Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Should the world be organized into territorial sovereign nation-states?

All will agree that it is safe to say theories are not always practical and clear cut. Theories can only be perfected and carried out as they are intended to be in hypothetical world. With that being said, I will answer to the question of whether the world should be organized into sovereign territorial nation-states. Should it? Under the assumption that theories can be applied to the world with no exceptions, it is indeed ideal for the world to be organized into politico-military rule of nation-states, not only because it is the final and best form of politico-military rule having been invented so far, but also in order to have a sense of organization and order in the Global society, and to efficiently communicate with one another, and to cause the least possible conflict and clash among the entities that exist in the world.

Like Opello and Rosow mention in their book, The Nation-State and Global Order, there are three alternatives of nation-state: city-state, empire, and tribe. There should be various reasons why rule of nation-state is the most efficient form and best fit of all for the world of the present age. To mention one of them, nation-state is the most effective in dealing with physical territorial issues among the world. City-state is incapable of expanding its size because of its incapacity and inefficiency of governing bigger area. Empire and tribe mostly don’t have a sense of territoriality, since they don’t usually have defined territory of their jurisdiction. In the world complex and complicated like today’s world, they are not the most efficient forms of entities theoretically and practically, especially when it comes to dealing with physical territorial issues among entities.

Order and system are very crucial in civilizations and, even in ‘uncivilized’ the world of nature, there exist some type or form of order and system. There is no civilization without order and system and there always is civilization where order and system exist. As the humanity becomes more ‘civilized,’ and to become even more so, it requires of order and system or some sort. I think it is legitimate to say that civilization is mostly establishing order, system, or rules in society. In the same sense, it is critical that there should be a rule or standard agreed by all to keep things in order and to make the world politics work nicely with no confusion. Since the nation-state is the most sufficient and developed politico-military rule so far, it is, at all, agreeable that it should be the basic rule or qualification to have a voice in world politics. By recognizing one another as nation-states, which implies that they also recognize all of the characteristics of nation-state, there established are system and order that make the world coexist effectively. By making those groups on the same social or political level, as nation-states with the same kind of rights and authorities, it makes communication among them become much easier and effective communication brings less conflict amongst those parties.

In reality, however, there can be exceptions and situations in which this does not apply nicely. To name one of the examples, ethnical and cultural conflict can occur within a nation-state or between nation-states that were unconsciously established by stronger countries of the time without considering the nation-state’s tendency to be homogeneous (i.e. the case of some of African countries) In those cases, a sense of unity and national identity, which is one of the characteristics of nation-state, has failed and so it needs to alter or be flexible to fix the problem. In some cases or possible exceptions that could exist in the practical world, the rule of being organized into nation-states can be modified and fitted according to different cases.

Theoretically and ideally, the world should be organized into territorial sovereign nation-states by every mean. However it might require some modification or flexibility on some of the practical issues that can be faced in World Politics.

The Unraveling of the Fist: Five Fingers of Sovereignty

Sovereignty is efficient. No government can sustain a global let alone continental society because the territories are too large to govern. Look at Roman Empire for example. It was such a large and diverse civilization, but the problem is that it was too diverse. There were cultural differences that were rooted in the geography and the history of each region.  But there is a difference between empires and nation states. The book The Nation State and Global Order   by Opello and Rosow makes the statement that: “civilizations do not exercise politico- military power, nation states do... nation states ... will and always be the basic building blocks of the global order”. I agree with this statement because the nation- state model evokes a sense of purpose for its citizens. But it is different from civilizations because they(the civilizations) are spread over large amounts of land and the larger authority is often compromised by local capacity. 

