(In)Security and Foreign Policy

To feel is to believe: China, United States, and the emotional beliefs of Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte
The ongoing shifts in the global distribution of material and normative powers, particularly between the United States and China, have significant repercussions on the foreign policy strategies of smaller, weaker actors in the international system. Due to their limited capacity for dictating international politics in ways that could guarantee their survival, many in IR have argued that they usually prefer to operate within the prevailing status quo rather than attempting to revise it. Nevertheless, the Philippines, under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, seems to disprove this observation by dramatically pivoting towards Beijing and away from Washington, at least rhetorically. This paper moves beyond the commonly cited systemic factors and domestic intervening variables affecting the states’ foreign policies by examining the neglected emotions and emotional beliefs that help shape these instruments. My investigation of these unseen, albeit existing mechanisms, reveals the centrality of Duterte’s emotionally constituted and strengthened beliefs in providing a more complete and realistic explanation to his China-centric (as opposed to US-centric) foreign policy stance. As I argue and demonstrate throughout the paper, because emotions and emotional beliefs are powerful engines of human behaviour, they exert enormous influence on any state leader’s foreign policy motivations, decisions, and actions.
The Duterte method: A neoclassical realist guide to understanding a small power’s foreign policy and strategic behaviour in the Asia-Pacific
In the contemporary Asia-Pacific context, the fault lines leading to the Thucydides trap can be attributed to the continuing strategic competition between a seemingly declining United States and a rising China. Failure to circumvent this trap can ultimately result in a war of all against all. Against this backdrop, this article investigates how a small power re-evaluates its foreign policy and strategic behaviour using neoclassical realism theory. In particular, I examine President Rodrigo Duterte’s method which is characterized by four key elements: cultivating a more favourable image for China; moderating the country’s American-influenced strategic culture; mobilizing state-society relations supportive of `Sinicization’; and reorienting the country’s Western-based institutions to better accommodate Chinese pressures and incentives. Does a China-centric approach give a small power an indispensable strategic capital to successfully navigate and exploit both the challenges and opportunities of the impending new order? Do the Philippines’ shifting rules of engagement under the Duterte administration represent a forward-thinking strategic outlook rather than a defeatist and naïve stance? The article answers these questions by examining the factors and dynamics underpinning the conception and construction of the Duterte method, as well as its implications vis-a-vis a small power’s foreign policy and strategic behaviour.
The fault in Japan's stars: Shinzo Abe, North Korea, and the quest for a new Japanese constitution
In the wake of North Korea’s progressive missile testing that set even the usually stoic Japanese people into a panic mode, Japan has found itself at the mercy of its former enemies. In an ironic twist of fate, Tokyo’s security outlooks seem to have become hostage to the strategic calculations of its fiercest nemesis in the past. This paper asks whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire for constitutional change is precipitated mainly by the resurgence of Japanese nationalist sentiments as what many of his critics claim, or if there are genuinely rational justifications for revising the country’s 72-year old Constitution. And if so, why has it been so elusive for many Japanese leaders? Using neoclassical realism theory, I analyze the structural contexts and domestic intervening variables that simultaneously drive and prevent the realization of constitutional change in Japan. I argue that state leaders like Abe and those who have come before him have always been prone to acquiring flawed and inaccurate perceptions of the systemic stimuli; susceptible to making irrational and unsound decisions; and ineffective at mobilizing the national resources demanded by their preferred policies and strategies. Thus, despite having rational justifications, the quest for constitutional change has remained elusive for many Japanese leaders. Success will require Abe to carefully harmonize domestic and international expectations; prudently balance Japan’s benign security intentions and hawkish military strategies; and shift away from his pragmatic–ambivalent style of domestic politics.
Explaining the three-way linkage between populism, securitization, and realist foreign policies: President Donald Trump and the pursuit of ``America first'' doctrine
In the age of growing global populism, the continued popularity and relevance of a populist government is anchored on the ability of its populist leader to convince the voters that the primary objective of his foreign policies is to secure the interests of the state and its citizens. However, without an adequate level of state power, pursuing realist foreign policies to improve the state’s relative gains and position in the international system can pose significant risks even for the most influential populist leader. Hence, the question is, how do populist leaders acquire an adequate level of state power to implement realist foreign policies, without ultimately losing their political capital and institutional legitimacy in the process? To answer this question, I develop a model that illustrates the three-way linkage between populism, securitization, and realism. I use this model to explain the rationale behind President Donald Trump’s `America First’ doctrine, as well as its implications for U.S. foreign policy making. I argue that ``populist securitization’’ is a conduit through which populist leaders formulate, execute, and justify their realist foreign policies. Using Trump’s securitization of the U.S. economy as a case study, I reveal how a populist securitization act can trigger the illiberal tendencies and nativist sentiments of the nationalistic voters, which, in turn, allow populist leaders to maintain their popularity and legitimacy among these voters while they experiment with realist foreign policies.