Category Archives: International Policy

Rage Against The (Chinese) Machine

By: Michael Chiulli


As captured in Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled album cover, self-immolation has long been a terrifying means of protest in Tibet, particularly among Buddhist monks.  A recent wave of fiery deaths has brought this issue back into the international spotlight.  Since 2009, 81  Tibetans have set themselves alight.  A drastic spike has seen 19 self-immolations in the month of November.  What would push a people to protest so vehemently that they would attempt such a painful suicide?  The Chinese government insists that its rule is not oppressive and that Tibetans enjoy a great degree of freedom.  However, Tibetans wouldn’t self-immolate merely for sport.  Self-immolation represents Tibetans’ desperation and frustration with the authoritarian regime.  So far, that proclamation of their condition has fallen on deaf ears in the international community.

The Chinese stranglehold on media and its censorship of the internet has made reliable information difficult to obtain.  Often, Chinese reports vary greatly from those of Tibetans or other sources.  One ex-monk was quoted, “Tibetan religion and culture is under such unthinkable repression that it has reached a point of desperation where people would choose to die rather than go on living.”  Tibetans’ exiled government, based in Dharamsala, India, is unrecognized by the United Nations and is powerless against the Chinese.  The Dalai Lama, formerly Tibet’s political leader and now merely an influential spiritual figure, commands no military.

The Dalai Lama, usually silent on this issue, has recently called for China to address the issues causing these self-immolations.  The Dalai Lama does not condone self-immolation, but admires the courage of those who practice it; nonetheless, the Chinese claim he encourages it.

As China expands as a world power and other parts of the world sway the spotlight from Indonesia, outside involvement seems unlikely.  However, the Western world must bravely confront the Chinese and somehow relieve the Tibetans of their plight.  The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned the Chinese occupation and called for an end to Chinese excessively harsh rule.  However, intervention on behalf of the Tibetans for an independent state seems unnecessary.  A middle ground somewhere should be attainable.  The Chinese should be able to rule fairly, allowing the Tibetans basic freedoms.  The Tibetans have more than done their job of shedding light on the situation.  Until China acts and rules responsibly, the influential nations of the world must find a solution.

As the U.N. Honors Sergio Vieira de Mello, Attacks Sweep Across Iraq

By: Daniel Jasper

As the United Nations honors the loss of one of its most skilled diplomats, Sergio Vieira de Mello, attacks sweep across Iraq killing more than 90 people.  Nearing a decade since Vieira de Mello’s untimely death from a car explosion in Baghdad, things remain much the same in the war torn country.

Vieira de Mello made a name for himself by his unique ability to synthesize humanitarian relief efforts and peacekeeping.  The two seemingly parallel operations are often at odds with each other.  Humanitarian relief can often exacerbate conflict by inadvertently supplying militant groups with food and medicine.  Today, the current Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler, could attempt to use a similar approach while he tries to negotiate the resettlement of refuges from Camp New Iraq (formerly, Camp Ashraf).  However, Kobler faces an uphill battle as al-Qaeda’s forces enjoy the absence of U.S. troops.  Now, nine years after the death of Vieira de Mello and the 2003 disbandment of the Iraqi forces, Kobler finds himself dealing with the aftermath of those vital mistakes in the first years of the war.

While we remember Vieira de Mello’s unprecedented career and endless accomplishments in such places as Cambodia, Serbia, and Kosovo, it is important we remember what made him such an effective U.N. diplomat – his uncanny ability to charm both sides of virtually any conflict while maintaining the support of member nations.  Vieira de Mello had a long history of undertaking the unsavory task of negotiating with war criminals in the name of peace and for the ultimate protection of refugees and everyday citizens.  His mantra seemed to be “the United Nations must remain neutral”.  Although in hindsight many criticize his approach in certain circumstances, it is clear that in order to bring peace to Iraq the United Nations cannot be held to the domestic agendas of its largest donors–a task which Vieira de Mello’s successors have found terribly difficult.

Op-Ed: Skirting Responsibility in Syria

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By Dan Jasper, Staff Editor

For nearly a year, Syria has been in a state of unrest that has caused upwards of 5,000 deaths and an immeasurable amount of destruction. For nearly a year, the United Nations, the Arab League, and the world has watched as the regime of Bashar al-Assad has decimated the lives of its citizens and desecrated the principles that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was built upon. For nearly a year, nothing has been done about it.

In the wake of Rwanda, the world declared “never again,” as it had many times before. But this time, it was supposed to be different. The world would wake up and live by a new set of standards, a new set of responsibilities, a new honor code of sorts. The Responsibility to Protect doctrine was supposed to change the way the state viewed its citizens, states viewed each other, and the way the international community viewed conflict. It was supposed to make the world care. But the image above illustrates the failure of the doctrine in Syria.

The inaction of the UN Security Council has cast doubt on the role of the R2P principles in international affairs. Moreover, the Security Council is losing credibility as it fails, again, to take action, and is once again highjacked by the oppressive domestic agenda of Russia and China. What does this mean for the future of international relations?  It’s difficult to say. But what is clear is that the structure of the Security Council is inherently flawed, and the functionality of the UN will continue to be impaired by these structural flaws.

But the future of international relations is not what we should focus on at the moment. We should focus on the lives being lost and the freedom of the Syrian people. In a series of youtube videos (some images may be disturbing) a brave Syrian man named Danny Dayem captures the ongoing violence in Homs (the epicenter of the violence in the past weeks) and makes a heartfelt plea for help.  I think Danny captures the frustrations of many Syrians in six simple words: “Where the f*** is the UN?” And given the gap between rhetoric and action, that anger is seeming more and more understandable.