The emotion that sovereignty evokes is two-fold: a sense of unity and pride for the nation- state as well as freedom. Unity because the state is its own entity and a culture, however small, is rooted within the parameters of the nation-state. This could include nationalism.  Also the nation state has symbols that speak volumes in my opinion because they are often reflections and reminders of past events in the nation-state such as the Ashoka chakra on the Indian flag or the Star of David on the Israeli flag. Freedom as well because outside your country, other countries’ laws do not affect you unless you are acting unlawful according to their laws in their territory. You are bound to one thing and that is your nation state’s laws. But to me, this gets eerie. To me, laws are influenced by ethics. However, often with nation states laws conflict with one another. Look at Sharia Law for example. In Saudi Arabia a woman who is convicted of adultery(sexual intercourse out of the realms of marriage) is stoned even if they have not because it is a man’s word against her’s. In comparison, in this country, adultery is a personal issue and the law is not involved. Sovereignty guards the differences of these laws. And I am not really sure how this makes me feel. I think that yes we need sovereign nation states, but I believe that the laws in some countries should be up for questioning. I do not like this idea of “that is your land” and “this is my land”. Often in conjunction to the relationship between nation states there is competition. Due to the expanding global economy, we are in this limbo. A spencerian global economy if you will. The strongest nation states whether it is economically or politico-military, wins. But I propose a new order of a global relationship. Nation states are, after all, built by humanity. And society is, after all, built by humanity. I think although we are a nation state there is fluidity beyond the model of a nation-state. We should not be go

verned by the nation state but we should be the governance of the nation state. It may be optimistic of me, but the fist of sovereignty should open up and reach out to others. We as humanity have the capacity to reach out through the nation state system and help those in a nation state, but not as a nation state. We shoul help other people as people. Although we govern through the nation state, we should let go that model when it comes to reaching to others. 


Our Nation-State Based Political System: Beneficial Reality or Desperate Attempt?

The division of our world into sovereign nation-states allows for not only a more peaceful coexistence, but also for a better understanding and recognition of differing political views and ideologies. A nation-state is typically defined as a form of politico-military rule over a relatively homogeneous population residing within a sovereign state with defined territorial borders. In essence this means that in a world political system divided into nation-states, each state must obey another state's right to sovereign control of over their individual territory. Therefore, each state must not only recognize the fact that there exist many differing and in some cases competing ideologies, but that a government's authority to promote or rule by a certain political or cultural ideology ends at their borders. This system of nation-states prevents excessive conflict through its inherent establishment of sovereign territories, which each state within the system generally recognizes, and promotes an ideologically heterogeneous world by providing a safe haven for a relatively homogeneous people to exercise a preferred political or cultural practice, which may be deemed less desirable or even harmful by another state. Therefore, the current organization of our world into sovereign territorial nation-states is beneficial because it diminishes the outbreak of bloody ideological wars and supports cultural diversity.

However, there are a number of states in our current international system that cannot be categorized as nation-states, many of which are located on the African continent. During the period of European colonization of Africa in the 1870s, numerous artificial and arbitrary borders were drawn through the continent. The majority of these borders did not take into account the homogeneity of the populations that were being created, or lack there of, meaning that the borders drawn by European colonizers separated certain tribes and grouped competing tribes together into one state. This intense heterogeneity of many African states has brought about an influx of conflict and many of today's bloody African civil wars and genocides in Rwanda, Sudan/Darfur, Angolia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea/Ethiopia, and many other states can be traced back to this lack of homogeneity. Therefore, in order for our current international system to develop into a true nation-state based system, we must be open to shifting borders and the emergence of new nation-states.

Identity Theft

What would a globe look like without border lines? What would distinguish a Chinese from a Korean, a difference as vast as an American from a South American? Our world, without sovereign states, would become increasingly disorganized and physically and emotionally distraught. It is fair to say that part of our world’s stability, from small neighborhoods to whole countries is due to nationally functioning laws. Without this stability, a term called “disequilibrium” would surface and begin to overturn our societies (Nation State 6). Disequilibrium, or the state in which economics, politics and social structures are not balanced would become widespread. Not only would we see it in political senses, but in emotional aspects as well.

