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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 2.

23 Responses to “Extended Discussion – Group 2”

  1. I would like to take Jonah and Hannah’s points even further. The “think before you leap” strategy holds true not only in the environmental realm, but in terms of security relations as well. As we have briefly mentioned in the last discussion, the aftermath of 9/11 demonstrates the importance of having a “cool head” while making major policy decisions. Although it may seem like an obvious and a straightforward statement, very unfortunately, we can still the reverse happening in almost every country’s foreign policy. State governments are still too dominated by the 20th century realist dogmas of rationalist egoistic pursuit of their own interests. Given the inequality of power distribution, this frame of thinking creates the precise manipulation of the data for the purposes of justifying (or more like, covering up) the controversial policies, and, in the extreme cases, causes the unnecessary and the unjust suffering of the people.
    Pardon my idealism, but I like to believe that in the 21st century the international politicians will be able to formulate some supranational goals and values, which will finally be recognized by all the nations. And if takes the danger of global warming to force the politicians to start considering this seriously, then be it. After all, it took an entire WWII for the major 20th century powers to start taking Keynes’ rhetorics seriously.

    (Ah, it just hit me this is my last online post for this class. Thank you everyone, I am certainly going to miss the discussions).

  2. Jonah Merris says:

    I completely agree with Hannah’s point above. I think that policymakers should “look before they leap,” especially when dealing with huge issues like global climate change and humanitarian crises. The recent controversy surrounding leaked emails, falsified climate data, and less-than trustworthy scientists demonstrates that science has, is, and will be used for political means. However, with that being said, I urge caution when embarking on any sort of extensive fact-finding mission. The data we are searching for that relates to human behavior, the atmosphere, and models of largely unpredictable systems is all subject to numerous variables and large margins of error. As Professor Morrison put it earlier in the year when referring to political science, we have too many variables and too few empirics. When it comes to climate change, we have little precedent (in terms of historical carbon emissions) and far too many variables that could be leading to warming or cooling. However, like in security policy, the stakes are HUGE. Can we afford inaction while we scratch our heads and conduct studies? What good will these studies accomplish if the data is quickly becoming obsolete with the growth of industrial economies (China, India)? I think we should take steps in the right direction (curbing pollution, etc.) and let the research catch up. Nothing’s wrong with fewer chemicals in the ecosystem.

  3. Hannah Postel says:

    As we’ve been reading the many articles about the environment and globalization, I’ve noticed the multiple (very different) data! Some authors use certain statistics completely contradictory to those in other articles. I can understand of course having different views about the same data, e.g. interpreting the information in different ways. It is of course difficult to compile data about the number of starving people, the number of people under the poverty level, etc, but I think this makes analysis dangerous. In order to be able to suggest any useful steps for the future, we must have correct information about the present. It is important to be able to attempt to figure out what has gone well in the past and what has not. While of course looking for a solution (or a compilation of multiple strategies) takes first priority, I think more progress could be accomplished if we could build up a database of generally accepted, scientifically proven data. Just as in a scientific experiment, results can not be accepted unless they are proven by multiple people multiple times. In order to be able to take further action, we should know where we stand now.

  4. Wil Hardcastle says:

    Just wanted to respond briefly to Tina’s post above. I completely agree, absolute gains on moral issues should absolutely be held at the highest importance. Unfortunately, this is not currently the case. For example India is benefiting from huge economic connection with the US and the West, but at the same time India has the highest amount of forced labor occurring within its borders. Despite this fact, India has not been ranked on the “tier 3 list” (worst offenders) on the US trafficking in Persons Report where it definitely belongs (for many reasons including lack of effort to solve the problem). This is because our current policy values economic advancement over those of human rights. It is my hope, and yours, that as the world becomes increasingly interconnected (through trade, etc.), its nations will work increasingly together to solve dire issues that effect us all, such as human rights, global warming, etc. The trend is moving towards this now, but clearly we still have a ways to go.

