Sunday, October 31, 2010

(in)Sanity and Security

This week was the epitome of insanity. Like an unstable chemical compound, Aubrey and I thought we were going to implode. From the improbable text messages from a world leader to a man in a peculiar green costume on the metro on a Friday evening, nothing was sane. The true irony is that this week in World Politics we discussed security and threats and what does security really mea. I remember writing a blog that the environment is the next most important concern other than terrorism. But after the rally and after the past couple events, INSANITY IS THE NEXT BIG THREAT. Haha I cant believe I just said it like that. My wording was is the antithesis of that statement. When John Stuart said that the media is a powerful tool but we are making EVERYTHING important so the big stories are tucked into those about strange chemicals in bottled water, I think he was so right. We often get confused and sucked into the trivialities of some matters. Or as Mill says, we make a threat bigger than it truly is. If we look at this from a realist point of view, its not too bad of a thing because it controls people. Fear controls people as Machiavelli says. And if they are afraid or thinking about one triviality, the bigger picture is fogged by other things. I think as a nation, no. I think more as a people, we need to be smart about what we hear. And especially how we phrase things. The way we use words is what brings us together. This has now become my mantra but "words are the currency in our business" and I think we need to live by it so that we can come together and prosper. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reflection #10, A Close Call

Despite all of our discussions centering around the “what ifs” of terrorist attacks, we never really mentioned the effects of what happens after one actually occurs. Did all of our pent up worry and fear go to good use? Now what should we do? Yes, we have 9/11 as a prime example, but it is one that, probably, not many of us have personal relations to. Yet from my own experience, I can say that in certain instances, terrorist attacks come as oddly straight-forward. This seems like a strange statement to make, but upon nearly missing a terrorist attack by less than a mile and less than five minutes, I responded oddly calmly and rationally. I didn’t freak out as expected and run in the opposite direction. Rather, I seemed to stand still and think straight, despite the chaos. Being with a larger group of friends in a foreign country, we knew it was best to leave the scene. It was surreal how composed we were.

What came to mind after the event was all the time I had spent mulling over the concept of why and how a terrorist attack could take place after 9/11. What spurs such actions? After such an event happens, how should we as a nation and an individual react? I think, partially from my response, that it is important we respond calmly and collectively. To immediately spring up in hatred and whip out nuclear arsenals is a rash and naïve response. Rather, we should contemplate the motives for such actions and work from the bottom. For example, if an attack is stimulated by hatred towards the US occupying Afghanistan, wouldn’t it be best to negotiate around that? If we found ways to compromise with the Afghanis and in return they talk with local terrorist organizations, maybe the rates would go down. I would presume that the intensity of the attacks would go up if we ignore the grassroots issues and our own actions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Get Off Your Gas and Let's Kick the Oil Habit:

The threat of US dependence on foreign oil to our national security.

Currently, the United States spends around $1 billion dollars every day importing oil from abroad, increasing the national deficit and supporting unstable and potentially dangerous states. The reliance of the United States on foreign oil has very serious economic and militaristic implications, making it a portentous threat to United States' national security.

A recent report on the 2009 trade deficit in the United States found that increasing petroleum imports are steadily broadening the gap between our imports and exports, further augmenting our deficit. Recently, the US Census Bureau reported the United States' annual oil debt at $386 billion, significantly greater than even our debt owed to China ($266 billion). By reducing the United States' addiction to foreign oil, a significant portion of the national debt could be drastically reduced, which would help to repair the current budget deficit.

Additionally, United States imports oil from ten states currently on the State Department's Travel Warning List, all of which are described as having “long-term, protracted conditions that make [them] dangerous or unstable.” These states include, Algeria, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. In 2008, the United States imported approximately $150 billion dollars worth of oil from these “dangerous or unstable” countries, including Venezuela, which although is not on State Department's Travel Warning List, exhibits a distinct anti-American foreign policy. Because the United States has one of the world's highest oil demands, consuming around 23% of the world's annual petroleum production, the US drives up the price of oil, financing and sustaining unfriendly governments. Therefore, although the United States does not buy directly from numerous unfriendly states, such as Iran, these inimical states still benefit from the increased oil prices regardless of who the end buyer is. These unfriendly regimes, which the US purchases oil from and funds indirectly by increasing the value of oil, could become potentially dangerous to the security of the United States because of the steady economic support they are gaining, which allows hostile states the opportunity to increase their military spending, putting our own troops at greater risk.

