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An Interview with Professor Michael J. Glennon

Interviewer: Han Sung Lim 

Michael J. Glennon is a professor of international law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Q. Could you provide a short introduction of yourself, what work you’ve done so far, and how you got to go into your field?

I got interested in this field in law school, during debates in my constitutional law class on the legality of the war in Vietnam. From there I went to work afterwards on Capitol Hill, and ultimately for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I worked on issues of war and peace international commitment, intelligence oversight, and variety of different national security issues. After that, I went into teaching and have been reading, studying, and writing about this subject for the last forty years.

Q. When you served in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was during Carter’s Administration, which was before the Reagan Administration, which was involved in Afghanistan Freedom Fighters and Iran Contra. How did the previous administrations influence you in how you view the world today?

I was struck by the perplexing continuity of national security policy from the Ford administration to the Carter administration. In fact, I supported Senator Ted Kennedy in his effort to replace President Carter as the Democratic nominee, in part because I believed Carter had not been sufficiently true to the principles of the Democratic party, concerning even his core issue of human rights. It seemed to me that Carter ought to have been much more open to progressive changes in American foreign policy following the defeat of President Ford, than he was, and Ford’s Policy was of course, a continuation of the policy of President Nixon. Essentially, my view was that the Carter administration was not sufficiently committed to human rights, which President Carter strangely viewed as his landmark achievement in foreign affairs. That was particularly true, I might add, in respect to his support of the Shah in Iran.

Q. Even with the Camp David Accords that happened during the Carter Administration and the relinquishment of the Panama Canal, do you believe that even then Carter didn’t live up to principles of the Democratic party?

He hosted the Shah when the Shah visited Washington, giving a toast, commending the Shah in a very effusive way that seemed to me very inconsistent with the Shah’s record on human rights. While it’s true that President Carter did exhibit some courage in pushing the Panama Canal treaty through the Senate, I thought it could have been done in a way that was politically more protective of his democratic allies in the Senate. As it turned out, his leading allies beginning with Senator Church and Senator McGovern, Senator Culver and a few others, Senator Bly, lost the next election part in because they were identified with a weak and vacillating foreign policy in the White House. He was a drag on the democratic ticket in 1980, and I don’t believe that Senator Kennedy, had he had been a nominee, would have been a drag. He might well have defeated Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Q. So, do you think that a good foreign policy is one that is supported by the democratic principles of the state?

Democratic with the small ‘d,’ yes. In fact, Republican presidents, including President Nixon, have pursued foreign policy objectives that were quite sensible. Nixon for example, with Secretary Kissinger pursued a policy of détente with the Soviet Union and opened relationships with the People’s Republic of China in ways that considerably advanced American national interest. So, it’s not as though the democratic party has a monopoly on good ideas or far sighted policies, when it comes to the foreign relations of the United States.

Q. Nixon’s ratification of the ABM treaty and the Paris Peace Accords seem to support your view.

The ABM treaty, and the negotiations on the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks, the Salt 1 Treaty. But, my view is that he allowed the Vietnam war to drag on far longer than was necessary. It’s true that he finally did conclude the Paris Accords with North Vietnam, but in my judgment could have been achieved far earlier. He claimed at the outset that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam war, but he managed to keep that a secret from even his own negotiators for a protracted period of time.

Q. From my reading, you were against all three wars, of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Vietnam war not on the basis of the immorality of war, but overreach of the executive branch. What’s your stance on war and the state violence?

I think the United States, has engaged in a long series of reckless and needless wars. I’ve supported restraints on executive war making in part with the hope that that recklessness be curbed. I think with more involvement by the elective representatives of the people, it’s less likely that the United States will make the kind of errors it did in Vietnam and Iraq. I supported the initial action in Afghanistan on the simple theory that it was defensive, but I believe it has gone far too long and that it is far too costly than any benefit that could be derived in remaining in Afghanistan.

Q. Have there been wars that have beneficial?

I’m not opposed to all wars. I believe that the American response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor was legitimate and just. Nations have a right to defend themselves. I’m not a pacifist by any means. As I said I also supported the initial military action against Afghanistan. I don’t believe that the United States can or should delegate the decision to go to war, to an international organization. Whether it would be the League of Nations or the United Nations. That is a decision that, constitutionally, has to include the House of Representatives, because the constitution confers upon Congress, the House and the Senate, the power to place a nation at war. Therefore, I opposed the administrations attacks on Libya, even though the United Nations Security Council had authorized the defense of civilians in Libya, because a UN Security Council Resolution cannot constitutionally substitute for a law enacted by congress that authorizes the president to use force.

