Feed on
Posts
Comments

This page is for posts that extend the discussion beyond our lectures and discussions. Here, students may post follow-ups, responses, and critical reactions to the discussions we have in class.

This page is for the students in discussion group 3.


37 Responses to “Extended Discussion – Group 3”

  1. Alexandra McAtee says:

    I agree with everyone above that terminology is important; as Otis says, different perspectives are being used to judge certain acts of violence making a clear-cut distinction between good and bad very difficult to make. I’m not exactly sure if I agree with the point that terminology can be used to combat terrorism. The idea of people around the world adhering to the idea that all civilians should be spared from harm seems rather idealistic. From some terrorists’ perspective, a nation as a collective entity is considered to be the enemy, including innocent civilians; thus in their minds civilians are an acceptable target.

  2. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    The problem with justifying terrorism based on the outcome of the violence is that this approach fails to acknowledge that, in many cases, terrorism does not have a positive influence on events, and that no amount of lives is worth only a chance of (anyway subjective) improvement. Often terrorism serves only to further radicalize both sides of the equation. For instance, terrorist attacks have historically driven the Israeli electorate to the right, and alienates them from the idea that the Palestinians are a partner for peace. (Whether this is a legitimate sentiment or not is not the question; it is undoubtedly a common perception in Israel, and after several decades of civilian attacks, it is easy to see how such a perception arises. [Although, just for the sake of it, it is not a perception with which I agree—who doesn’t want peace?]) After 9/11, the US electorate was similarly pushed to the right, as security issues came to override other concerns. Northern Ireland is the same idea. Terrorism is thus often counterproductive. While it stands to run that risk, in my eyes it is never worthwhile, whatever ways we seek to classify it in the present, or to justify it over the course of history.

  3. Urvashi Barooah says:

    I definitely agree with Otis on his defintion of terrorism. Also, with regard to our discussion on when asymmetric violence is justified and when not, I think a lot of the justification when viewed in retrospect, is dependent on the outcome of the violence. For intance when insurgent violence aimed against the government succeeds with the newly instated government then establishing peace and mobilizing the people, it is in retrospect termed as an independence movement, rather than an insurgent movement. This again reiterates the subjectivity of these terms and their definitions.

  4. Charlie Wemyss-Dunn says:

    I agree with Otis’s argument of the need to be specific with the terms we use and believe that his point agrees with the point that I made at the end of discussion today about how we can only combat terrorism in the Middle East by making it appear unappealing, and indeed, unjust. Demonstrating to the civilian populace how misguided and needless acts of terror are by appealing to their hearts and minds would have the effect of destroying the terrorist support base and recruitment drive. This demonstration can only come about through acts that gain the trust of civilians like building of infrastructure or the creation of schools but most importantly it would come about through US forces keeping the promises they make to local people and protecting rather than abandoning secured territory (this is especially the case in Afghanistan where after making false promises to civilians of protection in return for information/leads, the army will just evacuate the area leaving the civilians prone to reprisal.) The most important thing not to do is to fight fire with fire and destroy the homes and infrastructure of the people you are trying to win over and not to alienate. Now I understand that it is a very fragile and tricky situation since any person could be a possible terrorist threat, but this is the only way to appeal to people in a way that they can understand and that is local to them. In this sense I believe that all individuals have the same value system but are simply pushed to acts of an extreme nature due to their house being bombed or an innocent relative being needlessly shot. I don’t want to criticize the US army because I know the Brits have been equally guilty of this in the past, but I feel that they need to stop relying on high-tech impersonal drones and destructive missiles and actually get to some effective counter-insurgency work! In this way not everyone will be or will want to be a ‘terrorist’ and support for terror tactics will fall.

  5. Otis Pitney says:

    I left class today thinking about the importance and utility of labeling different combatants by their proper terms. It may seem trivial but I actually think terminology makes up an important part of combating terrorism. As it stands now, the terrorist is defined in the eye of the beholder; its breadth consigns its meaning to obscurity. Liberator or senseless, despicable murderer? Or it may evince a mixed response based on the degree of empathy for the cause. This range is not primarily a result of fundamental, irreconcilable differences in cultural beliefs but of different understandings of the word. That’s where nominal distinction between “terrorists” based on target discrimination becomes so important. The Palestinian who drives up to an Israeli checkpoint and blows himself up must be called a. The Palestinian who murders an Israeli politician must be called b. The Palestinian who kills an Israeli walking down the street must be called c—a terrorist. People need to be able to condemn these acts with less doubt, so that the word terrorist becomes synonymous with evil. It must be stripped down to its stark naked mass murdering reality, when this is the case such as with September 11. As this happens, and the association becomes ingrained in culture, men who kill civilians will no longer be able to hide behind a word. Every idea of justice must be cut away. This means extricating more honorable “terrorists” from the pool so that delegates cannot stand up at the United Nations conference, watched by the eyes of the world, and compare the group responsible for murdering 11 Israeli athletes to French groups who fought Nazi soldiers. While it is a war tactic and will probably never be fully extinguished, establishing that terrorism, strictly defined, is not morally defensible is central in supporting efforts to starve and isolate it.