Hello, World

Many would scoff at my claim, saying there are far worse threats than the environment. What harm does driving a car and spraying pesticides really have on our safety? But in reality, our ever-worsening environment is hurting our livelihood. The way we treat our surroundings does not stop at the thinning of the ozone layer. Rather, it is a domino effect, something a military or the Pentagon cannot control. It is in our hands, which is a already threat.

What I mean by ‘threat’ is a scenario that is in our control that we ignore. Too many citizens hear and read about the harm we are causing but say, “Ehh, what harm could one more individual cause?” When millions say that, there is an obvious downfall. Too few citizens are willing to step up and take action, for it involves motivation. Millions opt for the car over their bikes and watch farmers spray chemicals into our water sources. Too many are too lazy to step up and make a difference. In reference to the domino effect, the trees, plants and animals are affected, which hinder their safety as well. More animals and plant species are threatened which in turn threaten the survival of the ecosystem. Common everyday products that we take for granted might be gone in years to come because their ingredients have disappeared.

When we allow the release of synthetic chemicals and gasses, it is our way of saying we have too little time to preserve our world. There isn’t enough time to treat the land and the animals fairly for we are too busy producing weapons for war. We have too little time to realize we are harming the health of the nation because millions are eating chemical-induced food. How is this not a threat to our well being?

To play devil’s advocate, one may question, “how does this affect our national security and is this really a threat?” Yes, it may not be as ‘primary’ as bombs or terrorism, but it slowly creeps up on us and when it attacks, it is hard to fight back. How can we fight thinning oxygen levels and a massive change in our environment when deforestation takes over? We won’t have any resources to take from and nothing to build a foundation. We are stuck. When this hits, those who think the environment is secondary will reconsider their prior assumptions.

America the beautiful(for now): National Security and Environmental Security

In Katherine Lee Bates' song "America the Beautiful", our country is hailed for its "spacious skies/ For amber/ waves of grain/ For purple mountain majesties/ Above the fruited plain". But the face of Lady America is changing before our eyes. Her waters grow grey from pollutants, those purple mountains are shattered for black rocks the size of fists. That fruited plain becomes barren. America is losing her beauty. 

 If we excluded terrorism in the list of challenges for the United States in terms of National Security, I think the next line on the list is ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY. There are several reasons for this. And like most national security concerns, this one is quite confusing. The reason is twofold: 

1. We as the United States do not want to blame ourselves for the issues. Who really wants to blame themselves? It could make us look weak in front of the rest of the world. Or it could exemplify our responsibility. This is where the forum of word choice is super important. If we stress that we want to work together than we can accomplish so much. The environmental conference in Copenhagen, or "Hopenhagen (yah right. Thank you USA and China) made me pretty miffed. The tension between these two economic powerhouses did not lead to any signing that was for the betterment of the planet. But when self interest is involved, who cares right if half of Guyana is submerged under water? WRONG! If we work with other nations and lead the world in environmental protection it could A. Better our image on the world stage and other countries will trust our services. Do we still want to be po
rtrayed as gas guzzling monsters? Our image is being tarnished by our primitive industries while EU and Asian car companies create alternative energy cars and technologies. We are slaves to the oil princes of the Middle East. That is a huge reason why we are fighting so hard. And do not even try to justify that we are not. Why is it that when the US invaded Iraq, thy destroyed all the cabinets but the oil sector? And B. Countries that we trade with are having environmental issues. If we need raw materials such as wood from Brazil and use it all, our industries will fail. WE HAVE FINITE RESOURCES ON A FINITE PLANET IN A FINATE SPACE. Its NOT gonna last FOREVER. So we need to help other nations out so that our industries can survive. Also, this brings environmental issues straight into the heart of America.  We are in the midst of environmental problems on our very lawns! We have environmental issues right here on US soil! This leads into my second point. 

