Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 45

While fighting continues in Libya, Syria, and Iraq (and elsewhere), much attention has been devoted to leaders and leadership this week.

Russia possibly tops the list. Putin’s assertiveness abroad and at home is the hot topic, also following the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Possibly, you already read everything about it in the past few days. So we suggest you also watch the 3rd season of TV series House of Cards and look if you agree with how Russia is portrayed there.

President Obama is building is legacy. Still a lot of clouds linger over his presidency with reference to foreign policy, possibly not to break up until he’s long away from office. One message is trying to send, anyway, is “Be Not Afraid” (from March issue of The Atlantic).

Third, Benjamin Netanyahu went to Congress for a highly controversial speech. Debate rages on pretty much everything concerning the Israeli leader. This is his speech, no comments attached.

Power politics has been long back in Asia. So military analysts have been starting to look at military planning, with Japan and China being the most scrutinized subjects. Navies, in particular, enjoyed a great deal of attention (Venus featured a piece on the theme a while ago), and this how Japan might be facing China’s growing military prowess.

Last, a very different piece on music, culture and Malcolm X. Addressed issue, among else: is the African American leader shot in 1965 a hero for Muslim radicals in Europe?

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 19

After long holiday, Venus in Arms is back. The summer has been intense, if not for Venus, at least for its creators (who tried to finish a book manuscript). And it was a very eventful – to say the least – August indeed in international politics. With clashes in Gaza stopping, attention remained directed to two major fronts. The first is Ukraine, where signs of unfreezing seem to emerge as this post is being published. The last days were still pretty tough, and with the President of the European Council in pectore, Polish PM Donald Tusk, calling for Europe not to fall into the traps that led to the Nazi invasion (of Poland) in September 1939 and Vladimir Putin sending “humanitarian aid” in Eastern Ukraine, the situation is still very uncertain. One of the constitutive elements of this uncertainty is “how far will Putin go”: Royal United Services Institute’s experts examine possible military strategies of Russia towards Ukraine.

In the meanwhile, Iraq and Syria are still on fire. The Islamic State’s fast appearance on the geopolitical map has been striking and left most observers as well as policy-makers pretty unsettled. President Obama’s prudence also surprised (and/or annoyed) those who wanted decisive action by the US. An article of a couple of weeks ago, however, sheds light on the domestic constraints to a more forceful US approach against ISIL.

NATO’s role in the two crises is still uncertain, and NATO troops moving eastwards these days are not (yet?) a clear clue of the alliance’s intentions.  Foreign Policy magazine’s David Francis reports on the troubles of the Alliance. A good read-ahead for the NATO Summit that will take place in Wales later this week.

The inevitable focus on Ukraine and the Middle But should not obscure that other events are unfolding. The Guardian reports on US action in Somalia to disrupt the al-Shabab network organization, which is far from being defeated according to the same report.

Finally, (the return of ?) power politics in Asia. New Indian PM Narendra Modi visited Tokyo and called for close cooperation between the two countries so that they can better cope with the growing Chinese presence in the region. More than twenty years  after the end of the Cold War, is it really time for the realization for an extended version of John Mearsheimer’s “back to the future”?

 

 

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Abe, Yasukuni, e la questione della memoria in Giappone

Guest Post di Matteo Dian*

Un sondaggio recente rivela che in Corea del Sud il primo ministro giapponese Abe Shinzo è meno popolare (o ancora più odiato) del leader nord coreano Kim Jong-un.  Come è possibile, considerando che Giappone e Corea del Sud sono altamente integrati dal punto di vista economico e sono entrambi alleati degli Stati Uniti dal dopoguerra?

polls SK_JP

La spiegazione è strettamente legata al  “problema della memoria” giapponese.  Il Giappone è rinato dalle ceneri della Seconda Guerra mondiale sviluppando un identità pacifista e antimilitista, confermata da restrizioni molto forti nei confronti dell’uso della violenza negli affari internazionali, tra i quali spicca l’articolo nove della costituzione post-bellica, che vieta l’uso della forza e il mantenimento di ogni “potenziale bellico” .

