Thursday, September 30, 2010
At the time, it seemed as if the theories contradicted one another. However, they may not contradict each other as much as complement each other. In essence, a theory is "necessarily partial . . . it highlights some things, while leaving others out" (PTJ podcast reference, Realism). Thus, all three perspectives should be considered because they analyze different parts of a whole.
However, if all three schools of thought were interconnected, why is there this debate as to which is right? Possibly, not all the theories can be applied at once or as strongly at a time. "Accuracy" is dependent on every type of context (i.e. social, economic, historical, cultural), especially the state's/people's goals.
However, in general, a state may find it advantageous to do the following: take a constructivist mentality and assume that history changes --> to exchange in its best interests (liberalism) --> in order to sustain power and influence world order (realism). Yet, as stated, this scenario always is dependent on context. A state (and its people) must be comfortable with applying the different theories for them to be effective, and the worldly scenario must be in accordance with theory.
In the Brenton Woods example, as discussed, all the theories aligned to form a fairly successful sytem . . .
So, like in the video posted above, it is possible to say, "I like broccoli" and "I like potatoes." In fact, both become part of a well-balanced diet.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
There are always different ways of looking at things. Just because one way is right, does not necessarily mean that all the other ways are wrong. If one person looks at a wall and calls the color "white," and another looks at the same wall and calls the color "eggshell," is one of them wrong? No. They just have different perspectives on the same thing. It doesn't mean that one of them is wrong. With something like perspectives on Bretton Woods, however, it gets a little more complicated. In cases like that, I do believe that different opinions can be either more or less accurate - and most likely, none of them are completely true. Of the perspectives we discussed, none of them really fit together. It just isn't really possible for all of them to be right at the same time. In many ways, they contradict each other. There is not any certain way to tell which one is right. That being said, in order for one to be right and the others to be wrong, there would have to be some sort of absolute truth. In my view of the world, there isn't an absolute Truth. At least not when it comes to ideas - it can be true that here in Washington DC, at midnight the sun is always down. It is dark. That is true, and that can't change. But when it comes to an idea, a theory, something that isn't completely concrete, I don't think there can be a true and false. No black and white.
But again, as I said before, I do believe that something can be more accurate than something else (although when it comes to Bretton Woods, I have no idea what perspective I believe is most accurate). It doesn't really make sense that if something can be more accurate, there wouldn't be a completely accurate, but this is a ridiculous question that really isn't possible to answer correctly. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, if one answer to this question is accurate, does it necessarily mean that all the others are wrong? Think about it.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
One of the first things we learned about constructivism is that it does not tell a state what to do. Rather, constructivism can be used to explain the world. It makes very few (if any) normative claims in and of itself. Therefore, anything can be looked at through a constructivist perspective, even if the person is a realist or liberal. However, a few of the basic tenets of the ideologies would have to be tampered with. For example, realism holds that international relations boils down to a battle between self-interested states within an anarchic system. Using constructivism, one would say that this institution of self-interest is not the only possible one. Rather, it is the institution that we are currently in and therefore we can understand other states objectives using realism even as we attempt to construct another one.
Conceivably, a person could try to connect realism and liberalism. One could say that on economic matters we live in a liberal world while in military matters we live in a realist one. However, the contradictions and equivocation that would be involved would be hard to deal with. A better solution would be to combine these two ideologies through constructivism.
Once a person recognizes that the norms, rules, and institutions in the international society are malleable one can make a great number of reasonably leaps. Under constructivism, realism and liberalism can coexist perfectly well because different states may hold different ideologies. If two states use realism to construct their identity then they will interact in self-interested ways. However, if these two states are constructed as liberal, then they will choose actions along a liberal path. Therefore, a state can seek to create whatever kind of international environment they want to; including (but not limited to), liberal institutions, realist institutions, and institutions combining elements from both of them.
The feeling I got from the French diplomat was one of cultural imperialism. All his rhetoric of integration seemed to hold beneath it a belief that to become French one had to not only speak French but conform to French culture. He seemed to imply that one could not fully maintain a foreign culture while still being French. Its interested to compare this stance with the “Welcome to the USA” video wherein diversity was only shown in isolated sections. The message being that while there is diversity in the larger community there is little in individual communities. With both these countries the question hangs in the air: is it possible to maintain ones culture while integrating onto another one, and if not which parts of ones culture should be kept?