  5. Greg Dier says:

    During discussion we spoke of the issues surrounding microfinance. It’s clear that micro-lenders such as Kiva foster third-world country dependence. Something I had not thought of that perpetuates this dependence is the undermining of local bank development. There is little incentive for a bank in a third-world country to invest in local financing if international microfinance organizations assume the risk of first time borrowers. Residents have little need for a local bank if they can get interest free loans relatively risk free (Kiva does not foreclose village establishments). While these organizations certainly have good intentions, microfinance may be doing more harm than good. Of course the situation does not have to be zero-sum game. One would hope that the altruistic intentions of microfinance could operate side-by-side with the building of local finance infrastructure. However, the popularity of these microfinance organizations and the increasing availability of immediate, interest-free capital may be leading toward zero-sum consequences.

    Here’s a link from CNN Money that touches on this issue:

  6. Group two student says:

    Group One is SOOO much better

  7. Tina Williamson says:

    About last week’s discussion…regarding the relative and absolute gains of international trade; we decided that the relative gains were more practical than the absolute. While I cannot offer a resolution to the absolute issues including human rights violations and international inequality, I think the moral weight of these issues begs more investigation and effort. While it is easy, and by some perspectives advantageous to have the current international trade regimes, the moral issues at hand cannot be swept under the table.

  8. Nicole Glaser says:

    In “The Constraining Power of Treaties: Theory and Methods,” Simmons and Hopkins explore another facet of international law: treaties. The ramifications of treaties shape the decisions of sovereign governments as well as international concerns differently than the United Nations, where “the typical threats to security render the [U.N.] Charter rules on the use of force redundant…presenting nightmares for which classical international law is not prepared” (Carty 362). I agree with Hannah’s conclusion above that the United Nations needs to be more assertive and enforce their doctrines; however, I think that the Simmons and Hopkins article presents a convincing argument for the use of treaties between states instead of – or in addition to – a supranational regulatory body like the United Nations. Simmons and Hopkins write that the importance of treaties lies in the fact that they are the “most formal language governments have to focus the expectations of individuals, firms, and other states that they seriously intend to keep their word in a particular policy area” (Simmons and Hopkins 623). It appears to me that the authors look at the use of accords both empirically and through a constructivist angle, as they conclude that rational will prioritize the normative concern of reputation over small, short-term gains from the violation of such treaties. Because of the reputational effects, states are more likely to obey treaties and cooperate together, making the treaties effective in their constraints on participating countries’ behaviors. This result is much better than the breaking of unenforced international law (outlined in Carty’s article), which implicitly encourages nations to disobey the laws as there are no significant ramifications.

  9. Jonah Merris says:

    I would like to address Hannah’s point about the failures of international justice via the United Nations or other various international war crimes tribunals. I think often observers and citizens become frustrated with states that openly flaunt their disregard for international humanitarian law (IHL) and push for more stringent application of punishments and penalties for such violations, and with good reason. When parties to an international agreement demonstrate their commitment to upholding norms and standards of behavior in conflict for the benefit of all, and then blatantly disregard these very agreements, the welfare of all is not improved. What this issue gets at, is one of the multiple complications Axelrod and Keohane list with cooperation under anarchy. The trick is to institutionalized reciprocity along with effective information-gathering so defectors may be recognized and punished sufficiently. Now, under anarchy (that is, without a leviathan) the responsibility of international justice falls to either transnational entities like the European Union or Nato, or international organizations like the UN. Arguably, international justice would be much easier to achieve if we had some sort of global government, because then there might be an ultimate superior force which all disputes could default back to. Instead, without a leviathan, states must rely on one another to uphold some sort of standard of justice. I’m not sure if justice can exist in the international system if its foundation is simply “ad hoc” cooperation alone. My question is: in the hopes of establishing the rule of law in the international system, must states surrender some of their sovereignty to an international body that can mediate in their internal affairs? Must the UN be given more power, and hence transformed into more of a leviathan, if it is to be effective in settling disputes over IHL?

