Friday, April 24, 2015


AN armed conflict is “not inevitable nor is it improbable,” says an international relations professor of the London School of Economics. 

The word war over the thorny South China Sea issue that erupted between the United States and China (which we wrote about in our Tuesday column) has raised concerns that it might ignite into an armed conflict between the two world powers.

The key question now is whether these big powers are walking the road to war today? We found an answer in a newly-published book of international relations Professor Christopher Coker titled “The Improbable War: The United States and Logic of Great Power Conflict.”
“War between China and the U.S. is not inevitable, nor is it improbable.” This is the straightforward thesis of Professor Coker of the London School of Economics. Insofar as the U.S. insists that the status quo should not be adjusted, and insofar as China seeks assertively to change the status quo, Coker thinks the answer is yes. 

What Coker means is that war is certainly not inevitable. But he asks two questions which should worry statesmen in both countries: “Can China accept and continue to negotiate with a country that wants the Chinese regime to change and considers any government model but its own largely illegitimate? Can the United States deal constructively with a China which is so resentful of its past and confident about its future?”

Chinese leaders seemingly understand the potential danger their nation’s rapidly rising power poses for the stability of the global system and have, because of the lessons of history, proposed constructing a “new model of major country relations” with the U.S. 

American leaders have responded to this call with either hostility or consternation. Hostility because the U.S. would prefer not to think of China as its equal, and consternation because the Chinese have not been able to specify what their requested “innovations in diplomatic theory and practice” would consist.

Where does this leave the U.S. and China in regards to the path to war? “The precondition of a Sino-American war is most likely to be the rivalry between a dominant power and one that seeks to take its place;
the precipitant, China’s attempts to undermine the relationship between the U.S. and its allies in the region; but the trigger could well be naval spats, bullying that goes too far,” according to Coker.

Yet if there is a path to war, Coker believes, there is also a path to peace in Asia. If the U.S. is serious about avoiding war then it must negotiate with China to revise the current international system. 

“All the lessons of history,” he said, “suggest that the U.S. needs to share the burden with China if both countries are to avoid a conflict; the two sides urgently need to enter into a dialogue to also decide which if any of the ‘rules’ need to be changed.” 

Coker suggested six ideas for moving the U.S. and China down the road to peace. Both sides should put less faith in the regional actor model of political decision-making; they should realize that humans are not good at deciding what is in their best interest and often make mistakes; the two nations should conduct cultural dialogues and exchanges; they should avoid a naval arms race; neither side should militarize space; and both sides must think carefully about cyberwar so as not to be caught by surprise in the event of a conflict.

Coker thinks the U.S. and China have a 50/50 chance of avoiding war. 

War can only be made avoidable if both the U.S. and China work together to overcome the disagreements that are the cause of contemporary friction by negotiating a new great power consensus, commented Jared McKinney, a dual-degree graduate holder at Peking University and the London School of Economics and an M.S. in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University. 

Making war avoidable should not be dismissed as a utopian pursuit. The U.S. has chosen to be a colossus that bestrides the world and says stop. But nothing forces it to adopt this position.
Realizing that history does indeed wander off on its own, that power shifts, that the status quo cannot be enshrined as holy, and that it is time to build a new consensus with China would permit American statesmen to begin stepping off the road to war and onto the road to peace. 

How should a new consensus be built? Upon what principles should it rest? Does history offer any examples of great-power cooperation that could become models for constructing such a new consensus today? 

The precondition for making war avoidable instead of improbable is answering these questions!
Dark clouds of doubt continue to hover over the peace agreement forged by President Noynoy Aquino with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the passage of the so-called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). 

Firstly, it has been revealed that the MILF negotiator and signatory of the peace pact, Mohagher Iqbal, is not his real name. It is an alias. His real name is Datuca Abas. In using an alias in signing that document, he violated the Anti-Alias Law (Republic Act No. 6085), and the revised Penal Code. 

Secondly, the proposed BBL’s constitutionality has been challenged by many legal experts, including eminent constitutionalists and jurists, who have cited its legal flaws, such as the dismemberment of the country with the formation of a Moro state, and also the questionable role of mediator played by Malaysia, which has an unsettled territorial dispute with the Philippines over North Borneo, now named Sabah.

In the language of the law, the peace pact and the BBL are “void and inexistent”!
Quote of the Day: “The build-up of military power by China means that paradoxically China can wait and not use force. For each year passes, China’s naval position strengthens. Beijing’s goal is not war – but an adjustment in the correlation of forces that enhances its geopolitical power and prestige.” – M. Taylor Fravel, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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