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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

Scott A Snyder

Scott A. Snyder – Korea as a Middle Power

While South Korea has become a major economic power, it is surrounded by far larger players in Asia. It may never be able to play a leading role in shaping both regional and international affairs, but is currently looking for ways to assert itself on the global stage. These aspirations are typical of what scholars define as a Middle Power – an international actor that is neither small nor large.

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Can We Deploy THAAD Now?

Asia/Security/Technology/US by

South Korean defense officials let out a collective groan on May 9, 2015, as North Korea reportedly conducted a successful test-fire of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). International news websites and security blogs were inundated with photos released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of a proud Kim Jong-Un personally overseeing the test launches. The dramatic photos also show the moment the SLBM exited the water. Bukgeuksung-1 (북극성-1), presumably the name of the missile, is seen painted on the side. Though still in its nascent stages, if the reports are accurate, an operational SLBM is alarming for a number of reasons. First, it shows the speed of development of North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities. Analysts were aware that North Korea was working on SLBMs, but not many suspected that flight tests would be conducted so soon. With each incremental step, North Korea’s missiles will become harder to track, detect, and intercept. Second, it shows that Pyongyang has no intentions of slowing down, let alone changing the course of its policy of belligerence and brinkmanship. Testing the SLBM violates at least four UN Security Council Resolutions (1718, 1874, 2087, and 2094). Lastly, North Korea is one step closer to a…

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Something’s Rotten in Silicon Valley

Business/Politics/US by

Silicon Valley has long been trumpeted as both the ideal and center of America’s entrepreneurial energies and business acumen. It has been an envious example for foreign governments, particularly in Asia, seeking to spur creativity and international success stories in their economy. Most recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to help small Japanese firms enter Silicon Valley in an attempt to help jumpstart the Japanese economy and promote its firms long term competitiveness. Beyond the economic capital Silicon Valley has generated among Americans, increasingly these firms are starting to command considerable domestic social and political capital. In the debate over net neutrality it was these tech firms that came out on the side of the “common man” that led to considerable positive coverage from bloggers on these companies. While Silicon Valley may be the shining exemplar of America’s best on the surface, lurking just below the warm shimmer is a growing rot that is going largely unnoticed. As Mark Ames of Pando Daily first uncovered, from 2005, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt illegally agreed not to recruit each other’s employees, share compensation details, and to publish workers who violated these terms. As discovered by Ames, the agreement grew in scope to cover…

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Iran: Why Nuclear Weapons Made Sense

The nuclear talks between Iran and the Six Powers have dominated headlines for the first week of April. After days of tense negotiations, a deadline extension, and flaring tempers, an agreed upon framework has finally emerged. And, unsurprisingly, there has been no shortage of critics. The more hawkish American and Israeli lawmakers voiced displeasure. Iranian hardliners found it inadequate. And both countries seem to be reporting different versions of the framework. And to top it all off, there still is no concrete deal in place. March 31st was only a soft deadline important to only the United States to placate the demands of its Congress. The negotiations are far from over and there’s plenty of work left to be done. Everyone understands the dangers of nuclear proliferation. More pointedly, everyone understands the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Thus far, the dominating narrative of Iran’s quest for nuclear capabilities is that of an aspiring regional hegemon capitalizing on the instability caused by the Syrian conflict, American interventionism, and the Arab Spring. This conjures up images of a state hell-bent on destruction making a mad grab for power. This is seriously lacking. This narrative does negotiators and the American public no favors…

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ISILationism, Part 2: the Sunni-Shiite Divide and Iran as America’s Contentious Ally

In case you missed it be sure to check out the first part of the series, ISILationism, Part 1. Beholden to the promise of containing the Islamic State, a coalition force of regional powers, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, has been organized under the guidance of the United States. Some onboard this multilateral feat, however, are rather questionable allies who, through one fashion or another, hold responsibility for the formation of the Islamic State! Islamists throughout the world are joining ISIL’s ranks in the Levantine expanse of bloodshed and destruction, but these are Salafi Jihadist Sunni Muslims and not one of them would be Shiite, lest they prefer suicide without geopolitical impingement. This is where Iran comes into play as the most unlikely candidate America can depend on, teetering on the paradoxical fringe of reliability and suspicion equally reciprocated by the U.S. The Islamic Republic of Iran remains adamant that their nuclear program is a peaceful means for clean, renewable energy, despite resultantly enduring sanctions over and over again without much resolve. An interim deal was made through the greater powers of the international community but, as of yet, progress has been stifled and Iran continues its plans. Nonetheless,…

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Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of “Benevolent Dictators”

As has been widely reported in global media, the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has passed away at the age of 91. Immediately following his passing, coverage of the conflicting nature of Singapore’s political system and the man responsible for it has proliferated. One of the most widely read is The Economist‘s piece which succinctly summarizes the phenomenal economic success that has come to represent Singapore. Lee remarkably was able to turn a tiny nation that had went through British and Japanese occupation in addition to being unceremoniously booted from its larger neighbor Malaysia, without fresh water or natural resources, into a global success story that has inspired many as a political and economic model. At the same time, Lee is also known for his decades-long (31 years as PM and 21 years as an advisor) authoritarian rule in Singapore. In addition to the famous tough definition and punishment of crimes, Lee also used defamation suits against those in the media and the opposition who opposed his rule. One recent point of criticism has been the way in which his family members have benefitted from their father’s position. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, can be considered the most prominent,…

