Korea X Japan! Team Hyper! Go! Go! Go!

Yesterday Robert Kelley unleashed an interesting post about South Korean and Japanese relations. For the life of him, he could not figure out why two states he felt so similar, just could not come together on a myriad of issues. The root of the problem is that they’re actually different.  I’m not going to get into his realist approach because he may not be too far off there, but that’s the problem with realism and the black box. Perhaps it’s not the best tool(Because of massive generalization) for understanding these two different powers in terms of cooperation. Doing so would leave you with questions like this,

So if states balance power (Waltz), wouldn’t Japan and Korea be cooperating to hedge China, and mildly cooperating to more balance NK?

What’s the point when both states have security guarantees from the United States? South Korea seems more than happy to lean on its agreement with America, while Japan looks much more ambitious as far as security. I think it would be safe to assume that this would help encourage the current level of mistrust between the two. Prospects for partnership never looks good in this scenario.

The Liberalism section, not touching.

The constructivist section, holy cow. Yeah, I have a variety of issues with it — main one being I’m not sure if Robert Kelley misunderstands constructivism or he’s forcing the issue by downplaying their differences. Constructivism isn’t just about cultural similarities, there’s a huge component for identities and practices. What a state is able to and decides to do is based on their identity and norms created through a social framework. South Korea and Japan have different identities and different roles — actors in the international system recognize this and interact accordingly. Some of this has been decided by history, one piece of land has been invaded 100s of times throughout the centuries, the other nation could be considered as imperialists less than 100 years ago. Japan’s role as an imperialist power has led to conquering Korea after decades of Korea being nothing more than oppressed peasantry with low self esteem, and apparently there are Japanese people who think it was for the best. This is a very different view from that of Korea’s and I would imagine it is a contentious one. Still, westerners seem to get lost somewhere in understanding how big a difference it is to be influenced by Confucianism as a hegemon and a subaltern.

Brian Myers argues that this cultural similarity is one the reasons why Japan was able to absorb Korea without too much difficulty.

Could it be because the Koreans are really low-key flexible people? The Gabo reforms were basically extreme acts of cowardice in preparation for welcoming their new Japanese overlords, who just happened to be handing China’s(Korea’s former handler) ass to them.  I guess emasculating men by cutting off their top knots doesn’t provide “too much difficulty”, but this has more to do with Korea’s historical identity as subaltern people than cultural compatibility/similarities. This is a good time to point out Japan treated Korea like absolute shit, and if you actually do care about your identity and transforming it into something that increases your range of acceptable behavior, then maybe being your bullies’ water boy isn’t a good idea. Even if they have been reigned in by a mutual friend. Kelley seems to be oblivious to this, or possibly trolling his Korean students.

The more time I spend in Asia, the more I think Korea, Japan, and China are more culturally similar than they want to admit. (My students bristle at that one a lot.)

And then…

As a rule, I find Koreans worry far more about Japan than China, or even NK (yes, that’s not an exaggeration outside of the foreign policy set), and there is a far amount of paranoia about Japan lurking beneath the surface. I know Japan less well, but Japanese colleagues I know from conferences tell me similar stories about how many Japanese look down on Koreans and secretly think Japanese empire was good for Korea, because it brought modernity.

The constructivist answer to his problem is right in front of his eyes.

Oil & Transparency

Stopped by Evan Lieberman’s blog and stumbled upon a working paper  by the International Budget Partnership has brought up the question of transparency among extractive industries. His paper holds that there is no link between transparency and mineral/oil wealth in democracies, but there is an issue of transparency within autocracies. In this paper he drops this little nugget of information — In 2009 petroleum counted for fourteen percent of the world’s trade. That’s an extremely large number for the majority of the world to be completely clueless about. In years of record profit we go, “wow, this is proof that oil is bad” if this is the case I think it’s time to know how/why, exactly.

Let’s find some real information to do the talking and the data we have on oil’s causal effect on democracies and autocracies alike may be misleading (Haaber and Menaldo 2011). We need to make claims based on newer, bigger, badder, bolder and nacho cheesier data sets, which I’m sure is on the way(minus some of those adjectives). This information should be the first step in true transparency, in a world where one can feel comfortable about fourteen percent of its trade. Maybe with the correct information we can create policy that adjusts the approach institutions, democratic or not, take with oil. Could transparency in the international trade be the answer to removing the resource curse? I don’t see why it wouldn’t.  Attempts at finding a way around the transparency issue are already starting to surface (Gelb and Mejerowicz 2011), but I would consider the suggestion in that paper to be nothing more than an unfeasible pipe dream. It still serves as a good example of people trying to find a solution to the problem.

Thinking off the top of my head would be increasing the barriers of entry when it comes to trading resources. Why wait until gross human rights abuse to start sanctioning the oil trade of an autocracy? A high standard of accountability and transparency should be the norms before you toss your barrels out to sea, before the firms that are private or state use their technology to begin extraction on foreign soil or offshore. Are we really so needy for the black stuff at a time where we are definitely not at peak oil, and we are getting more and more use out of extraction sites than ever before? Raising the barriers of entry, and making transparency the norm would make newly resource rich nations like Uganda and Angola think twice about corruption. Chances are, until they get their operation off the ground, they are more likely to need and accept conditional loans (that call for certain freedoms, and developmental goals, blah blah). In the event a state meets all of its requirements to enter the market, the increased capital is a very nice incentive to remain transparent, at least in the oil trade. The international community should be more than capable of enforcement, as developing nations often lack the technological prowess to make continued oil exploration and extraction an economical decision – assistance is often needed to turn a profit.