Q. So, your position is that the decision to go to war must be shared equally between the legislative and the executive?

Yes, that’s the whole theory and premise on which the War Powers Resolution was enacted. War Powers is a shared power, and that significant military actions that are non-defensive and which expose the United States to non-trivial risks of retaliation require congressional approval.

Q. I think this leads into the Intelligence Agencies in that, when you mention that voters should be able to decide on whether nations should go to war or not, do you think that agencies become too big or too complex for the ordinary voter to make an informed decision on what’s best for the security for the US?

I think that the public is capable based upon information that is available in the popular media to make informed and sensible decisions on whether the United States should use force in places such as Syria, Libya and Iraq. And if the President went to congress and sought approval the elected representatives of the people in conflicts such as those, we would have avoided horrendous mistakes. It’s true that congress approved the use of force in Vietnam, but that was less of a mistake on part of Congress, than it was a fraudulent representation by the executive concerning the events in the Gulf of Tonkin that never unfolded as Congress assured they had. Congress was deeply and profoundly misled, and if it were told the truth, the whole truth, I doubt that the United States would have got involved in the Vietnam War.

Q. In 2014, 5 CIA officers tampered with Senate Intelligence Committee material. Do you think that the tendency of intelligence agencies to be secretive and conceal information from the American public is because of its incentive structure?

There’s no question that some secrets, some activities have to remain a secret. There is a valid role for classified information. It’s also true however that much information is classified not because of legitimate need for secrecy, but to avoid embarrassment to the government, and there is an incentive to keep that information secret for an obvious reason: the intelligence community wishes to maintain credibility with Congress and the public by downplaying or covering up its mistakes, and there have been plenty of mistakes. So, there is an incentive to not only keep relevant information secret, but also to hoard information and intelligence and keep it to itself. Information is power in Washington, and the more any given department or agency knows the greater its political leverage in Washington. That’s the way the system works. The question is whether it’s possible to achieve a greater level of democratic accountability with agencies that necessarily operate in great secrecy. I believe that it is, but the ultimate answer lies in electing senators and representatives who insist upon full and complete disclosure to the oversight committees, and unfortunately, the oversight committees have become dysfunctional. That’s the word used by the 9/11 commission in describing the watchdog committees. Senator John McCain was more blunt. He said, they have been co-opted. Anyone who sees the record of these oversight committees they have to agree with McCain.

Q. But, do you think that the legislative is always put at a disadvantage, because of its inherent party divide, from holding the executive accountable?

The problem is that there is very little constituency that insists upon rigorous congressional oversight. The public simply doesn’t care about intelligence oversight as is strongly does for example about tax relief or healthcare or immigration. Until members of these oversight committees have their feet held to the fire because they’re doing a lousy job, oversight will never improve.
Q. Do you think that the media has a role to play in this? It seems that there was an abundant concentration on the Hillary email scandal, when there wasn’t equivalent focus on the Agency’s looking into the committee’s emails.

There is a huge vacuum that has occurred as a result of the collapse of the congressional oversight, and investigative journalists need to fill that void. Investigative journalism is extremely expensive. It requires long months and sometimes years for a top-flight investigative journalist like Dana Priest and Seymour Hersh to develop sources within these secret agencies. The words of Winston Churchill however come into mind, in thinking about contributions of journalists such as those. “Never had so many owed so much to so few,” as Americans owe to investigative journalists. When you look at the contributions to, dare I say it, “truth” that have been made by such journalists, from revealing CIA spying on the American people to Abu Ghraib torture, these things would have never come to light, but for the persistence of this very small handful of courageous investigative journalists.

Q. Do you think that the current administration has role in limiting that accountability from journalists as well?

The current administration is doing all it can to put the lid on investigative journalists and to make their jobs more difficult but in fairness the prior administration did as well. President Obama prosecuted far more leaks than any president in history. Whistleblowers were treated very harshly. The Obama administration if anything was a continuation of the Bush administration in its counter terrorism and national security policies with very few exceptions. The programs remained identical or virtually identical.

Q.  I read an article on Politico which outlined former CIA officials condemning Donald Trump statements. Do you think that now the agencies and executive are at odds?