2. Environmental Safety is an umbrella of several issues including but not limited to water woes in Las Vegas and surrounding regions, pollution and deforestation in Chesapeake Bay area where fishing industries once thrived, strong fertilizers that dry out agricultural lands and become unusable while polluting water that the very farmers who are using the very fertilizers drink. And the worst of all: the moving of mountains of West Virginia and the harm coal companies are doing wildlife and the people who are tucked into those once verdant hills. 

National security is a forum to protect the American people. Then why is it that the quality of water is slipping in West Virginia? Why is water running black in taps and children are getting sick from mercury poisoning? And we need to protect American industries from failing in the near future because of the lack of raw material for us to work with. We need to protect our image on the global stage. We shou
ld be leading coalitions to do so because we have the resources and it could boost our image. There are several reasons why we should protect our natural resources. Its based on self interest and interdependence and it empowers those who do. It brings me pride when I read about legislation for the protection of wildlife and our environment for America the Beautiful. But one day that beauty could be gone. Lets keep American beautiful for me, for you, for our nation, for the rest of the world. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reflection (Week #9)

*This is a reflection in response to Toby's most recent reflection.*

Specifically, Toby, I would like to reference your claim that the United States should limit its commitment to international organizations for the reason that the resulting commitment to international law would “undermine the Constitutional principles our nation was founded upon.” The United States Constitution would likely not conflict with any international regulations that the United States would be obligated to obey by committing itself to international organizations.

The United States Constitution creates only federal jurisdiction, meaning that the Constitution applies to only domestic issues and makes no explicit reference to the the norms the United States should follow when participating in the international community. Additionally, the US Constitution refers only to individuals, specifically citizens of the United States that within the borders of the United States (federal jurisdiction). Therefore, the claim that international regulations referencing maritime law would contradict the Constitution because they undermine the Constitutional right to property is false because Constitutional principles reference only individual citizens of the United States, not individual states.

Although the Constitution should not be cited as a reason to reduce US involvement in international organizations, the current state of the United States as a hegemonic power means that over-involvement in organizations such as the United Nations could make the United States more vulnerable. Because the United States is a hegemonic power, any agreements made in the context of an international organization would likely benefit other state more than the US, effectively lessening the power of the United States in the international system, opening the door for additional threats to US security. Therefore, large US commitments to the world's international organizations threaten security because it threatens to change the status quo of the international system, not because international regulations contradict Constitutional law.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reflection #9

What really is security? And how can a nation ever really attain complete security? After reading Obama’s security plan and NSC 68, I found it interesting to reflect on the US’s progression of what it means to secure the nation. In the 1950’s, it was easy to say the national threat was physical and could be combated by a physical army. Yet, as mentioned in class, today’s threats are not so tangible and attackable. We are entering into an era where we must secure our nation on a more psychological level.

The media, in all of its dimensions, has succeeded in frightening the populace of terrorism in many ways: through the paper, the Internet, the TV etc…. An average American hears about terrorism through these media and can only conceptualize this idea in one way. It is only natural for a citizen to fear terrorism when they hear and see the end results of the crimes. Yet what America is lacking is the understanding of why terrorism happens. In order to be safe, we must understand. Why is there a need for terrorism and what spurs their actions? If we could recognize the root of the problem, wouldn’t we be able to attack it better? When solving any problem, ranging from a dispute with a friend to an international issue, it’s always best to figure out the ‘why.’

Security is not all about armies and guns; it’s mental as well, an aspect that should not be undermined. This is the sort of threat that creeps up behind us and attacks without warning and without our preparation. It’s important that we implement an understanding of the problem to secure the nation.


This week has been tough. From late nights of bhangra practice held till 12 am followed by anthropology homework and reading about "lost semen complex"and the intricacy of kin to people ripping up my blog, I need a little detox. Tomorrow is the SASA culture show. And NOTHING calms the nerves like BHANGRA. Being on the bhangra team is the best thing because I live in this tiny south asian micro-culture for about 10 hours a week with my team. Its intense but beautiful. When I need a bring from homework, I often listen to bhangra remixes of popular songs with traditional bhangra beats like Soulja Boy Bhangra style: 