Monday, September 27, 2010
This definitely seemed to apply to identity. I was shocked when the diplomat bluntly stated, "There are no minorities in France." This underscored their ruling on the burqa. After I (a too optimistic and "liberal American") took a poll on a website against banning the burqa, I realized I was out of favor. Apparently, homogeneity is good. Though some may chuckle about the French diplomatic tradition to conduct business in their native tongue, there may be some admiration of their pride as well. If a nation has so much pride in itself, can we not help but be in awe of it? Such is a powerful country. If, according to Wendt, we take anarchy/self-help as institutions, strong relationships may occur that are not necessarily egoistic (i.e. alliances).
I suppose that a little patriotism goes a long way. Though we are free to choose how much we focus on our country, to a certain extent, it seems like a civic duty... grounded in reality. Yes, we should "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS" on that personal level, as blandished during the Nats game. Still, we should not overlook the issues in America, as masked by the Customs service ads. In contrast to the French, how does the U.S. truly feel about minorities? How much does it act upon those feelings? To what extent is the American language English? Then, is integration sparse because of society's limits or our own expectations?
Friday, September 24, 2010
For example, the UK has the capacity to invade and occupy Ireland. However, because of the socio-political attitude that exists in the UK we may say that they can’t do it. Excuse me for the Wendt and PTJ regurgitation but I truly do believe that by acting in a certain way a nation becomes defined by those actions. Furthermore, if the UK were to carry out this action, it would be accompanied by such an extreme change in identity that they could be defined as a different UK.
To draw a perfectly stereotypical and tropic literary example, I would make a parallel to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While both individuals occupied the same physical space and were even part of the same psyche, they were given separate names because they constitute separate identities given the differences between their world views, reasoning, and actions. In much the same way, if a state were to completely change the institutions that it adhered to one could call it a different state. For this reason I believe there are certain actions that a state cannot do while remaining the same state.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I feel like there are some rules that most countries abide by, even if they could get away with breaking them. For instance, democratic countries don't interfere with each other's government - at least, there's no situation like Iraq, where one democratic country invades another and attempts to change their government. Democratic countries recognize each other as legitimate governments, and in that way they are somewhat allies. For the most part, countries follow the unspoken ethical rules that we all somehow believe in: don't massacre people. Avoid killing civilians in war. Hostages, if taken, are traded in fairly for that state's demands.
But just because most states follow these behavioral norms does not mean that all of them do, or that they by any means can't. There really is no "can't" in international relations - if a country has the power to do something and get away with it, then they can. And, if it improves their position in any way, they ought to. I'm not trying to condone morally wrong behavior, but if a state has the power to do what it wants, why shouldn't it?
Though a satire on the Russian Revolution, Animal Farm was contained. The people were not strong enough to resist the order and there was no international system. Contemporary times pose new norms. Aiming for the "goodness of humanity," states are chided if they are caught in opposing acts by international organizations (i.e. E.U., U.N.), NGOs, and war laws.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In the modern world it would be ridiculous to claim that nations do not depend on other nations to survive. Through the law of comparative advantage production has become (and continues to become) increasingly specialized. Even if we look at the one power that could conceivably challenge the US in the near future, China, we see a relationship of mutual dependence. This situation contradicts any realist predictions that may be made about the rise of China. Of course, the realist would point to the fact that both countries are trying to make themselves more independent (China but dumping US debt and the US by diversifying its trade) but until either country is willing to take a major economic hit for their independence, it doesn’t seem close at hand.
However, I can’t help but think that the rise of liberalism as a theory and the interconnectedness of the world are merely correlated. The primary reason for the interdependence of the world is the free market. With the rise of capitalism and now with globalization no country can hope to exist in isolation and hope to be a world power.
As we learned, before capitalism the European governments ran their economies based on a theory of Mercantilism. In it states sought to gain as much bullion as possible in order to ensure their security. It is not coincidental that realism was the primary theory of international relations at the time. Furthermore, while I have no proof, I believe that by states subscribing to a theory of liberalism and allowing free trade, liberalism become a self-fulfilling prophecy just as much as realism was.
