is dedicated to evaluate and classify the different think tanks that exist today.

The report provides the following categories:



Think tanks linked to academia or government continue to account for the majority of cases, while for-profit research groups constitute a growing minority.

The influence of ideas in U.S. politics

It is interesting to analyze how Robert D. Kaplan's book "Balkan Ghosts" had a decisive influence on the American intervention in the Balkan war and, paradoxically, led years later, in 2003, to the invasion of Iraq. Kaplan himself, in another of his great works, "The Revenge of Geography", blames the upper echelons of American society for being infected by an unbridled idealism that led to a disregard for the transcendental role played by history and physical geography in determining the future of nations.

The role played by the various pressures exerted by American think tanks in the invasion of Iraq is the perfect example to illustrate the paramount importance that ideas can play in the conduct of a state's foreign policy.

Originally think tanks were born as advisory bodies oriented to provide financial aid and committee to the US government. With the advancement of the Cold War and later with the Internet revolution, the need for ideas and independent policy formulation became a primary need for the United States, which saw think tanks as the best possible solution to nurture the committee of experts.

The capacity to generate new and original ideas far removed from the political stratum, together with their educational capacity, are two of the main factors that have led think tanks to be considered as a reference when it comes to shaping US foreign policy. The direct influence they possess is one of the fundamental characteristics that distinguishes them from those existing in other regions, such as Europe, where they are more tied to the academic sphere; in the USA think tanks exert a real impact on State policies. It is in these "thought factories" where the values and ideas are constructed with which they will try to sweeten foreign policy and thus expand their sphere of influence to all corners of the globe. The mission statement to identify and provide solutions to future problems and conflicts is another of the main tasks of think tanks. They are not always considered government allies and often lead the fiercest criticism; in any case, the autonomy they enjoy is what makes them perceived as an asset of great value within U.S. society.


Think Tanks in the world


The export of model to Europe

In Europe, issue think tanks have multiplied since the 1980s, but their issue and relevance are still far from the Anglo-Saxon world. In the list of the most important think tanks created by the University of Pennsylvania, only two belong to the European Union: the Institut Français des Relations Internationales and the Belgian Bruegel. The American think tank model has been both praised and criticized, and the option of imitating it has been discussed in many countries and implemented in many others. Critics of its implementation believe that history and tradition play a key role in making the export of model extremely difficult.

Traditionally in Europe the universities have been in charge of developing the European statement of core values , and in the past they had great success making Europe the vanguard of humanity. But nowadays Europe does not enjoy the leading role it had in other historical epochs; the fact is that it has been overtaken ideologically by the USA and has had no choice but to go along with the latter in order to face greater threats. The latter, together with the greater complexity of the problems in the current scenario and the status that the European Union is experiencing, make it necessary to renew the European social contract and generate a new narrative that brings together European citizens around a new cause, with the spirit of the Treaties of Rome as a great reference and starting point.

To carry out such an arduous task, think tanks are presented as one of the possible solutions and tools of financial aid. Given their nature of bringing together the academic and political spheres, the creation of new ideas and values that revitalize European society will allow us to aspire to higher qualities. Another key factor is the flexibility of the model think tank, which will generate greater accessibility within civil society, making citizens feel involved and ultimately written request, political participation will increase, so that the bonds of trust will be strengthened rather than broken, as is predicted to happen. As mentioned in the U.S. case, the value of educational is another key feature and will serve as a solution to several of the problems currently plaguing Europe, such as the rise of extremist parties of different stripes.

Europe has a duty to generate a narrative with which its citizens can identify, and the power of ideas will undoubtedly play a key role in the success or failure of this task.

The think tank phenomenon is already one of the models on which the public diplomacy of various states gravitates. The eternal conflict to dominate the spheres of world thought will continue, so think tanks will continue to grow and develop, gaining more and more relevance at the international level. In the hierarchy of domination, ideas occupy the last rung, behind individuals, physical geography and history; however, since ideas are a purely human intellectual creation, they constitute a force of control and movement of the first rung, individuals.



Diego Mourelle (2018). Think tanks the diplomacy of ideas. 4/11/2018, from The World Order Website.

Cristina Ariza Cerezo (2016). The American ideological landscape: the case ofForeign Policy Board. 1/11/2018, from IEEE Website.

Katarzyna Rybka-Iwanska . (2017). 5 reasons why Think tank are soft power tools. 1/11/2018, from USC Center for Public Diplomacy Website.

Robert D. Kaplan (1993). The Balkan Ghosts: A journey to the origins of the Bosnia and Kosovo conflict. United States: S.A. Ediciones B.

Robert D. Kaplan (2012). The revenge of geography. United States: RBA Books.

Pedro Baños (2018). El Dominio Mundial: Elementos del poder y claves geopolíticas. Spain: Ariel.

Pedro Baños (2017). This is how the world is dominated. Unveiling the keys to world power. Spain: Arial.

Hak Yin Li (2018). The evolution of Chinese public diplomacy and the rise of Think tanks. 1/11/2018, from Springer Link Website.

Lars Brozus and Hanns W. Maull (2017). Think tanks and Foreign Policy. 1/11/2018, from Oxford politics Website.

James G. McGann (2018). 2017 Global Go To Think tank Index Report. 1/11/2018, from University of Pennsylvania Website.

Sun Tzu (2014). Arte de la guerra. Spain: Plutón Ediciones.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Essays Global

Against a backdrop of growing populism, the battle between Brussels and Rome is decisive for the future of the EU.