Amazing right? Well Bhangra is not just a cool dance to look at. It is steeped in history. In Punjab, before the Harvest, farmers did bhangra dances with these crazy dance steps and stunts to motivate and get the community together for the harvest. As the Indian economy grew, a lot of Punjabis left those villages to go to college in the cities, then come to the US. So now Punjabi Bhangra is now a synthesis of some really upbeat mezcla of music that has Western influences, but keeps true to that traditional entertainment in Punjabi tribes. So this is for you. This is a video of the best Bhangra team in North America. This was decided at a huge competition last year. By the way, the reason we have bhangra teams, and not bhangra groups is because it is a competitive dance form. There are competitions all over the country and all over the world. Here you go! Have a great and relaxing weekend. O BALE!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“Winning” in the Realm of World Politics: The Importance of Balancing Hard and Soft Power

Although winning a game of Diplomatic Risk is an unequivocal occurrence due to definitively outlined state objectives, “winning” in the genuine world political system is not a clearly defined or common phenomenon because the goals of a state can be ambiguous. Additionally, it is impossible for a state to “win” at the game of international relations because political dealings between states never cease, meaning there is no prospect for victory, but rather a simple goal of success. This success (winning) on the world stage can be most simply boiled down to having the ability to exert hard and soft power to promote a foreign policy agenda that helps to maintain state sovereignty. However, there are many directions a state can take its foreign policy agenda, all of which help maintain sovereignty. Therefore, the ability of a state to use both hard and soft power when it deems necessary is the constant in “winning” at the game of world politics.

States need the ability to both shape the long-term preferences and attitudes of other states, as well as coerce them when necessary to be a successful player, and therefore winning, in the international system. Projecting soft power is a necessity for any influential world player because soft power allows a state to work towards long-term goals without using an exorbitant amount of resources to achieve them. Additionally, soft power is a far less aggressive political tool that can be used to further a policy agenda. For example, although United States and the majority of the Western World have the ability to dominate others, they also excel in projecting soft power through enterprises, churches, universities, and other institutions integrated into civil society. These organizations of civil society project elements of democratic philosophy and when integrated into other cultures through globalization, promote these components of liberal democracy, a goal clearly outlined in the current United States policy agenda. Additionally, the United States' cunning use of soft power is also what helped swing the Cold War in its favor. However, soft power is limited by its tendency to have diffuse effects and cannot be easily wielded to achieve specific outcomes, which is why hard power is the second required asset for a successful state. Although maintaining hard power capabilities is costly, it is significantly more durable than soft power. Military strength will always be a useful commodity in the world system, from maintaining and even expanding state borders to protecting and obtaining valuable resources. For example, the lofty military spending of the United States has given it control over various elements of world politics from the free flow of oil by protecting the Straight of Hormuz, one the most important energy bottlenecks, to the use of NATO resources, as NATO still depends on the leadership and muscle of the United States. Therefore, to be successful and winning in the international system, a state must be able to wield both soft and hard power in a significant amount in order to promote a foreign policy agenda efficiently.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why there is no such thing as the las pawn in the chess box

To say there is a winner on the real global stage(RISK doesn't count), is frankly, a naive statement. In my opinion, a nation-state is established to protect and govern her people while at the same time, ensuring that the nation-state is recognize and has peaceful relations with others. I do not think that states are inherently always going to be at war with one another. With that said, I do think that there are tensions that result in identity shift(constructivist, I know). See, states, they never really have a one defined goal. A nation-state has internal conflicts while dealing with the image other nation-states assume for it. Look at the US. How are we more of a winner than Sweden? I mean Sweden's citizens get free education all the way through college and wonderful health care benefits. But then the US assumes the title as global leader and this title is accepted by other countries. Yet in this nation, there are people who can not afford a simple surgery that could be detrimental their health. Who is the real winner? 

Why not both? Or why even establish a winner? When we are so interconnected. The US can not be a global leader until other nation-states accept it. When the US is the global leader, it does not need to dictate its positions. It can in fact just have its opinion or pass legislation, and the world will take notice. It does not matter if other countries will follow suit as much as its noticing the US and her voice. To illustrate, during President Ahmadinejad’s speech addressing the UN’s General Assembly in which he discussed The US and 9/11, the US walked out on the assembly. Right when the US delegates left, Israeli and EU delegates followed suite. 

So tell me, how can there be a winner when we are so interdependent and we are evolving into each other everyday.