  10. Hannah Postel says:

    In the Abbott reading, he discusses “why … states [have] criminalized certain atrocities – including genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and disappearances – even outside of armed conflict[.]” He also asks why these norms are so inconsistent. Some are treated more gravely than others and international law is based around such evaluations. While of course it is difficult to measure the relative atrocity of many horrible actions, this is important to do. Without such measurements, the law will be vague and easily maneuvered by those who wish to flout it. There is an even greater problem, however. Abbot does not mention it but it is tangentially discussed by Carty when he mentions the many failures of the United Nations. He believes that an apolitical international body should be the one to decide on and enforce international law, but the existence of a law is very different from its efficacy. It has happened frequently (Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, among others) that even with the existence of law and specified punishments, the propagators of the atrocities were not deterred. I would agree with Carty that the United Nations needs to become more assertive. If laws exist and are not enforced, it is almost the same as if they did not exist. Just as a parent trains a child away from misbehaving through various strategies and punishments, so must international law treat “atrocities regimes”. We cannot merely write a law and leave it to be broken; this will only lead to more atrocities because the perpetrators know they will not be punished.

  11. Katy Magill says:

    I have many issues with Huntington’s article, some of which have already been articulated. One of the biggest problems I see with his argument, aside from the obvious xenophobia it promotes, is his blatant massaging of US history in an attempt to make his claims seem more legitimate. His vastly simplified description of earlier waves of European immigrants ignores the discrimination and hardships that those groups faced upon their arrival in “the melting pot”, which were in fact justified by many of the same arguments he uses against Latin-American immigration. Protection of “United States’ Anglo-Protestant culture” has been used to justify discrimination against nearly every group of immigrants to arrive in America since the 19th century. While Mexican-American immigration does have certain special characteristics (contiguity, scale, etc) the arguments Huntington poses against this “threat” are not new or specific to “The Hispanic Challenge”, which for me went a long way in devaluing his argument as a whole.
    It also seems important to mention that the current backlash against immigration from Latin America can be seen as part of a larger trend of ethnically based resistance to non-white immigrants from areas other than Western Europe. The Immigration Act of 1924 and the subcategory of the Asian Exclusion Act drastically reduced immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, including Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, and completely banned immigration from most Asian-Pacific countries. Those restrictions were loosened in the 1960’s, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say that the renewed fervor for immigration restrictions directed specifically against Latin-Americans stems from the same breed of prejudice, hidden under a thin an unconvincing guise of “cultural preservation”.

  12. Zoe Hamilton says:

    Remaining on the Huntington article, I disagreed strongly with his contentions. Greg said that Huntington didn’t want detrimental changes to occur but I believe that change is what a melting pot, like the United States, is all about. As different ethnic groups move in, the whole is affected as it absorbs the new groups. I don’t think that the Latin American immigration group is any different from other ethnic groups that have immigrated to the United States in the past. Huntington argues that they are fundamentally different because they come from a geographically closer location and they have previously laid claims to land we now call our own. I believe these distinctions affect quantity of immigrants and maybe the attitudes they hold. Over time, just like other immigrant groups, they will assimilate into American society and these attitudes will fade. They may change American culture in the process, perhaps making it bilingual, perhaps influencing the arts or religious ideals but so did every other immigrant group.

  13. Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca says:

    In response to Sylvana’s argument about language I would say that I agree. Although I believe that Americans should be more willing to learn other languages, and should want to do so, English has obviously already been established as the main language in America. That is not to say that it can’t be changed, but that it is the most pragmatic because that is how our society has already been established. I also believe that immigrants should learn English and I by no means believe that there should be a split society of Spanish and English speakers. As I said in discussion I think that a “bilingual” America does not imply a separation of two languages but rather the use of both. This would mean that there would not be Spanish only speaking schools, but rather that we would be able to speak both languages. This distinction is one that wasn’t really made during discussion that I think is important to make. It must be acknowledged, however, that language does have a large influence on culture, and therefore I understand why Huntington addressed it. I don’t agree with his views, but I think it was a valid argument to discuss. At the same time, even if America became Spanish and English speaking I do not believe that the ideals of America would change or that the foundation of what America is would change, but rather be enhanced with another culture which has already found its way into certain areas of America.

  14. Greg Dier says:

    A couple points about Huntington. Huntington chooses to analyze highly opinionated social issues. One point that he fails to adequately discuss is the consistency of law. If a country had no legal channels for border crossing I would be more apt to condone illegal immigration. However, when a country has legal channels for immigration, illegally crossing the border is a flagrant offense to the home country and those who have crossed legally. Although popular arguments supporting illegal immigrants focus on the idea of equity, policy that works to prevent and convict illegal immigration is equitable for a larger pool of people. Illegal immigration undermines the efforts and commitment of legal immigrants. This is not to say that there are not compelling stories and situations for illegal immigrants. In this manner, I can sympathize with some cases but certainly cannot condone illegal immigration. Maintaining a greater level of equity is difficult to argue against. Maintaining consistent laws in the interest of providing equity to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants would be a more convincing argument for Huntington than his controversial, old-man rants.

