The U.S. has once again sacrificed constructivism for its Hawkish neorealism in the region, clearly demonstrated by Kamala Harris’s statements.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s statements on the so-called “China practising intimidation in Southeast Asia” further demonstrate that the U.S. has sacrificed constructivism for its hawkish neorealism once again in the region.
By making such inflammatory statements in countries like Singapore that have historically and in contemporary times hinged on a policy of neutrality and share close ties with Beijing, and highlighted the decision to polarize at the expense of pursuing apolitical multilateral proposals aimed at engineering economic growth once more.
There will always be little appetite for such adventurism with mounting domestic and international criticism over Washington’s foreign policy pivots.
How does constructivism work?
Constructivism understands the world and what we can learn regarding the world as socially constructed. This view refers to the nature of reality and knowledge, also called ontology and epistemology in research language.
It is essential to understand that these states perceive the social relationship between the United States and Britain and the United States and North Korea.
This shared understanding (or intersubjectivity) forms the basis of their interactions. The example also shows that nuclear weapons do not have any meaning unless we understand the social context.
It further demonstrates that constructivists go beyond the material reality by including ideas and beliefs in world politics, which also entails that fact is always under construction, which opens the prospect for change. In other words, meanings are not fixed but can change over time depending on the actors’ ideas and beliefs.
Constructivists argue that agency and structure have mutually constituted, which implies that structures influence agency and that agency influences structures.
Agency can be understood as the ability of someone to act, whereas structure refers to the international system that consists of material and conceptual elements.
Returning to Wendt’s example discussed above, this means that the social relation of hostility between the United States and North Korea represents the intersubjective structure (that is, the shared ideas and beliefs among both states).
In contrast, the United States and North Korea are the actors who have the capacity (that is, agency) to change or reinforce the existing structure or social relationship of hostility.
This change or reinforcement ultimately depends on the beliefs and ideas held by both states. If these beliefs and opinions change, the social relationship can switch to one of friendship.
This stance differs considerably from that of realists, who argue that the anarchic structure of the international system determines the behaviour of states.
On the other hand, constructivists say that “anarchy is what states make of it”, which means that anarchy can be interpreted differently depending on the meaning that actors assign to it.
International relation issues
The truth is that rebuking China will not preclude the controversial legacies of the United States, which have brought nothing but tensions in significant regions across Asia and have been acknowledged domestically in the United States Congress.
There was a considerable rupture hours before the divisive oratory on the Afghanistan question, with several prominent Republicans trashing the Joe Biden administration’s Afghan policy as an utter embarrassment.
Republican Congressman Mike Waltz introduced the bill as a condemnation of the abject failure of presenting a coherent strategy to tackle the long-term counterterrorism effects of the withdrawal from Kabul.
However, the Republicans themselves have an equally controversial profile, with former President George W. Bush being the architect of the invasion in 2001.
Nevertheless, heightened domestic discord in the United States on the Afghanistan policy demonstrates the pressurized Biden administration.
Waltz characterizes the Kabul policy as the worst foreign policy blunder in American history, with the ruling party responsible for the ensuing humanitarian crisis.
This fact is further complimented with growing international scepticism over partaking with the U.S., given that significant capitals such as Berlin have raised the alarm over the haphazard manner in which withdrawals took place and the entire Afghanistan policy.
Like Congressman Waltz, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor, Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union, considers the retreat the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered in history.
Ideally, such criticism should have prompted the United States to shun further adventurism while soon splitting itself with inflammatory rhetoric.
However, this was not the case as Vice President Harris relayed the fabricated China concern to Southeast Asian states by employing the same archaic language of Beijing posing a threat to “rules-based order” and sovereign territories.
It was thus unsurprising that the encounter with a harsh rebuke from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, who criticized U.S. foreign policy as hegemonic behaviour bordering on bullying.
So far, none of that behaviour is subsiding with more visionary leadership, particularly in a region where polarizing policies have been shunned away for constructive engagement.
The approach of non-alignment is embedded within the very tenets of Southeast Asian states.
While Kamala Harris sought to reassure countries like Singapore that Washington, D.C. is not pressuring any form to take sides, the constant references to “Chinese expansionist” fallacies suggested otherwise.
Historical claims such as Cuba and in contemporary times with Iran buttress this fact; trying to bifurcate Southeast Asia into two camps will always be futile.
If one of the countries were to trade pressure politics to protect sovereign interests in Asia, as has been the case with Iran, it would be met with malicious campaigns bordering on defamation, attempts at international isolation and even economic coercion.
Furthermore, to employ such strategies in the heat of domestic and international pressure with the eyes of millions of experts on the mass exodus of Afghans from their own country is in itself controversial and worthy of being criticized.
Yet Harris has chosen to take this path. However, this will not translate into gains for the United States due to its controversial foreign policy, which has constantly shunned constructivism for neorealism and polarization.