Predicting the sea and naval policies of nations

Who else would be up to speed on this but Kevin Lewis?  He sends me this article:

Why do states claim limited, moderate, or expansive jurisdiction over the waters adjacent to their coasts? I argue that because of the unique role of the maritime hegemon in shaping the law of the sea to conform to its interests, the primary variable determining a state’s positions on coastal state jurisdiction is the nature of its relationship to the maritime hegemon — allied, adversarial, or neutral. Other variables that exert important influence on the state’s claim include its perceptions of threat from regional maritime powers and its own capability to project power to other states’ coasts. This theory not only enables deductive prediction of states’ maritime jurisdictional claims, but also provides insights into the process of hegemonic order-building in international relations. After developing this theory, I test it with initial plausibility probes, including an analysis of the contemporary maritime claims of the United States as the maritime hegemon, as well as two controlled comparisons of the current maritime claims of Japan and China, ally and adversary of the United States, and Chile and Peru, states with neutral relationships to the maritime hegemon. The theory’s explanatory variables accurately correlate with the outcomes in these studies, with the United States claiming limited jurisdiction over the activities of foreign militaries in its exclusive economic zone, Japan and Chile claiming limited jurisdiction (with caveats), China claiming moderate jurisdiction, and Peru claiming expansive jurisdiction.

That is by Rachel Esplin Odell.


hegemon something something hegemon something something

I once had a colleague like you. He saw it as one of those words that people who have an inflated sense of their intelligence use but don't actually know what it means. From then on I had to say "the country/entity which has the strongest or even dominating influence over X...". After I got that out a few times he lost all interest in talking politics or international issues ...

Actually I don't see it that way, as "one of those words that people who have an inflated sense of their intelligence use but don’t actually know what it means." Rather, I see its (over) usage as establishing and signalling membership to a particular group identity, i.e. the "softer" side of the social sciences which unfortunately still has a lot of Marx tangled up in there.

Gotta go work on my Pokemon hegemon.

'...the primary variable determining a state’s positions on coastal state jurisdiction is the nature of its relationship to the maritime hegemon....'

And to think, not that long ago, it was likely only related to naval artillery technology - 'The three-mile limit refers to a traditional and now largely obsolete conception of the international law of the seas which defined a country's territorial waters, for the purposes of trade regulation and exclusivity, as extending as far as the reach of cannons fired from land. (Improvements in cannons eventually allowed them to be able to fire a shell more than three miles, but Earth's curvature made this moot. From a height of a few meters above sea level (say, atop the wall of a coastal fort), the horizon is only about three miles (5 km) away. Thus there was no need to be able to shoot farther, since more distant targets would not be visible.)'

(And as a note, this passage - 'Chile and Peru, states with neutral relationships to the maritime hegemon' seems to ignore Chile's still remembered interactions with that 'marine hegemon' when it came to the overthrow of a democratically elected Chilean government.)

Cannon range, perhaps; sighting distance, hardly.
Consider that sailing ships had highly visible rigging 100 to 200 feet above sea level and military architects were well aware of the benefits of observation towers.
Actual ship sighting distances would be in tens of miles.

"and Chile and Peru, states with neutral relationships to the maritime hegemon"

Right, two states which unilaterally extended "hegemon" out 200 miles off their coast in 1947. I grew up learning of that dispute started the year I was born in public school.

The context, "The dispute is 17 years old. More than 140 United States tuna ships have been seized, primarily by Ecuador and Peru, and innumerable others harassed in waters which the United States considers res communus. Typically, the tuna boats have been seized by patrol craft of the coastal nation, forced to proceed to port, charged with violating license and registration regulations, and forced to pay fines before being released. In some instances, the vessels' fishing gear and catch have been confiscated as well. There have been strafings and shootings in which American tuna fisherman have been injured. Exacerbating the controversy is the fact that naval vessels supplied under our military assistance program frequently have been used in these seizures. Moreover, jet aircraft furnished the coastal nations by the United States government have been used to located the tuna boats. In two seizures, those of the Ronnie S. and the Determined, the participating Ecuadorian crews had just completed a six-month training tour in the United States. Meanwhile, the United States has given Peru and Ecuador over $457,009,000 in foreign assistance. Further, the loss suffered by the tuna industry and the United States Treasury has been estimated at more than one million dollars."

Is China's claims for expansive jurisdiction in the South China Sea about Vietnam? If Vietnam is to be able to compete with China, Vietnam needs open sea lanes up and around the Philippines. This is speculation on my part, but if I were correct, we (the west) may be misreading China's intentions. Would shippers really want to challenge China's jurisdictional claims just to have access to Vietnam? Would China's claims be enough to discourage western firms from (re)locating production in Vietnam?

Hmmm, to some degree the effected area, if completely controlled by China would block Vietnam from directly shipping to the East. But they could still go south. It would be a substantial detour, but it probably wouldn't be enough to reduce the trade by much.

The most likely reason still seems to be future gas and oil extraction.