One of the first major problems that come to mind would be our reversion back to the times of empires and nomadic tribes. Without distinct borders and set governments, people around the world would be discontent. A need for “the better” would be prevalent as bands of people continuously travel in circles in search of a better home. Families would be uprooted on a weekly basis in order to find a more profitable area to settle. This turmoil would eventually leave an imprint on the children. One of the primary reasons why children are emotionally stable is that they have a consistent lifestyle, through friends, family and the neighborhood where they live. If there is a constant lack of these aspects, kids would become emotionally wrought. For example, families that are constantly on the move in search of a better place to live typically have children who are socially isolated and upset. When these “new kids” join our grade, we tend to perceive them as outsiders who we don’t wish to assimilate with. Now imagine that on a larger level. Imagine the social problems this would cause among various age groups around the world. The absence of rooted lives in set nations would result in drastic emotional problems.

Furthermore, sovereign nations pride themselves on being sound nations with unique governments, principles and ethics. For instance, the French pride themselves on their wine and cheese while the British have their queen. On a small scale these traits may seem rudimentary. Yet, as these unique qualities pile up, we begin to see the formation of distinctive nations. Sovereign states provide an identity and a home for those who settle there. As mentioned in Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World, there is a tradition that “Humans crave identifying with a group” (Foer 198). Whether this group is through a sport or a religion, it is an inherent quality to assimilate with a larger group of people. We crave to be around others that are similar to us and feel conflicting emotions when we are not. In this sense, by living in a world devoid of set countries, we are living in a homogeneous environment. We need to be together and feel apart of something greater than ourselves. Because of this, we have nation-states.

Monday, August 30, 2010


This week's class was really interesting for me as an international student. Everything is new and strange, but I definitely learned a lot from the first week and expect to learn more in the coming year.
First, our visit to PEPFAR reminded me of how the US actively and voluntarilly gets involved in many of the global issues. I really respect that the US takes responsibility as one of the leading nations in the world and strive to solve those issues we have as one world, using its own resources. I believe this is one of many aspects that makes, with no doubt, the US one of the global leaders.
My experience with my first World Politics class was very interesting and challenging to me. As known, Asian education typically does not require a big part of student participation. I was quite impressed and challenged when I saw my fellow UC students, who I only thought as ordinary students, discussed the book with such logic and constructive perspectives. I really learned a lot from the discussion we had in class and it really did provide me with so many different points of views and ideas that challenge my perspective.
As I listened to my classmates/floormates debating, I also learned how my point of view toward the US as a foreigner, and theirs as the citizens of the country are different. I personally thought that the US is globalized as much as it is resistant to globalization. Like Tom said, the US is uniquely globalized already inside of its border, it doesn't feel the need of globalization that happens outside of its border or doesn't really care about it. I think it is because the basic desire of globalization is fully satisfied inside of the US, it doesn't really need to look outside of its border to fill the needs. Having been studying in the US for three years now, I've felt more and more strongly that the US is rather closed and apathetical towards the outside world, ironically, as much concerned as it is with global issues on bigger scales such as international commerce, environment, nuclear proliferation, etc.
This week, in conclusion, challenged me to learn to discuss and to form a constructive opinion, also how to accept and adapt different perspectives of others. I look forward to upcoming classes and what my classmates will bring forth and learning from it, and I hope I will do the same for them.


I deem June 26, 2010 as the day my shoulders ached ‘till I could not feel my arms anymore. I remember being crammed shoulder to shoulder with two portly men in Claddagh Irish Pub, a hole in the wall bar tucked into the hills of Pittsburgh. Beer was spilling onto my MARADONA powder blue Argentinean jersey as I was cheering on... not the United States but Ghana. Ghana of all teams. Ghana, a small country in the folds of North Western Africa. But I was not the only one dressed inappropriately for a US vs. Ghana soccer game on American soil. All around me, there were people in other jerseys: a green DOS SANTOS Mexican jersey, a RONALDO Royal Blue jersey. Looking back at that day, which team were we really supporting? I think I fell in love with the swift glide of the soccer ball regardless of which team had it. I was not the only one who was not cheering for America. When Ghana made a goal, Claddagh erupted in cheers, my shoulders smashed by the crowd as they  danced against my withering body as the MARADONA jersey crumpled onto my skin. 

