Tuesday, November 30, 2010
First of all, and most obviously, there is the Con. I thought that all the stuff surrounding the Con was such a clear example of liberalism. Here leaders are having to deal with public opinion when deciding foreign policy strategies. Gone is the environment of Machiavelli where the leader does whatever he pleases and uses oppression and propaganda to deal with the people. In fact, the entire plot of the book surrounds the will of the people. The Giaists are trying to crash a rock into earth to scare the people enough where the World Council will have to destroy the platform.
However, the book was very constructivist as well. For example, the Terror Years effected the international environment enough where norms changed all nations were willing to give up control of their militaries to the World Council. Also, the states are not completely rational actors deciding what to do based on material gains. The Balkan States broke from their economic interests (allying themselves with the US) because of how mad they were seeing a dead Balkan looking man get killed. In fact, all things I described as liberal could also be understood using a constructivist lens.
I have a friend that reads some science-fiction who said that these books are judged based upon how cool their concepts are, not the quality of their writing. To that extent, Horizons was a great book. However, I found it quite hard to get over her writing style. I also feel that at times she spent so much time describing bad-ass things (like Ahni’s fighting) that it detracted from the story. It’s weird that I say that because I do enjoy Tom Clancy’s bad-ass moments in the books of his I’ve read. Maybe that’s because that really all the books are.
Overall though, Horizons was generally entertaining and brought up some good issues in IR.
Though I appreciated the love, the reprieve, the familiar details, and the abundance of memories attached to the home I returned to this past weekend, at the same time, something felt right about returning to AU. It is a terrible thing, but whenever I travel somewhere else, I usually do not become home-sick because the new place becomes home, and I cannot imagaine living anywhere else.
So, in particular, what makes D.C. special? Over the weekend, I constantly receieved the approving, knowing, silent nod from family to my student status as a D.C. "wonk" (just kidding, "wonk" wasn't mentioned, except for the time my grandma and I discussed Erin's article on marketing colleges in AWOL, but that's another story . . .). Yet, it not just about D.C. with the monuments, Georgetown, and some little white house at the center of it all. It's about D.C. and the crowded Metro, wide sidewalks, people selling roses in traffic, and our own TDR jams.
I guess stereotyping has its purpose; categories are always easier to digest. Yet, the details and aspects that defy the stereotype are what make the world interesting. Look at cultures (i.e. Native American, sound familiar?). Look at whole countries. Though we have the tendency to be proud of our differences, in this way, we are all the same. The concept of "self"/"other" has come up numerous times this semester, but maybe the divide is only as bold as we construct it to be.
|(GOOGLE wizard of oz home . . . makes you wonder what Dorothy could have meant.)|
Monday, November 29, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I also liked Friday's discussion on whether Columbus saw the natives as human or not. I think that in some cases, it would help to see them less as people and more as animals. Animals can be tamed, domesticated, used for your own purposes. It would be immoral to treat humans the same way, at least today. By thinking of them as animals, the explorers and conquerers could praise them when they did something to their liking, and punish them when they did not, without fear of their conscience getting in the way.
We were seeming to come to the consensus that Cortés was more objective than Columbus in his treatment of the Native Americans. I do not believe this is the case. Given their historical European backgrounds, their assessements on the indigenous populations could only be subjective because all labeling was grounded in previous context. For example, the Europeans firmly believed in mythology, superstition, and religious consequences (i.e. Sirens, Grand Khan, Moors). Thus, although Cortés seemed to "understand" the Native Americans more, he did not "understand" them in the compassionate, globalized way we use that word today. Instead, his "understanding" was to fulfill this own aims. Maybe the reason Cortés is seen as a smarter explorer than Columbus was becuase he had concerte goals, and he knew how to accomplish them by using culture as a strategy. In Todorov, it was perfect that he was likened to a realist: "discourse is not determined by the object it describes, but is constructed solely as a function of the goal it seeks to achieve" (116).
Additionally, I want to address an earlier notion that these conquistadors did not see the Native Americans as people. To a certain extent, they did label them and compare them to "objects" (i.e. the land) out of convenience or out of uncertaintity (i.e. Columbus could not reconcile whether they were a tainted self or an "other" to be rejected). Still, even more, the explorers saw the Natives as inferior beings first, which then further debased their humanity. He could compare "people to the Indians I have already spoken of," and that typified them "with astonishment . . . closer to men than animals" (35-6).
** Thus, whether the above perspectives are the most accurate or are up to debate, I am loving our analysis on The Conquest of America, in both the contemporary and past tense. By analyzing the construction of the self/other, identities in general, the power of language, finalist doctrine, and the (lack of) responsibility, the story of colonization has become much more interesting than in the past and an extreme warning of our policies for the future.
