Security Strategies of Middle Power the Asia Pacific

Security Strategies of Middle Power the Asia Pacific

Melbourne University Press, 2018, Ralf Emmers and Sarah Teo

Review by Phar Kim Beng
Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena
Twitter: @indo_pan

Not all powers are created equal. This was known as early as 1945, when some members of the United Nations seem to enjoy more privileges than others. The five permanent members of the UN security council, for instance, have the right to veto any resolution.

Out of this debate, it laid bare the inequality of the member states of the United Nations, with some countries insisting that they are more special than the others.

There is nothing wrong with this assertion either. Some small powers may be tugged away in some strategic corner.

Yet, it is able to punch above its weight. Take Israel, or Singapore, for example. Both have an approach to allow them to whisper their thoughts to the power that be.

Some, ironically, may be physically big in size but ended up destroying their own “soft power”, as embodied by the words and actions of cranky leaders.

President Donald Trump is a good example of how the United States squandered away much of its good will over the last four years, which President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris now has to start to restore, not just nationally, but across the world.

Middle Powers, as the two authors pointed out, can be measured in terms of four metrics; quantitative (resources), identity, behaviors, and impact.

But these four metrics are not necessarily enough to explain everything too. Middle Powers, as Kim Nossal, Andrew Cooper and Andrew Mcintyre have pointed out long ago, depend on one or a collection of countries to constantly protect and promote their most actionable agenda, making them internationally sacrosanct.

Implicitly, this depends on having the right universities, think tanks and right strategic speakers, to put the message of their government across in Track I and Track II arena.

In other words, a true “Middle Power” is not one where a country merely insisted on having the right resources, identity awareness, and appropriate behavioral trajectory to have an impact on the international system. These actions aren’t enough.

Rather, a “Middle Power” is one that can walk the walk. In this sense, it is quite valid that the authors listed Malaysia as an incomplete Middle Power, granted that there is constantly a wide gap between the identity of Malaysia and its action.

At any rate, although this book was written before the beginning of the second tenure of Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand , hence New Zealand was not included , it should be noted that when New Zealand speaks people, diplomats around the region do take it seriously. This is partly due to the intellectual depth and strength of the New Zealand government.

In truth, “Middle Powers” must be able to crystalize their own, or, global agenda such as smart city and climate change non stop , until the agenda is actionable across the local, regional and global spectrum.

On its own, this book offers nothing deeply original in the sense that it merely included Australia, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia. The sample is way too small to advance an important argument.

But this is one of the most helpful academic items as yet to understand “Middle Powers”.



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