Table Speech

War Studies for Peace

April 6, 2016

Dr. Chikako Kawakatsu Ueki
Professor, Waseda University, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies

 The theme of my speech today centers on my publication War Studies for Peace (Chikuma Shinsho; Feb, 2015), taking into account the situation in the South China Sea that has come to gather much attention lately.

 The biggest change in the state of the world is declining U.S.A. influence, reaffirmed by President Obama last year as he stated America “should not be the world’s policeman anymore.” The majority of the general public thinks “America should not interfere in other countries’ affairs”, which proves their inward-looking attitude. On the other hand, China is gaining power in the international arena, with its robust economy, growing political influence and military presence. Yet, China is not ready to take the reins of world leadership, partly due to massive domestic issues that remain to be solved and growing skepticism over the current international mechanism and system, including the legal frameworks. The overall decline of Western influence coupled with inward-looking attitudes has led to the absence of global leadership that exacerbates volatile situations leading to numerous small-scale conflicts across the world.

 Let me elaborate on the causes of war. As we look back, many wars broke out when decision-makers lost their perspective on the possible war scenarios. For example, when Country A thinks they can win the war while Country B thinks they can’t, the two countries will try to negotiate or make concessions. However, when both Country A and Country B think they can win, it will lead to a war. There is a high possibility of war especially when decision-makers are misled by an over-optimistic perspective of winning an easy and quick victory. When World War I (1914-1918) broke out in August, for example, many leaders in Europe thought it would end in a few months. But actually it took much longer to conclude. Many leaders also got the urge to instigate a war, as they were obsessed with impatience and temptation to make the first move to win a quick victory.

 This picture shows a fortuneteller with a crystal ball, reflecting a tragic scene caused by wars that could have been prevented if countries had had the right perspective on their outcomes. “Crystal ball effect” is one of the mechanisms to maintain peace based on correct understanding and perspective on wars.

 Deterrence is to prevent a war without resort to force, either by threatening to retaliate or by denying the opponent’s war aims. Three factors make deterrence work. Firstly, a country must have the military capabilities to retaliate and the intent to use them when attacked. Powerful weapons work to discourage the opponent from attacking. The second factor is a country is capable of sending out a warning signal to retaliate, while securing a solid and trustworthy channel of communication even in crisis situations. And lastly, there should be a common understanding on the red line not to be crossed to avoid counterattacks as well as on the disadvantages of attacking or advantages of holding off attacks.

 Let us turn our eyes to the situation in the South China Sea and identify what really is at stake. There are five main issues that exacerbate tensions in this area. One is the fight over territory and territorial waters. Secondly, countries fight to secure maritime safety and freedom of navigation to protect national interests. Third issue at stake is the fight over U.S.A. hegemony across the world, based on the principle of “Command of the Commons” that endows the U.S.A. with the ability to freely use sea, air and space for projecting military power and if necessary, to deny the use of these spaces to others. The U.S.A. claims China’s A2/AD (Anti-access/Area Denial) principle that underlies its military and security strategies pose a threat to the U.S.A. The two conflicting principles escalate the tension in the South China Sea. Fourth issue is growing concerns in China about Taiwanese independence that makes China try to keep U.S.A. out of specific sea areas. Lastly, some countries fight over the international framework of negotiation and discussion, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and resort to violent means and threats to make a breakthrough. We must keep a close eye on the situation that could be the consequence of conflict between U.S.A. and China for dominance in Asia or China defying the U.S.A.-led international order. The U.S.A. and Japan must try to assess where the red line lies to curb aggressive moves and to make deterrence work.

 We should try to show disastrous outcomes caused by wars with one crystal ball and also show a nice world without wars with another crystal ball. We must have extensive discussions among the general public to reach a consensus on the criteria to decide what allows a country to counterattack and what not. I call this a “liberal deterrence” that contributes to build a world where wars will be not worth waging. We can also proclaim the advantages of not having a war, such as enhanced economic interests, rules and trustworthy dependency relationships that are assured within bilateral and multilateral frameworks. I believe working on both the positive and negative sides of deterrence will make countries around the world realize how worthless it is to be engaged in a war.

 What we can do is to enhance the “crystal ball effect” of our own country and take a clear stance on the next move we are going to make. This alone will already make deterrence work halfway.