Le’ Notes #46: “Small navy” strategies – a short summary

In Note #6, I briefly discussed Mahan and Corbett’s views on naval power. What I neglected to cover was, what I call, “small navy” strategies. These are essentially naval strategies used by a weaker power against a stronger power. I’ll be covering the Jeune Ecole and the fleet-in-being strategy. Most of what is written here is a summary of Ian Speller’s Understanding Naval Warfare, Chapter 3.

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Le’ Notes #45: A.T. Mahan on naval preponderance

Short note on Mahan’s thoughts on naval preponderance.

Mahan surprisingly wrote a bit on naval diplomacy though he didn’t actually call it such; it was something that academics would later describe. Most of his thoughts on naval diplomacy are not found in his famous work, The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Instead, it is found in a collection of his stand-alone articles in various periodicals which have been compiled under the title The Interest of America in Sea Power.

Though Mahan tends to be associated with the idea of the “big fleet battle” and the six conditions for sea power, he also thought about  how navies could be used to project political power (well, in this case, American power). However, his prescription for “naval preponderance” tends to be overshadowed by his geopolitical thinking. To extract a sliver of Mahan’s thoughts on “showing the flag”—an idea often credited to him (see here and here)—requires careful scouring of his article titled “The Isthmus and Sea Power”.

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Geoffrey Till – The strategic importance of islands

This SemText summarises Geoffrey Till’s talk at CSIS Jakarta regarding the strategic uses and importance of islands in Southeast Asian maritime security.

Since 2013, China had embarked on a mission to create artificial islands in the South China Sea. In their view, these islands are markers of sovereignty; they mark Chinese influence over the maritime expanse of the South China Sea. Based on satellite data compiled by CSIS AMTI, many of these islands are already equipped with military installations. 

So, one question that could be asked: What’s up with islands? That is what Professor Geoffrey Till addresses in his lecture. I took the liberty of adding some points to his explanation, as he typically delivers his lectures in a very general manner. 

Simply put, there are two main parts of the lecture. First, he talked about the geographic importance of islands and how they contribute to maritime power. Second, he focuses on the emergence of new technologies and how this encourages a shift from “open ocean” operations to the littoral. This is supplemented with a review of trends in naval development in the Indo-Pacific, though it wasn’t too in-depth.

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Le’ Notes #44: Foreign policy analysis – the individual level

This is the second post in the Foreign Policy Analysis miniseries which discusses the role of cognition and belief sets in influencing foreign policy decisions.

Remember President Truman and his “The buck stops here” sign? The function of the sign was to remind him that he was the one who would make the final call on a policy decision. Not his Vice President. Though Barkley could chip in his two cents, by virtue of structural authority, Barkley did not have any power to execute a policy decision.

Margaret Hermann and Joe Hagan (1998) [paywall] wrote:

We grade Bill Clinton’s performance abroad; argue about why Benjamin Netanyahu is or is not stalling the Middle East peace process; debate Mohammed Khatami’s intentions regarding Iranian relations with the United States; and ponder what will happen in South Africa or Russia when Nelson Mandela or Boris Yeltsin leaves office.

What Hermann and Hagan observed was the importance of a state leader as an important decision unit in foreign policy analysis. They are the ones who perceive the international system and domestic political landscape, interpret signals and conditions, and then act upon they believe to be the best course of action. So the question now is, how do we analyse these individuals and understand their way of thinking?

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Le’ Notes #43: Foreign policy analysis – an introduction

This post marks the start of my Foreign Policy Analysis mini-series.

Index of posts in this mini-series:
1. Le’Notes #44: The individual level – cognition and belief sets

In 2014, President Joko Widodo announced his vision of a “global maritime fulcrum”. Indonesia would be a center of activity in Asia, maximizing its geographical position between the Indian and Pacific Ocean. This vision would form the basis of Joko Widodo’s foreign policy.

By now you may be wondering, what is foreign policy? It is a phrase thrown out there by politicians and IR scholars all the time: “U.S. foreign policy in Asia”, “Japan’s foreign policy in Northeast Asia”, “China’s foreign policy”… what does it mean?

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Le’ Notes #42: What’s the buzz behind the Indo-Pacific?

This post covers the debate about the “Indo-Pacific” geopolitical construct. How do states understand it? What is its significance?

In the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (S.2736; or often abbreviated as ARIA) passed by Congress in 2018, the term “Indo-Pacific” appears 80 times. The bill affirms U.S. commitment to secure its national interests, promote American prosperity, advance U.S. influence, support regional architecture, and support international law and norms in the Indo-Pacific. It also makes mention of numerous U.S. security arrangements in the region, most notably the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad, for short), a controversial four-country—U.S., Japan, India, and Australia—security “club” intended to counter Chinese influence in the region. All in all, it looks like the U.S. has a new geopolitical focus: the Indo-Pacific.

But wait a minute, what is the Indo-Pacific? Who’s in it? Why are we just talking about it now? And how is it different from the “Asia-Pacific”? Answering those questions is the point of this post. Now, since I cannot cover everything in around 1,000-2,000 words, I’ll only go through the essentials. For further reading, just click the hyperlinks.

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Le’ Notes #41: Foreign policy as a socialization act

This post covers some basic ideas of foreign policy as a socialization act under the framework of the socialization game.

In Note #40, the construction of a role is dependent on the level of contestation within its domestic setting. However, another body of literature on role theory suggests this may not be the case. State roles are defined by their interactions with the “alter” or environment. This interaction is a cognitive process, an active act of “learning” and then situating oneself within a specific social structure. This process is known as role location, or the act of locating a specific role.

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Le’ Notes #40: Role contestation in foreign policy

This post covers the idea of role contestation in foreign policy analysis.

In Note #39, I covered the basis of role theory as described by Holsti in his seminal work on national role conception. Since 1970, role theory has been refined many times over by IR scholars. However, the subject of this post is not a comprehensive review of the development of role theory. Instead, I’ll be explaining an influential dynamic in role theory: role contestation.

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Semtext #7: Disinformation and Indonesia’s 2019 Election

This SemText summarises the real and perceived challenges in Indonesia’s upcoming 2019 election, particularly regarding disinformation and candidate electability.

Throughout 2018 and early 2019, the Presidential Race was a doozy to follow. Political allegiances, according to the media and some observers, have shown to break up families and disharmonize supposedly “neutral” places like schools and places of worship. The stakes in this election are high, as some may put: continue with economic development or risk returning to New Order practices?

One thorny issue that has piqued the interest of the public is the widespread use of disinformation by both sides. How is disinformation used? What are the effects? These are some the questions that the panel addressed.

One note on format. In this SemText, I’ll move in and out from summary to commentary. While this may be confusing, I’ll do my best to denote which is the speaker’s voice and which is mine.

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