Obviously, there was an enormous rift that developed between the national security bureaucracy and the Trump administration. Right after Trump took office. That has been exacerbated by alumni and former intelligence officials such as Brennan, Clapper, Morell, and others, who have gone after the president and try to shake his cage. This has brought about a real crisis in legitimacy for both the president and the intelligence agencies. The public needs to be assured that the president is getting first rate intelligence and if he says that the FBI, CIA, or military is filled with a lot political hacks, the public is right to wonder how is he learning whether, say, North Korea is progressing with its missile program or whether Iran is cheating on its nuclear deal. Similarly, the intelligence community derives its legitimacy from its electoral connection. These are unelected bureaucrats, whatever credibility or respect they have, from the fact that they work for and are accountable to the president. But when the president forces them to develop their own stand-alone legitimacy that becomes an extremely dangerous development in a democracy.

Q. In Walter Bagehot’s theory of British governance, he described the dual institutions of government in explaining British politics and drew a parallel to the US. Do you think that model is failing as well, and that citizens are no longer convinced by the “noble lie?”

Well, it was essential for the operation of Bagehot’s theory of double government that the public institutions and the concealed institutions project, publicly, an image of harmony. They both have to be on the same page. They both have to appear to be in agreement on national security policy. They have to be working in unison. Their activities have to be in sync. Once, a gap appears before them, Bagehot theorized, the whole system becomes destabilized, because each side is delegitimated, as I just described. That’s the situation that we are in right now. The system is spinning out of control because the public harmony necessary for the system to proceed efficiently, no longer exists.

Q. Madison, contrary to popular belief, didn’t believe that ambition against ambition wouldn’t restrain. Do you think that even when the electorate is responsible electing officials and creating that accountability system, it still wouldn’t inherently solve or reform underlying incentive structures?

Adlai Stevenson put it well. He said that in a democracy people get the quality of government they deserve. That in a nutshell sums up Madison’s theory. Madison believed that this system of checks and balances would never work unless what he referred to as civil virtue existed not on one level but two levels. First, it is necessary to have an electorate that is engaged and informed. Not simply engaged but informed as well, which means intelligence, rational, capable and deliberation and compromise when necessary. Second, that electorate has to elect public officials who are committed to the public good, not their personal advancement, not their private wealth, not their families, not prominence nor affluence but the public good, even at the cost of their careers or finances. Absent civic virtue at both of those two levels, Madison and his two colleagues believed that the whole system would collapse, and that is what we are seeing today.

Q. Are college campuses failing to do a good job in educating American students to be civic oriented?

I think the problem arises earlier than college campuses. It’s grade schools and high schools that don’t teach civics. Students come to college without the vaguest knowledge of American history and the structure of American government. It’s no surprise that they move on to become citizens who are woefully uninformed. Political ignorance, David Souter said, has reached crisis proportions in this country and it’s true that education ultimately is the problem, but the reality is that you can’t blame American institutions. At some point, American citizens have to take responsibility. That means parents, families, and individuals themselves in a democracy have to cast intelligent votes and elect intelligent and public-spirited office holders, and unless they do that, no democracy can survive.

Han Sung Lim is a Sophomore at Tufts University studying Film and Media Studies and International Relations.


Politics of Clothes: When Nationalism Meets Fashion by Han Sung Lim

Political leaders communicate subtle or overt messages through their apparel. President Justin Trudeau attracted attention when he wore a rainbow pair of socks with the words “Eid Mubarak” – “have a blessed holiday” in Arabic – sewn on them, to a Toronto Pride movement, which was hosted during Ramadan. President Trump’s campaign message “Make America Great Again” stands out on red t-shirts and ball caps, which Trump allegedly spent 3.2 million dollars on, according to Federal Election Commission Filings.

But, Trump isn’t the only one who has promoted nationalism through fashion. In 2017, President Xi Jinping invited Trump to Beijing, showcasing traditional Chinese musicians dressed in Hanfu costumes. President Xi has recently promoted Hanfu, clothing of the ethnic Han majority, which is believed to have been worn before western imperial invasion, as part of an holistic efforts to reestablish traditional virtues in the populace. The market for Hanfu is growing rapidly, some saying that it has millions of – mostly female – followers.

It’s hard to claim that one shouldn’t promote a worldview or an idea through clothing. Often, clothing is inextricably entwined with the socio-political vision of an artist, such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee who led the Save the Saree movement to make Indian garment and culture more widely popular and quoted that “nothing fosters nationalism like national clothing.”

