26 February 2009

Opera Boxes, Salons, and Bedrooms, 1700s

From The Opera Companion, by George Martin (John Murray, 1961), pp. 133-134:
In Italy in the eighteenth century the center of operatic activity shifted from Venice to Naples, where a school of outstanding composers arose specializing in two styles: "opera seria" and "opera buffa." "Opera seria" was on a grand scale with historical or mythological themes; it was a close cousin to the Viennese Baroque opera except that the music was of greater importance and the scenery of less. The aria, generally sung by a castrato, was the crux of every scene, and over the years it became extremely stylized, so that for any situation there was a certain type of aria that was appropriate. The singer was expected to embellish the aria with extemporaneous runs, trills and flourishes, and this—more than the drama, scenery or composed music—was what excited the audience. Thus the composer wrote a vehicle for a particular singer rather than searching his soul in nineteenth-century romantic style to produce an immortal masterpiece. Grout, in A Short History of Opera, reports that forty leading composers in the eighteenth century wrote fifty operas each: Verdi wrote twenty six, Wagner thirteen, and Puccini twelve. There was no repertory as today. The audience wanted new music each year, although it was perfectly willing to have the same librettos used over and over; for example, Mozart's was the seventh setting of Metastasio's La Clemenza di Tito. The scores of the operas were almost never published and, in any event, were extremely sketchy. Only the favorite arias might be published and, as there was no copyright, the composer was far less interested in preserving his old work for posterity than in receiving a commission for a new one, which he could complete in four to six weeks.

One result of this approach to opera, so different from today's, was that no one really listened much; opera was still a social rather than a musical event. A Frenchman, De Brosses, writing in 1740 described what went on at Rome: "The ladies hold, as it were, at homes in their boxes, where those spectators who are of their acquaintance come to call on them. I have told you that everyone must rent a box. As they are playing at four theatres this winter, we have combined to hire four boxes, at a price of twenty sequins each for the four; and once there I can make myself perfectly at home. We quiz the house to pick out our acquaintance, and if we will, we exchange visits. The taste they have here for the play and for music is demonstrated far more by their presence than by the attention they pay. Once the first scenes are past, during which the silence is but relative, even in the pit, it becomes ill-bred to listen save in the most interesting passages. The principal boxes are handsomely furnished and lighted with chandeliers. Sometimes there is play, more often talk, seated in a complete circle as is their custom, and not as in France, where the ladies add to the show by placing themselves in a row in the front of each box; so you will see that in spite of the splendour of the house and the decoration of each box, the total effect is much less fine than with us."

Besides visiting in the opera, the Romans also played cards and chess. In Milan the diversion was faro. Florence offered hot suppers served in the boxes. At Turin each box had a room off it with a fireplace and all the conveniences for refreshments and cards. At Venice the boxes could be closed off from the theater by a shutter.

All travelers reported that the gabble and noise were deafening except during two or three favorite arias which, greeted with wild applause, were repeated. One visitor, Lalande, estimated that the typical Milanese spent a quarter of his life at the opera. It is not surprising then that the archduke's box in Milan had attached to it not only a private sitting room but also a bedroom.

24 February 2009

Wordcatcher Tales: Kanson Minpi

Kyushu-based blogger Ampontan, who reads a broader range of Japanese media much more carefully than do the habitués of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, cites a useful Sino-Japanese four-character idiom (yojijukugo) in his lengthy analysis of former Prime Minister Koizumi's exasperated lambasting of the backsliding by his successors on key aspects of his popular reform agenda.

The New Nelson translates glosses 官尊民卑 kanson minpi as 'overemphasis on government at the expense of the people', a phrase that applies all too well to the rest of the world, too.

kan (= tsukasa) means 'government; officials', as in 官僚 kanryou 'bureaucracy, officialdom' and 官話 kanwa 'Mandarin language, officialese'.

son (= tattoi, toutoi) means 'respect, honor', as in 尊敬 sonkei 'respect, reverence' and 尊厳死 songenshi 'death with dignity'.

min (= tami) means 'people', as in 民衆主義 minshushugi 'democracy' and 民間活力 minkankatsuryoku 'private sector vitality'.

hi (= iyashii) means 'humble, base, vulgar', as in 卑見 hiken 'my humble opinion (MHO)' and 卑金属 hikinzoku 'base metal'.

So a literal rendition of the compound might be 'officials [get] respect, citizens [get] disdain' or in Doc Rock's smoother formulation: 'respecting officials [while] disrespecting citizens'.

15 February 2009

Wordcatcher Tales: Fukko vs. Ishin

Careful readers of my last two blogposts from a book chapter, "Cultural Change in Nineteenth-Century Japan," by the late Marius B. Jansen, will have noticed a theme that runs through both excerpts: that Japan's ardent reformers were inspired as much by the need to return to an imagined past as by the need to adapt to the intrusions of the modern world. The section excerpted below focuses on two terms that highlight the nuances of these dual motivations. The book in which it appears is Challenging Past and Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art, ed. by Ellen P. Conant (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), pp. 32-35:
Some years ago Sakata Yoshio divided the Meiji Restoration epoch into periods characterized by themes of fukko [復古] or ishin [維新], "revival" or "renewal." In modern parlance the terms are quite different in their connotations. Revival suggests nostalgia and conservatism. The 1974 Kenkyusha dictionary, for instance, gives the following examples: "ōsei fukko—the restoration of the monarchy; fukko ronsha—a reactionary." By justifying sweeping change in the name of the past, Meiji statecraft might seem, to present-day commentators, to have injected a problematic retrogressiveness into values and culture.