    However, in defense of Huntington, I don’t think his ideas are intended to be cruel or mean-spirited. Although people like Huntington practice narrow-minded fear mongering, they are not necessarily intent on attacking individual immigrants out of spite or malice. In most cases it seems that these people have a genuine affection for the U.S. and don’t want to see detrimental changes occur.

  15. Wil Hardcastle says:

    I just wanted to briefly put in my two cents about Huntington’s article, as I did not jump into the discussion on Thursday.

    I can’t say that I was angered by this article, although I can totally understand why many people were. Even the title seems to treat Hispanics not as people but “a problem” that must be “dealt with” (of course that doesn’t sit right with me…) But I think it didn’t hit me hard because it doesn’t hit home personally, and I know Huntington’s point of view exists. Just watch Lou Dobbs and you’ll know that there are many respected people out there who feel this way. And to say the least in Huntington’s defense, he argues the point well by thoroughly backing his statements with facts and quotes.

    But now to agree with most of you, there is something disturbing about the article. For me, it is the fact that Huntington is concerned with Hispanics in the U.S. overall, not just the illegal immigration factor. I think most people agree that illegal immigration is wrong. As I brought up Lou Dobbs, at least he focuses mainly on the legality issue. But Huntington very obviously has an issue with Hispanic people and their presence in this country, regardless of how they got here. That’s why he’s racist. The absurd statement “Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English,” actually allows me to not take him seriously. And that’s probably another reason why I’m not mad.

    Finally, as I’m sure everyone noticed, Huntington offers absolutely no solution to the “Challenge.” After raising such an issue, the least he could do is attempt to solve it. And if he did so, we all would probably have a little more respect for him. That’s why it is clear this article was meant to do one thing: create fear (and controversy). It’s amazing that such a respected scholar, and the former chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, could come across as such a “fear mongering white Anglo supremacy nativist.” But I mean the guy was born in 1927, and just like how grandma still uses the “n-word,” old people can’t help being a little racist.

  16. Sylvana Chan says:

    I’ve come across Huntington’s articles before in my American Politics class with Professor Dickinson. In the Huntington piece I read in my other class, the author presents his idea of the “American Creed” that he briefly touched upon in “The Hispanic Challenge.” Essentially, Huntington praised the American system of government for being founded on the ideals of the Constitution. For example, America is to Americans NOT IN THE SAME WAY as England is to the English, or France is to the French. Huntington points out that in effect, “a bargain was struck: ethnic groups retained so long as they wished their ethnic identity, but they converted to American political values, ideals, and symbols.”

    That’s why I found the Huntington article from Tuesday so offensive. I was pissed off! In essence, Hispanics DO convert to the “American Creed” that he himself defined. I’d like to think that immigrants come here for the opportunity that American ideals present — whether for liberty, equality, or economic reasons. It is often said that America is a “melting pot” of various individuals of different ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, Huntington’s claim that Hispanics feel the Southwest “belongs to them” is absurd.

    However, I support Huntington’s approach to English as the main language in the US. Isabella — your argument makes a lot of sense. We probably SHOULD learn another language — whether it be Spanish, Chinese, whatever. Yet I have to agree with Jonah because I believe keeping English as the main language is more PRAGMATIC than patriotic. Hispanic students who don’t speak English well and end up doing poorly in school have to put more effort into academics. Schools, in turn, have to provide the necessary means to accomodate a healthy learning environment. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I really don’t think language is the problem.

    Statistics show that Asian Americans do better than Caucasians in school. Yet my parents were immigrants and spoke Chinese to me. Speaking another language at home and living in a predominantly Chinese community did not hinder my English capabilities at all. That’s why I think Huntington shouldn’t even make that argument on the basis of racial accusations…

    Let me know what you think.