In a measure without parallel in the history of the Union, the European Commission has rejected the national budgets presented by the populist Italian government for not meeting the deficit targets set. Neither Brussels nor Rome seem to have the intention of abandoning their positions, so that an institutional confrontation threatens the European horizon.

Tragicommedia, made in Italy': institutional clash in the European Union

▲ Giuseppe Conte, President of the Italian Government, with Vice Presidents Luigi di Maio (left), leader of the 5 Star Movement, and Mateo Salvini (right), leader of the Northern League. [Gov. of Italy]

article / Manuel Lamela

After seven months in government, the coalition formed by the 5 Star Movement and the Northern League have fulfilled their promises and started, with the presentation of the budget of the Italian Republic, a process of confrontation and defiance with the European Union (EU). The Brussels authorities accuse Italy of breaking, with its irresponsibilities, the bonds of trust that forge and give meaning to the European project .

On October 16, Giuseppe Conte's executive presented a budget with a deficit forecast of 2.4%; although it is true that the figure is below the 3% limit set by the European rules and regulations , it is three times what was previously agreed between Rome and the EU. Moreover, if Italy's public debt is 131% of GDP, which makes it the second highest in the monetary Union, only surpassed by Greece, the new budget will only increase it, as it intends to significantly increase the public expense .

The increase of expense seems to obey the populist interests of the Northern League leader and Minister of the Interior, Mateo Salvini, who has made no secret of his intention to seek support from the most fractured sectors of Italian society. Cultivating victimhood vis-à-vis Europe may give a certain political gain, but the example of Greece sample shows us that such attitudes subject usually end in tragedy, weakening the State in the face of another possible debt crisis.

The European Commission rejected at the end of October the Italian budget draft -refund the budget of a Member State was an unprecedented act -and urged Rome to send a revised version in a maximum of three weeks deadline . The decision does not close the doors to dialogue and negotiations, as stated in his explanation of what happened by the Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici; "The opinion adopted today should not surprise anyone, as the project of budget of the Italian government represents a clear and intentional deviation from the commitments made by Italy last July. However, our door is not closed. We want to continue our constructive dialogue with the Italian authorities. I welcome Finance Minister Giovanni Tria's commitment to this end and we must move forward in this spirit in the coming weeks."

But Conte's government assures that there is no plan B and that there is no possibility that Italy will take a step back. Both Mateo Salvini and the leader of the 5 Star Movement, Luigi di Maio, both Vice-Presidents of the Government, defended the Italian position and attacked Brussels, claiming that it is normal for Brussels to be unhappy, since it is the first time that Italy is free from the clutches of the Eurogroup when it comes to deciding its economic policy. They also stated that, with its response, the high school of Commissioners is directly attacking the Italian people. And they accused Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of "only talking to inebriated people", something that certainly sample little respect for the institutions.

The tactic of feigning strength and determinism, which both Italian political formations used during the election campaign, is being matched by the rest of the European leaders with an exercise of real power. The request of the Italian Minister of Finance, Giovanni Tria, for Italy to enjoy the same opportunity that Portugal had in the past, when Brussels accepted that the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, did not apply the volume of cuts desired by the Commission, will be drowned out by the reckless ways used by the political leaders of the Italian Republic.

If Italy refuses to follow the recommendations given by the EU, the Commission may consider imposing fines, up to 0.2% of GDP, for non-compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact. But apart from the sanctions, the EU does not have the right to veto nor does it have any other skill to prevent the entrance of the Italian budget from coming into force. As several experts indicate, it will be the pressure of the markets that will make the Italian measure be corrected, thus avoiding a direct confrontation between Rome and Brussels, which would damage both parties equally. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that "Italian debt must worsen to exert adequate pressure and force the government to opt for a different rhetoric".

Even if the European Commission manages to avoid a confrontation with Italy, it may be exposed to the campaign of victimhood of the Italian populist groups, a tactic they successfully employed in the last elections. This is a tactic that is not of Italian creation, as since the crisis of 2008 various groupings and parties have emerged with a clearly anti-Brussels stance, accusing the EU institutions of all the ills suffered by European societies. There are several examples; perhaps Brexit is the most resounding given its relevance at European and international level, but we should not forget the rise of formations such as the National Front in France, the Freedom Party in Austria or Podemos in Spain, the latter party having had its great public launch following the European Parliament elections of 2015.

So far, Europe has not been able to find a way to avoid or neutralize the demagogy campaigns that proliferate in today's Europe. Although some progress is being made in terms of the EU's communicative power, it is incomprehensible that Brussels has not been able to effectively explain the European project to the citizens of the Union. This is a deficiency that the European project has been dragging along since its birth and that has been the cause of many of the ills that have affected regional unity in recent decades. In this case Europe has to provide data that are easy to understand for the average Italian citizen and that make him/her see that the measures adopted by his/her government will be harmful for the Italian society in the near future, even if they are sweetened by messages that respond to empty promises and messianic policies.

Another factor of concern within the Commission is the risk of contagion of the virus generated within the EU's third Economics (already discounting the UK). At first it may seem possible that other member states will be attracted to follow in Italy's footsteps; however, European authorities say they firmly believe that their tough response to Rome will strengthen monetary union and even increase integrity in areas such as banking unity. Externally, the decision will show that EU budgetary rigor is being enforced, generating confidence and security in the markets, and finally demonstrating that there is no respite for populist formations within Europe.

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