In the Chinese Confucian context from which these terms derived, however, the idea of revival was entirely positive. F. W. Mote has asserted that in Chinese tradition, because neither individual nor state could claim any theoretical authority higher than men's rational minds, there being no external creator or lawgiver, ultimate authority rested with historical experience....

In Meiji thinking, ishin and fukko could be linked. Tetsuo Najita points out that "I [維 'tie'] means to pull together the disparate strands in society, to regroup, as it were, and the second part of the compound, shin [新 'new'], means starting out in a totally new direction." The appeal of return to an imagined moral past made it possible to utilize both "restoration" and "innovation" in government pronouncements. The official chronicle Fukkoki emphasized the theme of return, but contemporary assurances that everything would be changed (hyakuji goishin) had connotations of a "world renewal" (yonaoshi) of the sort that late Tokugawa insurrections had announced. In the event, however, the new government lost little time in suppressing advocates of such radical ideas.

Late Tokugawa nativism modified and added to the notion of the perfect past to which Japan might return. The kokugaku (National Studies) scholars argued the virtues of Japan before it had become tainted by imported values, words, and books. Their version of fukko gave rise to impressive efforts in historical philology.... Another respect in which the Japanese tradition provided helpful arguments for advocates of cultural and institutional change was to be found in tradition and historical memory that validated the practice of cultural borrowing without prescribing the category or the character of what was to be borrowed....

A final element conducive to cultural borrowing was the nature of Japanese cultural nationalism. Acutely aware of other civilizations, especially the Chinese colossus to the west, Japanese thought in comparative and competitive terms. The country and its deities were divine, and the question was how to serve them best....

In sum, revivalism differed in Japan from its counterpart in China, partly because of the shadowy nature of the Japanese past that the nativists exhumed, and partly because of the historical precedents for change and for borrowing. To paraphrase Maraini's argument and apply it here, Europe might be constrained by absolutes of theology, and China by its commitment to a transmitted body of ancient learning that was relatively constant, but in Japan fukko permitted the greatest flexibility in appropriating or devising stratagems for protection of the cultural polity. It could blend with change and even slide into renewal.

Terms like "Meiji culture" and "Tokugawa tradition" suggest rapid change in a previously stable setting, but it is important to remember that late Tokugawa culture was profoundly eclectic and that the Meiji changes represented acceleration of many trends that were already in progress. What was new was the explicit acknowledgment and the clear assessment of problems and the unity of determination to remedy them.
Nowadays, 明治維新 (Meiji Ishin) is the usual Japanese term for what English speakers often call the "Meiji Restoration." I was not familiar with the alternate term 復古 (fukko) ('return-past') but it seems to be a better translation for 'restoration'. The core meaning of 復 fuku seems to be 'return, revert', as in the everyday term 往復 ōfuku (lit. 'go-return') 'round trip' or in 復活 fukkatsu (lit. 'return-life') 'rebirth, revival, resurrection' (as in 復活祭 fukkatsusai [lit. 'return-life-festival'] 'Easter').

14 February 2009

Changing Court Costumes under Meiji

From "Cultural Change in Nineteenth-Century Japan," by Marius B. Jansen, in Challenging Past and Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art, ed. by Ellen P. Conant (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), pp. 40-41:
The need for practicality and efficiency affected cultural policy in many ways. The early Meiji years saw the court trying to do business in the garments of antiquity. Albert Craig writes that "when the government structure was first promulgated, officials rushed out to secondhand bookstores to buy copies of the commentaries on the Taiho code (702) so they would know what the new office titles meant." Many adopted Heian-period names, and "[e]ven the clothing worn by the councilors at certain court ceremonies was dictated by the new ethos. High-ranking samurai officials were required to dress as nobles; and all, including nobles, were required to wear swords. On one occasion the Saga samurai Eto Shinpei, late for a ceremony, dashed into the court uncapped by an eboshi—a small, black, silly-looking hat that perches forward on the head. A noble asked him, 'Where is your hat?' Eto retorted, 'Where are your swords?' Both hastened out for the proper accouterments."

But the work of modernization could not be carried out at a costume party. In 1870 the Daigaku Nanko, ancestor of the Imperial University of Tokyo, still ruled out Western clothing, but that same year the imperial court appointed a Western-clothing specialist to its staff. By 1874 Kido Takayoshi, hero of the Restoration and powerfully influential government minister, was agonizing in his diary over the pain caused by "my shoes." A year later Mori Arinori (1848-1888), natty in a Western suit, was bantering with the Qing statesman Li Hungzhang. Did he not find it unpleasant to wear such foreign clothes? Li asked solicitously. Had not Mori's ancestors preferred Chinese costume? Yes, answered Mori, but he was doing as his ancestors had done by choosing the better garb. And, he went on, had Li's ancestors worn Manchu robes like those his host had on? No, was the reluctant answer, they had not.

Before long the Meiji emperor's Western military uniform was made court dress, and things moved so rapidly that at a birthday ball in 1885, itself remarkable, only two of the ladies did not appear in Western dress. Westerners usually thought this regrettable. In 1887 Herr von Mohl, a specialist in Western protocol hired for the court, suggested going back to Japanese dress for formal occasions but found that "Count Ito let me know that in Japan the costume question was a political issue in which the imperial household advisors had no voice; he requested that the matter should be viewed as settled and not to waste further time in discussing what is, in fact, a fait accompli."

By the time the Meiji constitution was promulgated in 1889, Tokyo newspapers reported that Western-style tailors were being swamped with business by prefectural officials who had come crowding into the capital. Eboshi had given way to top hats, which alternated with bowlers in the uneasy combination of dress and footwear that is recorded in many Meiji photographs.