My favorite image in How Soccer Explains the World is the scene on page 247 where half of the “Washington stadium might as well have been Tegucigalpa” because of all the Honduran supporters at the Honduras vs US game. What I find so fascinating by international sports following is that every American will not follow the American team. As Thomas said “Globalism is America”, I agree. Now let us use soccer as an allegory for the world, I would be team India. Although I was raised in this country, and I am “Americanized”, there is something about my father’s background that gets to me. He came to this country to make a name for himself and to be the bread winner for his family. America was the land of hope for him. But I think in response to his situation of moving to the first world, I can not forget where he is coming from and neither can he. That is the immigrant paradox: we love what this country has to offer us but at the same time, we can not forget where we are from. And for those who do not have that immigrant story, there is a sense of “moda” or fashion to it. The international scene seems “cosmopolitan” and “chic”. In one of the chapters of this book, Foer’s writing style changes. He grows even more excited when describing the Barcelona Soccer Team’s playing style and history. It is his favorite team. But why is it his favorite team? A part of it is their playing style but a part of it was their story. They were a team that was the voice of a movement for a sovereign nation- state. There was a sense sheer rebellion in the team. That sense of political rebellion is the sweet taste of defiance. 

 I think Americans often like the fashion of revolution or the success stories that are similar to the immigrant's story in this country. Like Maradona, my hero. This man, like several soccer players, came from the slums, from nothing. And now, he is everything. He reminds me so much of my father and his pursuit for achieving something so seemingly impossible. He is Pibe de Oro. The Golden Boy. He is the prince who conquered the world. This is what soccer is to me. This is what globalization is to me: the success stories, and the not so successful success stories all woven into the fabric of an ever changing jersey we wear. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reflection (Week #1)

Last Thursday's discussion of Foer's How Soccer Explains the World definitely incited many profound questions. Is the United States an example of a fully globalized state? Is Foer's work an analysis of nationalism vs. globalization, or is it simply about football. How does Foer's love for football affect his arguments about how football successfully shows how globalization has spread throughout the world?

I believe many of Foer's arguments center around the benefits of globalization. In most of his case studies he argues that globalization in fact strengthens nationalism and positively influences the world's citizens to rise up against corruption. For example, Foer compares Iran's “football revolution” to the United States' war for independence. Not only does he reference the Tea Party, but he also forecasts an Iranian revolution with stark similarities to that of the United States'. Foer states that “when they revolt, they might fleetingly plead for American help” but mostly they will “rise up in the name of their nation”, a relationship similar to the US-French alliance during the American Revolution (223). These parallels between the social and political change Foer claims football insights and the history of the United States proves Foer's positive view of nationalism and globalization stimulated by football.

In the final chapter, Foer suggests that the United States has a relative lack of nationalism. He cites an international football game in Washington, DC, where Nationals fans showed significantly less national pride comparatively. Although I agree that we show very little nationalism at our international sporting events, I do not believe it is a result of a chronically apathetic population. I believe that our relative indifference at international sporting events stems from our separation into individual states. I think that as a society we put our energy into national level sporting events at which we can support our state, which is why we have numerous popular sports that are played almost entirely within the United States (American football, baseball, etc.). For this reason, our population pays very little attention to national teams at international competitions, such as the Fifa World Cup and the Americas Cup.

Reflection #1

Last Thursday set my standards for this course quite high. I was fully impressed with the way our debate turned out and the means in which my fellow classmates responded to each others comments. In high school, I took a course that had mandatory debates in which the students separated into teams and we “competed” against one another. Invariably, they failed and ever since then I have been very wary when a heated conversation of sorts is scheduled for a class. To my surprise, yesterday was nothing like these infamous debating sessions. Not only was it organized, it was respectful and thought stimulating. I began to really realize just how different all of us are: in our political views, our religious views, our nationalities…etc. We were all our own separate “team” and all held quite firmly to our individual precepts. This in turn made the argument more personal and sincere.