Reflection (Week #8)

This past week, Diplomatic Risk has definitely broke into my top-five board games list. I've always loved the original Risk, however Professor's Jackson's adaptation of the game to include strategies that use other International Relations theories beyond realism, has made the game exponentially more complex and subsequently more entertaining.

However, Professor Jackson's adaptation of the classic board game goes beyond simple entertainment. The game of Diplomatic Risk most importantly gave us a theoretical world stage to experiment with using different schools of international relations theory to achieve our individual goals. In essence, Diplomatic Risk was a “lab”, in which the class could apply what we had learned without participating in and altering the current international system. Additionally, the game makes vehemently clear how certain violent and non-violent conflicts evolved in the history of international relations, specifically the Cold War. Our game of Diplomatic Risk was full of questioning of motives and suspicion, which seemed to lead to distrust between several groups of states. Personally as diplomat and later head of state for the Red State, I grew very distrustful of the other world players after the religious uprising that formed the Brown State and lead to a new structure of alliances and enemies. This sudden change in pace and hierarchy of the game caused me to continually question the motives of even the simplest of actions in an attempt to pinpoint each state's goals, and lead me to take a more realistic stance compared to the rest of the world. However, as I was transitioning to a more realist approach to achieving my state's objectives, I witnessed other states utilizing both liberal and even constructivist tenets, which is what I believes gives this game its value. The variety of diplomatic strategies in combination with the classic military strategies of Risk give Diplomatic Risk its complex academic value while simultaneously providing intrinsic entertainment.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

O for Opulence

Oh the Opera. 

How I have missed you. Going to Salome was what my young bones needed: to be steeped in the with the sophisticado. I remember going about every month or so to the opera from 6th to 12th grade, often watching the same melodramatic stories uncurling beneath my very feet. The reason I love it so much is three fold: 1. the ritual of mentally preparing yourself(or not) for it. 2. the sheer melodrama in the plot itself. And 3. The very primordial word choices that cause me to melt into my seat.
When I get ready for the opera, I love to channel my inner diosa. For
 me, Cariña Frida is invoked. I love the pearls, the gems, the clicks and glides on my wrist. Oh, we haven't even begun without the silks! And its a communal activity. Imagine six or seven girls who become women with the flick of the hand as gentle strokes of kohl rims lids. As they chatter and enthusiastically tie lace strings on their back, they so adoringly forget that they are doing all of this to sit, back straight in black room. Through this process, the identity of the opera is established in the hearts and minds of everyone: the epitome of class. I love that. I love how the opera is loved for a select few of pretentious ones. There I said it! The epiphany was made!I AM PRETENTIOUS. And I love it.Opera brings the best out of us, does it not? 

The opera makes me demonic. I laugh and love the jagged heart wrenching tales of women who are declared whores. Ironic isn't it? I mean I talk about being so foreword for women's rights yet when Salome just wanted to kiss the prophet, a part of me wanted to as well. The opera enables us to identify with extremes. Yes in many ways we women are the essence of Salome: FICKLE. Hadn't brother Shakespeare gotten it right when he vicariously spoke his mind while Hamlet uttered to his damned mother: frailty thy name is women. Breathtaking. You know, I am beginning to accept and embody my chingona status as a woman. We are fickle. It means little to me when people judge that. We just are. And opera is wonderful because its in our faces! We are the violated and the wronged! The only difference is that we own up to it now. We laugh at ourselves. So here it is for the coquetas. To humanity. And its vile nature. And the beauty that lurks in the stickiness in our souls. Oh Salome, you are the prophet! Not the dead lips you caressed. 

Finally, the words. Oh the word. Words are the most rich part of the opera. In the opening scene of Salome, the description the moon was seen in three different lights: beautiful, vile, tired. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Once a man from the state department said that language was his currency in his business. Thats amazing. I love that. Language is the best weapon for anything. Not just to inflict pain but love as well. 