Dopo il 1945 pacifismo e antimilitarismo sono stati associati ad una narrativa e ad una ricostruzione degli eventi legati al conflitto molto particolari .  L’élite politica giapponese con il contributo decisivo degli occupanti americani, ha identificato nei criminali di classe A del tribunale di Tokyo,  i veri colpevoli del conflitto.  Di conseguenza, sia il popolo comune (ippan kokumin) sia l’imperatore venivano considerati non colpevoli ma vittime. Hirohito era stato tradito da un elite che aveva proclamato una guerra in suo nome. Il popolo era doppiamente vittima: era stato spinto dai militaristi a sacrificarsi in una guerra impossibile da vincere e poi aveva dovuto subire i bombardamenti e le bombe atomiche americane.

Di conseguenza l’antimilitarismo post bellico è stato construito attorno al concetto del popolo vittima giapponese e  ai richiami alla pace universale ed al disarmo, non attorno alla colpa giapponese e al pentimento per i crimini di guerra e per l’imperialismo giapponesi. Ciò ha portato i giapponesi, per diversi decenni a negare o minimizzare i crimini di guerra commessi dall’esercito imperiale in Cina, Corea e Sud Est Asiatico.

La questione della memoria è diventata particolarmente divisiva dagli anni 90. Da un lato i governi progressisti (come quello del socialista Murayama Tomichii nel 1994  o del democratico Hatoyama Yukio nel 2009) hanno tentato di risolvere questo problema dichiarando in modo solenne la loro posizione di condanna verso il passato, per cercare di migliorare i rapporti con i vicini asiatici.

Ciò però ha contribuito all’ascesa della destra revisionista, ora guidata dal primo ministro Abe, che sostiene che il Giappone ha il diritto di celebrare coloro che si sono sacrificati in difesa della patria e dell’Imperatore.  La narrativa revisionist, inoltre, a tende a minimizzare i crimini di guerra giapponesi.

Il simbolo più evidente dell’adesione di Abe (come dei altri suoi predecessori quali Koizumi Yunichiro) alla narrativa revisionista  è la visita a Yasukuni, il tempio che conserva e onora  le anime dei soldati morti in difesa dell’imperatore, inclusi i 14 criminali di classe A del tribunale di Tokyo. Queste visite, l’ultima delle quali si è svolta a dicembre, rendono i rapporti bilaterali tra il Giappone e altri stati asiatici particolarmente difficili anche in presenza di forti forti legami economici e commerciali.

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Statua del kamikaze nel museo Yushukan, nel complesso dello Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

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Entrata principale a Yasukuni, Tokyo

*Matteo Dian è professore a contratto di Relazioni Internazionali dell’Asia Orientale presso l’Univesità di Bologna. Si occupa di teoria delle relazioni internazionali,  Asia orientale, politica estera giapponese e ruolo degli Stati Uniti in Asia.
E’ autore di The Evolution of the US-Japan alliance. The Eagle and the Chrysanthemum, Chandos Books, Oxford (UK).

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – Week 14

Still looking at the crisis in Iraq, we firstly suggest the NYT’s portrait of the recent dramatic retreat of Iraqi armed forces. Soldiers are still blaming officers for failures. Additional info: here you’ll find an interesting map on the Iraqi-ISIS conflict; here a detailed analysis on the collapse of the Iraqi army in Nineveh province.

Bridget Coggins provides an excellent review on the “state failure paradigm”, emphasizing the main conceptual and empirical problems as well as the never-ending relevance of weak-fragile-failed states.

A Guardian report highlights 2013 as a record year in global humanitarian aid and spending, with a 20% increase in both public and private donations. “Total contributions rocketed to $22bn last year, spurred by typhoon Haiyan and conflicts in South Sudan and Syria”. There are huge disparities among powers: international assistance from the U.S., U.K., Turkey, and Japan increased by 400% from 2012-2013, while Brazil, China and Russia have cut their spending by 95%, 84% and 45%, respectively.

Big in Japan. Something is changing on defense and foreign policy. As stated by John Swenson-Wright: “The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced a major new interpretation of the security provisions of the country’s 1947 constitution, permitting its Self Defence Forces to participate for the first time in collective self-defence related activities”. Causes, obstacles, outcomes of such relevant decision are clearly illustrated in this article.

Finally do not forget Afghanistan, where several clashes between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan National Security Forces have been recently reported, especially in Sangin district of Helman region. This sentence by the Commander of the Border Police Force well describes the current crisis (and the contemporary warfare as well): “We are confronting three types of enemies: the Taliban, drug mafia and land grabbers”.

 

 

 

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