  6. Mehdi Prevot says:

    I’d like to ponder on one of Prof. Morrison’s statement: is Global Warming (GB) not a wrong priority? Despite an obvious provocative side, it is worth considering that indeed we are giving too much importance to a not so major problem.
    Why do we consider GB to be one of the most severe issues of our time? Maybe because natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce. But what about Science? It’s common to hear something like “you can’t stop progress”. Well, shouldn’t we have faith in scientific progress and put all our efforts, time and money in scientific research? Science could get us round GB by finding a way to make food supplies expand or even by finding a new planet to welcome human life. It may seem very futuristic and a bit foolish to imagine that but hey, who knew a few centuries ago that men would walk on the Moon? Making such scientific progress often takes a long time but maybe less time than trying to convince the Chinese people they’re doing the wrong thing and should follow our advice.
    So if is not to protect natural resources, then it is to protect our environment on a broader scale, namely animals and plants. Once again, we might be trying too hard to bend a phenomenon we can barely control. In the 18th century, Rousseau already complained about the fact that men were destorying and re-shaping Mother Nature. This is a fact: evolution is inevitable. GB is such a big issue maybe because of our antithetical desires. We want progress but in an unchanging world.
    But why should we care if polar bears and so many other species become extinct along the way? Can I prioritize both my life and a bear’s?
    And yes, people will certainly die too. But many people are already dying because of, say, HIV. Although this problem could easily be soothed by making the highly active antiretroviral therapy more accessible, capitalist states decide it is better to keep their liberal views and let money prevails over human suffering.
    Then those same states go and spread their wisdom all over the world when a global issue is looming, but wonder why some states don’t take them seriously and reject the good advice that can save them.

  7. Derrick Angle says:

    Extending on last week’s discussion, I would like to agree with the fact that Malthus has a strong foundation for his beliefs. It is evident that population growth is a problem, and needs to be controlled. There are only a limited number of resources, which is where the problem of population growth lies. As Charlie stated above me, there are three options that we face in order to equalize the growth in food supply with the population growth—decreasing the number of people, increasing the amount of food, or settling somewhere in the middle. Since it would be hard to increase the amount of food and distribute it evenly, I agree that there are ways to keep the population controlled, without violating human rights. I must say that I agree with Charlie that giving women equal rights when it comes to education or contraception would be the optimal choice. For example, sex education is schools would be a start. Many students are wrongly informed about their options due to the religion, or belief of the school—similar to my Catholic high school. If students, especially in poorer communities, had equal education of those in more affluent communities, I think that the increase of population could be controlled.

  8. Julia Deutsch says:

    While I agree with Sophie that we cannot withdraw resources from helping today’s poor, I also agree with Charlie that there are things to be done to humanely slow down population growth. I believe that while we cannot desert the poor, some resources do need to be given to programs that help introduce contraception programs as well as educational reform to developing nations. However, I think a larger question is whether or not policies like China’s one-child policy are too inhumane. On a basic level, I absolutely agree that it infringes on basic human rights, but if a one-child policy can save this planet, is it really asking too much? I’m not saying it’s correct, but I think Professor Morrison’s point during class is definitely thought-worthy. He posed the question of whether it is really fair to ask nations like China to follow environmental sanctions when they have already instituted population control devices that we refuse to even consider.

  9. Sophie Gardiner says:

    In my opinion, the most difficult issue raised in discussion last week was that of the rankings from the Copenhagen conference. It can be hard to justify spending billions preventing the worlds oceans from rising a cm when a child dies every 30 seconds from Malaria. We have well established that the world has limited resources, as Malthus argues, so we need to use what we have most effectively. Isn’t it a better use of money to invest in antimalarial bed nets and allow the island of Tuvalu to evacuate? Granted, I think there are many strong cases being made that actual calculated benefits of investing in climate solutions are far greater than total future costs, and we need to be investing in these projects. However, I think that while climate change is an incredibly important issue there are even more incredibly important issues I could imagine being higher priorities.

  10. Syd Schulz says:

    I agree with Charlie that population control is necessary and achievable without violating human rights. It is interesting to note that countries with high standards of living and equal rights generally have lower birthrates–this is a good sign, and it suggests that Malthus, although fundamentally correct, was approaching the problem with the wrong methodology. He claims that through charity and welfare the poor are encouraged to have more children. I would say it is the opposite. Birthrates among poorer nations are undoubtedly higher than those of affluent countries. Heaping additional suffering on these nations would only exacerbate the problem. Education and access to contraception are what make a difference in birthrates. For this particular environmental problem, economic growth is desirable–the more affluent and educated the populace, the lower the population growth.