13 February 2009

Modernizing Music under Meiji

From "Cultural Change in Nineteenth-Century Japan," by Marius B. Jansen, in Challenging Past and Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art, ed. by Ellen P. Conant (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), pp. 44-45:
Gagaku gained increased prominence, but at the cost of stultification. By the end of the Tokugawa period it was associated primarily with the imperial court; professionals performed at court and the larger Shinto shrines. In 1871 a Gagaku Bureau was established within the Imperial Household Office (later Imperial Household Ministry), and thereafter its representatives served on all commissions charged with musical policy. Gagaku practice became archaized and codified in the process of defining as a "tradition" what must at one time have been considerably more varied. Nagauta, which had deep roots in popular culture, flourished. It gradually became more independent from the kabuki theater, developing a concert format and spread into commoner homes as an amateur skill. Instrumental music was freed from special restrictions. Koto had been a special art reserved for blind performers, while shakuhachi had been associated with Fuke Buddhism, which was banned in 1871. Both skills became middle-class accomplishments. Satsuma and Choshu biwa music, previously considered provincial, now acquired a popularity corollary to the political dominance of those southwestern domains in the new regime. Small wonder that former Tokugawa retainers often sneered at their Meiji successors as imo (potato) zamurai.

Western music had made its entry in Bakumatsu times, sometimes under unlikely circumstances. The captain's clerk aboard Commodore Perry's Saratoga wrote that Japanese guests who were treated to a band concert in 1854 courteously asked to hear the first number again, but proved to mean the tuning-up period, whose sounds they found more interesting than the marches that followed. Satsuma samurai were sufficiently impressed by the martial strains that came to shore from the British band celebrating the bombardment that had just burned Kagoshima in 1863 to want to introduce Western military music into their own forces. An English bandmaster of the marine battalion guarding the Yokohama legation was asked to instruct thirty Satsuma militiamen, and in 1871 these formed the core of the new navy band, its English bandmaster's salary shared by the navy and the Gagaku Bureau. In 1877 the Englishman Fenton was replaced by a German, Franz Eckert. The harmonization and orchestration of "Kimi ga yo," which came to function as the new national anthem, was the product of the combined efforts of these bandmasters.

Military songs and marches quickly became popular. "Oh My Prince!" (Miyasan! Miyasan!) was ascribed to the armies that marched against the shogun's capital. Words could be changed to fit new themes and occasions. "Battōtai" (The Drawn Sword Unit), composed in 1885 by a French instructor about the Satsuma Rebellion, became "The Sinking of the Normanton" in 1887 for the disaster off Kii in which all the Japanese, and no foreigners, were lost, and emerged again as the "Rappa-bushi" of the Russo-Japanese War. Still other songs adapted the melodies of Stephen Collins Foster to a Japanese mode, as with "Tobe Tobe Tonbi Sora" (Fly, Kite, Fly, High in the Sky!), whose tune turns out to be a version of "Way Down upon the Sewanee River."

Appropriately enough, some of the last strains of late-Edo chant and song were suppressed with the people's rights movement, which adapted them to political uses. Dainamaito bushi, satirical pieces designed to be explosive, were composed, sung, and sold by street-singer activists deploring official arrogance and government tyranny in the 1880s. The victories of the state in domestic politics and foreign wars, however, speeded the production of a new and less divisive national culture, homogenized by mass education and literacy, which emerged by the end of the century.
The Ministry of Stultification (or Zombification) would certainly be an appropriate name for the Imperial Household Ministry, even today.

11 February 2009

Notes from the Kentucky Ice Storm of 2009

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, where my father was in seminary, but I only spent two years of my life there: my first year (before going to Japan with my missionary parents in 1950) and my first-grade year (during our first furlough in 1955–56). But other connections to my old Kentucky home endure. My mother and two youngest brothers went to Berea College; both brothers obtained graduate degrees in the University of Kentucky system (one in library science, the other in accounting); and two brothers have settled in Kentucky, one as a history professor at Centre College in Danville (“City of Firsts”), and the other as a librarian at what used to be Paducah Community College and is now the cumbersomely named West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

Now, two weeks after the storm first hit, my brother who lives in a suburb of Paducah (Reidland, on the way to Possum Trot) is still without power. Unlike many of his neighbors, he lacks a generator, so he's been buying ice to keep a few essentials cold in the freezer. His saving grace is a gas water heater and a gas fireplace, which at least make it easier to wash up, stay warm, and heat up simple meals.

We first heard about his power outage when my father called his landline, connected to an older phone powered by the phone line itself. Then we got an email from him a few days later, when he ventured out to get some supplies, recharge cell phones, and send email from the public library in downtown Paducah, which had power. The laundromats in town were jam-packed, so they took their laundry to his father-in-law's house just across the Tennessee line. (The owner of the house was gloating from Florida!)

When classes resumed at WKCTC last week, at least half the students and staff still lacked power at home, so the school made special efforts to provide them a place to stay warm, cook food, clean up, and prepare for classes. The National Guard and FEMA have showed up, but power is still out over much of McCracken County.

My brother's home in Danville got its power back this week, after he pleaded special needs to Kentucky Utilities, which had placed private homes last on its priority list. (My brother has several serious physical limitations.) Actually, his power came back on early last week, just long enough for him to restock his refrigerator with a fresh batch of food to spoil when the power went back off again the next day. KU was restoring power first along public thoroughfares. They charged $400 to restore power to private homes. He could have paid one of the private contractors who were soliciting business in the neighborhood, but they would still have had to get approval from KU.