Reflections on World Politics and the Real World
Also one of the highlights of this past week was participating in Oxfam's Hunger Banquet (here's what you missed: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=109134769152565&index=1). Though the experience was not as intimiate as a banquet in which I participated in the past, partially due to a lack of people (i.e. the poor eating rice on the floor were proportionally more than the other classes, but not an overwhelming presence), it was really eye-opening when the speaker from Oxfam explained development in relation to the Haitian crisis. A nation that once could support itself, now has to import 80 percent of its rice. The series of unfortuante events in Haiti (i.e. widespread poverty, further destruction after the earthquake, cholera) stem from its lack of self-sufficiency. Yet, this is not the Haitian people's fault. The aid many countries pump into Haiti is only temporary (i.e. food that undermines local businesses). The NGOs offer short-term services that are un-coordinated. The government lacks infrastructure. Haiti's recovery could be simple if it considered its people, in all their potential, first. (For more information on Haiti, see http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2010-03-30/haitians-say-jobs-key-recovery).
Also, it was quite interesting how the only use of the word genocide was in reference to the massacres in Guatemala in the 1990’s.
I found Todorov’s portrayal of Cortez to be somewhat lopsided. He presented the man as this master planner who figured out what to do and then executed it. However, based upon “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and “The People’s History of the United States” he seemed much luckier then skilled. Now, because of his intelligence he was able to capitalize on his luck. For example, in “Gun, Germs, and Steel” Diamond wrote that he basically rode into the city not knowing exactly what o expect. Upon seeing the huge army of the Montezuma he did what any general at the time would do, send his cavalry around to set up for a flanking maneuver. When he charged to take hold of Montezuma he signaled the cavalry to charge and the Aztecs were so frightened of the horses that they did not mount an effective defense.
Overall though, I’m really enjoying the book. The linguistic spin he’s using is great. Some of the etymology he does reminds of Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil though hopefully his is a bit more accurate and researched.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Yet, Todorov's remarks on the "self" and "other," as well as his portrayal of Columbus, make me realize that the blame has many dimensions. Though Columbus was the catalyst of the many horrible outcomes of conquest, he really was a participant of a greater social context and a slave to human nature. In terms of social context, Columbus is the quintessential man from the Age of Exploration. He had the courage and ambition to finanace a trip across unchartered territory. He wanted to be considered a pious Christian figure, with the Spanish version of his name meaning "bearer of Christ" (Cristobal) and "repopulator" (Colón) (26). Yet, his monetary "means" replaced this "end." Like most human beings, Columbus became greedy. . . .
Or, for a more exact emotion, Columbus was too proud. This pride was most dangerous because it was rooted in ignorance. Believing his own culture and ways to communicate to be right, the "conquest of knowledge" became a "conquest of power" (Pagden qtd. xii). Thus, ignorance was bliss because he usurped unlimited authority over the Native Americans. They could not resist his orders because the whole theme of conquest from an outsider was unprecedented.
Consequently, we cannot "blame" Columbus in the sense that he mirrors Caesar, the notion of U.S. paternalism, or our own inward human instincts. It is difficult to blame blindness and narrow-mindedness. If we do wish to "blame" Columbus, it can only because he was the performer of unjustly acts which did cause destruction. All actions have consequences. "Taking the fifth" because of cultural ignorance cannot erase the guilt and his decision to perpetuate those norms. Columbus's thinking could have been a product of both the conscious and un-conscious, but if supposing the conscious, remember that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against slavery.
Monday, November 15, 2010
First off, I just want to say that it’s generally accepted among all respected scientists that human’s are contributing to climate change. The degree is debatable but the general fact is not, unless you want to discount the entire scientific field. Think about it in this way, during the Great Depression people said it was just a natural cycle of the market. Now, to some degree they were correct. However, the amount that it was a natural cycle was far outweighed by the amount that it was an exceptional economic instance. I would say the same is true about the environment today.
I would like to turn my attention to what Gabe said in class. He said that if something is a natural phenomenon then we have neither the means nor the right to stop it. In terms of the means, he may be right. So far there has not been a single real solution to the problem of climate change proposed. Based upon how quickly we are polluting and the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere the only real way to save ourselves is through some sort of bioengineering project that no one has invested yet.