At AU, for a couple weeks, I had been disappointed. I was wondering where the sophistication went? Why didn't people quote Proust in regular conversation? Why do people tell me I speak in an elevated manner? How pretentious right? Well I have the opera. And that's what keeps me grounded. I have found my secret by the Potomac. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reflection #8

This past week was quite different from our usual discussion based classes. Walking in on Monday, I was filled with curiosity as to how this game would play out and how each and every student could play a role in the game. I was anxious to see how we could incorporate what we were learning into a board game and how the teams would work together. Yet, there was one catch. I feel I didn’t do as much as I wished to. I understand that there is a need for one secretary and diplomat, but then there’s the rest of the team trying to contribute, but really idly standing by. Not having played either of the two primary roles, I felt that I could not get as into the game as I wished to. That is not to say that my team’s secretary and diplomat did a great job, because they did. In fact, they did an excellent job of foreseeing moves and strategically planning. Rather, I feel that the game could have played out in a more inclusive way.

A solution is that it is mandatory for the roles to switch throughout the days of the game. For one half of the class, two of the team members act as the secretary and diplomat. During the other half, the roles switch to two others. This way, all team members must be on their feet and attentive at all times. The same procedure would follow during the next class as well. In this sense, the game would be more inclusive and less geared towards those only playing an ‘official’ role.

Besides that one glitch, I felt the game was quite interesting and exciting. It was a great change in pace and a fun way to learn. I think it was a success, and hopefully another class will be devoted to a game like this in the future.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reflection (Week #7)

I was thoroughly disappointed with today's presenter. I disagree entirely with his claim that the music is secondary to the words in opera. It is the music that makes opera, opera! It's what differentiates opera from other styles of musical theater. Although there are a few individuals that agree with his point of view, the large majority of not only opera critics but opera goers enjoy opera for the unique role music plays. Not only does the music provide ambiance to a work, it provides the emotion. The continuous nature of opera music is also what makes an opera not only unique, but genius. The ability of a good opera writer to make the music feel as though it is all part of a single work is a skill that should be admired, not talked about as though it is secondary to the work of the librettist! In fact, often opera composers, including Richard Strauss, will take predetermined rhythms and chord structures to their librettist, and in some cases even write the entire musical accompaniment to an opera before even speaking a word to their librettist. It is the music and the writer's use of tension and the placement of the arias and recitatives within the opera that turns an opera into the emotional, dramatic roller coaster that tends to define it, which is why many composers agree that “the job of music is to get to the hearts of people, and the words to get to the brain” (Craig Armstrong). The music is the glue that binds together the words and action to create the full, rounded experience of witnessing an opera, which is why music can be what sends an opera into the history books to join the ranks of “Salome” or sink it into the ranks of the most unmemorable operas ever written. However, all of this is simply an opinion, so I encourage everyone to make their own on Tuesday. Just please be sure, do not ignore what the music is adding to the performance you are witnessing!

If Alexander Wendt wore Fabric Roses

Today, I was outside the Davenport smoking a Parliament, a “gentlemen caller” was staring at me as though I was Boticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” without a single word. I rolled my eyes and turned my back to him. A lot of my guy friends here tell me that they feel like they do not want to make the first move. I laugh at them for their sense of a priori. You see, there is no such thing as the lack of the empirical when it comes to women. Honey, we make the most subtle first moves. Whether it is a pair of pearl earrings or a slight smile, we invite your approach. By the way, ladies, men are like mocking birds; they can not resist a single shiny object. So with that in mind, men think they are the ones attempting conquest when in reality, the conquest is nothing but an exchange for the better. Realist turned Liberal, if you will. And yes, that was an IR theory reference, for you SIS studentettes out there. 

So if we have established the premise that there is no such thing as a priori in courting, we must invoke Alexander Wendt, a German social scholar who saw international relations as a forum for communication. So let us apply his argument to dating, shall we?  Wendt loves talking about mirror theory as a solid form of communication. The mirror theory is based off of “the principle of identity formation is captured by the symbolic interactionist notion of the ‘looking glass self’ which asserts that the self is a reflection of an actor’s socialization”. 

In other terms, if you illustrate interest by the way you smile, if he is interested, he will do so too. Communication works in such an egalitarian way here if done properly. You know what I am talking about: You in your confident stride attracts his gaze. You cause him to discreetly(or not so discreetly, sometimes they stumble. In that case, job well done, chika!) walk over and talk to you. Names are exchanged, and soon numbers. Just keep Wendt in mind that you cause him with your feminine mystique and confidence to come over. You call the shots, not him. And it is all in the subtle behaviors before the “first move” that cause them to go mad. So chin up, you never know whose watching. Secretly smile just knowing that they are. 