  17. Jonah Merris says:

    While I do hate to jump around on this discussion board, I do think that Huntington’s article on Mexican immigration was particularly inflammatory and consequently I would like to offer an opinion on the manner. It seems to me that Isabella and Hannah both object to Huntington’s defense of the United States’ “monolingualism” (that’s probably not a real word) because they feel that by consciously adopting a social attitude that is not accepting of multiple tongues or cultures, we are somehow negating America’s mission statement. Without trying to be overtly controversial, I would like to offer a defense of Huntington by pointing out a few things I have noticed.

    What this issue really boils down to is whether or not America would like to remain relatively homogenous linguistically, and whether Mexican immigration is hurting this goal as well as preventing increased mixing and communication between cultural groups. To first address the language point, I would respond to Isabella’s argument regarding Europe. She said that Europeans learn multiple languages due to the geographic proximity of other cultures. I would agree that this makes bilingualism a necessity in that situation. However, if we concede her point that America and Mexico, although contiguous, are separated by an extensive desert and treacherous geographic obstacles, it would seem that the relationship of Mexico and America is not analogous to that of, say, Germany and Austria. Also, I would like to add that the United States is not the only country to insist on one language. The French are infamously proud of their native language and are even more hesitant (by some accounts) to adopt foreign languages, even when traveling. Moreover, I believe that English facilitates greater cross-cultural collaboration, sharing, and understanding. Because America is such a “mixing pot” of different cultures, a common language is necessary for all of these different communities to communicate. Since we were all immigrants once, someone in our lineage was forced to learn English and perhaps abandon their native tongue out of convenience or due to external social pressures. I would contend that by allowing immigrants to keep their native language as their primary means of communication we are in fact hurting our nation. Growing up in the incredibly diverse San Francisco Bay Area, I repeatedly experienced frustration dealing with first and second generation of Chinese immigrants in my local “Chinatown” when I would go to their shops or restaurants. Because they had come to an almost exclusively culturally homogenous neighbors and because their businesses were frequented by people who almost always spoke their language, they had not cultivated a knowledge of English that would allow them to easily communicate with the outside world. While I by no means mean to suggest English is the superior language, or that West European cultural traditions are superior, I simply want to make it clear that this country needs some way to communicate within its borders.

    Thus, the development of a dual-language society threatens to upend everything America stands for. Look at Quebec. The Canadian province has two official languages (English and French) and a very strong and vocal faction within the province has been trying to break away from the rest of Canada simply because they believe in their distinct ethnic identity and culture as French speakers. Do we want to see the American Southwest break away from the rest of America? If we enable a particular portion of the United States to maintain their own language we fail to create incentives for a cohesive society. There must be a standard method of communication within the United States if we are to stay united, whether this method be sign language, English, Spanish, or Latin.

    I do not think that the burden of learning another language should fall first on Americans. If an immigrant wishes to come to America they should make a sincere effort to learn the native language. I would expect the same thing of any American wishing to emigrate to another country.

  18. Zoe Hamilton says:

    Not to jump all over the place, but I would like to return to Robert and Will’s discussion above. I think that Waltz’s theory concerning nuclear weapons is very interesting. I actually agree with his and Will’s point that countries want nuclear weapons for defensive reasons and are still going to act rationally once they obtain them. However, I do not think it follows that all groups should be able to have WMDs. I think that the route we are currently taking, slowly agreeing to decrease further our supply of nukes, is the most reasonable route possible. No world power or state in fear of attack is going to voluntarily eliminate their entire supply of nukes while a potentially threatening nation still has some. However, if able to maintain second strike capabilities and while other nations are doing the same, taking baby steps in the right direction is progress. Eventually the goal would be to have a world free of nuclear weapons. Whether that goal is reachable is debatable, but reducing the number of nukes each country holds is a good first step.

  19. Katy Magill says:

    Waltz’s article concentrates on WMD’s as pieces of larger political interactions, but as Robert and Will have mentioned before me the rise in number and strength of various non-state actors make this assumption worthy of reconsideration. Thinking of the Middle East, these non-state groups and whatever political goals they claim to pursue are frequently and inextricably linked with certain ideologies. This gives these groups entirely different ideas about the stakes of their actions and of the things they are willing to do to achieve the success of their individual ideologies, because they see themselves as fighting for something larger than their actual group and that will outlast them if they should die in the process of achieving it. In addition to the lack of a possibility of retaliation against these groups, the quest for “ideological hegemony” vs. a strictly political one would make many non-state actors much more likely to use a nuclear weapon if they were to acquire one.
    The issue of ideological preferences as linked to political ones also applies to the rogue states that Waltz fails to mention. The most obvious example of this is Iran and its repeated assertions of its desire for the complete destruction of Israel. Iran has continued to pursue its nuclear agenda to the clear detriment of political relations with the United States and other Western powers, demonstrating the difference in political risk assessment that takes place when ideological concerns are prioritized over purely political ones.