Our reality is not stagnant. Every action we make in life constructs our social reality and every purchase we make shapes the world economy. Every individual citizens actions come together to create a single performance of state. I personally see a lot to be learned from the theory of constructivism and look forward to our discussion today.
Monday, September 20, 2010
When a nation has faith in the people, it trusts humanity’s strengths and weaknesses. When the class ticked off some drawbacks of liberalism on Tuesday, they pointed to our faults: fickleness (i.e. acceptance/rejection of laws), stubbornness (i.e. “slowness” in passing a bill), and dissatisfaction (i.e. freedom of speech). Despite these characteristics, the mere fact that they are essentially human may strengthen a country’s character. If it makes any sense, the noise of media sources is truer than any one imposed truth. Freedom of expression lets the populace agree to disagree. Yet, when the majority does harmonize, it is powerful. Take for instance, the in-class mentioned example of America’s speedy reaction to 9/11. Though Bush may/may not have had his own motives for entering Iraq, it was a liberal act because most people were united by fear and pride.
|What does it take to hold up the world?|
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I really had to sit back and think about this question. I asked many people what they thought of this situation and the responses varied. Is an uninformed vote better than not voting at all? After much preponderance, I decided that I do not know if a person that is not informed about the election is better off not voting at all. When you vote for someone, ideally, you are putting forth support for the beliefs and the plans that this person wishes to implement. You follow this person through their campaigning process, speeches, press conferences etc. You find out if what the person stands for is in anyway similar to your own beliefs. Then you make the decision to support them. If you do not know what the people campaigning wish to implement, if you do not know if you are in agreement with the policies that person wants to implement, there is a high chance that many policies may not be in accordance to your views. That person could implement policies that negatively affects people like you. Statistics show that the largest groups of non- voters are young adults between the ages 0f 18-24, women, and minorities. Their choice not to vote places the protection of their interests in the hands of others that are advocating for their own opinions and views. Basically the majority of the people making decisions reflect a small percentage of the US population. If you vote without knowledge of the candidates a person can be negatively affected, but if a person does not vote they can also be negatively affected. I think the lesser of the two evils, would actually making an uninformed vote. If more of the constituents are represented in the vote the more sway they may have in the policies that may affect them in some way.
Although many proponents of the "educated" vote deny their favoritism of the gentry, this is a complex argument in what determines "representation" and what determines "educated." To me, representation is the whole populace, from the TV-trailer man to the Harvard graduate. All have the right to voice their opinions, even if they lack substantial evidence. For example, consider students in a classroom: if a student is not as informed as the others, should he/she still speak? Is there such thing as a stupid question . . . stupid vote? Arguably, yes, but does he/she hold that right to speak? Furthermore, this leads to the question of education: should it be determined by its cost, life experiences (logic), intution, or a combination of the three?
All Americans have to deal with the consequences of the vote. It is a collateral decision of the nation. Yet, it is also a duty for the common citizen to be "knowledgeable" about the political process for the most effective government. Going back to the classroom example, all students have the right to learn. There should be less blame and more responsibility in educating our neighbors.
On the extreme end, when people favor the "elitist" vote, they may favor "popular sovereignty," which is not always the answer. Consider the political parties with their "correct," popular possibilites. Meanwhile, there is always a place for more representation, as America musters patience for that third-party candidate. . . .
~ interesting consideration about the "mentally challenged": http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1320290/is_an_uninformed_vote_better_than_a.html
~ it may be a natural phenomenon that we all make judgements: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100615105330.htm (NOTE: this article reminded me of the book, Blink)
~ consequences without education: "Get-out-the-vote efforts have admirable goals of involving more people in the democratic process, but they neglect to follow up by educating voters, in addition to encouraging voters. Encouragement is good, but without education, it turns get out the vote into a pissing contest between the political parties to see who can sign up the most people." Get-out-the-vote efforts have admirable goals of involving more people in the democratic process, but they neglect to follow up by educating voters, in addition to encouraging voters." (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/25/politics/uwire/main4545361.shtml)
There is absolutely no purpose in voting if you really have no clue about the issues surrounding the vote. Anyone who randomly fills out a ballot or fills one out based on a triviality (I just love his name!!!) distorts the electoral process. These people should stay home. However, if you extends the term “uninformed” to include those people that know very little about the election than you begin to get into some tricky territory.