The fashion consumer adds another layer of personal meaning by wearing the clothing in their unique experiential, cultural and social context. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for example, entwines her femininity onto her Nigerian apparel, which embodies “an ethos of clothing as pleasure than status” and brings relief with the “casual presence of sleeves.” This philosophy of fashion is just as valid as the philosophy of fashion as a medium of status, strength or empowerment, promoted by women like IMF President Christine Lagarde and Nancy Pelosi, who communicates political authority through her Armani wardrobe. Likewise, clothing is self-expression, which, some can argue, deserves protections akin to those conferred by freedom of expression.

In light of international criticism towards China’s oppressive policies to the Uighurs and Tibetans, and concern that such nationalism can turn into chauvinism against such minorities, one can argue that clothing like Hanfu may help foster preexisting ethnic tensions. Some reports say that in addition to preventing Muslim Uighurs from fasting during Ramadan, Chinese authorities are cutting women’s long conservative dresses in public. Historically, Chinese dynasties such as Qin and Han imposed strict policies on what fabrics and colors people of different classes could use in their clothing, reinforcing classist divide. As research shows that economic development of a minority region is correlated with the minority’s degree of integration with the central Chinese state, Uighurs and Tibetans’ resistance toward Hanfu could be met by broader ethnic Han hostility.

Yet, one should note that no one person or political community holds enduring monopoly over the meaning of clothing. Similar to his love of Volkswagen, Adolf Hitler promoted Lederhosen, leather breeches worn by men of the Alpine, and Dirndl, a bodice and pinafore dress commonly worn by working women. Decades later, the Christian Social Union and liberal pro-refugee Greens party in Bavaria rebranded the clothing with their nationalism, and nowadays teenagers and young adults go clubbing in them.

If such is true, then political leaders, artists, fashion consumers and the general populace all hold important roles in determining the values that certain clothing bear. Although the German government cannot forcefully put Thor Steinar out of business for building its brand on Neo Nazis, Angela Merkel, Karl Lagerfeld, German women and men can chose not to buy their products or re-appropriate its brand to serve a different set of values. 

Han Sung Lim is a Sophomore at Tufts University studying International Relations and Film and Media Studies. 

Saudi Arabia Isn’t Just a Trump Problem, It’s an Us Problem

Author: Doug Berger

The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has refocused attention onto the troubling relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. It’s a relationship that, at least on paper, seems bizarre. That the American government actively supports an absolute monarchy wedded to Wahhabism with a human rights record similar to that of international pariahs like North Korea is hypocritical at best.

The contradiction of the alliance has certainly not escaped the American public—a plurality views the Kingdom either as an unfriendly nation or an outright enemy, according to a recent online poll.

None of this, of course, goes very far in explaining President Trump’s response to the murder. Much ink has been spilled decrying his vacillating statements, which have run the gambit from denial to a resigned acceptance of Khashoggi’s murder, and occasional threats of limited action.

While Trump’s messaging style is undoubtedly unique, his lack of significant action is far from novel. It’s hard to imagine that the previous administration, which stood by as the Saudi Air Force used US-made bombs against civilians in Yemen, would have taken meaningful action over the death of a single journalist.

Most media commentary on our relationship with Saudi Arabia rightly addresses the 800 lb. hydrocarbon in the room but fails to address the core motivations at work. The prime directive of the President and our elected representatives isn’t grand strategy or security in the Middle East; it’s getting reelected. At the heart of that calculation is us, the American voter.

We should be wary of over-simplifying the gap between our government’s actions and the wishes of the people. An NPR article that ran earlier this year was titled “Saudi Arabia: The White House Loves it. Most Americans? Not So Much.” True, but misleading.

A little thought experiment may be in order. Which is more likely to get an American president voted out of office–revelations that military aid to a dictatorship was used to kill civilians, or a steep increase in gas prices? If the modern history of US Presidential Elections is anything to go by, it’s the latter. No administration is eager to relive the oil embargoes of the 1970’s.

Voters may not like Saudi Arabia, but they appreciate affordable gas—or at the very least won’t punish their elected officials for it. Oil markets are complicated, and Saudi Arabia is far from the only player, but its centralized control of its oil production and its commanding position as OPEC’s largest producer give it powerful influence.

American presidents don’t support Saudi Arabia because of any love for the country, nor because they lack in democratic ideals. They do so because this is the real-world implication of the public’s need for affordable oil. A change in administration won’t alter this calculation, only and end to America’s reliance on petroleum will.

Doug Berger is a senior at Tufts University. 

