The American Way of Economic War | Taiwan’s Noisy Search for Safe Presidential Hands | It’s Time to Reconsider Turkey’s NATO Membership, and more

South Korea’s Surprisingly Successful China Policy  (Derek Grossman, 38 North / Rand)
When South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk-yeol, entered office last year, the odds rose that a frostier bilateral relationship with China might take hold. After all, Yoon on the campaign trail talked tough on China, and conservative South Korean politicians typically deepen the U.S. alliance and are suspicious of Chinese support to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). Even despite the growing closeness of DPRK-China ties, Yoon has been able to effectively manage his government’s relationship with Beijing, potentially setting a template for how other small and medium-sized nations might do the same.

It’s Time to Reconsider Turkey’s NATO Membership  (Sinan Ciddi, Foreign Policy)
 Joining NATO was the best foreign-policy pursuit that Turkey ever initiated in its existence as a republic. During the Cold War, its membership in the alliance kept Turkey from being overrun by the Soviet Union and helped provide space for its economic development as a Western ally.
Why, then, is the alliance constantly having to grapple with an uncooperative and at times even pugilistic Turkish leader in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan? It seems that, in every instance, Erdogan is devoted to undermining the trans-Atlantic alliance. Is it time for NATO to reconsider Turkey’s membership?
It was not always like this. Turkish diplomats often like to remind their international counterparts that Turkey lives in a difficult neighborhood and the maintenance of its sovereignty is a testament to the skill of generations of Turkish statesmen who worked tirelessly to keep Ankara safe.

Sahel Military Governments Seek Confederation  (Nosmot Gbadamosi, Foreign Policy)
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger’s foreign ministers on Friday recommended that the countries form a confederation following a two-day meeting in Mali’s capital, Bamako. The meeting aimed to flesh out the details of the new Alliance of Sahel States, created in September, which commits each country to come to the others’ aid in defense against external aggression.
Many of the meeting’s recommendations on military and economic integration appeared similar to the concept undergirding the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the now 11-member regional body from which the junta-led countries, alongside Guinea, were ousted following repeated coups d’états since 2020.
The countries’ finance ministers are considering ways to create an investment bank and economic stabilization fund as well as a monetary union. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said their recommendations would be submitted to each head of state.
Security experts believe these recent moves are nothing more than political grandstanding to legitimize junta rule in the face of punitive sanctions imposed by ECOWAS.

The American Way of Economic War  (Paul Krugman, Foreign Affairs)
Suppose that a company in Peru wants to do business with a company in Malaysia. It should not be hard for the firms to make a deal. Sending money across national borders is generally straightforward, and so is the international transfer of large quantities of data.
But there’s a catch: whether or not the companies realize it, their transactions of both financial information and data will almost certainly be indirect and will probably pass through the United States or institutions over which the U.S. government has substantial control. When they do, Washington will have the power to monitor the exchange and, if desired, stop it in its tracks—to stop, in other words, the Peruvian company and the Malaysian company from doing business with each other. In fact, the United States could prevent many Peruvian and Malaysian companies from trading goods in general, largely cutting the countries off from the international economy.
Part of what undergirds this power is well known: much of the world’s trade is conducted in dollars. The dollar is one of the few currencies that almost all major banks will accept, and certainly the most widely used one. As a result, the dollar is the currency that many companies must use if they want to do international business. There is no real market in which the Peruvian company could exchange Peruvian soles for Malaysian ringgit, so local banks facilitating that trade will normally use soles to buy U.S. dollars and then use dollars to buy ringgit. To do so, however, the banks must have access to the U.S. financial system and must follow rules laid out by Washington. But there is another, lesser-known reason why the United States commands overwhelming economic power. Most of the world’s fiber-optic cables, which carry data and messages around the planet, travel through the United States. And where these cables make U.S. landfall, Washington can and does monitor their traffic—basically making a record of every data packet that allows the National Security Agency to see the data. The United States can therefore easily spy on what almost every business, and every other country, is doing. It can determine when its competitors are threatening its interests and issue meaningful sanctions in response.

Israel’s Failed Bombing Campaign in Gaza (Roert A. Robert Pape, Foreign Affairs)
Since October 7, Israel has invaded northern Gaza with some 40,000 combat troops and pummeled the small area with one of the most intense bombing campaigns in history. Nearly two million people have fled their homes as a result. More than 15,000 civilians (including some 6,000 children and 5,000 women) have been killed in the attacks, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health, and the U.S. State Department has suggested that the true toll may be even higher. Israel has bombed hospitals and ambulances and wrecked about half of northern Gaza’s buildings. It has cut off virtually all water, food deliveries, and electricity generation for Gaza’s 2.2 million inhabitants. By any definition, this campaign counts as a massive act of collective punishment against civilians.
Even now, as Israeli forces push deeper into southern Gaza, the exact purpose of Israel’s approach is far from clear. Although Israeli leaders claim to be targeting Hamas alone, the evident lack of discrimination raises real questions about what the government is actually up to. Is Israel’s eagerness to shatter Gaza a product of the same incompetence that led to the massive failure of the Israeli military to counter Hamas’s attack on October 7, the plans for which ended up in the hands of Israeli military and intelligence officials more than a year earlier? Is wrecking northern Gaza and now southern Gaza a prelude to sending the territory’s entire population to Egypt, as proposed in a “concept paper” produced by the Israeli Intelligence Ministry?
Whatever the ultimate goal, Israel’s collective devastation of Gaza raises deep moral problems. But even judged purely in strategic terms, Israel’s approach is doomed to failure—and indeed, it is already failing. Mass civilian punishment has not convinced Gaza’s residents to stop supporting Hamas. To the contrary, it has only heightened resentment among Palestinians. Nor has the campaign succeeded in dismantling the group ostensibly being targeted. Fifty-plus days of war show that while Israel can demolish Gaza, it cannot destroy Hamas. In fact, the group may be stronger now than it was before.

Why is the Biden Administration Scared of Iran?  (Lawrence J. Haas, National Interest)
With Israel and Hamas still vowing to destroy one another, and with full combat resuming after a tenuous truce, Washington says it doesn’t want to do anything to provoke Iran into a wider regional conflict.
That’s reportedly why, in recent days, Washington and its European allies chose not to censure Iran over its growing defiance of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who seek to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.
Washington’s concerns about provoking Iran, however, seem oddly misplaced. As events make clear, Tehran is already stirring a wider regional conflict, including a conflict with the United States, through its “Axis of Resistance” – a proxy network that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) coordinates and that includes Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shia militias in Iraq, and Houthi rebels in Yemen.