In an ideal world we would all have the time and motivation to vigorously research every issue and every candidate so that we could make our own rational choices. The truth, however, is that for the majority of things a person votes on they are relying on another’s opinion. When I voted for Betty T. Yee for Board of Equalization I knew very little about her positions or even what she would do if elected. However, I did know that my beloved representative Mike Thompson supported her and that if he said she would be good, she would probably be good. I see very little wrong with this guidance by endorsement when the election is small positions like First District Representative on the Board of Equalization. I don’t understand what people on this board do and to make an informed vote would take hours of time. I would much prefer to let the trusted expert make that judgment for me. We rely on experts to guide us for so much else that not allowing them to influence us in such situations seems ridiculous.
However, I do believe that a person needs to take a lot of time when figuring out who they can trust. I do not trust his endorsement because of his looks and a few tag lines. I base my trust in Rep. Thompson on a close examination of his views, his character, and from his actions as a congressperson. A democracy is reliant upon this sort of educated vote.
That brings us to the issue of education. The philosophers who’s ideas the US founded itself upon did not stress the need for state run education because they believed that only the landowners should be given the right to vote and landowners could be trusted to educate their children. However, now that suffrage has been extended to all citizens and parents no longer have the ability to educate their children due to the modern work schedule the government has been given this responsibility. The problem now is that the US is failing in that responsibility. And while going to college is not necessary for an education it certainly helps. My opinion is that until we dramatically reform the educational system to enable those with even the lowest of incomes to receive quality schooling and a college degree our democracy will suffer. There will always be ignorant people that will vote in ridiculous ways, they will have to be tolerated for the sake of equality. But the least we can do is make sure that anyone who is able to form rational opinions is given the opportunity to refine them.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
ATTENTION: Seeking analyst to sit at a desk every day looking at photos from unnamed location in an attempt to find weapons that aren’t there 90% of the time. Do you want long hours, minimal pay, and few career advancement opportunities? If so, this may be the job for you.
I did find the last section to cyber terrorism to be especially poignant. In the Sep/Oct. 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs magazine William J. Lynn III talks about how vulnerable the US is to cyber attacks (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66552/william-j-lynn-iii/defending-a-new-domain?page=show). One of the largest problems is simply the way the Internet is structured. As it is, the offense always has the upper hand. Innovation in cyber defense is always one or two steps behind innovation in hacking. This fact alone puts the Pentagon in a weaker position than any twenty-year-old hacking savant living in his mom’s basement much less a profession hacking organization.
Another problem is that, as of now, the US Cyber Command has no clear rules of engagement. As a result, they are acting largely outside of any legal framework. Finally, as Lynn points out, it takes the Pentagon an average of 81 months to make a computer system operational. That means by the time a computer system begins to work it is already obsolete. The Pentagon needs to become far more flexible to keep up with the rate of innovation.This threat of cyber terrorism and cyber war is bound to become one the largest security issue of our generation. I’m glad the Spy Museum is bringing it to the public eye.
It seemed that this presentation tied into our discussion on hegemony. When the general audience questioned whether giving into Cuba would reduce our hegemony, I referred back to our discussion on power/realism/polarity. Just because the U.S. has a "benevolent" hegemony over the rest of the world, why does it not have the power to take serious action in Cuba? Or, is it a question of authority? Sovereignty aside, I wondered what duties the U.S. has as a hegemony. . . . As mentioned in class, our positive image to the world was shattered after many years in Iraq. Still, are we not even taking responsibility in Cuba?
As mentoined in the lecture on Cuba, I agree that it is most difficult to separate the policy from the people. Maybe that is why some mention our future tolernace of Cuba would be called "normalization" rather than "reconciliation."