Fortunately Centre College had power, and many professors were camping out in their offices, some with their families as well. It was hard to get much work done, either at school or at home. When my brother went out to find breakfast after the power in his neighborhood first went out, he found a huge crowd gathered at the local Cracker Barrel, happy to wait in line in a warm place and catch up on how their friends and neighbors were doing. At one point, my brother went to see a movie in the local theater, as much to relax in a warm place as to see the movie itself (Gran Torino).

The weather has started to warm up now, and anybody with a chainsaw and pickup truck can make a little extra cash helping people remove debris from their yards.

UPDATE: Here are a few more notes about how the ice storm affected Berea, from a former missionary kid who works there.
And now, the news from Berea! The freezing rain had been falling since Monday [January 26], and I had to duck low-hanging branches as I walked to work. Although the science building roof had been repaired last summer, it's been leaking this fall and winter, especially with the wet December....

Shortly after that, one of the Public Safety officers passed my door ... in search of ice for someone injured by a falling branch outside our building. I found a Cold Pack in the freezer for her, and Josh took her to the hospital to be checked out. She had come with her daughter, and perhaps some other prospective students, from southern Ohio, and was concerned about the return home, as she was the only driver....

When I got home [about lunchtime] I discovered the power had just gone out. When I called campus to see who else might be affected, Mike Morris told me the whole town was "powerless." It seems a major Kentucky Utilities feeder line, from which Berea Utilities obtains its electricity, had gone down. They closed campus at 2:00. They eventually decided to deem Short Term completed (today was the last scheduled day of classes) and send the students home, urging them to take home a friend who might not be able to get home. (A number of international students were on campus for the month.) Staff were also dismissed until Monday.

We were inside when we heard a tremendous CRASH, and went outside to discover that a large tree in [our landlord's son's house] .... had been felled by another tree, on College property, and crashed into their house. It took out their playhouse in the back yard, which is probably what spared their Doberman, and took the corner off the nursery upstairs. Thankfully they were all downstairs around the gas fireplace, but we learned today that they'll be out of their house for a couple of months.

Later, after cold sandwiches for both lunch and supper (I'd gotten a ham recently), we decided to go see what might be open. We'd heard that the area across the interstate from Wal-Mart, as well as the far north end of town, still had power, as they were on the Bluegrass Co-Op system. We found gas at $1.79 and filled the truck (the car has starter/battery/electrical issues with which we hadn't yet dealt, due to the cold weather), and also bought hot coffee!!! Then we found the new Walgreen's, not far from the house, had just opened after having gotten a generator from Cincinnati. We got a battery operated radio, batteries for it and our flashlights, which were getting dim, and some candles.

When we pulled into the driveway our neighbor across Churchill Drive told us we'd lost part of our backyard maple tree. It was way across the road, so we called 9-1-1. A city crew came out before too long and removed the portion outside our yard, but we still have a huge section, probably about 14" in diameter, inside the yard, to be dealt with at a later date. We hunkered down in the study, with the doors to the living room, basement, and sewing room closed, and weren't uncomfortable. We "cocooned" for the night, complete with toboggans, and slept well, getting up only around 10:30 or 11:00 - even after two phone calls from campus - with the goal of finding some hot food.

That we found at Huddle House - also across the interstate at the northern exit - along with a horde of other locals with the same intent. We'd been given the idea by [the] cousin of our landlord, who lives across the street with his 90+ -year-old mother. They ended up at the booth next to us. I'd taken Baachan's [= granny's] air pot to get coffee, and our nice waitress emptied her pot every time she made the rounds for refills. :)

06 February 2009

Practical Problems of Genocide Tribunals

From After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide, by Craig Etcheson (Texas Tech U. Press, 2006), pp. 183-187 (footnote references omitted):
When one examines the details of how tribunals are structured, it becomes clear that no solution can yield a completely satisfactory outcome on all the competing values at stake. We see, for example, a range of approaches to the question of personal jurisdiction, that is, who should be prosecuted in a genocide tribunal. Though the approaches vary widely, each of them has both advantages and disadvantages with respect to the question of impunity. Cambodia's 1979 People's Revolutionary Tribunal prosecuted only two people, leaving many other culpable senior leaders untouched, along with the thousands of people who carried out the actual killing. The ICTR has indicted and/or prosecuted more than seventy people, but this is totally unsatisfactory to many Rwandans, who find tens of thousands of genocide perpetrators living among them. The ICTY has indicted some 150 individuals, creating a large and time-consuming caseload but still leaving many perpetrators harmless in the former Yugoslavia. The Ethiopian courts are prosecuting more than 5,000 suspects, though that process has been criticized for violating the rights of the accused, and in any case it still leaves low-level perpetrators beyond the reach of the law. In Rwanda, more than 100,000 persons suspected of involvement in the genocide have languished in detention for years with no prospect that they will ever receive fair trials in a court of law, solely due to the fact that the sheer numbers of accused overwhelm the capacity of the Rwandan justice system. As a practical matter, then, there may be no ideal solution to the problem of personal jurisdiction for the crime of genocide....

Another challenge in achieving justice for the Cambodian genocide has to do with the question of temporal jurisdiction, or the span of time during which applicable crimes may be prosecuted. The proposed Khmer Rouge tribunal would limit its temporal jurisdiction to the period between April 17, 1975, and January 7, 1979. Thus, only criminal acts that were committed in that time frame could be prosecuted by the Khmer Rouge tribunal. This makes sense, insofar as that was the period during which the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia 's capital and also the period of the most intense killing by the Khmer Rouge, but it is also true that the Khmer Rouge executed and otherwise abused many innocent people prior to April 17, 1975, and they also continued to carry out atrocities long after they were driven from power on January 7, 1979. By limiting temporal jurisdiction to this period, people who were victimized by the Khmer Rouge at any time outside of that tightly constricted time frame might feel as if they have been denied justice for the crimes committed against them and therefore that impunity continues to reign....

