Wednesday Water Cooler

Why Do Street Protests Fail To Produce Stated Goals?
Moises Naim of The Atlantic asserts that the majority of street protests fail to achieve their stated goals.

“Notable exceptions of course exist: In Egypt, Tunisia, and Ukraine, street protests actually contributed to the overthrow of the government. But most massive rallies fail to create significant changes in politics or public policies. Occupy Wall Street is a great example. Born in the summer of 2011 (not in Wall Street but in Kuala Lumpur’s Dataran Merdeka), the Occupy movement spread quickly and was soon roaring in the central squares of nearly 2,600 cities around the world,” he writes.

Naim believes the primary reason for their failure lies in the fact few movements are well-planned or executed with a clear plan in mind.

“What we’ve witnessed in recent years is the popularization of street marches without a plan for what happens next and how to keep protesters engaged and integrated in the political process. It’s just the latest manifestation of the dangerous illusion that it is possible to have democracy without political parties—and that street protests based more on social media than sustained political organizing is the way to change society,” adds Naim.

How To Calm Historic Tensions Between China And Japan
Mike Mochizuki, a George Washington University professor, and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution offer their thoughts on how to calm the tensions in Asia over historical territorial claims.

Scholars and opinion leaders in Japan, China, and Korea should avoid mutual recriminations and work toward a shared history. To encourage this process, Japan can take the lead by dramatically expanding the activities of the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records. This center was established because of a 1994 initiative by Prime Minister Murayama who wanted “to enable everyone to face squarely the facts of history.” In addition to serving as an archive for historical documents, the center should sponsor exchange and dialogue programs among scholars, educators, journalists and youth in all three countries regarding history and memory. The ultimate aim should be to get balanced and historically accurate views into multiple media so that, throughout their lives, current and future Koreans, Chinese and Japanese learn about each other—warts and all, to be sure, but in a way that avoids scapegoating, ethnic divisiveness, and warmongering.

Americans can also foster historical reconciliation, but it should not do so in a sanctimonious manner because the United States too contributed to Northeast Asia’s tragic history. The best way would be for Americans to become a full partner in transnational dialogues about history with Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese and to emphasize that reconciliation is a two-way street and an ongoing long-term process.

Although states and their leaders can and should establish a diplomatic environment conducive for a reconciliation process to take hold, deep-rooted attitudes of these countries’ citizens are, at present, arguably the greatest potential catalysts to conflict. We need to make them work for peace, not against it. The stability of Northeast Asia in coming years could hang in the balance.

Is US Presence In Asia A Net Benefit?
The majority opinion is that the US alliance with several Asian nations has been a net positive, but Robert Kelly examines the downsides and unintended consequences of our alliances in the region.

Kelly believes one of the drawbacks to US forces stationed in South Korea is that they have perpetuated the division of Korea because they feed the “North Korean post-communist ideology, without which the regime would struggle to explain privation to its people.”

He further argues that the pivot to Asia “might very well precipitate the very cold war with China it is supposed to prevent” and that “U.S. alliances almost certainly encourage allied free-riding, in both Asia and NATO, so unnecessarily driving up defense costs for U.S. taxpayers.”


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