The second claim is quite off base however. The reason I reacted so strongly to it is because that’s the sort of claim I’ve been arguing against for years but with far-left mystic tree lovers. Since now its Gabe who made that claim I’ll use a different argument. His claim was that if something is natural phenomenon that we have no right to stop it. If we stretched that logic it would mean that all antibiotics are a violation of nature. In fact, it would mean all medicine is a violation of nature. I wonder if he really meant what he was saying.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Only on Letts 6 can we turn a conversation about Draco Malfoy and the Hogwarts houses
into a full-fledged debate on prosperity and poverty.
I have always realized that these are tricky subjects, but for some reason, it is too easy to think of them as "outside." Over there they are starving. Over there they do not have shelter. What should we do about it? What about dignity?
These questions are important, but furthermore, we must question how they pertain to us, right here and right now, as U.S. citizens, as individuals with our own stories and backgrounds, and as human beings. That is when our voices truly explode like fireworks. Their powder is our passion.
One of the can of worms openened was the "rights" v. "needs" debate. It is so interesting that we feel the need to separate issues on a philosophical and biological/practical level, but I think it has roots in church/state or even religion/logic divides. On the surface, nobody has a right to anything. As Social Darwinsim outlined, it is all about competition and survival. Yet, humans are more than "animals." We unite as a race not necessarily because we always agree, but because we realize our need to survive is better done collectively and that the needs for survival are the same (i.e. food, water, probably shelter). On a moral level, those needs equal rights. For example, following the Catholic Preferential Option for the Poor, the poor should be cared for not just out of sympathy, but out of practicality.
The other can was on whether the "American dream" was practical. As an optimist, I would like to believe so, but in reality, I have to agree with that chance of randomness (i.e. luck/fate). For example, higher education in America is expensive and selective. Despite ambition, talent, and financial need, not all students are going to be lucky and land in their "dream schools" (or even "safety schools").
In the end, we all agreed that it was unfair that some people started with more than others. For that reason, many hypotheical scenarios become skewed because society is not "equal." This was one point that Inayatullah was making: many "quasi-states" are disadvantaged because of colonization, and such a force was out of their control. Humans are creatures of circumstance, too. Yet, if we clearly defined the tools to succeed in life as "rights," maybe societies would feel more pressure to grant them. Maybe it would be for the greater good of humanity.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
In the same manner, Ms. Silvero noted in her World Bank talk today that identity extends to countries. Policies cannot be universal because countries are bound to their past experiences and their current relationships. Thus, policy-makers must be sensitive to cultures and their inherent values.
However, the real question regards the value of alternative IR viewpoints. Scholars such as Enloe and Tickner have shed much light on the stories of marginalized populations, and this is helpful if we need to re-consider the mainstream theories of realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Yet, realistically, it is impossible to consider all the IR perspectives existing in the world. They make for great reading, awesome thinking/dialogues, and notable re-analyzing of our current state of affairs, but having so many perspectives are also inefficient. The purpose of a theory is to make sense of a disorganized world, but if we consider every thought out there, theory slowly disintegrates.
A re-writing of the history of world politics is a concept that has been explored in the micro level debate of re-writing U.S. history. It proposes that time is not a line, but branches out in circles. To a certain extent, I agree that history should not be solely focused on the "great white men" because every cause has an effect, every conqueror has its conquered. Voices of the marginalized would create more depth to the "white" backbone. Still, history can only be re-written so much. Again, we cannot consider all groups and micro events equally because there is not enough time. If students learned about every role of every citizen during the American Revolution, for instance, it would be a while before they learned who actually won the battle . . . and is that not the main point?
Tickner argues that that is the problem, we are running out of time to re-write history. Yet, history has been and always will be there. If individuals want to pursue a subject more in depth, they can do so, but for the general population, maybe a few embellishments here and there would suffice.
Monday, November 8, 2010
It is true that one of a nation’s top priorities must be the security of its citizens and maintaining the existence of the state. But while state security may seem like the goal of utmost importance, most nations can rest assured that they are not going to be taken over in the near future. Through various international institutions the age of conquest has largely come to and end. Therefore, it can be said the military has become a tool of the state to pursue its economic goals.
It seems that if one wanted to take a very utilitarian approach to the subject, they could say that the only reason to care about terrorist is because it acts as an obstacle to an functioning market. If people are so worried about their safety that they stop engaging to economic activities then the economy comes to a halt. For example, after 9/11 the airline industry took a major hit because people were afraid to fly. Many of the obvious security measures put in place acted more to restore confidence in the industry than actually provide more security.
I’m not necessarily saying that this dynamic is true in all cases. It obviously is not for an entire host of very good reasons. However, it is a dynamic in play and to see the economy as a means for military ends or security ends seems to simplify the issue.