  11. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    Let’s not be so quick to criminalize Malthus. His fundamental premise is undeniable: population increases geometrically; food supply only increases arithmetically. Earth has a limited carrying capacity. This is clearly and self-evidently true: the fact that resources are scarce is the engine of natural selection/evolution, otherwise we/animals would have no need to evolve. The only way to resolve the Malthusian deadlock is to make human population growth equal in rate to the growth in food supply. There are three ways to do this: decrease the number of people, increase the amount of food, or meet somewhere in the middle. I argue that the third option is the best way. Look, I don’t think any of us are Social Darwinists or the like: we’re not Hitler and we don’t believe in anesthetizing the poor or the handicapped or the mentally disabled. But population control is doable. And I’m not talking about death panels or China’s one-child policy, which is a fundamental abuse of human rights. Rather, it is proven that the best way to reduce birth rate is to provide equal rights for women, contraception, and education. That kills two birds with one stone: you are upholding human rights and improving standards of living, while ethically reducing the birth-rate. That’s not a short-term or stop-gap measure; it’s something that will require a substantial investment and several (maybe dozens of) decades. But it’s doable, and imperative. Increasing the planet’s carrying capacity is much more difficult. While agricultural innovation is very real, and there is no doubt that human innovation has largely increased our food supply, this is ultimately a challenge that has an upper bound. Nonetheless, it is important for us to continue to invest in ways to make our planet more efficient. Keep in mind, though, this is less important than controlling population through education, as stable population growth is much more conducive to long-term stability.

  12. Otis Pitney says:

    New week-thoughts on suffering vs. sovereignty aside for the moment–today we talked about two seemingly contrasting polemics. environmentalism/future vs. nuclear proliferation/welfare of the human population. Jumping right into it, I would align myself most with Brit Charlie’s camp. I think his point at the end of class today was the right one-we talk about these two things as if they are two roads, and we can only go down one or the other. While I fully believe in a middle way and a balance here, I strongly resent Malthus’s claims for leaving the poor to their own devices. This policy would be acceptable if we truly did live in a world of free labor but we do not. Perhaps it would be fabulous for the planet if the economically secure people could push a button and a billion poor people disappeared, instead they suffer. Some are on a yacht, watching and waiting as masses of others starve in rowboats alongside. Its very easy in the rich position to view a human life in Sudan with apathy, which is not an indication of an immoral soul, its just natural. The price of maintaining an environment for our kids should not be paid in human blood, whether through war or through survival of the fittest-backed negligence. We don’t have to sacrifice all economic development for the environment. These people need to be given a chance to compete before Malthus’s logic is even plausible. His argument makes me think of certain white Americans in the Reconstruction period after the American Civil War who claimed it was enough to emancipate the negro and then leave him to his own devices in a system of Jim Crow laws. And we know the century of human suffering such negligence had on blacks in the South. There’s no talk of environment there and there’s no talk of environment when you have subsidized American agricultural goods being sold to African countries at the expense of the local African farmers. Letting these people starve to death cannot be an option. By this understanding there are areas of international politics taken up by economic development that are independent of the environment.

  13. Charlie Wemyss-Dunn says:

    We raised the question in class discussion today about the relative importance of a focus on environmental politics considering other pertinent issues in IR today such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As I said right at the end of class, I believe that the way states address the respective issues of environmental politics and nuclear weapons do not have to be mutually exclusive as it is possible to deal with both these issues through a constructivist policy. By this I mean that a change in the way states deal with each other could lead to multilateral agreement on the best way to tackle global warming as well as an effective policy to curtail nuclear proliferation. I think the main problems arise from states’ distrust of one another, and indeed their desire to further their own interests at the expense of the interests of other states and, indeed, humanity. Now, as mentioned in class, it won’t be easy to fundamentally transform the way states tend to deal with one another, however, in order to be able to address issues that have short-term and long-term relevance a transformation must be attempted. I would also argue against the impossibility of transformation by pointing to the case study of the USSR on the eve of the Cold War’s collapse. A significant shift in the ideas and beliefs of the Soviet Union towards the US, combined with the creation of new established norms in the way both states approach one another was the significant reason for the complete thaw in relations. Whats not to say this same ‘thaw’ cannot be applied to dealings with Iran over it’s nuclear program, or China with regards to cutting carbon emissions. It’s unwise to say some issues must be dealt with to the detriment of others, as it is clear that the issues of global warming and nuclear holocaust are two of the most pressing issues present in the world today along with terrorism, world hunger and economic development. Working multilaterally to change norms and world beliefs is going to be a much more effective strategy in the long run than the big developed countries simply dictating terms of environmental treatment to developing countries whilst maintaining a cold distrust to maintain security.