The Case of Dokdo: A South Korean Island

Author: Han Sung Lim 

James A. Garfield once said that “Territory is but the body of a nation; the people who inhabit its hills and valleys and its soul, its spirit, its life.” Territory embodies not only a nation’s physical boundaries but also the integrity of the nation; its essence. The expansion of territory correlates to the fundamental growth of the nation, which determines its prosperity. Thus, history is characterized by conquest for territorial exploit; the religious wars of 1600s were fundamentally aimed towards the acquisition of land; European superpowers ensnared colonial territories under the “just” reason of imperialism, and today nations try to expand their sphere of influence by claiming direct/indirect rule over islands, or even protruded coral reefs. The controversy over Dokdo stems from the same logic; the acquisition of Dokdo may potentially reap insurmountable benefits for the internal growth of a nation. Dokdo is a beautiful island, renowned for its exquisite biological diversity, vast resource deposits, and priceless economic value. Though Korea is the irrefutable owner of the islands, Japanese right-wing fundamentalists claim ownership over the Dokdo islands. Moreover, they have recently expanded their political clout into education, and have disseminated fabricated information into the classrooms. Despite all these developments, Koreans have successfully protected Dokdo for centuries. Nevertheless, it has become ever more crucial for us citizens to actively express our love and support toward Dokdo; as the saying goes: “to preserve one’s treasure is an everlasting struggle”.

Dokdo is a natural treasure that cannot be translated into monetary standards. The Dokdo Islets retain substantial deposits of natural resources such as gas hydrate, natural gas, maritime petroleum resources, etc. Dokdo is believed to be abundant in ‘Gas Hydrate’ in particular, which is a solid state of natural gas whose chief constituent is methane. It is recognized as promising substitute to fossil fuel energy; according to the U.S Energy Information Administration, 1 cubic foot of gas hydrate releases 164 cubic feet of natural gas, providing a high energy output. Thus, the usage of gas hydrate as a future energy resource is an active field of interest in Germany, USA, India, Taiwan, China, and obviously Japan. Commercial extraction/production of such resources would clearly be an economic boon for Korea, which currently relies on foreign imports to satisfy its resource demands. Researchers speculate Dokdo’s gas hydrate deposit to be 600 million metric tons, which approximates to 252 trillion won in financial terms. In addition to its resource value, Dokdo is ecological gem. It is home to at least 107 species of resident and migratory birds, including the streaked shearwater, storm petrel, black-tailed gull, and other endangered species, according to an October 2007 survey by the Ministry of Environment. Dokdo’s underwater vegetation ecosystem shares striking similarities to the South Sea, Jeju Island, and tropical regions of Northern Hemisphere, yet has unique characteristics that suggest that it can be classified as an entirely discrete ecosystem. Its subtle geological position makes it an ample fishing ground, attracting highly migratory fish stock. Its beauty also attracts tourists on an international scale; the number of tourists has shown steady increase since 2005, and more than 205,000 have registered in 2012. Moreover, its function as a territorial indicator enables Korea to extend its EEZ further into the east sea, ensuring 200 nautical miles into Korean hands. Thus, Dokdo’s various attributes give it its priceless value.

It is clear that Dokdo has significant industrial, ecological, economic, and territorial value. Then the question arises behind who has territorial jurisdiction over the islets. Nevertheless, historical evidence corroborate Korea’s claim over the islets. Following the Russo-Japanese war, Japan annexed Korea in a series of agreements between 1905 and 1910. During this period, Japan claimed territorial jurisdiction over the islands by officially incorporating them into the Shimane Prefecture, a notice which dictated that “The islands should be designated as ‘Takeshima’ and placed under the jurisdiction of Oki Islands.” However, these treaties cannot be regarded as legally binding documents, indicating valid cession of national sovereignty and relinquishment of territorial holdings. The Korean Minister of Home Affairs rejected Japanese claim, stating, “It is totally groundless for the Japanese to lay claim to Dokdo and I am shocked at the report”, and responded by issuing Directive No. III on April 29, 1906. Furthermore, the Korean citizens resisted Japanese annexation through protests and uprisings, thus invalidating Japanese argument of a cessation under popular consent. Following the demise of Japanese occupation, the status of Dokdo (Liancourt Rocks) was not addressed in Article 2 of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. The treaty recognized Korea’s independence, and Japan’s retrocession of the islands of Qualpart, Port Hamilton, Dagelet, but excluded Liancourt Rocks. However, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers then removed Japanese authority over Dokdo, and incorporated it under US armed forces control as a bombing range. Thus, by then Dokdo was clearly outside of Japanese jurisprudence. Shortly after, South Korean president Syngman Rhee issued the Korean Presidential Proclamation over the Adjacent Sea in January 18. 1952. The proclamation promulgated Korean sovereignty over Liancourt Rocks, by creating the “Rhee Line”. Japan responded by officially declaring its non-recognition of Korea claims, which ignited the modern controversy. The current Japanese government argues that Dokdo was included in Korea’s cession of sovereignty and that it was historically occupied by Japan in the past. The first claim has been nullified above, and the second is also historically invalid.