Besos Besos 

Mis Malinchitas. 

Reflection #7

During the presentations, I found myself torn. How can I, both an American and one who is aware of the environment vote and inevitably shun one side? In the simulation, I noticed that those who argued pro-tax were primarily focused on jobs, the American populace, and the American market. On the other hand, those who opposed the taxes argued heavily in favor of the environment and the prices of the cars. Both sides had their rights and both sides had their wrongs. What it really boils down to is the president choosing between the American populace and the international environment. By actively engaging in a simulation as such, I really realized how tough a decision this is to lie on the shoulder’s of an individual. Though our faux-president was by no means pressured by his nation and the international world, I could still he was slightly anxious. No matter which route he chose, one side would hate him.This simulation in turn made me reflect on the role of the president as a whole. Yes, it is ingrained in us to know that the presidency is a busy and hectic job. But what we are neglected to be explicitly taught is how morality is so intertwined in the job as well. Does the president dare go against his nation and add to the unemployment rate? Or does he stay strong to his people but continue to hurt the ozone levels? What is the moral decision? This is something I give the presidents credit – their ability to deal with these situations.

week 7 - Reflection

The simulation that we did on Thursday was new and unique experience. I was surprised that even though it probably had been new and strange for them, my classmates were well-prepared and had a lot to say about their stands. I learned a lot from their presentations and found it very interesting to listen to all the different view from different interest groups on the very same topic. To be honest, I got convinced every time when different groups presented their views and reasons. I don't know how the 'big guy,' who actually makes decision, in this case the President, can look at the issue unbiasedly and take in all the information from groups with different interests and come up with the best decision for everyone's good.
One thing I was really surprised about was that the Consumer group actually went for keeping the taxes. I thought they would want to abolish it because it will let more foreign auto maker companies to import their cars to the U.S. for cheaper price so there will be more selections for them to choose from. However, they rather focused on creating jobs for Americans, protectivism and patriotism. They wanted more jobs for Americans, and protect their economy.
Something that I wasn't sure about was one of the Foreign Automakers points why we should abolish domestic content rules. Foreign Automakers aruged that abolishing domestic content rules will bring in a lot of foreign autoplants to the U.S. However, I find it rather contradictory. If we abolish the rules and they don't get taxed on stuff they import, they have to reason to build their plants here and buy parts that mare made in USA while there are cheaper labor and cheapor supplier are available overseas. Domestic Content Rules actually attract foreign companies to build their cars here in the U.S. which will bring in a lot of jobs for Americans. They will earn money then, spend them, and the economy will be stimulated.
I also learned lessons on presentation. It should be clear and to-the-point, and most importantly, TIME MATTERS. Our group failed to even get to the mainpoint because of the time management. I also learned to try different media to present what I am presenting, to interest my audience better.
Overall, it was a memorable experience and had a lot to learn from.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Week 6 - Reflection

The class discussion on Thursday was about whether or not we should pay attention to the marginalized, not just to those with power. It seems like the majority of our class agreed on that we should pay attention to them because they can have a large impact on International Relations.

I think, from a realist view, one of the only reasons why we should pay attention to those that are marginalized is to build a philanthropist image in order to gain more power in the world of international relations. Also by doing so, we can keep the amount of discontentment down so that they won't revolt or what not. Thus it can be easy to keep the central power powerful. Even though those do not necessarily have powers, they can be dangerous and threatening to the stability of a state when the state fails to satisfy their very minimum level of need. If they acts as a whole group, those in power cannot have it under control and the marginalized's act as a whole can overpower those with power.

We also talked about how we can help the marginalized voice their opinions. From a Utopian point of view, we should seek to satisfy and take in everyone's desire and needs and equally distribute power as horizontal. Since usually, uneducated, low-income class have less or no power, some people suggested to give them more opportunity of education and so on, so that we can at least get closer to horizontal distribution of power.