  14. Sophie Gardiner says:

    I think it is very important to remember that in the Charter the United Nations human rights and the avoidance of wars are mentioned as two of the highest priorities. If minimizing violent conflict is part of what we consider to be the UN’s statement to protect sovereignty, we need to remember that we want to minimize conflict because of the human suffering it causes. In other words, part of the UN’s mission to support sovereignty is actually to minimize human suffering. I think the UN Declaration of Human Rights was an incredible accomplishment that needs to be defended whenever possible. Obviously we do need to look at things on a case by case basis as far as the effectiveness of intervention, but the UN should intervene in the many cases when UN intervention is desired and could be effective. As we stated in class, suffering is a much clearer mission than sovereignty and is, in my opinion, more important.
    I’d like to start the discussion for this week on the effectiveness of the UN Security Council. It seems the veto power completely undermines the UN’s ability to prevent war. If only one veto is needed to stop UN troops from controlling the advances of an aggressive country then how can UN Peacekeeping troops ever fulfill their mission in a global war?

  15. Emily Wagman says:

    I’m still very unsure of the power and credibility of the United Nations. Because the organization is founded on two opposing principles, I don’t think the UN can make decisions that promote the safety of all people, something they promise in the Declaration of Human Rights. Because the UN has to reconcile sovereignty with suffering, decisions that may eventually be unpopular are made, like in Rwanda for example. In my opinion, the United Nations needs to take a definite stand on human rights or sovereignty to maintain its credibility in the international system. I think the UN should value suffering over sovereignty, but clearly in the cases of places like Tibet, where the UN would have to deal with strong armies, it would be hard to reconcile the idea of saving a few with the idea of losing many. However, I don’t think it’s fair for the UN to make decisions on a case to case basis.

  16. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    I think Mehdi and I fundamentally disagree on the purpose of the UN. (Sovereignty vs. suffering once more) He is trying to take as step back from his argument by saying that democracy is not necessary, as long as the regime type is what is desired by the “will of the majority.” But I would argue that that is just as useless—will of the majority effectively makes democracy, whether it is the type which with we are familiar (liberal and Western) or not. The UN must encompass all states, regardless of their political situation. This includes quasi-democracies like Iran, as well as totalitarian states like North Korea. Neither of these come close to being either democracies or even places ruled according to the wishes of the “will of the majority.” But it is so so so so so important that we have an international forum for states like that. The UN headquarters in New York is an infinitely better battlefield than the West Bank. It is relatively reasonable for democracies like the US, or leagues of democracies such as NATO or the EU, to undermine other regime types around the world in order to install democracies there. But the UN should absolutely not be playing such a role. If it did, the UN risks losing its credibility as an organ of international neutrality, which I believe would have far broader, deeper, and graver consequences.

  17. Mehdi Prevot says:

    erratum= I meant “the same administration lied and couldn’t get enough support…”

  18. Mehdi Prevot says:

    The point I made in class may have sounded controversial but like Otis and Charlie, I will try to develop it and make it clearer.
    I said that I wished the UN were more active in contemporary International Relations. For example when elections are organized in a country where the power in place is tyrannical, the UN should do more than just send “observers” to witness what is not a secret: elections are fraudulent. Now, King Charlie underlined that it was a very Western-Centric view and I agree with him to a certain extent. Indeed, although I’d like the UN to promote the political system I have lived in my whole life (democracy), I am not saying it should also help spread Western/European values and cultural aspects. If the people of Iran wants to abide by the rules of Islam and apply the sharia in their daily life, so be it, as long as it is the will of the majority. And I would even support the application of such law to any foreigner living in the country for a long or short period of time. However, what really disturbs me in our definition of sovereignty is that it doesn’t involve legitimacy of the Power. Why would the UN accept the membership of a country led by a single man who happens to control the military forces of his country? Otis presents the “violation of UN inspections” as one possible trigger for collective sanctions against a State. If I understand correctly, it follows from his reasoning that as long as a State lets the UN witness violations of human rights within its borders, everything’s OK and there’s no reason to intervene and violate the Sovereignty of that State. I think it shouldn’t be the case.
    The Irak War failed not only because Irak was surrounded by states hostile to the US, but because Bush’ administration invaded the country under the pretense of making a good action when it pursued its interest. It failed because the same administration lied and could get enough support for this war, and also because when the US managed to get hold on what it wanted, it suddenly realized that there was no plan to help the people of Irak which, in fact, was supposedly the purpose of the American invasion. Neither the US nor the EU should decide to intervene when the situation is favorable to them. Had more countries participated to the Irak war, the hostility against the US could have been seriously lessened and incentives to hide insurgents or “loose” nuclear weapons could have been reduced. The UN interventions should always be a collective intervention, never led by a major country but by several members.
    WWII occured because primary actors were not part of the League of Nations. Today, maybe the UN has done a good job to avoid some other conflicts, and even help solve some. However, I don’t think it does everything it should to fully prevent WWIII which, as people have pointed out during our discussion, is its primary purpose.

