Robert E Kelly Profile picture
Professor of Political Science, Pusan National University - 부산대학교 정치외교학과 교수; BBC Dad; Cleveland native
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Nov 26 6 tweets 2 min read
If blackmailing S Korea’s domestic energy production is the best argument you’ve got against ROK nuclearization, then you’ve already lost the strategic debate.

This is an appallingly imperial logic against a liberal democracy which has tried, in good faith,to denuclearize the

1 the peninsula for 3 decades and now, very obviously, is considering nukes only out of desperation over the spiraling, unchecked MWD program of an orwellian tyranny.

I’d also add that if the US wants US allies to do more, spend more, take their own defense more seriously, and

Nov 19 6 tweets 2 min read
I wrote this to counter-point the widespread, irresponsible alarmism about the Ukraine War, particularly the lurid threat-inflation about WWIII

We keep hearing how the war might spin out of control, and yes, it might. But the actual story about escalation so far is that it

1 has not happened much. The primary escalatory steps to date have been Russia's terror bombing and recent draft mobilization.

Otherwise, Russia has not used nukes or attacked NATO directly. Ukraine has not used NATO weapons to attack Russia. NATO has been cautious about which

Oct 28 5 tweets 2 min read
This is why the Ukraine war is not sliding toward WWIII or a nuclear exchange.

Vietnam & Afghanistan in the 80s were contained proxy wars. This war is so also.

After 8 months, the war has not spread and NATO has strongly signaled to Ukraine to not expand the war to Russia,

1 and it has specifically avoided weapons transfers which would facilitate deep Ukrainian strikes.

What really unnerves everyone is that Russia has launched this proxy war in neighboring state, and that it is losing so badly. Vietnam and Afghanistan were stalemates for the US

Oct 13 7 tweets 3 min read
I think we’re approaching a tipping point in the South Korean nuclearization debate

There’s more & more of these sorts of stories in the S Korean media now

In the 14 years I’ve taught international relations here,there’s never been such public ferment

1… My thinking on this is:

- SK nukes are very obviously defensive/deterrent-minded and driven by NK nuclear truculence. So it's not automatically destabilizing & need not cause a crisis in the US-ROK alliance.

- SK would be a responsible nuclear weapons state, so transactional

Oct 12 4 tweets 2 min read
Just saw Alex Jones hit with a huge fine, so I took a look at his website.

He's claiming interdimensional alien satanists are operating with a globalist cult to replace humans.

Serious question: What is the appeal here? Is this even political? This is beyond MAGA or QAnon.

1 How is this not the National Enquirer at the grocery store, claiming Elvis is still alive or that celebrity XYZ has 2 heads?

At this level of absurdity, isn't this just entertainment, like the N Enq is, not far-right politics? If that's true,then how is Jones so influential?

Oct 11 4 tweets 2 min read
Before everyone flips out over this, remember:

- N Korea has never made a serious denuclearization offer, including across 6 (!) summits w/ previous US & SK presidents Trump & Moon

- Missile defense, regrettably, just doesn’t work well enough

- Preemptive strikes are hugely

1 risky

- S Korea would be a good nuclear weapons states if it makes that choice: responsible, safe, defensive-minded, limited, transparent, like Britain or France

I cover all this in current issue of @ForeignPolicy (thanks to my editor, @BeijingPalmer)

Oct 4 9 tweets 2 min read
This is not, in fact, the most likely outcome of the war as he claims. Russian exhaustion & withdrawal is.

Even if RU tactically nukes UKR and the West stopped helping, UKR would keep fighting. They’ll fight an insurgency even, if driven off the battlefield.

Just as the Red

1 Army wandered into an unwinnable quagmire and eventually found it cheaper to just give up and go home, that too is the likely outcome here.

I suppose Putin could use a strategic nuke on a city. That might break UKR’s will to fight. But that would be nuclear genocide.

Sep 29 4 tweets 1 min read
Fair enough to pick on VP K Harris for calling it the ‘Republic of North Korea.’ She’s pretty obviously uninterested in foreign policy.

But she’s light-years better than Trump who showed up unbriefed for 3 summits with NK’s leader and basically just winged it thru potentially

1 critical negotiations - bc he barely understood the issues.

Just how little did Trump know what he was doing? So little, that the White House prepared an action movie-style ‘trailer’ to pitch denuclearization to NK. Trump was literally too stupid to make the argument himself.

Sep 21 6 tweets 2 min read
So let’s say these new forces win some big victories. Great, for the moment. But UKR won’t give up. They’ll turn the war into an insurgency if they have to. Remember that we expected that back in Feb/March. Then the war becomes a repeat of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

1 It’s still not a strategic victory, just a longer, harder, bloodier slog until the Russians inevitably tire and go home.

And the West will almost certainly respond to this with yet more aid and weapons.

What Putin really needs is for UKR to give up and agree to territorial

Jul 10 6 tweets 2 min read
Yes, emphatically

Kissinger all but wants Putin to win the war

He arguably committed war crimes when in office

He’s not that great a thinker. He’s not much taught in academic international relations

He’s important for having been a decision-maker, but not so much for the

1 decisions made. He gets trumpeted as a prophet in Vietnam, that he knew early that we couldn’t win. But the didn’t stop him from vigorously prosecuting the war when in office.

He’s a showboat. He’s got this strangelovian craving to be around men in power and the use of force.

