TW: gun violence
As the United States is gripping for another round of debates on whether the state can actually enforce gun laws, it’s worth looking to the rest of the world to check the American skepticism about the state’s potency is necessarily a universal problem. Luckily, the events of the past week are a pretty resounding counterpoint to the idea of laws being option and states being delicate creatures.
In Japan, the recent election handed the Liberal Democratic Party near total control of the government, ostensibly in response to the party’s tough talk concerning Japan’s mineral rights to the Senkaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese), as well as similar border disputes with South Korea. The Japanese state is clearly a major player, as a national conversation begins on whether and how to expand nuclear power capabilities (or “nuclear power” capabilities?) and augment the power and size of the military-esque defensive forces Japan is constitutionally permitted to have. Even having lost an empire, an actual military, and the right to preemptively declare war, Japan is a force in the region.
(The Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands are not only strategically located, but thought to have oil or gas reserves trapped beneath them and conveniently lack an indigenous population. Originally from here.)
In the recent Ghanaian election, which I’ve discussed before, the primary policy-focused difference between the mainstream presidential candidates concerned how to direct the state’s resources, not whether the state should direct them. Incumbent President John Mahama argued for recent windfalls from oil exports to be put to use in infrastructural development, while challenger Nana Akufo-Addo called for the primary focus of state-led investment to be in education. There are clear trade-offs involved. Education spending will more likely to be available to urban-dwelling Ghanaians, to say nothing of the class politics of forcing children to potentially choose between their livelihoods and their education. On the other hand, infrastructure typically translates into lucrative contracts for the well connected, but a product that’s often useful to a wider group of the population. In total, 97 percent of the population voted for either of these candidates, as part of the election became a referendum on the particulars of state involvement in the economy, not the concept itself.
Earlier today, the UN War Crimes Court acquitted militant leader Mathieu Ngudjolo, who participated in violent anti-state activities in the northeastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) almost a decade ago. So, while the DRC has been considered incredibly impotent in putting down the almost constant state of revolution in that portion of its territory, it successfully detained one of the premier leaders of an earlier uprising and maintained at least partial control over the region. In contrast, the sub-state actors, like Ngudjolo, who are sometimes referred to as warlords, have never been able to establish even de facto independence for very long even in the unstable corner of one of the most defunct states. To top it off, the non-state entity of the United Nations can’t even persuade its own judges that a warlord is guilty of war crimes. Even one of the least stable states in the world has come out ahead of everyone else in this situation.
Even the DRC can outfox armed gun men, but the US has paralyzed itself into believing its own laws can’t be enforced.