  19. Charlie Wemyss-Dunn says:

    I want to carry on the thread that Otis started, which makes sense since we were debating the question of sovereignty vs suffering long after class ended on Thursday back in our suite in Pearsons! I agree with Otis on the difficulty of coming to a clear conclusion about which route an International Organization or global power must follow when constructing its foreign policy agenda. I also agree that there has to be some established/unchangeable policy of dealing with atrocities that are most severe in their repercussions, like genocide for example. However, I also believe that becoming too rigid in these policies (possibly not genocide but certainly nuclear proliferation) could lead to a lack of cooperation or dialogue and the increased possibility of a unneeded conflict. Now, this is not to say that I am a Waltzian and think that we should allow all states to have the right to build up nuclear arsenals because we don’t take immediate and decisive action. Quite the contrary, I argue that proliferation is supremely important, but I don’t think that ignoring diplomacy with a state simply because we do not tolerate attempted nuclear buildup is the right way of approaching things. This is especially true if the regime or leader in power is unstable or the state in question is located in an unfavorable location to make enemies. This leads me on to my second point of acting on a case by case basis. I mentioned in discussion that the US for example should act accordingly to its interests when assessing whether it is necessary to intervene in a state’s affairs. However, I would like to alter this statement and clarify that by its interests I don’t mean that the US should look for countries with rich natural resources to invade, or states’ that the US want to eliminate from a hegemonic struggle. What I mean is that when you look at Iraq which is a state surrounded by states that are hostile to the US and would therefore be willing to hide insurgents or worse, ‘lose’ nuclear weapons to terrorist orgs, you realize that any rash or harsh action is going to come with a heavy price. We need look no further than the failure in Iraq to understand this. On the other hand, a state like Rwanda or the Balkans could have been, or proved to be (in the case of Bosnia), instances were swift US intervention through NATO or the UN was effective and reflected positively on humanitarian intervention. I am not arguing that you should ignore atrocities in states that could prove a failure for your reputation or foreign policy goals, I just think that different strategies and varying levels of involvement should be utilized depending on the case. Genocide could be the possible exception, but as Rwanda illustrated, how does a state or IO know when a genocide is about to, or is taking place. This is a question that cannot be answered but certainly improved communication seems to be a plausible solution.

  20. Syd Schulz says:

    Otis makes an interesting point when he says that “the UN should absolutely be constructed to rise above domestic pressures.” Clearly, this is not the case right now. American domestic politics have a HUGE influence on UN action or, more likely, inaction. The way the Security Council is structured means that any member can seriously impede UN action–domestic groups in any of these countries can thus impact significantly what the UN does. This is probably not a good thing, but at the same time I don’t see how it can be avoided. It is interesting to think that although the structure of the UN values the nation-state, a lot of the actual power lies with the smaller sub-sets that direct domestic politics. Would it be better to discard the concept of states in the organization of international organizations and instead organize people as individual or groups with common interests? Would this make a significant difference in the way the organization acted?

  21. Savant Shrestha says:

    Just because we’ve been talking about NATO I thought I’d put this up here:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8638794.stm

  22. Otis Pitney says:

    good arguments on both sides of Sam Huntington’s argument, recognizing spanish as an official language at some point in the following decades is an extremely difficult question with sound logic on both sides. Just to keep the conversation moving so we don’t dwell too much on one area, I’d like to respond to today’s discussion while its still fresh–
    As with all issues we tackle in this class, sovereignty vs. suffering is certainly another with no easy answer. Just because sovereignty is an idea, a concept that is socially constructed does not mean it doesn’t carry an immense amount of weight and can easily be discarded, nor is it a fundamentally flawed idea merely because it may not necessarily be in our nature. Ultimately, as I said today, I think the heart of question becomes one of power vs. principle. What is the cost of action against a perceived violation of human rights vs. how important upholding our principles are/how grave the injustice is. Now injustice is a relative term plagued by an endless swarm of contrasting conceptions. However, I think that while the gray area of this term is immense, there is also a black. And by that I mean there are certain commitments we, as human beings and members of the UN, make that can be subjected to theory and formula. We talked a lot today about analysis on a case by case basis which is perhaps the only way forward for the gray area. But when it comes to absolute commitments such as that of nuclear non-proliferation, or mass genocide–there must be an established formula for the process of intervention. If all members of the UN consent to nuke inspectors, there cannot be any compromise on that fact. Knowledge in today’s unstable world has never been more critical for the fate of the world. Certain crimes, such as violation of UN inspections, need to have concrete punishment in order to deter them from happening–not flip-flopping and debate. There can’t be any speculation on the part of the criminal on what his fate will be–there can be no bluff-calling, no gambles. There are glaring discrepancies such as Rwanda and the only explanation I can conceive of is lack of knowledge is domestic interest groups and domestic pressures stopping what should be done. For that, the UN should absolutely be constructed to rise above domestic pressures and act in these less subjective injustices.