A similar set of questions could be raised with respect to the subject matter jurisdiction, or what crimes will be prosecuted. For example, a growing body of evidence suggests that rape was common at the lower levels of the Khmer Rouge security organization, particularly the rape of female prisoners who were slated for execution. Recent precedents established by the ad hoc international criminal tribunals mean that when rape is assessed as having been systematic or widespread, this could constitute a war crime or a crime against humanity. Rape in war is always a war crime, but what is new under these recent precedents, where widespread or systematic, is that it can now trigger the doctrine of "command responsibility," putting senior leaders at risk for the crimes of their subordinates. In the Cambodian case, however, the available evidence suggests that whenever the top leadership of the Khmer Rouge uncovered such "moral" infractions by their cadre, those accused of such acts faced summary execution. Consequently, the top Khmer Rouge leaders can argue that they did everything possible to suppress such crimes, and therefore they cannot be held responsible. If, due to the limited definition of personal jurisdiction, only top leaders are prosecuted, but they are absolved of responsibility for rapes, then any woman who was raped by a lower-level Khmer Rouge cadre or soldier may feel that she has not received justice and that impunity continues. Again, it would seem that there is no universally satisfactory way to address the problem of impunity for crimes on the scale of those carried out under the Khmer Rouge.

Another set of questions has to do with the extent of international involvement in a tribunal. The ICTY, the ICTR, and the ICC are in the nature of international experiments in combating impunity. As such, these judicial institutions have been fraught with start-up difficulties. They are also enormously expensive undertakings—which is one reason that several members of the UN Security Council were reluctant to see a similar model implemented in the case of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. A major advantage of the ad hoc international tribunals is that they tend to provide the highest legal standards of international justice, but in so doing, they also require a great deal of time and money in order to render justice to only a small minority of the perpetrators. Moreover, with the ICTY seated in the Netherlands, and the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania—both at some distance from the territories where the crimes were actually committed—the surviving victims who have the greatest right and need to see justice done in most cases are simply too far from the court to see any justice being done at all. On the other hand, in the Rwandan domestic prosecutions, in a country where the legal profession and the courts were totally destroyed during the genocide, the relative lack of international involvement can be seen as a factor contributing to the procedural shortcomings of the process and the long delays in rendering justice for the victims and the accused alike. The same might be said of the Ethiopian prosecutions.

Thus, there seems to be no optimum level of international involvement in tribunals designed to combat impunity. If the tribunal is entirely internationalized and seated outside the territory where the crimes were committed, there is a danger that those most in need of seeing justice done will not perceive any effective impact on impunity. Those few perpetrators who find themselves before the court will be prosecuted under alien laws and in an unfamiliar language, all far away from the scene of the crime. On the other hand, when tribunals are conducted strictly as a national affair in the immediate aftermath of terrible devastation, local judicial and political conditions may not be strong enough to deliver fair and impartial justice, as we saw with the People's Revolutionary Tribunal in 1979. However, it may turn out that the proposed mixed model for Cambodia—with internationals on the court and with the proceedings conducted where the crimes occurred—could be a good compromise to balance these competing values.

On balance, then, when we look under the hood of international tribunals at their internal workings, it is clear that there is no ideal, one-size-fits-all solution. When weighed against the enormity of the crimes at issue, questions of personal, temporal, and subject matter jurisdiction, along with the degree of international involvement, generally tip the scales of justice toward an unsatisfying outcome.

05 February 2009

Rise and Fall of the Sino-Viet Alliance

From A History of the Modern Chinese Army, by Xiaobing Li (U. Press of Kentucky, 2007), pp. 205-206 (footnote references omitted):
SINCE THE FOUNDING OF THE PRC in 1949, China has involved itself in two wars in Vietnam. During the French Indochina War (the First Indochina War), from 1949 to 1954, it assisted the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) against French forces. China sought to secure its southwestern border by eliminating the Western power's presence in Vietnam. The PLA's military assistance to Vietnam maintained Beijing's brooding influence in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia throughout the Cold War. The PLA's second involvement occurred from 1965 to 1970, when China sent 320,000 troops to aid North Vietnam against American forces in the Vietnam War (the Second Indochina War). Through its war efforts in North Vietnam, Beijing tried to break a perceived U.S. encirclement of China. But China was not interested in a "more powerful" Vietnam on its southern border. Some Vietnamese Communists complained about China's limited assistance to the Viet Minh.

This chapter traces the rise and fall of the Sino-Vietnamese alliance through the two episodes of Chinese involvement in Vietnam. It examines the changing international strategic environment and external conflicts that influenced the Chinese military's organization and strategy. It begins with Mao's continuous revolution, his central theme in shaping Chinese foreign policy and security strategy. The CCP supported Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam, in his war against the French forces in 1946-54. The stories of Senior General Chen Geng and General Wei Guoqing show that Chinese economic and military aid to Ho and the PAVN increased until the end of the French Indochina War. The PLA continued to support Ho's regime against the U.S. Air Force and Navy in the Vietnam War in 1965-70. The PLA's deployment successfully deterred any U.S. invasion of North Vietnam, as the United States feared provoking China.... In 1968, Chinese influence over North Vietnam decreased as Soviet influence grew. The PLA withdrew its antiaircraft artillery units in March 1969 and its support troops by July 1970.