  20. Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca says:

    I had a very similar reaction to Huntington’s article. Growing up an hour away from the Mexican-American border in a city which was once a part of Mexico and is still heavily influenced by Mexican culture my views on immigration differ substantially from those of Huntington. Although it is undeniable that there are currently many issues with immigration and the illegal transfer of people along with products, those are problems which are not fixed by eliminating immigration. A few arguments which disturbed me in this article was the idea of contiguity, of two separate populations, and the negative effect Huntington assumes cultural amalgamation would produce. First, Huntington says that America has valued immigration because historically it entailed people coming across the ocean from a far distance to commit themselves to America whereas he explains the Mexican-American border as being a simple line in the sand. However that does not account for the fact that the passage to America often involves traveling through the desert without water leading to massive amounts of deaths. Mexicans migration to America should be no less esteemed. Secondly he expresses a fear of the development of separate Spanish and English speaking America rather than one population. Although I would agree that it is important for immigrants to learn English I think it is also important for Americans to learn the languages of their neighbors. As Hannah wrote, America is one of the only major countries which is not brought up bilingual. In Europe it is very common to find people who speak multiple languages due to the close proximity…so what is our excuse for not learning Spanish and regardless of immigration why would we ever advocate not learning a neighboring language? We are still only a part of this larger world and our knowledge and acceptance of surrounding countries is important. I also find it hypocritical to express a fear of Mexican culture overload. America presents itself as a country made up of immigrants, a country built off immigration, and a country with freedom for all. Yet we are afraid of what a different culture may have on our country? Is American culture not the product of all its immigrants? And furthermore, what right do we have to decide that American culture and English is what should be spread worldwide, even outside of our country we still believe that English should be the common language. Going back to where I began, the neighborhood I grew up in was dominated by Mexican culture, but that didn’t stop it from being any less “American”. Granted there are issues that need to be solved with immigration, most of those issues stemming from economic troubles within Mexico, but that is something America has only been making harder to solve. There is a balance needed when deciding Immigration policies, but Huntington’s article does not present the right ideas or approach.

  21. Hannah Postel says:

    On a different note, I strongly disagreed with Samuel Huntington’s article “The Hispanic Challenge”. His extremely biased point of view discredited his propositions. He argues that the Latino culture is “a major potential threat to the country’s cultural and political integrity.” I think this is completely in opposition to the values which the United States has championed over the course of history: acceptance and diversity. While indeed this nation would take on a very different shape if it became bilingual, this would not necessarily be for the worst, and I see no reason why our currently white/Protestant culture is the better. Furthermore, Huntington (although not directly) states that English should remain the language of the country. It is not the official language, however, and therefore there is no reason why it should remain the most commonly spoken tongue. If immigrants have to learn English when they come to the United States, why shouldn’t previous generations of Americans at least make an effort to learn Spanish? I do think it is important for immigrants to at least make an effort to learn English, because it is a large factor in our community, but if they also maintain their Spanish, all the better. In most other countries, everyone is bi- or trilingual; America is the outlier. In clinging to only knowing English and imposing this on everyone, we are only becoming more ignorant and less accepting.

  22. Wil Hardcastle says:

    I hope I am posting in the right group. I believe “group 2” would mean discussion section V (1:30-2:20), which would mean Robert has posted in the wrong group? Hah, either way I just wanted to comment on your post Robert.

    First off I just want to point out two areas where I disagree. To start, I believe Waltz does briefly address the threat of non-state actors in acquiring nuclear weapons. It is his “fifth fear.” However, you’re right, he doesn’t embellish on this “fear” because he believes if terrorist groups really wanted to they could obtain nuclear weapons at this time (black markets/steal them). But this piece was written in 1995, and I totally agree that today this issue warrants much greater attention. I would assume Waltz has updated his beliefs on this actually.