  23. Alexandra McAtee says:

    The immigration of Hispanics entering the United States is definitely a major issue today, as mentioned above in the previous posts. The influx of this one group alone has caused concern among many Americans, both politically and economically. Though I do not think immigration threatens our national integrity, I feel that making Spanish the official second language is not necessary. For years, immigrants from around the world have come to America and have struggled to learn English to communicate with other American citizens. Why should we make an exception for this one particular group? There have been mass immigrations from other areas of the world, but creating a bilingual United States never crossed anyone’s mind. Though a large number of Latin Americans are in the United States today, a significant portion of this group is in the country illegally. Why should life be easier for these illegals than for an immigrant who is legally here from elsewhere in the world?

  24. Julia Deutsch says:

    I would like to respond to Urvashi and Otis’ post about Mexican immigration and its influence on U.S. policy. Although I definitely agree that our system of checks and balances should prevent any major faction in this country from turning over such laws such as the bill of rights, what needs to be considered is future policy. A topic brought up in discussion that is especially pertinent is abortion. Having a substantially larger Catholic demographic will absolutely influence policy direction. I am not passing judgment on whether this is a good thing or bad thing, but it must be acknowledged that such a growing demographic within the country will be able to field significant influence in the legislature and potentially the executive. Any large demographic, whether it be an influx of Mexicans or any other nationality, will certainly have a large impact on the direction of this country.

  25. Sophie Gardiner says:

    I think that the past posts have definitely brought up some of the strongest points against Sam Huntington’s argument that immigration threatens our national integrity. The fact is that Latin American immigration has already completely changed our economy and become a major part of the American identity. Until the demand for labor is lessens, the migration will continue. From here on it is just a question of how well we integrate.
    I want to bring up the point Professor Morrison’s question of whether it is better to liberalize trade of factors of production. Are there any solutions to the immigration problem other than building walls? If we invest in infrastructure in Mexico so that goods can be produced there cheaply and traded easily would it benefit both parties? I don’t know much about any research that has gone into this, but there has to be a way to improve the system if the incredible costs of immigration control can be redirected.

  26. Emily Wagman says:

    I also agree with Urvashi in that there is not one set of “American values,” but rather many different sets that vary from person to person. If, as Huntington puts it, there is a uniform set of American, Anglo-Saxon values, there would never be any political or social debates because people would agree on everything. This, clearly, is not the case. I think it’s also wrong to say, if such a uniform set of values existed, it would be of a WASP origin. The United States, while founded by a somewhat homogenous population, was really able to grow and thrive due to an influx of immigrants from a variety of countries that brought their culture and values with them. This indicates that the current American values are actually a combination of values from other countries and not the same values the founding fathers believed in when writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. If this were the case, we would still have slavery and limited suffrage. The fact that the values of US citizens have changed from those of 1776 to those of 2010 proves that the United States has constantly changed in accepting new immigrants. Why stop that now?

  27. Mehdi Prevot says:

    I completely agree with Urvashi and it would be foolish to think all Americans share the same values. It’s enough to look at the American public opinion on abortion. Regularly some politicians try to modify the law and ban it. I really think the USA can claim great achievements in terms of International Politics, but at the same time a strong conservatism inherent in the country creates a tendency to “turn inward” (Bill Clinton) and reject foreign influence. Negative outcomes can result from such attitude (Clinton mentions the Great Depression). It’s as if the USA wanted the benefits of globalization without having to deal with difficulties resulting from it and without making the necessary adjustments to its own system.

  28. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    Otis’ point about the system of checks and balances that prevent quick and sudden change to our constitution and system of civil liberties is a valid one; indeed it is arguably a reality that makes this country an inherently conservative place. But I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a moment and talk about the realities of linguistically divided countries. Language is one of the fundamental defining traits of “nation”, along perhaps with culture, civil religion, a shared homeland, etc. In our current Westphalian system of nation-states, the degree to which nation and state are synonymous is pretty significant. And the most divided nation-states in that system are linguistically disparate: Canada, Belgium, etc. Quebec, for instance, overwhelmingly feels a sense of nationalism, and just 15 years ago just a smidge under half of Quebecois voted for independence from their linguistically distinct fellow Canadians. Even more interesting, among the Quebecois, the 80% which are Francopones voted overwhelmingly for the measure, in contrast to the Anglophone and allophone minorities which vociferously rejected it. In Belgium, the tension between the Flemish and Walloon linguistic groups has reached a boiling point not because of cultural differences but because of linguistic ones. Language is our most basic level of relating to each other, and this suggests that a house (linguistically) divided simply cannot stand.
    Then again, the United States is much much larger than Canada or Belgium, has always been a country of many languages, a melting pot of sorts, and so maybe none of this even applies here.