Historical documents indicate that Korea had a prolonged history of occupation and corresponding Japanese recognition of Korean claims. Sejong Sillok Jiriji, a government publication on geography section of the annals of King Sejong’s Reign, provides geographical accounts of Korean territorial records of Korean territory; it states, “Usan (Dokdo) Mureung (Ulleungdo)… The two islands are not far apart from each other and thus visible on a clear day.” Records pertaining to Dokdo are also found in other government publications, including Sinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam,1531;  Dongguk Munheon, Biggo, 1770; Man-gi Yoram, 1808; and Jeungbo Munheon Biggo. Moreover, diplomatic negotiations between Joseon and the Edo shogunate regarding the Ulleungdo Disputes confirmed Joseon’s sovereignty over Olleungdo and its ancillary island, Dokdo. The Edo shogunate even issued a directive prohibiting all Japanese from making passage towards Ulleungdo in January 28, 1696, after receiving a confirmation that neither Ulleungdo nor Dokdo was in possession of Tottori-han, a Japanese feudal clan. Even before Japanese colonization, the 1877 directive issued by the Dajokan(Grand Council of State), Japan’s supreme decision-making political body during the Meiji period, reaffirmed the Ulleungdo dispute negotiations and concluded that “our country[Japan] has nothing to do with them[Takeshima(Ulleungdo) and Dokdo].” Thus, Japanese history confirms Korea’s territorial sovereignty over the islets, even during the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

Korea has a stronger title claim to Dokdo islets on the basis of international law. Analysis on international law requires scrutiny on internationally accepted principles and legal precedents. There is currently no consensual standard on how to resolve territorial dispute, however, customary international law provides principles which international tribunals can resolve sovereignty disputes. This includes the following: (1) cecasion (2) prescription (3) occupation (4) subjugation. According to R.Y. Jennings in The Acquisition of Territory in International Law, “The cession of a territory means the renunciation made by one State in favor of another of the rights and title which the former may have to the territory in question. This is affected by a treaty of cession expressing agreement to the transfer.” A prerequisite to this principle is the willful consent of the receiving state. However, the previous paragraph already expounds why Japanese annexation cannot be considered as example case of cessation. The Japanese government may appeal to the standard of subjugation; a state acquires territorial sovereignty through military victory. Yet, even acquisition by armed conflict requires either international recognition or a treaty of cession to be legitimate. Japan’s involvement in the Hague Secret Emissary Affair is an example of the Japanese government trying to procure international support by alleged means. Moreover, the Eulsa Treaty of 1905 and the Korean annexation treaty of 1910 were ratified under Japanese military pressure; thus, Japan fails to fulfill requirements of a “willing” treaty of cession as well. On the other hand, Korea satisfies the requirements of customary international law. Prescription is the process of acquiring territory through a continuous and undisturbed exercise of sovereignty lasting long enough to create a widely held conviction that the possession conforms to the standards of the international community. Though highly debated upon, the principle supports Korea’s territorial claims; Korea has possessed Dokdo for over thousands of years. Occupation, often correlated with terra nullius, is the appropriation by state of a territory by establishing administration over the territory. This requires both the intention of the state to act as sovereign and verifiable exercise of authority; both of which is fulfilled by past and present Korean governments. The Island of Palmas dispute between the US and Netherlands, the Clipperton Island case between Mexico and France, and the Eastern Greenland case are historical precedents that support Korea’s position over Japanese. Thus, Korea has the upper hand when considering international law.