In my opinion, that is totally unrealistic and impossible: e.g. the idea of socialism is wonderful-equal distribution of wealth, but the problem with it is that it is impossible to fully carry it out and practice as it is meant to be. If those marginalized people gained voice and power through education and wealth, they would ultimately become those WITH power and there would be newly-formed marginalized people. We will never be able to equalize power to everyone. There always will be people with power, and also people on the margins with less or no power at all. The best option we have is to figure out the efficient way to incorporate both sides into the world of IR.

Reflection (Week #6)

At the end of our discussion last class, the question of when marginalized groups become dangerous to the stability of a state was brought up. A state's center of power becomes threatened by the marginalized when that marginalized population exhibits three distinct attributes: organization, lack of political access, and legitimacy in the eyes of a politically or economically powerful group, government, or icon. This phenomenon can be seen in the marginalized Islamic population of France.

Recently, the French state's security has been threatened by the Muslim population that the French attempted to push to the side of society. Although the marginalization of the French Islamic population is not a current development, recently they have become increasingly supported by the United States, in a US diplomatic effort to prevent the transformation of French “banlieues” into incubators for religious extremism. This recent diplomatic effort has in fact resulted in the opposite of the desired effect. The United States gave the Muslim French populations legitimacy, while at the same time the French were conducting systematic expulsions of certain minorities. The US respect given to this marginalized population allowed them to gain internal support and organize that support into recent opposition to the French rejection of Islamic culture in the forms of violent threats as well as political protests. Although the marginalized French Muslims exhibited both organization and political oppression, they did not become a threat to the stability of the French government until the United States provided the opportunity to claim support from a politically and economically powerful entity. Therefore, a state's center of political power is only threatened when a marginalized group is able to gain the support of an outside power to supplement its existing organization of political unrest within the group.

Further Reading:
"Feeling Slighted by France, and Respected by U.S."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

porque nosotros placticamos en cafes en frente de tu NAFTA

When Cloth slips from Lips

Ringing in ears, gurgling of valley stream

Chiapas speaks her own language

the language of centuries old traditions 

of wool skirts and clay births

but we were listening to fiesta bells, too. 

We saw him hold you, want you

pull you to him

him holding papeles from Blankita towers

where was the blanket of corn?


she knew the language of maize

but now she sits in silence

lips sown shut and hands mangled

Rancheros kiss soft thighs

while we once braided your hair with ribbons. 

Familia. Did you promise us bread?

We cast baskets for armas

we will never forget our reality. 

We, children of the night have seen 

mothers turned to stone

but now we have nothing to lose 

ya basta, mama

the montañas are not our defense anymore

our voices will be heard. 

I wrote the name CHIAPAS

on a piece of cloth

and tied it in my heart

we tie black cloth over our faces. 

We the children of the night

are ready to ripen. 

Chingadas, violated? I think not. 

Ya basta, mama. 

Ya basta.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reflection #6

Thursday’s class discussion ended on many notes, one of which proposed that terrorist organizations, which are not sovereign states, are causing nations to become increasingly afraid. I left class thinking about this, and am still trying to grapple with what this means. Because these international organizations are becoming so powerful, nations like America, France and many others are beginning to keep a closer eye on them and fear for their own safety. The fact that this is actually happens should force us to reconsider our ideas about IR theories. We argue and try to compromise with groups like Al-Qaida as if they were a part of the UN. It is arguable that these groups are in fact stronger and more sly then a given nation’s army, for have we seen the powerhouses of the world taking down Al-Qaida?

With this in mind, another question comes to light, if there really is a current international transition of power. Back in the 1900’s, a terrorist group was not much of a threat, and barely made an impact in comparison to the armies of Germany, France, England and the United States. It was all about the physical weapons and the physical tanks that could battle each other. A measure of power was calculated in how many soldiers were in the army and how powerful a nation’s machine guns were. Now, it is more than that. Power, war and threats are slowly becoming less physical and more cyber and psychological. Because Al-Qaida is able to instill this deep rooted fear in the government of France without possessing a physical army should raise a flag. Yes, terrorist groups do have weapons and their form of soldiers but much less so than a nation. The fact that these groups fight on a sly basis and come in unexpected ways really does make us think about where the power has gone to today. If we are beginning to be more afraid of a non-sovereign state than a sovereign state, things have definitely changed since the 1900’s. It is time to take into account these changes and adjust accordingly.