  29. Otis Pitney says:

    Urvashi makes a good point about extrapolating a stereotype of conservative Persian culture. America does not have one set of values. The argument in favor of preventing Spanish from becoming a second official language seems to be primarily about the transaction cost and the coordination costs, that a majority of people in this country speak English, how many languages are we going to accept? De facto English is the language of this country. Pause to consider the sheer logistics of having 75% of the population learn to speak Spanish. I think in a lot of these cases, these arguments are founded upon fear. What I think is vital for xenophobic Americans to remember and to try to understand is that the influx of a great mass of Hispanics into society does not necessarily threaten ‘American’ values. It is not as if the laws protecting civil liberties such as a woman’s freedom to be educated is going to be abridged in any way. Even if we had a sudden influx of 100 million legal Persian immigrants (impossible and ludicrous i know), we have a bill of rights. We have amendments in this country that require immense political strain and weight to overturn. Our government was formed to be resistant to sudden change, for better or for worse. Our laws and our constitutionally protected values will not be altered by immigration any time in the foreseeable future. Having said that, I don’t think we should simply open up the borders to the entire world. This country has had success for many reasons, some of them bad–some of them uglier aspects involving oppression of other peoples–but also some of them good. We’ve developed many great systems based on the highest ideals which helps explain why so many people want to come live in this country. This country, as it exists today, can not allow the entire world in legally and provide its bounty for all of them while maintaining its extraordinary standards of living and opportunities. Our immigration system needs to be reformed, more people need to be admitted legally but as always, there needs to be a balance of costs and benefits.

  30. Urvashi Barooah says:

    Today in disucssion we talked about Samuel Huntington in relation to Latin American immigration to the US. Professor Morrison brought up the instance of Persian conservative values against abortion and prohibition of women literacy. In this instance, Huntington would argue that Persian integration would come at the cost of the US having to assimilate these seemingly backward, regressive ideals into their culture, which is obviously undesirable. However, this situation has the same problem as Huntington’s argument: its implies the assumption that a particular culture is a uniform, homogenous entity. In extrapolating the stereotype of conservative Persian culture to the each and every individual of Persia is a generalisation and oversimplification. This is precisely the problem with Huntington’s argument: he generalizes the American culture into a primarily white Anglo-Saxon culture with uniform values, completely ignoring the diversity of its components. America after all was founded on several waves of immigration, which resulted in the melting pot that it is today. If Huntington’s assumption about the homogeneityof cultures were true, it considerably diminishes the possibility of domestic conflict as cultures are all assumed to have similar values anyway. Yet we know that this is not true.

  31. Alexandra McAtee says:

    Much like Emily, I thought our discussion on historical context versus personality of famous world leaders was very interesting, especially as we debated which was more important. I really think personality influences how people approach a situation and historical context influences the execution on how to handle that particular situation. Personality plays a major role in a person’s efforts to maintain and obtain power. Personality determines whether individuals will make decisions with their heads or with their hearts i.e. making decisions pragmatically or being influenced by strong personal beliefs and morals. Also, personality determines how willing a person is to fight to obtain power. Despite the time period or era, if a person is hungry enough and manipulative or just plain smart, he or she will find some level of success. I still think that it is important to remember that personality is also influenced by circumstances and experience and can undergo some amount of change. In addition, I feel historical context plays a more prominent role in the level of success and notoriety people achieve once they are in a leadership position. Because Stalin came to power at such a tumultuous time in Russia and his means to obtaining power were questionable, he became more infamous. If conditions in Russia were different, he may have adapted to the situation and come to power in a much different manner, which might have made him less controversial.

  32. Worth Baker says:

    I agree with Syd in her classification of Ahmedinejad as a reasonably rational actor. Despite his cavalier attitude towards nuclear proliferation and his seeming lack of deference to the west, he is most certainly aware of his power limitations. It is in his direct interest to stay in power and, based on the events that occurred during Iran’s most recent election, he really wants to stay in power. He saw what happened to Saddam – if he does enough to piss off the US, he exposes himself to the risk of invasion and a toppling of his regime.
    However, I’m not so quick to classify non-state actors as rational as well, mainly because non-states have very different interests from states. States have populations to care and provide for – a terrorist organization does not. If Al-Qaeda hits the US with a nuke, the US suffers a massive casualty loss. If the US tries to nuke back, they might kill a lot of terrorists, but they might also kill a lot of civilians, and by doing so, piss off a ton of future-terrorists. Therefore, I think that the rise of the importance of the non-state actor has made the world a less stable place, at least when compared to the rise of more nuclear-capable/aspirational states.