"The focus of most attention regarding the South China Sea resources has been on hydrocarbons in general, and oil in particular. Oil deposits have been found in most of the littoral (adjacent) countries of the South China Sea. The South China Sea region has proven oil reserves estimated at about 7.5 billion barrels, and oil production in the region is currently over 1.3 million barrels per day."

At $50 per barrel that's $375 billion. If China believes that the estimates are on the low side and/or that the long term price of oil will be higher, then it could reasonably conclude that the Spratly Islands represent a trillion dollar bill lying on the sea floor.

I don't know about individual liberty, but a trillion dollars is worth fighting for. If one adds economic hegemony (what's Vietnam going to do?) to a trillion dollars in oil reserves, it's what markets are for. What's not to like here at MR.

That does suggest (1) they're not going to war over it. $375 billion, or even $1 trillion is not worth a confrontation with the US, (2) they're not concerned about global warming, as they think some long term future development of that resource will be cost effective and won't be constrained by treaty, and (3) they're not confident things like hydraulic fracturing are going to satisfy their future fuel needs without resort to offshore sources.

China currently holds around $1.25 Trillion in US bonds. Or phrased another way, the US currently has $1.25 Trillion in Chinese assets. That certainly constrains China's actions with respect to the US.

Japan and Korea get their oil from the middle east. It has to come by the South China Sea.

Their exports to europe do as well.

This is way bigger than Vietnam.

Yeah, a Trillion Dollar Bill that will cost hundreds of billions to recover.

HINT: think EROI.

When I was a kid a quarter century after the Battle of Midway (does anybody remember that incident any more?), the U.S. only claimed three miles out and wanted everybody else to do the same.

Expansive territorial claims are better for environmental reasons (lessen tragedy of the commons in fishing), but bad for international relations reasons due to more conflicting claims.

I can see an argument for wanting ballistic missile subs as far away as possible.

The funny thing was that the Soviets like to station a purported fishing trawler (loaded with electronic spy gear) right off the coast of L.A. to spy on the Lockheed Skunk Works in Burbank.

The Echelon/Five Eyes program located a big eavesdropping program in the center of Australia near Alice Springs because it is so far inland from any possible spy ship.

"In the early 1970's, the U.S. government learned that an undersea cable ran parallel to the Kuril Islands off the eastern coast of Russia, providing a vital communications link between two major Soviet naval bases. The problem? The Soviet Navy had completely blocked foreign ships from entering the region.

Not to be deterred, the National Security Agency launched Operation Ivy Bells, deploying fast-attack submarines and combat divers to drop waterproof recording pods on the lines. Every few weeks, the divers would return to gather the tapes and deliver them to the NSA, which would then binge-listen to their juicy disclosures.

The project ended in 1981, when NSA employee Ronald Pelton sold information about the program to the KGB for $35,000. He's still serving his life prison term.

The operation might have ended, but for the NSA, this underwater strategy clearly stuck around.

In addition to gaining access to web companies' servers and asking for phone metadata, we've now learned that both the U.S. and the U.K. spy agencies are tapping directly into the Internet's backbone -- the undersea fiber optic cables that shuttle online communications between countries and servers."

Nice article, but like many political science research topics, it's bedeviled by highly endogenous variables. E.g. "desire to project power" and "ability to project power" -- variables such as those may well have exogenous attributes, but in addition a country can decide that it wants to project more power (due e.g. to changes in the nature of its allies, enemies, technology or even geography e.g. discovery of the New World) and then take steps to increase its ability to project power e.g. Themistocles convincing Athens to engage in a massive warship-building program (paid for IIRC by a fortunate hitting of paydirt in their silver mines).

So we have to look at models which are limited in scope, and hope the endogeneity is not serious. E.g. I was wondering if their model described why Iceland seems feistier than say Malta, willing to have a cod war with Great Britain. But Iceland was I believe extending its EEZ claim to 200 miles, and this paper seems to take the EEZ boundaries as given, and only measures how aggressive countries are about permitting or prohibiting foreign military vessels and activities in the zone.

TC only trusts brand-name sources.

What does it mean to be a maritime hegemon in era of advanced submarines? My understanding is that numerous powers could independently sink most of the fleets of any (perhaps even all?) other major power in a very short period of time. And hence a general lack of interest in building more aircraft carriers. Some wonder why China is even bothering to shell out the money, but I guess it's one of those "I've got a big d**k" kinds of things.

I don't know too much about the capabilities of stealth submarines but global powers still need surface ships in order to transport things like tanks, helicopters, artillery pieces, fuel and other supplies that can't fit on container ships across oceans. Submarines and airplanes cannot perform this transport role.

Model seems to fail to explain behavior of US vis-a-vis USSR and Communist Bloc countries in general during the Cold War. The USSR actively worked within the system and was actually much more limited in claims than many other nations with economic interests in maritime regions like Norway, Chile, Peru, Libya, Iceland, etc.

Also the qualitative definitions of claims fail some basic scrutiny. Customary international law of the sea w/r/t EEZs and territorial water distances changed a number of times in the last 70 years, each time with the US opposing but nearly everyone else signing up. It hardly seems like a systematic normalization of those characteristics was factored in; instead it's just some more bullshit correlations based on the limited post-Cold War experience.

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