I really don't like thinking about money. Unless I'm getting my paycheck, in which case thinking about it makes me happy. But I hate how much it affects everything we do and everything we are. And I really hate when people take it for granted that they'll always be wealthy, or if not wealthy, at least never have financial problems. Here on the northwest side of DC, you don't see how much of a difference there is in the distribution of wealth. You don't see the homeless here, you don't see the people who struggle to get by on minimum wage. You don't see the families of 8 crammed into tiny 2-bedroom apartments. And while in some ways, it's more pleasant to not see these things, I kind of wish that I still did see them on a regular basis. Here I feel so far removed from the real world. Back at home, I would be constantly reminded that there were people worse off than me, but here I start feeling like I'm at the bottom of the economic ladder because I have to work 2 jobs just to buy enough clothes and to pay my mom back for the little bit of tuition she could afford. It's hard here to see that I'm actually doing better than a lot of people in this country. I wish I could see it more often. I don't like forgetting about reality.
Also, Erin shared this on Facebook, but I'm reposting it here because I thought it was kind of relevant to my post.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I don’t’ think that the troops in Afghanistan make me more secure. The troops in Afghanistan are there in order to do what? In the words of Kat Williams, “Terror can’t keep a home address.” There is no way of completely knowing who, what, when, where, and how in relation to the institution of terrorism. We discussed in class that terror organizations don’t have front offices; they are covert organizations that span multiple countries. Troops being in Afghanistan are not changing the fact that these terrorists can just go somewhere else and are in many other places. But for some reason, even though I know that nothing can be fully accounted for, I still feel secure. I feel that my security doesn't mean that I don’t fear what might happen; it’s just that my fears are not presented in reality everyday. People are not getting blown up everyday in America. I don’t think I can just chalk it up to the troops being in Afghanistan. It’s more of I know something “could” happen vs. what “will” happen. I know there could be an attack tomorrow, but I also know that it’s not likely that that will happen. This comes more from my day-to-day experiences and American History in general.
Speaking of fear, people in class just looked at it in this negative way. They neglected to realize that some degree of fear could save your life. That’s on of the reasons we were given this emotion. When one has a reasonable amount of fear, it allows them to take precaution. It allows you to be ready, just in case you need to fight or run. There are some things that people should fear, if not the absence of fear could be detrimental. To not fear a lion you come across on a path could mean the potential of thinking it will do you no harm, you won’t be ready to do what you can to survive. Further more I don’t think fear means a feeling of less security. It means accepting reality when you have a rational need for fear. If we did not fear terror our security would not be adequate and more attacks would happen.
The situation in Afghanistan doesn't erase my fear. It does not make me feel safer than I was before. I just recognize that it is irrational to disrupt my life for something that only “could” happen. I fear the unknown like most, but I won’t let that keep me in for the rest of my life. Security is reality staying in the could happens and not the will happens.
I don't know a lot about the subject. But if you define security broadly, as, for example, in the 2010 National Security Strategy, then I would say that having troops in Afghanistan makes us less secure than otherwise - for one main reason. If the definition of national security includes having a prosperous (or at least reasonable) economy, then the war in Afghanistan is hurting us rather than helping to keep our country secure. Our maintained presence there is pouring a lot of money into defense, when that money could be better spent improving the economy. I understand the reasons we are at war, but I think that we've been there too long. Are we really still protecting ourselves by being there? (I guess that's the question I'm supposed to be answering...) I don't really think so. In the narrow sense of national security, I do actually feel safer knowing that there are troops there. Maybe it's because of the fear that spread post-9/11, but knowing that there are soldiers there, and that our presence could be, in some way, scaring terrorists from attacking again, makes me feel safer.
That being said, I think we need to get out of there. Until we leave, we can't be certain that it's helping us in terms of physical security. In terms of economic security, it is definitely not helping us. I would feel much more financially secure if I knew that there wasn't a good percent of the budget being poured into defense. If we withdraw from Afghanistan, and then we get attacked again, then maybe I'll believe it was a good thing to be there. But as it is, I would prefer if this war would end.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
However, what is interesting to consider about the war effort is its time frame. The Council on Foreign Relations pegs the "War in Afghanistan" all the way back to 1999. One would think that news on Afghanistan would be exhausted by now, but in reality, it is finally increasing. NPR reported that in January-August 2009, Afghanistan received 2% of media coverage, about as much as the death of Michael Jackson.
