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

Image Via TheRawStory.com

 

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.

Can American Factories Compete?

Images via William Hook using a Creative Commons license

 

By Eric Nakano, Staff Editor

In moving its iPhone production overseas to China, Apple executives cited not just the lower costs of production but also the flexibility Chinese factories provide. One Apple executive recalled how Apple’s redesign of its iPhone screen forced a revamp of the phone’s production. The new screens arrived at the factory around midnight and the factory got its workers out of bed to work a 12 hour shift in order to ensure timely delivery of the new phones. From a customer service and bottom line perspective, having this kind of flexibility enables companies to stay a step ahead of the competition and meet demand for their products in a fiercely competitive global economy.

But is rousing a low wage factory worker out of bed after a full day’s work so that a consumer can get delivery of his iPhone on time ethically right? What does this mean for factories around the world? Must they impose similar burdens on their employees in order to remain “competitive”? Should international standards be developed to prevent a race to the bottom? Are these questions being discussed in the ethics courses of our nation’s business schools and debated in the board rooms of Fortune 500 companies? As wealth and income inequality widen, they should be.

Arab Views Evolve Following Arab Spring

Image via Diario El Tiempo, All Rights Reserved

By Katherine White, Staff Editor

A recent Arab Public Opinion Poll conducted in several Arab countries by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development reveals that 55% of pollsters are “more optimistic about the future of the Arab world in light of the Arab Spring.” While the majority of Arabs polled still expressed unfavorable views of the United States (59%), the number of respondents that hold favorable views of the U.S. has increased since 2010. This improvement may reflect the belief among Arabs that the U.S. has played a constructive role in facilitating the Arab Spring, which would represent a major foreign policy success for the Obama administration.

 

European Divorce?

Percentage Of Citizens With Positive Feelings Towards EU By Country, via ec.europa.eu

 

By Daniel Jasper, Staff Editor

Born from Winston Churchill’s belief that Europe could be unified through economic integration, the European Steel and Coal Commission was established in hopes of fostering economic reliance among European nations.  After evolving into the European Union, this reliance has only increased. And, as the Euro was born, Europe was given its ultimate common denominator.

Ironically, such economic dependencies are now the cause for sour relationships in Europe.  After the Greek political showdown and with an Italian debt debacle looming, there is a growing sense that the E.U. is having trouble keeping it together. Goldman Sachs Asset Management International Chairman Jim O’Neill recently told reporters that several countries might leave the Eurozone because Germany is asking for more financial integration.  Germany, no doubt, is tired of carrying the fiscal burden that is the Eurozone.

Public opinion indicates that there is low confidence in the E.U.’s future.  According to a 2011 European Commission report (pdf), 40% of Europeans believe the E.U. is going in the wrong direction while 31% believe it’s moving in the right direction.  European opinion polls regarding the state of the economy, however, are volatile, and the numbers have surely changed since the ordeal over the Greek bailout.

What would the world look like without the Eurozone and, possibly, the European Union?  The E.U. is not likely to disband anytime soon, but it could lose the economic interdependency that Churchill saw as so crucial to European diplomacy.  Angela Merkel put it best when she stated, “If the Euro fails, Europe fails.” A breakdown of the currency would likely foster resentment among many of the member states, and the continent could revert back to a time when national interests reigned supreme.