Monday, September 13, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
If Machiavelli wrote his text, The Prince, for today's leader it could have simply been titled, How to Maintain Control of your Territory: for Dummies. In his day the dummy was the new ruler and today it is the President of the U.S. as well as those in charge of other countries. I personally believe that many nations today have leaders who have taken notes and pages from this book. As PTJ pointed out when assigning the question, "Machiavelli paints a portrait of a ruler who must always be prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain HIS power." I feel that contemporary ruling elites use more stealth and qualities of Machiavelli's figurative fox in order to disguise their own motives of keeping power, themselves. However, that desire to dominate and maintain dominance is one that has been instilled in us so much it is an integral part of the society of politics. Although it is never blatantly said, " We want to control this territory and all its inhabitants and stay in power," actions of the elite show us that this is what motivates many of their actions. Now a days the political system has moved away from single person rule to a political body like that referenced in Hobbes book Leviathan (thanks Erin for bringing this to my attention). In this age the "HIS" that PTJ refers to does not only represent the individual, but it also represents the party or state the individual is a member of. There is that constant refrain when dealing with international relations "Protecting____interests". The President tries to satisfy the demands of the party in power, the party out of power, and the people. Unless he does all these things he will not be liked. Like we discussed in class, rulers should find that balance between love and hate so that their people, above all respect them.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Once we crossed the stadium a different sentiment had taken over. The blue and white supporters of individual players had transformed into a red and black mob of team fans. Their spirit was infectious. And if you did not catch their bug then you better try to fake it. Within minutes of immersing ourselves into the crowd a fight almost broke out when one of the groups leaders didn’t think one person was singing loud enough.
“If you’re not going to sing get the fuck out!” he yelled, beer in hand. I began to sing louder.The songs in English were easy enough to pick up, however, every other song had at least a few lines in Spanish:
Vamos, Vamos United
A Ringo make a czar
The last line is a guess. The supporters sang in far too much of a drunken slur to make out anything remotely complicated. What I found amazing was that all the supporters whether they were white, black, or Latin American knew and sang every song. The crowd was composed of a diverse cross section of DC. Behind us there were three white males that complained about their jobs at the Hill during lulls in the game. Next to us were a group of Latin Americas who seemed connected to one particular player on the team. Whenever that player would get the ball they would begin to cheer. A few rows back there was a 50’s-ish white male that reminisced about the good ol’ days in DC United history. After talking to him for awhile he turned out to be a technological engineer for some ubiquitously named company. In front of us stood the leaders. The captain appeared to be the large African-American man standing on the seats and referring to the stands as “his section.” He empowered us all. There was no way I wanted to be on his bad side, I wanted to make him proud in the process screaming myself horse trying to keep up with his level of singing.
The stadium was not filled to any extent but the people who were there seemed to have created close-knit communities. They were not the violent hooligans of Red Star or the Rangers but anger was prevalent. However, the anger focused on the individuals on the other team rather then any ethnicity or nationality. The game never seemed to be a reflection of a battle between DC and Columbus, Ohio. It always remained a soccer game. I think this is a reflection of the state of America. There are very few regional rivalries. The battles are ideological. Perhaps if the game had been between the 10th Amendment Vikings and the Federalist Pioneers or the Socialist Sickles and the Capitalist Patriots more passion would have been created. As it was, the passion stemmed primarily from past loses and the bottles of beer constantly been consumed.
Monday, September 6, 2010
|1. Writing on the Wall|
|2. "I like to photograph kids because I still dream the way kids do." ~Walter Iooss, Sports Illustrated|
|4. Katrina: Worst Hurricane in American History|
|5. 9/11 Pride?|
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The DC United game was also interesting to me in a few ways; first, it seemed very different from many of the games described in How Soccer Explains the World in that there seemed to only be a few people that were really passionate about their team (such as the guy dressed at Darth Maul with the light saber... I'm not really sure what Star Wars has to do with soccer, but it was cool anyway). Most people there seemed to not be very into the game, or at least not super passionate about it. There was also very little hate directed at the Columbus Crew and their fans, unlike in some of the stories in How Soccer Explains the World. After the game, on the train platform, a few Crew supporters were holding up their giant yellow flag and waving it around. I barely even saw any unfriendly glances in their direction. Maybe it's that as Americans we care less about soccer. Maybe we just like the game and don't care as much about particular teams. Maybe it's that we're less violent than other societies (such as Serbia.) Whatever the reason, all things considered, the crowd was just not very passionate about the game.