Despite disputes, Korea has successfully protected Dokdo from environmental and foreign threats through governmental action, active citizen participation, and sacrifices made by brave heroes. The government has maintained a strong diplomatic stance, by officially declaring that “the government will deal firmly and resolutely with any provocation and will continue to defend Korea’s territorial integrity over Dokdo.” This position has been reinforced by active governmental action. A Korean police force base, backed by the Korean main military, has been established on the islets. Lighthouses and other governmental facilities have been erected and are in operation in Dokdo. The government has enacted Article 1 of the [Act on the Sustainable Use of Dokdo Island], Article 6 of [Act on National Land Planning and Utilization], and Article 25 of [Cultural Properties Protection Law], which have created a check and balance system for sustainable development and environmental preservation. On the citizen level, grass-root NGO participation accompanied with group and individual campaign activities have contributed to the growth of public awareness towards Dokdo.  Patriotic individuals have also volunteered to reside on the islets. Finally, heroes have struggled to protect our sovereignty over the islets. An Yong-bok, a fisherman of the Joseon dynasty, reinstated Joseon’s territorial sovereignty over Dokdo; it is recorded in the Annals of King Sukjong’s Reign that he firmly informed Japanese officials that “Matsushima is Jasando[Dokdo] and it is Korean territory”. Japanese documents, including Takeshima kiji, Inpu nenpyo, and Takeshimako, confirm Ahn Yong-bok’s passages to Japan. The Dokdo Volunteer Forces also played an indispensable role in protecting Dokdo. They disembarkened on Dokdo in 1953, and fought against Japanese encroachment until the government took over the responsibility in 1956.  Thus it is clear that Korea has been maintaining a stalwart grasp over Dokdo, and had protecting Dokdo throughout history.   

Yet, the Japanese government has managed to incorporate distorted history into school textbooks. Recently, the Japanese government has officially expressed denial towards Japanese imperialist exploit. Mariko Oi, Japanese BBC correspondent, illustrates the realities of history education in Japan. He points out that only 19 of the 357 pages of a certain history book dealt with events between 1931 and 1945. He also points out that Japanese led war atrocities such as the Nanjing Massacre,  and prostitution corps were either omitted or included in a small foot note. Today there are 30 unique textbooks for social studies from 5 different publishers, in Japanese primary schools, and an additional 8 textbooks for the study of history as part of Japanese Social Studies curriculum. The government’s textbook authorization system evaluates the textbooks and verifies approval. Though guild-lines dictate that the context must be “objective, impartial, and free from errors”, major controversy has been brought up from neighboring nations. The Dokdo issue, in particular, is one example. According to Reuters, “new elementary school textbooks describe islands called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese as Japan’s ‘sovereign territory’ and dismiss South Korean occupation as unlawful.” The changes are expected to be applied in 6 of 8 new textbooks beginning in early 2015. Moreover, Ari-rang News has reported that six of the 8 textbooks in elementary school curriculum would assert that South Korea is “illegally” occupying Dokdo while two others carry maps that mark the island as part of Japanese territory. Mariko admits that he initially had difficulty sympathizing with China and Korea on issues pertaining to Japanese imperialism, until his matriculation into a French university, where he conducted substantive research on the Rape of Nanjing. Likewise, young students in Japan, intellectually restricted by the meticulously fabricated education curriculum, would inevitably develop a lopsided interpretation towards history and current issues. This education policy would further radicalize public perception towards historical based issues and exacerbate the status quo. Thus, it is important for Korea to cooperate with Japanese intellectuals to address historically disputed issues, and inform the Japanese public, especially the next generation. However, delicate as this issue is, it is important for the Korean public not to resort to nationalism; the crux is to slowly develop consensus built upon mutual respect, and to maintain a democratically mature approach. This approach should be concerted by both the governmental and civil level, and should appeal to wide public spectrum of Japanese society.

There is a sign in Texas, Dallas that says “Back off Japan! Dokdo Island Belongs to Korea”. Dokdo is Korean territory. This is lucidly proven by historical accounts, and is supported by customary international law. It is a beautiful landmark teeming with life, filled to the brim with natural resources. Dokdo Guards stand guard every day, ready to face foreign treats lingering beyond the horizon. Yet, innocent Japanese students are blindly convinced that Dokdo is allegedly occupied; they are under the whim of an irresponsible government trying its best to erase the past. Though Dokdo is rightfully ours, we should never be complacent. International predisposition towards dialogue and world peace is never a guarantee for non-aggression or territorial exploit. Nations are inherently interest driven, which is why Japan is amassing historical evidence against our claims and garnering international support. Let us all be more intent to our nation, take a more active stance and express our love and support to Dokdo.

Han Sung Lim is a Sophomore at Tufts University studying International Relations and Film and Media Studies. 