Jul 8 5 tweets 1 min read
The Korean domestic politics on Abe are so terrible that even a condolence is tricky. Wow.

Maybe the S Korean left could hold its fire just long enough to allow Yoon to say something polite and move on To elaborate:

1. S Korean foreign policy opinion is sharply split right-left, which is why SK FoPo swings so much

2. The core issues of polarization are NK and Japan

3. Abe was widely disliked here.

4. I imagine there was some debate over how to express condolences.

Jun 29 4 tweets 2 min read
Good grief

Trump’s bizarre combination of farcical clownishness and authoritarianism is probably why we underestimated his threat to democracy bf Jan 6. It’s just so hard to take him seriously - which is a great deflection, I suppose, when you’re trying to overthrow a government So I am getting some pushback here that I am a blue-check RINO who was out to lunch on Trump’s threat before Jan 6. Ok, maybe. But it seems to me there was a viable argument a few years back that Trump was too incompetent to overthrow the government. Yes, he was unfit. I noted...
May 27 4 tweets 1 min read
If Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw actually said this, then he should resign. Goddamn, this is callous No accountability; only the most grudging, one-sentence admission of error; no recognition that massive police spending/militarization, for exactly situations like this, failed; won’t even actually apologize (!)

When BLM says the police are high-handed,this is what they mean

May 26 7 tweets 2 min read
This latest gun massacre, on top of the Trump-worshipping primaries and Alito’s freaky references to Matthew Hale (who literally believed in witchcraft), has me wondering what the GOP is even offering anymore:

1. Regular gun massacres, bc dead kids are the ‘price of freedom’

1 2. Upper bracket tax cuts in every GOP presidency, even though America’s Gini coefficient has skyrocketed since the 80s & Trumpism is ostensibly ‘populist’

3. Trump – a clownish, incompetent, authoritarian, racist, sexual predator – or McConnell – a relentless partisan cynic

May 25 4 tweets 1 min read
Your regular reminder from millions of expat Americans that no one in our host countries, including right-wing parties, speaks remotely about private gun ownership as MAGA does back home. This is sui generis.

No one wants guns & metal detectors in schools, armored backpacks,

1 or open-carry. No one indulges in dystopic Mad Max fantasies about social collapse requiring guns for self-defense. No one talks about resisting government overreach/tyranny with an armed citizenry

This is not ‘conservatism’ in any recognizable sense anywhere else in the world
May 15 5 tweets 2 min read
Every expat picks this up

And if your spouse is a foreigner, the look you get at everyone of these - and at your own pathetic attempts to explain it by referencing the Old West or something - is punishing

Not only is our gun violence a massive outlier,so is our toleration of it I have prepared talking points for gun massacres for my US politics class.

How disturbing is that?

These things happen so often, and foreign students are so shocked and baffled, that I’ve had to build a class prep on mass shootings. JFC

And I’ll be teaching it today.
Apr 2 7 tweets 2 min read
Can Trumpism really be lead by with charisma-less, non-cult leader figure like DeSantis?

This is a great article by @jonathanchait, but I've always thought a big part of Trump's appeal is his wackiness - often offensive, but also absurdly weird bats***

1… T will analogize his Mexican border wall to the DMZ in Korea, claim he didn't sexually assault a women bc she was ugly, rant on and on against windmills, talk about his amazing genes, and so on.

So yes, he's gross, but he's also deeply weird, which makes him entertaining TV.

Apr 1 20 tweets 6 min read
No, there's not a clash of civilizations, & Ross Douthat should really stop forcing his domestic cultural decline obsessions into his foreign policy analysis.

Academic international relations theory doesn’t teach the CoC much. So let's go over, again,

1… why we don't use this framework. Start with his basic map👇

CoC is a mess theoretically:

A. Fails Badly in East Asia

H’s civilizations are built on religion and cultural commitments deeper than 'mere' politics. In EA, that should mean a Confucian civilization encompassing

Mar 10 22 tweets 6 min read
🧵on the S Korean Presidential Election

TLDR: The left should have won, bc the SK right is intellectually bankrupt, except for foreign policy. But the election was thrown by a third-party leftist candidate

YOON Suk-Yeol beat LEE Jae-Myeong by just 0.73%.

1 1. Duverger’s Law (some political science)

The SK presidential race is a plurality contest. The candidate with the most votes wins. This strongly incentives all the conservatives and all the liberals to join around one unity candidate each. Plurality

Feb 26 5 tweets 2 min read
Douthat once again broadcasts his rightie domestic politics onto an unrelated foreign policy issue, just like in Afghanistan last year. None of this is true:

"Putin sees a window of opportunity in the pandemic’s chaos, America’s imperial overstretch,

1… & an internally divided West."

1. Covid nothing to do with this.

I challenge anyone to provide serious casual evidence of this. This is about as silly as saying Ukraine was driven by the cancellation of XL, another ridiculous right-wing talking point


Feb 26 7 tweets 2 min read
S Korean left's presidential candidate just blamed Zelensky for getting Ukraine invaded, the same Zelensky showing extraordinary courage by staying in Kiev as the Russians come for him and his family:

"A novice politician who only has 6 months of political experience became

1 the country's leader and caused a major clash by inciting Russia with a hasty promise of Ukraine's NATO admission."

This is shameful.…