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ISILationism, Part 1: America’s Sideline Strategy against the Islamic State and the “Strange Bedfellow” Alliance that Follows

As subtle, swift, and stark as a thief in the night, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sprang from the ravaging badlands of Syria and inflicted a reign of terror far worse than its predecessor, Al-Qaida. A splinter-cell offshoot of Al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) and the Al-Nusra front in Syria, ISIL forged greater numbers and strength (U.S.-aided munitions and equipment), and inevitably built up its own Caliphate of Islamic fundamentalism. ISIL intends on dominating the region of its claim by unreasonably violent means, subjecting its opponents to public executions, slavery, forced marriage, and many other abominable acts against humanity. A major adversary dismantling the prospects of a more steady and diplomatic Iraq, ISIL threatens neighboring countries and the entire international community, much like Al-Qaida, but through more contemporary methods of advertising as well (i.e. social media networks). The crisis at hand is not solely attributed to the outset of ISIL, but how exactly ISIL must be dealt with; in effect, ISIL may or may not have intended on the more unconventional battles to be waged by their enemies, but the current stratagem of the United States and Near Eastern states could unavoidably lead to triggers for multiple…

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Rising Challenges for Urban Refugees Under Thai Military Junta

Images of elephant rides through the jungle, bustling markets, and sipping a Singha on a white sand beach are often what come to mind for tourists in Thailand. However, a growing number of foreigners are arriving in the country due to persecution rather than pleasure. Last year, the number of asylum seekers in Bangkok quadrupled. The majority of new arrivals are Christians and Shiite or Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan who have fled targeted religious and ethnic attacks. In addition, a growing number of Syrian and Palestinian war refugees are choosing Thailand as a first country of refuge. Bangkok’s burgeoning asylum seeker population combined with stricter regulations of undocumented persons under the military run government has created an increasingly dire situation for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Most urban asylum seekers arrive in Bangkok with a desire to gain official refugee status and then move on to a third country such as the U.S., Canada, or Australia. Thailand is a popular destination due to the relative ease of entering the country, the higher living standards compared with neighboring countries, and because it is home to the regional UN refugee agency headquarters. While life in Bangkok may be considered a…

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+3 — Regionalism in Northeast Asia: Integration vs. Cooperation

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Northeast Asian Integration is a term often used recently among regionalists and/or European scholars to sell the prototypical European model as panacea for the prevailing conflicts in Northeast Asia. The European model, besides continuing debates over virtually everything, sure is a success in Europe. Embodied in this model is the prevailing notion that any European argument is better solved in a parliament in Brussels than in a trench in Verdun. It was not by chance that the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe. What proponents of a 1:1 application of the European model to Northeast Asia fail to see is the differing inherent geopolitical and historical exposition of Europe and Northeast Asia; it is not the cultural and linguistic similarities or differences among European or Northeast Asian nations that enabled union building here or inhibited it there. The omitted variable in the constructivist equation is the unilateral security architecture within Europe in form of NATO —provided by the United States— since the 1950s and lack thereof in basically all of East Asia. In Northeast Asia there was, instead, a political and ideological division with American backed,…

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US-Israeli Tension Increases With Kerry’s Remarks

The behind the scenes moves of the players involved in the high-stakes US-Iran negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are continuing to fester out into the open. It appears that the Obama administration is increasingly loosing patience with Netanyahu’s meddling. Illustrative of this, tension between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a new height on Wednesday. Speaking to the US Congress in the run-up to Netanyahu’s planned congressional visit in March, Kerry reminded US officials that the last time Netanyahu spoke before the Congress back in 2002 he was giving his strong support for a US invasion of Iraq. To observers aware of the increasing conflict between the administration and Netanyahu, the implication of Kerry’s statement should be clear, “He cannot be trusted”. Behind closed doors is a continued sense of anger and tension between US President Obama and the Israeli leader. Only weeks ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Obama had called and demanded that Netanyahu stop interfering with US lawmakers. Netanyahu is reported to be personally lobbying US senators and congressman for increased sanctions on Iran, an action that would effectively abort any progress on negotiations between the White House and Tehran. Thus, Kerry’s public remarks seem to be expressing…

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US Central American Foreign Policy: Foreign Aid, Immigration Policy, Geopolitics or None of the Above

Diplomacy/Latin America/US by

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times on February 9th, Vice-President Joe Biden outlined the White House’s argument for the US Congress to pass a billion dollar aid package to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as part of the proposed budget for 2016. Without the realistic prospect of a larger immigration reform being passed in Congress, this push for foreign aid falls into the White House’s piecemeal approach to immigration reform. Up to now President Obama has used executive orders to push his immigration agenda, most notably an order that called for minors brought to the country before 2010 to not be targeted for deportation. However, unlike an executive order, the plan for foreign aid to Central America requires Republican support in Congress. So far, lawmakers are not discussing the proposed aid and what it would mean for immigration or foreign policy in the press. The plan outlined by Biden aims to support reforms to the security, education, tax, foreign investment and judicial systems in the three small, but long-suffering nations. By improving the economic, security and political situations in these countries, the White House hopes to limit further border crossings. In particular, they hope to avoid future…

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