Dynamic Identities! Hemisphere’s 2018 Edition

After a suspenseful wait, we are proud to unveil our 2018 Edition of Hemispheres with the theme Dynamic Identities! Check out the journal in full at our “Current Issue” Tab, and stay tuned this Fall Semester to get a copy of the journal at Tufts University’s campus!



Submission Deadline Extended to Feb. 10, 2018

DEADLINE EXTENSION: There’s now more time to submit to submit to Tufts Hemispheres 2017 Journal: Dynamic Identities!  We’re extending our submission deadline to February 10th, 2018.

As a reminder, we are accepting any papers 5,000-8,000 words in length relating to our theme, “Dynamic Identities.” Past journals included articles touching upon IR, economics, political science, history, psychology, and more, and we also welcome related photo submissions. To submit, please email

Feel free to contact us with questions or concerns. Visit for paper requirements and guidelines.

We’re excited to see your research!

Editorial: Emmanuel Macron and the Middle East

Author: Jean-Charles Zurawicki

In the past few weeks, political developments in the Middle East have added pressure to governments in the region. Long-standing civil war in Syria and Yemen, combined with the ongoing isolation of Qatar, the stalled Kurdistan independence movement, corruption purges in Saudi Arabia, and most prominently the resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri have all complicated a region increasingly divided along Iran-Saudi Arabia and U.S.-Russia rivalries. Ineffective attempts at resolving conflicts vis-à-vis international organizations, and the novelty of sprouting disagreements, leave a vacuum for wise and tact diplomacy to resolve these issues. These opportunities may be overlooked in a United States stifling its own diplomatic abilities and resources, but this is bounty for French President Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking to reframe France’s standing in the world and its role in the Middle East.

In August of 2016, then French President François Hollande outlined France’s priorities in the region, centered on ending the Syrian Civil War, standing by the Iran Nuclear Deal, combatting terrorism, and backing a negotiated two-state solution. While on the campaign trail there was little debate on the Middle East (or foreign policy in general), Emmanuel Macron’s campaign followed many of the same goals of the past administration. Early on, however, Macron seemed to have an eye on the Middle East, making it a point to visit Jordan and Lebanon even before his election in May 2017.

Since coming to office, Macron has followed a policy he terms “Gaullo-mitterandisme”: a vague mix of realism, French exceptionalism, and openness to negotiation. In addition to his invented doctrine, Macron has also been defined by a rhetorical principle often uttered by him in the campaign. As in domestic issues, Macron has offered a dual foreign policy platform, being a proponent of one solution en même temps (“at the same time”) seriously considering the alternative. Macron of course will also be influenced by more established figures in French politics, and is reported to be meeting regularly with former Foreign Ministers Hubert Védrine and Dominique de Villepin. French defense policy, however, is more obscure, as Macron’s circles contain both humanitarian interventionists and realists vying for influence.

What one can thus expect from French foreign policy for the next half-decade is a commitment to international organizations (partly in response to United States’s retreat), a growing presence of France in diplomatic talks, and a greater openness to working with states and issues formerly sidelined. In regards to the Middle East, Macron has pushed hard for France to be a necessary invitee at negotiation tables. Meeting with the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani in September, Macron requested the embargo on Qatar to be withdrawn. After the Kurdistan Independence Referendum, France offered to mediate between Kurdish officials and the Iraqi government. And in the mystery of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Al-Hariri’s resignation, Macron has also chipped in, inviting Al-Hariri to France and commenting that “it’s important that [Hariri] is able to advance the political process in his country in the coming days and weeks.”

But Macron’s en même temps tendencies still ring through in policy towards the region. Macron has called for Iraqi unity, while paradoxically asking for the recognition of the rights of the Kurdish people. Macron hopes to be a diplomatic voice within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but remains wishy washy in his messaging. In regards to Syria, Macron envisages a transition of power after the civil war, though it is unclear where Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad lies within it. While French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian has complemented what other French officials’ opinions on removing Al-Assad from power, Macron has also acknowledged that Al-Assad is not a direct enemy of France. Macron hopes to see a legitimate successor for leading Syria, but slim pickings question France’s previously strict approach to Al-Assad’s removal. But as stated by the French president on November 17, 2017, “the role of France is to talk to everyone.” So while specific policy measures may remain elusive, Macron is nevertheless succeeding in growing France’s presence in regional diplomacy. In the absence of strong American leadership in the region, Macron may indeed revitalize French foreign relations in the region and globally pronounce France’s soft and hard power, if indecision does not wear the president down.

Jean-Charles Zurawicki is a senior at Tufts University studying International Relations and History.