The 1960s was the most controversial as well as the most crucial decade in Chinese military history. By 1969, the Soviet Union had replaced the United States as Beijing's leading security concern, prompting changes in China's strategic thought. Thereafter, the high command prepared to repel a Soviet invasion. In 1969-71, the PLA clashed with the Soviet forces along the Sino-Soviet border. As a result of its frequent engagements, the PLA increased to more than six million men, the highest point in its history. The Soviet threat and conflicts pushed the Chinese leaders to improve their relations with the United States. Their strategic needs eventually led to the normalization of the Sino-American relationship in the early 1970s.

Who Instigated the Cambodian Genocide?

From After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide, by Craig Etcheson (Texas Tech U. Press, 2006), p. 78 (footnote references omitted):
Were the Cambodian people somehow Pol Pot's "willing executioners," with the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime reflecting an underlying cultural trait of the Cambodian people, historically unique to the time and place it occurred? Or did the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime emanate from some more broadly distributed ideological origin, therefore rendering it amenable to comparison? Perhaps the Khmer Rouge mass killing arose from the same tenets of communism that brought about the mass killing of Stalin's Russia and Mao's China but that was, by absolute numbers, much less evil. Or perhaps the killing in Cambodia can be understood as a response to the perceived threat from Vietnam, as the Khmer Rouge themselves have argued at some length. These same themes and issues lay at the heart of the Historikerstreit, and they also are part and parcel of genocide studies.

In the scholarly literature on the Khmer Rouge regime of Democratic Kampuchea, there have been two principal schools of thought regarding the nature of the violence that took so many lives in such a short period of time. One school of thought holds that the primary locus of the violence was local and that it was largely the result of the spontaneous excesses of a vengeful, undisciplined peasant army. A prominent proponent of this school of thought is Michael Vickery. A second school of thought holds that the locus of the violence was centralized and that it was largely the result of a carefully planned and centrally controlled security apparatus. Several observers have proposed this explanation of the violence in the Democratic Kampuchea regime, including, for example, the recently retired U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, Kenneth Quinn. It can be argued, however, that until recently there was an inadequate amount of data to make an unambiguous determination on this question.

A wide range of new evidence uncovered by the Documentation Center of Cambodia over the course of the last ten years has done much to resolve this controversy. In particular, data on the frequency, distribution, and origin of mass graves, combined with data gleaned from newly discovered Khmer Rouge internal security documents, have given us new insight into the question of the economy of violence within Democratic Kampuchea. The data lead inexorably to the conclusion that most of the violence was carried out pursuant to orders from the highest political authorities of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In this chapter I briefly review some of the new evidence that so strongly suggests this new and now well-documented conclusion.

04 February 2009

What the PLA Learned in Vietnam, 1979

From A History of the Modern Chinese Army, by Xiaobing Li (U. Press of Kentucky, 2007), pp. 255-256, 258-259 (footnote references omitted):
Some Chinese soldiers called it a "painful, little war." Vietnamese troops avoided battle and instead harassed PLA forces. Some Chinese officers described it as a "ghost war," since the enemy troops were almost invisible, or a "shadow war," since it seemed they were fighting against their own shadows. The Vietnamese troops employed the same tactics, made the same moves, and used the same weapons as the Chinese. They knew exactly what the Chinese were trying to do. They exploited almost every problem and weakness the Chinese had. The Chinese troops had to fight their own problems first before they could fight the Vietnamese. Deng's border war taught the PLA a hard lesson....

Many of the PLA's commanding officers were shocked by the poor discipline, low morale, combat ineffectiveness, and high casualties in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War. During the nineteen days of the first two phases, the PLA suffered 26,000 casualties, about 1,350 per day. Gerald Segal points out that in Vietnam, "in contrast to Korea, Chinese troops performed poorly. In Korea, they adequately defended North Korea, but in 1979 they failed to punish Vietnam. China's Cambodian allies were relegated to a sideshow along the Thai frontier, and China was unable to help them break out."

During the war, 37,300 Vietnamese troops were killed, and 2,300 were captured. The Soviet Union surprised the Vietnamese by refusing to get involved in the conflict. On February 18, Moscow had denounced China's aggression and promised that the Soviet Union would keep its commitments according to the Soviet-Vietnam cooperation and friendship treaty. Then, however, the Soviet Union did not make any major moves. Russian military intelligence did increase its reconnaissance planes and ships in the South China Sea and along the Vietnamese coast after China's invasion. On February 24, two Russian transport planes landed at Hanoi and unloaded some military equipment. Most countries maintained a neutral position during the Sino-Vietnamese War.

The brief war was a grievous misfortune for both China and Vietnam, not only because it resulted in material and human losses for both nations but also because it brought years of earlier cooperation to a dispiriting conclusion. The war showed that American belief in the domino theory was misplaced, since two Communist countries, one of which had just attained national liberation, were now in conflict with each other. Each valued its own national interests much more than the common Communist ideology. On February 27, 1979, Deng told American journalists in Beijing that "Vietnam claims itself as the third military superpower in the world. We are eliminating this myth. That's all we want, no other purpose. We don't want their territory. We make them to understand that they can't do whatever they want to all the times."

Hanoi believed, however, that the Vietnamese army had taught the Chinese army a lesson. One [People's Army of Vietnam] general said that China lost militarily and beat a hasty retreat: "After we defeated them we gave them the red carpet to leave Vietnam." As Henry J. Kenny points out, "Most Western writers agree that Vietnam had indeed outperformed the PLA on the battlefield, but say that with the seizure of Lang Son, the PLA was poised to move into the militarily more hospitable terrain of the Red River Delta, and thence to Hanoi." Kenny, however, points out that Lang Son is less than twelve miles from the Chinese border but is twice that distance from the delta. Moreover, at least five PAVN divisions remained poised for a counterattack in the delta, and thirty thousand additional PAVN troops from Cambodia, along with several regiments from Laos, were moving to their support. Thus the PLA would have taken huge losses in any southward move toward Hanoi.