Typically, I am not one who is capable of diving headlong into a foreign situation without feeling a bit uneasy. Yesterday was no exception. I felt that I was a bit hesitant to convey my interpretations of the text in front of a group of people I am not one hundred percent familiar with. I know that my comfort will grow over time as will my input in these discussions. It was a very comfortable environment and I enjoyed it greatly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Biggest Homework for the World

As I stepped into the realm of World Politics, I was asked what the most important issue in World Politics is. Even a novice like me knows that the world of World Politics is boundless and comprehensive and has numerous things to focus on. The world has the issues of education, poverty, economy and what not on its hand, but the tension between nations which interfere in establishing world peace is the one which needs to be taken care of, requiring collaboration of the whole globe.

The ideological and military tension amongst nations has always been the unsolvable issue that comes up constantly. From the eyes of a person from the Korean Peninsula, who grew up in the middle of such tension, Korean Peninsula conflict is the example of one of the most important and urgent problems to solve. Growing up, I had to get used to occasional armed fight or threat, learning about starving fellow koreans in the North, and feeling of insecurity and precariousness. It creates a tension and insecurity not only to the Korean peninsula, but also to the neighboring countries, their alliances, and even the whole world. The issues tied to this matter are serious - nuclear proliferation, ideological conflict, poverty, economy, human rights and etc.

The tension between these two small countries has, by no means, small impact on the world of World Politics. Various small and big military or ideological clashes between nations will result in a massive dilemma for the world. It is urgent to find a way to loosen these tensions in order to provide world peace and more and more people to have freedom and the right to pursue happiness as human beings.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Global Craving for Superiority

As national pride around the globe escalated during the past century, feelings of superiority have risen proportionally. In every aspect of life from the World Cup to national elections, we have learned that it’s an innate characteristic to want to implement one’s beliefs onto another group of people. This can be summed up into one word: colonization. Though this term is generally associated with older times, such as the Europeans in 1492, colonization is equally as prevalent in modern day America as it was centuries ago. Instead of bringing shiploads of whiskey and ‘proper’ clothing over from the civilized lands, we are now bringing over our ‘perfected’ theories of Democracy and Christianity. How can world relations progress when we, and others, are constantly forcing our own beliefs on others? Have we really received consent from these ‘savage’ countries to go forward with our plans? Nation’s actions to colonize others invariably lead to a homogeneous, angered world. It is in our greatest interest to make our world as diverse and rich with various cultures as possible.

Colonization comes in many forms but maintains one core belief: that one’s lifestyle is better than another’s. It is impossible for a diverse world to exist when groups of people seek to impose a viewpoint on indigenous communities. Take modern day Iraq. Is it really our responsibility to uproot their lifestyle in force a nation to adapt to a foreign way of life? As we shamelessly watched their retaliations, have we not processed the fact that maybe this is not how they wish to operate? It is evident that not all foreign countries want to be identical to their ‘superior’ neighbors. In fact, the reason why there is such diversity in our world is due to a different perspective on religion and lifestyle. Most wish to leave it that way.

From the Native Americans back in 1492 to the Iraqis in modern day Iraq, these groups of people evidentially did not want to be colonized. In order to maintain an array of global politics, we must understand that it is not our position to act in a superior manner. It is not our position to alter their lifestyle. Rather, it is our job to negotiate fairly and respectfully with others who live a different standard of living, and wonder if it really is fair to claim one lifestyle is better than another. Thus, it will be possible to live in a world with diverse perspectives and a content environment.