    Secondly, I believe Waltz quite accurately identifies the motivation of “rogue states” in obtaining nuclear weapons: which is Fear. Thomas P.M. Barnett explained the situation of Iran quite realistically in his presentation “The Pentagon’s New Map,” which he gave here at Middlebury a few years ago. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of “Hey, if I’m Iran, and the U.S. double taps (shoots) the guy standing next me (Afghanistan) and then puts a bullet in the head of the guy on the other side (Iraq), I think I would want to prepare to defend myself too.” Ahmadinejad may talk in grand words about wiping Israel off the face of the earth, but this strong rhetoric I believe can be explained by the grandeur of their language (expressing things in epic ways). When it comes down to it, Iran wants a nuke to defend itself, not destroy others. And I think the same goes for North Korea. North Korea is incredibly weak and fearful of the world outside. It wants nuclear weapons as a defensive strategy, and to hold a greater bargaining chip. Furthermore, if Kim Jong-il used a nuke, he would no longer have a country to rule supremely over after the retaliation that would immediately follow.

    Other than that, I agree with much of what you’ve said. In our discussion we left off on this very same question: what to do about the proliferation of WMDs (specifically nukes). However, we didn’t have time to discuss it fully. Our two extreme scenarios were to give a nuke to every nationalist group (such a the Kurds) seeking defense, and the other, which I suggested, was to get rid of nukes completely. Interestingly, the latter seemed to provoke more controversy, which I think explains a mutual consensus in the group that nuclear weapons are here to stay. Therefore, to reject Waltz’s theory in part and attempt to at least reduce the amount of nuclear weapons on Earth, I believe US policy on the matter should be to stop proliferation where it stands and reduce the amount that already exists. Thankfully, that appears to be the current policy. But it is also necessary to not insight fear in nations and non-state regimes that will drive them to aggressive measures. Some may cheat and attempt to create WMDs anyway, for which the US will likely always have the upper hand. But in the end, the fewer the better. And that should always be the guiding principle.

  23. Robert LaMoy says:

    What are we to do about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? Theorists and policymakers are divided on this matter. Waltz argues that since weapons of mass destruction act as a deterrent to hostilities, the stability of the international system has actually been propped up by states’ acquisition of nuclear bombs. As we mentioned in discussion, Waltz fails to take into account the possibility that non-state actors could gain hold of these weapons and use them at will. Non-state actors lie outside the realm of deterrence because of their ability to avoid retaliation.

    Waltz also fails to address the issue of so-called “rogue” states that threaten to use nuclear weapons and seem intent to follow through on their intimidating rhetoric. His reaction can be somewhat anticipated. Iran and North Korea would not use their nuclear weapons, Waltz would say, because they would face annihilation from other countries that disapprove of their actions.

    Waltz’s reasoning is not entirely flawed in light of how the Cold War played out between the Soviet Union and the United States. However, the acquisition of WMDs and the development of new technology can have a destabilizing influence on the international system if the country in question is suspected of using its military capacity for political and diplomatic gain. Even though Waltz argues that we have little to fear when new powers acquire nuclear weapons, the U.S. is actually very concerned about Iran and North Korea developing nuclear capabilities. This concern is not misplaced, in light of Iran’s animosity toward Israel and North Korea’s general unpredictability.

    Consequently, the spread of nuclear weapons is dangerous not only because they can fall into the hands of non-state actors, but because states might take advantage of these weapons in times of political turmoil. President Obama’s desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons seems like a good idea, but this course of action might provide an incentive for one or more states to opt out and maintain their weapon systems. At the opposite extreme, Waltz’s stance might encourage an arms race, or it could encourage countries to continue developing weapons that have more and more destructive capacity. At the same time, if nuclear stockpiles are not reduced, there is a greater mathematical probability that a non-state actor will eventually get its hands on one of these weapons and use it against whomever it dislikes.

    It appears that Obama and Medvedev have taken the first of many incremental steps to address this issue. In today’s discussion, I think we agreed that nuclear arsenals can and should be reduced. Still, it is hard to envision a world where all states would agree to complete nonproliferation.

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