03 February 2009

Assessing the UN's Role in Cambodia

From After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide, by Craig Etcheson (Texas Tech U. Press, 2006), pp. 40-42 (footnote references omitted):
The Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia adopted in October 1991 committed the UN to what was at that point the largest, most expensive, and most interventionist peacekeeping operation in its history. Idealists argued that the goal of the accords was to bring peace to a land that had suffered two decades of war and genocide. Realists argue the primary purpose was to remove the "Cambodia Problem"—the long, stalemated, and increasingly pointless Cambodian war supported by most of the states of the region and powers of the world—from the international agenda. In either case, the Agreements on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodian Conflict were being touted as a model for collective security in the post-Cold War world order. Consequently, it is essential that we have a clear understanding of exactly what these agreements did—and did not—accomplish.

The peace process did achieve numerous significant objectives. The Cambodian conflict was decoupled from superpower geopolitical conflict, and Chinese military aid to the Khmer Rouge was terminated. Cambodia's two decades of international isolation ended. 362,000 refugees left the camps in Thailand and returned to Cambodia. The three-faction rebel coalition challenging the Cambodian government was reduced to a single recalcitrant faction—the Khmer Rouge. The fragile beginnings of political pluralism were put in place. A free press began flowering in Cambodia as never before. Indigenous human rights groups were founded and growing rapidly. Ninety percent of eligible Cambodians registered to vote, and 89 percent of those voted in 1993's free and fair elections, despite Khmer Rouge threats to kill anyone who participated. A liberal constitutional monarchy was promulgated, and a coalition government began functioning, more or less. These were huge accomplishments, a tribute to the skill and dedication of the international civil servants who risked and in some cases sacrificed their lives in Cambodia. It was $3 billion well spent.

At the same time, one must be clear-headed in assessing the impact of the UN in Cambodia. The Comprehensive Settlement laid out numerous central objectives above and beyond the elections. First, a cease-fire was to be implemented and maintained among the combatants. Second, all outside assistance to the warring factions was to be terminated. Third, the several contending armies were to be returned to their barracks, disarmed, and demobilized. Fourth, the utterly destroyed Cambodian economy was to be rehabilitated. Fifth, the demobilized soldiers, internally displaced persons, and repatriated refugees were to be reintegrated into civil society. Sixth—and crucially—a "neutral political environment" was to be established; that is, state institutions were to be decoupled from the organs of the theretofore ruling party. Not a single one of these central objectives of the UN peace plan in Cambodia was achieved.

These requirements were defined in the Comprehensive Settlement as integral elements of the peace process and necessary precursors to the conduct of the elections. When they failed to materialize, the UN deftly redefined its mandate on the fly from peacekeeping—since there was precious little peace to keep—to election-holding. The elections were indeed held, and a new government was established, though that process turned out to be rather messy, with the defeated ruling party tenaciously maintaining its grip on power despite the verdict of the electorate. The UN then declared victory and somewhat precipitously withdrew, leaving the Cambodians to their own devices.

Thus, Secretary Christopher's assertion that the elections were "the triumph of democracy" was hyperbolic, to say the least. One UN-administered election does not make a democracy, particularly when the results of the election are implemented in as desultory a fashion as happened in Cambodia. The transitions to stable, liberal democratic systems in Western Europe, in Latin America, and in the emerging democracies of East Asia all make clear that the development of democracy is a long process. It depends upon a variety of social and economic conditions, such as strong labor movements and a powerful middle class, capable of bargaining with the landed and capital-holding sectors of society. These conditions did not remotely exist in Cambodia, and thus one could confidently conclude that it was quite premature to predict the consolidation of democratic rule in Cambodia. To be completely fair, critics of the UN operation in Cambodia should not have ascribed such a goal to the operation. Partisans of the UN operation should have avoided claiming to have achieved that goal.

So, with what was at best a protodemocracy stumbling ahead, the war in Cambodia raged on. Cambodian battlefields saw their heaviest fighting since 1989, and the new Royal Army was not necessarily getting the best of the fighting. Poorly planned assaults and temporary seizures of the main Khmer Rouge bases at Anlong Veng in the north and Pailin in the west dissolved into disasters for the government, as the insurgents transformed the Royal Army's pyrrhic victories into death traps. After these initial fiascoes at Anlong Veng and Pailin, one might have thought the government would have been chastened, but it was not. The Royal Government immediately began to plan the retaking of the Khmer Rouge stronghold at Pailin, this time without waiting for the dry season. Thus, the UN intervention in Cambodia had not terminated the war, despite what Secretary Tornsen termed the UN's "stunning peacekeeping success."