The Plight of Sinking Nation States

Climate change is an issue that has been intensely debated over the past twenty years and recently has been given even more attention by world politicians at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. However, the ecological effects of climate change are not the only ramifications of a warming climate. The more pressing issues caused by climate change are the social and legal ones. Rising ocean levels that have been attributed to a changing climate are stimulating an influx of unprecedented legal questions and social issues. 

If a state sinks beneath the surface, is it still a state? Is it possible for it to retain any form of sovereignty or ownership of its natural resources? Currently, our international laws assume coastlines are constant but as water levels rise and coastlines erode at an alarming rate, world politicians are beginning to debate how ownership of a state's coastal resources is assigned after it sinks beneath the sea.

Furthermore, after an entire population is displaced, what citizenship, if any, do those environmental “refugees” have? Will they be forced to assimilate into the economy and culture of the hosting state or will they be able to retain their autonomy? Although many low-lying island states, such as the Marshall Islands and the Maldives are beginning to plan for the worst, contingency plans for a country's extinction have been largely understudied and kept in the theoretical. However, the theoretical is soon to become the reality. The Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea are expected to be submerged by 2015, displacing 2000, and the International Organization of Migration estimates that rising ocean levels could lead to 200 million migrants by 2050. Therefore, issues regarding state sovereignty and the political status of environmental refuges, associated with the projected disappearance of our world's island states, make rising sea levels the most pressing issue in current world politics.

Read More:
BBC News: "Maldives: Paradise Soon To Be Lost"
CNN: "Sinking Island's Nationals Seek New Home"
New York Times: "If a Country Sinks Beneath the Sea, Is It Still a Country?"

The Global Classroom: A Case for Education

Opening the newspaper and reading page after page of headlines about drug cartels and national drought, it is easy be wrapped around the names of corrupt officials and statistics about the world economy. It is so easy to get dejected by the names, the faces, and the numbers, but our concern can only go so deep. We fail to see that the most important issue we face as a world is more primordial than we could imagine: education reform.

According to the 18th century Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “the history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom”. I agree with Hegel. Looking at American History, for example, 60 years ago, a Black man had to move to the back of the bus when a White man needed a seat. Now we know that separate can never be equal. This has become the norm in American society through the dialogue that occurs in an academic setting. 

But education shouldn’t be seen objectively. Not all education is the same. A madrasah or Muslim religious institution where children read solely from the Koran is not the same as an American classroom. The object of education is to ripen the mind. The classroom is a place where you are engaged by other students and have the liberty to question what is taught. Through the discussions fostered by education, discrimination of caste, creed, gender, socio- economic background, sexual orientation, age, and ethnicity can by addressed and soon mitigated. Discrimination often fuels acts of violence to each other and to our environment, and the reduction of this discrimination could be the catalyst for the decrease of terrorism, environmental conflicts, and the abuse of women. For example, in India an academic “revolution” is occurring  After India’s former President Abdul Kalam published a report called India 2020, The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) compiled a new National Curriculum Framework for government schools. 80% of Indian schools are government run so these reforms make a significant difference. The premise of the system is to revolutionize the classroom by utilizing discussion based classes and should connect academia to life outside the schoolyard. There is a large focus on English, Math, National and International History, and Science in the classroom to insure that the students are able to use what they have learned and become Global Students. India also has an issue with socio- economic divides. Through  a national education, students can work together and help lower poverty by being engaged in class and have a standard curriculum in which the students motivate and help each other to be the best they can be for the better good and be Global Students and Citizens. What is also fantastic about education is that it is not only for the youth and following generations. What ever these students are learning and engaging in with others from different backgrounds will reach their parents. These students will be excited to bring their new friends home and tell their parents what they learned. That way, through this discussion-based osmosis, an older generation will be informed. Call it a second- hand education if you will.  Here is a video that illustrates just how inspiring and effective this system is. 

Hopefully other countries will do the same and use education as a way to solve the root of all issues. Through education and discussion, we as a global class will graduate with a mutual understanding of one another and make a difference. 

Class is dismissed. 

Hija Tierra