Friday, September 3, 2010
However, when a government dissolves, any such compact is broken and the land rights return to the people who inhabit it.These people can either switch their allegiances to another government or form one of their own. Therefore, using this viewpoint, one could argue that the Abkhazian people gain the right of self-determination after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The current Georgian rule is therefore arbitrary. Using this viewpoint, one would argue that a province wide referendum should be made and internationally overseen to let these people decide where their allegiance lies. I personally don’t feel prepared to take a stand on the issue of Abkhazia. It is easy to say from a distance that the local population should be given ultimate self-determination but what if we faced a similar issue. If a sizable portion of Maine’s population hypothetically wanted to secede to Canada should the US allow them self-determination. It is a tricky issue and one that I am not ready to answer.
However, there is another autonomous region in the world that has not been internationally recognized but does not have such tricky philosophical questions attached to it; namely Somaliland. Somaliland is a province is the very north of Somalia that managed to form a government even as the rest of Somalia descended into chaos. Since then it has formed a relatively liberal democracy and maintained a reasonable degree of peace. They are now in a crisis however. Due to lack of international recognition many problems have arisen within the country. Because of a lack of jobs many resort to coal mining, thereby contributing to global warming. Because of a lack of international oversight, there are widespread accounts of election fraud that may endanger this new democracy. Even as we channel million if not billions of dollars of aid that seems to simply disappear to the failed state of Somalia, we refuse to even acknowledge the functioning democracy right above it. At present, Somaliland is functioning as a sovereign state. All it needs is the international recognition of this fact to help it prosper.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Puerto Rico is a beautiful tourist destination, has a rich culture, and is not a country at all. As a commonwealth, or a “permanent association with a federal union” (http://www.laht.com/article.asp?Categoryid=14092&ArticleId=364571), Puerto Rico benefits from many features of the U.S. as a nation-state, the main being “politico-military rule” (O&R 2). It also relies on the U.S. for 85 percent of its imports (http://www.virginislandsnewsonline.com/news/u-n-draft-urges-u-s-grant-puerto-rico-sovereignty). Still, despite the U.S.’s aid, unemployment remains at 17 percent (virginislandsnews).
Thus, there has been an ongoing debate. On August 27, 2010, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi stated that a 2011 referendum on the region’s government would give the choice of commonwealth (no change), statehood, independence, or sovereignty with U.S. relations (laht). Those for independence liken the U.S.'s presence in Puerto Rico to the BP oil spill (virginislands). Those against note the population’s American patriotism and the country’s insufficient resources to support the economy (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/29/house-approves-puerto-rico-statehood-measure).
The question of Puerto Rico’s independence comes down to the definition of sovereignty and capability. To a certain extent, Puerto Rico should be sovereign. With its “vestiges of colonialism” (laht), Puerto Rico certainly has its own history that unites its people. True, the U.S. has power over P.R., and in turn by definition of sovereignty, holds the people’s obedience/loyalty and representation (O&R 2), but without this babysitter connection, P.R does have an identity already in place, furthered by being an island. Building off of nationalism, if P.R. were to become independent, would it be capable of becoming a nation-state? It would have the authority to do as it pleases, but would it have the capability to rule effectively? This leads back to SIS-105-081UC lecture notes from 8/31: “to extend capacity beyond its own resources, [a nation must have] authority and power.” Yet, does a nation have to be efficient in politics, military power, and financial matters to be recognized, or can it just remain an inefficient nation-state? Do “corrupt” nation-states count, do “poor” nation states count (i.e. Cubans make $18/month, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm), etcetera . . . or should they lose their statuses? I think they should remain, but they should also receive an initial amount of aid. It is unrealistic to “colonize” inefficient nation-states. Consequently, “sovereignty” becomes a label of nation-states, yielding authority, but respect and power must be earned for O&R’s nation-state to triumph.