02 February 2009

China's Army of One-child Recruits

From A History of the Modern Chinese Army, by Xiaobing Li (U. Press of Kentucky, 2007), pp. 282-283 (footnote references omitted):
The symptoms of an "only-child" society had appeared by the 1990s and were affecting the PLA by the end of the decade. According to defense analyst Zhang Zhaozhong, the PLA has many soldiers who grew up without siblings. In the early 1990s, the only-child soldiers began to serve in the PLA. Their numbers have increased ever since. They made up 20.6 percent of the Chinese forces by 1996, 31.2 percent by 1997, and 42.5 percent by 1998. A frequently asked question is whether these soldiers' combat training and fighting ability are in any way affected by their only-child status. A study done by the political department of a group army in Shenyang Military Region yielded mixed results. It found little significant difference between only-child soldiers and soldiers with siblings, especially those from rural areas, in their personality, training records, and service achievement. In technological training, only-child soldiers seemed to outperform soldiers with siblings in verbal tests, communication, and computer skills. The study attributes these findings to two factors. First, as only children became the norm in the late 1990s, social attitudes toward them may have changed, and so these young men may have been less spoiled than those who grew up in the 1980s, the beginning stage of the one-child policy. Second, in the "furnace of revolution" and in a "teamwork atmosphere," the army may have reduced parental influences and any feelings of self-importance through political works and education provided by division, regiment, and battalion, and through group-oriented experiences in their company, platoon, and squad. The study did identify some problems in the "only-child army." Some of the only-child soldiers were less cooperative with peers and more egocentric than soldiers with siblings. In some units, their performance in personal drills and detachment training was good, but their performance in tactics coordination training was poor. Some were reluctant to participate in high-risk training because they were afraid of injury.

The Hebei Military District survey provided a mixed report on only-child officers as well. In general, it found that the only-child officers were better educated, with at least a high school diploma, and had broad knowledge. Believing in competition and self-improvement, they were eager to learn and open to new ideas. Many of them were interested in technological improvement and military reforms. The survey also found that some of the only-child officers were liberal and democratic, emphasizing individual competition and equal opportunity. Some disliked political control and described the party system as "controlling," "demanding," or "oversimplified and crude." They projected a new and contrasting spirit. Nevertheless, their retention level has been lower than that of officers with siblings in recent years.

The low retention rate of only-child officers may be partially the result of the aging of the Chinese population and the new four-two-one family-household structure (four grandparents, two parents, and one child). The task of supporting aging parents and even grandparents falls directly on the shoulders of only children. In today's China, children, spouses, and kinship ties are still seen as primary sources of economic support for the elderly. The urban elderly are, however, less financially dependent on their adult children than are those in rural areas. Although the Hebei Military District survey does not explain why the only-child officers have a low retention rate, it is reasonable to assume that the lack of a social welfare and retirement system pressures only-child officers to retire early and accept a better-paying job outside the military in order to support their parents and grandparents now and themselves later.

Cambodia's Thirty Years War

From After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide, by Craig Etcheson (Texas Tech U. Press, 2006), pp. 2-4 (footnote references omitted):
It is an extraordinary situation. Cambodia is a country where as much as a third of the population died in one of the worst genocides of modern times, and many Cambodians do not believe it happened. How can it be that so much destruction occurred so recently, yet so few are aware of this history? In order to explain how this peculiar situation came about and perhaps to help to correct it, we must start at the beginning of the Thirty Years War.

That war began in 1968, when the Communist Party of Kampuchea—popularly known as the "Khmer Rouge"—declared armed struggle against the government of Cambodian leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Over the course of this war, the conflict took many different forms, went through many phases, and involved a list of participants nearly as long as the roster of the membership of the United Nations. The country changed its name six times during the Thirty Years War, beginning as the Kingdom of Cambodia, changing to the Khmer Republic in 1970, Democratic Kampuchea in 1975, then the People's Republic of Kampuchea in 1979, the State of Cambodia in 1989, and finally back to the Kingdom of Cambodia again in 1993. These contortions reflected the extraordinary violence of the underlying turmoil. Cambodia finally emerged from the Thirty Years War in 1999, with the capture of the last Khmer Rouge military leader still waging armed resistance.

The Thirty Years War wrought upon Cambodia a level of destruction that few nations have endured. At the epicenter of all this violence, from the beginning until the end, there was one constant, churning presence: the Khmer Rouge. Though they have now ceased to exist as a political or military organization, Cambodia continues to be haunted both by the influence of the individuals who constituted the Khmer Rouge and by the legacy of the tragedy they brought down on the country. The social, political, economic, and psychological devastation sown by the Khmer Rouge will take generations to heal, if indeed it ever can be healed. This epic saga of havoc is so complex and confusing that scholars do not even entirely agree on how to name all the ruin.

Many historians describe the conflicts in Southeast Asia during the second half of the twentieth century in terms of three Indochinese wars. The First Indochina War was the war of French decolonization in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, beginning in 1946 and ending with the Geneva Conference of 1954. The Second Indochina War can be said to have run from 1954 to 1975; it is typically known in the United States as the "Vietnam War" and in Vietnam as the "American War," a dichotomy that reveals much about who was centrally involved. In this war of Vietnamese unification, as the United States attempted to prevent the consolidation of communist rule over all of Vietnam, the war also spread to engulf both Laos and Cambodia. The Third Indochina War began hard on the heels of the second, when from 1975 to 1991, the issue of who would rule Cambodia and how it would be ruled drew deadly interest from virtually every country in the region and from all the world's major powers.

From 1968 onward, it appeared to many Cambodians that these wars flowed from one into the other, as inexorably as the Mekong River flows into the sea. The 1991–1993 United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cambodia marked the end of the Third Indochina War, but the fighting in Cambodia continued for nearly another decade afterward. The outlines of the conflict in Cambodia changed with the United Nations intervention, but the basic issue underlying the war—the Khmer Rouge drive for power—was not resolved by the peace process. Combat continued between the central government and the Khmer Rouge until the government finally prevailed in 1999. Thus, what historians characterize as distinct wars with distinct protagonists appeared to many Cambodians to be simply one long war, with one central protagonist—the Khmer Rouge—driving the entire conflict.