  33. Syd Schulz says:

    I disagree with Charlie’s comment that we are living in a fundamentally more dangerous world today than during the cold war. For one, I don’t think that irrational leaders are nearly as irrational as they seem. Yeah, Ahmedinejad is a crack job, but he doesn’t seem to have a death wish. If he really wanted to blow the US off the face of the earth, and if he really didn’t care what happened to him or his country, he would have done so awhile ago. Like any leader he wants to hold on to power, and such aggressive rhetoric is his way of directing domestic discontent.

    Non-state actors are pretty scary, but still affected by deterrence. If Hamas nukes Israel, they may destroy Israel, but they are probably smart enough to realize that a) what is left of Israel or her allies will blast Palestine to smithereens, b) any previous popular support for Hamas’ cause will curdle in the face of the Palestinian death toll brought about by their actions and c) the majority of the nuclear power states (excepting Iran) will unite against them. Of course, this could lead to an Iran vs. World nuclear blow out, but if deterrence prevailed between the US and the USSR, when the USSR had a significantly higher second strike capability than Iran, why wouldn’t it here?

  34. Emily Wagman says:

    In discussion on Thursday we talked about the importance of historical context and personalities of world leaders, specifically Stalin. I’ve been thinking about the importance of personalities and historical context (more specifically which one is more important), and I think they’re pretty connected in that personalities determine, to an extent, historical context. While certain aspects of international relations are out of a leader’s hands, there are definitely aspects of international relations that are directly related to the personality of the leader in question. I think Stalin’s personality and personal decisions dictated some of the post WWII politics in Europe. Had someone less focused on being a complete dictator come to power after Lenin’s death, the Cold War might not have played out the way it did. That being said, I don’t think a different person would have/could have come to power after Lenin, which suggests that historical context can also dictate who becomes the leader of a country. The likelihood of someone like Stalin coming to power when Gorbachev did is ridiculous, mainly because of the historical context.

  35. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    I think we are living in a fundamentally different world than the one in which the nuclear balance of power was maintained between the US and USSR. That balance of power was largely sustainable; today’s proliferation of nuclear weapons is not for two reasons:
    1) the presence of irrational states/leaders. There are states with nuclear ambitions that are simply not rational. I’m thinking specifically of a place like Iran, where leaders like Ahmadinejad are just not behaving in the way that any of the theorists we have studied would expect a rational state to behave. This makes them unpredictable. Coupled with their nuclear ambitions, this is pretty dangerous.
    2) because of the prevalence and power of non-state actors, and their desires for WMDs. In this case, I’m thinking of movements like Al-Queda, Hamas, and similar movements around the world. Since the downfall of the Berlin Wall, the power of these non-state actors has surged significantly. You can’t have a balance of power between nations and non-nations, it just doesn’t work.
    Nuclear deterrence is, as of now, necessary. You can’t expect, for instance, Israel to disarm, when there are almost-nuclear powers that have vowed to drive it into the sea. However, at some point, there are just too many nuclear weapons. Countries don’t need enough weapons that add to the security risk but have no security value-add. So as of now, get rid of weapons that are just a security risk, but countries have to be able to keep enough weapons to ensure deterrence, as long as the world otherwise maintains its present crummy state.

  36. Sophie Gardiner says:

    In discussion on Thursday I thought the most interesting point we brought up was the prospect of the United States as a complete military hegemon. If we develop nuclear defense mechanism capable of destroying any enemy’s 2nd strike capability, there will be no power to keep the U.S. in check. These developments may or may not have already been achieved without the public being informed, but thankfully the U.S. hasn’t launched any massive attack so far.
    Would it ever? At first one would like to believe that the U.S. would remain the “city on a hill” and be a benevolent hegemon, yet, if we think back to Professor Morrison’s hypothetical situation from a previous discussion about nuclear war with Iran developing from a small conflict in Israel, it suddenly seems slightly more possible.
    Waltz would argue that this is an incredibly dangerous situation. He argues that deterrence caused by the proliferation of nuclear weapons is very strong and that destruction of the balance could lead to global turmoil. Are there other forces that would make it undesirable for the U.S. to launch an attack other then our “responsibility” to be a great global leader?

  37. Mehdi Prevot says:

    Here’s an interesting article by Stephen Cohen stating that it is erroneous to assert now that the collapse of the Soviet Union was inevitable. I thought it would add some elements of information to our last discussion. It is entitled “Was the Soviet System Reformable?”
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/1520337?cookieSet=1

Leave a Reply

Sites DOT Middlebury: the Middlebury site network.