Just something to think about, and just because I’m blogging it, doesn’t mean I speak with certainty. This blog needs/is many an exercise in throat clearing. Note that I haven’t exactly said what these barriers of entry would be. The reason why is because I have no earthly idea.

13 Most Useless Majors (Just Ask The Daily Beast)

And The Cry Babies Who Love Them

Political Science is in there, but I really don’t care. From my experience with the comments section(lurking) it looks like other political scientists feel the same way. This didn’t stop dozens of other misguided souls from the twelve other majors,  from taking the bait and increasing The Daily Beast subscriber total by at least ten percent. I’m throwing that number out there, from my ass. My point is, I had a good time reading people come charging after this article out of some twisted sense of loyalty to anthropology. With their major on the line, nobody went too crazy, but here are some of the more interesting comments(I cut some of these off, possibly removing context, for the sake of teh funny:

Continue reading

Yulia? I Hardly Know Her!

Checked out WAPO today and it looks like Ukraine has taken another turn for the worse in the post-Soviet democracy department. Everytime I see Yulia Tymoshenko she reminds me of my undergrad experience — an unhealthy chunk of it was spent watching her cultivate a Putinesque cult personality status. She had it all: her very own matryoshka dolls, anime fan art, and the signature braids. This woman was groomed for greatness. With nowhere to go but the presidential office, she hit the most reinforced glass ceiling in Ukraine’s sordid history. She lost the election, somehow, and because Ukraine is not the country it made itself out to be in its bid for EU and NATO membership, Yulia ended up in jail on trumped up charges of being a prototypical corrupt politician. Yanukovych straight up Aung San Kyi’d her*rain of boos*, and as badly as I wanted to use that as a verb, I already feel like it wasn’t worth it. San Kyi is an amazing woman, Yulia, I’m skeptical of.

What’s striking about recent developments is that they would be as bold as taking her out and socking her in the gut like an uppity third grader. To exacerbate president Yanukovych’s problem, she will be drawing prolonged international attention to herself through hunger strike. This is sure to bring condemnation from the west, but unfortunately for her, this is happening around the same time as things are heating up in France’s elections. Her rumbling tummy is second page material at best, considering she’s not actually a vestage of the unipolar moment. If I remember correctly, she may have been closer to the Kremlin than Washington. Since Yanukovych is almost totally under Putin’s wing, I’m not sure who would be willing to fight for her. Another issue is gauging just how serious Tymoshenko is about this hunger strike. Is she really willing to die? Lets assume there is some western medical practice involved in the handling of the hunger strike, and the physician comes in daily to ask, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”, “Should you become incoherent, can we begin feeding you?”, will she have the desire to take it anywhere near the realm of coma and/or death? Personally, I say, no way. Life has been good to her, for the most part, and she isn’t fighting for some ideology bigger than her. She was a politician that took a tremendous L. It’s been nice, Yulia. I owed you this blog post.

Oil Can Be Cool As Hell

As long as nobody dies for the profits…

On a more serious and disappointing note, I have another hastily written entry to share. A couple of things drove me to make this post. People bitching about gas prices(observed FROM MY BIKE), an FT article on young American bros putting handlebars before cars, and Argentina’s recent decision to nationalize their oil. All three of these items are good news to me, and I am in no way in league with big oil. I don’t even use vegetable oil.

The rise in oil prices mean resource nationalist countries that love(are smart enough) to use their nation’s energy to fuel social spending has a couple megabucks on the way. I’m cool with this because I just happen to be fond of socialist programs that are almost certainly propped up by liquid gold. one example of this would be Venezuela’s improved education system that has them sitting with a relatively high Education Development Index(EDI) score in comparison to its neighbors. Now one could argue that energy prices are too volatile to rest a nation’s future on, but what is stable? disequilibrium is a constant in capitalism, trotting along with vicious cycles, booms and busts- all depending upon who you ask(not horrible monsters). Shit that literally came from your piece of earth isn’t a completely bad thing to hang your hardhat on. I say go for it, enjoy your finite but nowhere near close to finished natural fossil based money machine while you can.

In the case of Americans turning away from cars- how is this not a great thing? I don’t know anyone who would interpret this as a negative outside of automobile companies, but oh well. I lived in NY, DC and now in LA(I feel like I lived a full life by saying this but I’m just a first year grad with the emotional maturity of a feral child), and at this stage in my life, a car is nothing but a status symbol, not a necessity. Public transportation works just fine, and I think a reasonable system is something every town or city with big aspirations should invest in. I also lived in a sort of small college town that had a bus and personal rapid transit system that also operated smoothly(assuming the rapid transit system was working). Cars were only truly needed at night when the PRT was down.

Argentina’s story is the most interesting of the three because as far as I know, it’s pretty unique. There’s always some level of backlash when a country decides to nationalize their oil/gas, and these cries are usually heard from morbidly obese pigs/private entities who fed on oil long enough. The claim is investment is no longer desirable if Argentina plans to sell the majority of the oil at home and at door buster prices, and this is true if that’s actually the case. I seriously doubt this though. What I’m wondering is just what percent of this oil will be sold on the cheap to keep domestic firms competitive. If it’s just a drop in the bucket, then clearly the likes of Spain are overreacting. If not, and Argentina manages to go through with this- will there be any measurement of just how successful this move was? Only time will tell. I’m glad I blogged about this, otherwise I may end up forgetting to check it out in the future.

It has come to my attention(in the form of a tweet), in the middle of writing this – that prices have experienced a bit of a drop in the past couple days. This doesn’t really change what I said since none of its validity is dependent upon constantly rising prices in the now. Just something to keep in mind. Btw, I wrote this on the way home from the beach and on my iPhone, heh.