The media blames clandestine information, potential danger, and cost as limits on why the story was not covered (note: these are the thrills and risks of journalism!). The real reason for the surged interest in Afghanistan (no pun intended), is Obama's emphasis on the matter. It is his war (Liz Spayd, Washington Post managing editor, qtd. on NPR). This makes me question the subjectivity of security. Krebs and Lobasz certaintly believed that "rhetorical coercion" could limit dialogue: "While the attacks were real, the insecurity was a cultural production" (6).
So then, the morphing of security makes me feel insecure. There is a famous cartoon* that depicts a president choosing the color threat via M&Ms. Obviously, he has a preference. In the same way, Al-Qaeda is directly related to U.S. foreign policy/the War on Terror because of the 9/11, so it makes sense that Afghanistan is a target.
Still, as discussed in class, terrorism is terrorous because of its unpredictability. The War in Afghanistan will not stop the other 46 Foregin Terrorist Organizations on the State Department's watch list. The War may not even deter attacks from al-Qaeda; it may encourage them.
Maybe this substantive question should be analyzed Devil's Advocate style: "If the the United States did not have troops deployed in Afghanistan at the present time, would that make you more or less secure?" On the whole, I might feel more secure if the U.S. allocated its resources more evenly towards various threats.
|*or maybe not so famous because I couldn't find it on Google for the life of me... Try this instead (yes, I realize the last few colors are out of order).|
Krebs, Lobasz on Fixing the Meaning of 9/11: Hegemony, Coercion, and the Road to War in Iraq
May 2010 National Security Strategy for the United States of America
The war is Afghanistan acts as a recruitment tool for all terrorist cells. They are able to point to it as proof of the US’s imperialistic desires. Furthermore, anytime we destroy someone’s home, spoil someone’s harvest, or kill someone’s family member we foster the growth of anger; both anger of the individual effected and general societal anger. The societal anger lays a foundation upon which presupposes individuals to turn anger into action when directly effected by the US negatively. The number of terrorist cells has grown exponentially since our “War on Terror.” I suppose that when Bush declared it he forgot that in war both side increase recruitment.
By failing to effectively establish a functioning state in Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban the war has highlighted the weaknesses in the US military. Before the two wars began after 9/11, the US military was held in awe by the world. The war Bosnia and the First Gulf War demonstrated the ability of the US to project power made any attack upon it seem like a daunting proposition. However, the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan have proved to be challenges beyond the reckoning of most people in the early 2000’s. As a result, the world is now intimately aware of the US military’s limitations.
Furthermore, the war in Afghanistan has made us less able to react to additional security threats. If the Bush administrations only goal in Afghanistan was to protect the American people, we would have been much better off with a much more limited approach. Special Forces operations and Predator strikes would have been sufficient resources to limit Al Qaeda’s capabilities to acceptable levels.
Above all, we must realize that fighting the Taliban does not make us more secure. The Taliban’s immediate goals do not extend beyond the Afghan borders. In the Frontline documentary called, “Behind Taliban Lines” they talk to many Taliban fighters about what their motivation is for joining. Across the board they say that the only reason they are fighting is to get foreigners to leave their land. They see the American occupation their as an assault to their dignity. Therefore, while those who truly wish to bring harm to the US homeland have left the country for safer territory, we continue to fight those who want sovereignty. As counterevidence to this point some may point to the more extreme braches of the Taliban in Pakistan who do wish to attack us within our borders. However, these people have been radicalized because of the war and even if the existed before it, they would have been contained without a full-scale invasion.
In Afghanistan, we snatching at flies but the real security threat are the far smaller number of yellow jackets. And while there are several yellow jackets in the meadow were in, the most dangerous ones have moved to safer territory. Meanwhile, these flies keep on biting us and yellow jackets in other places can plan their attacks in leisure. The war in Afghanistan has not made us more secure¬ ⎯ in fact it has created a far larger number of enemies and has hampered our ability to fight the original enemies. If someone wants to justify the war for other reasons (human rights, democracy promotion, etc.) that is up to them, but rationalizing the invasion in terms of security simply does not work.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Something I did notice however: the Korean cultural center went all out. They were trying to get some free trade bill to get passed. They had a huge amount of Korean candy and there was a massive line to get some. The line went right by this little kiosk where some representative gave us pamphlets about the bill. There was also some movie playing in the other room about Korean-US partnerships.
I wondered why they were doing this. Did they really think that some people would get inspired by the panphlets and write to their congressmen? Then I realized that we’re in DC; the congressmen may be the ones getting the pamphlets. I can just imagine it. The fiscally responsible representative from Iowa’s 2nd district walks in with his kid. He’s giving the information and a seed is planted. Two months later when deciding what to do on the issue that seed may just tip the scale.
Reason’s why I love DC.