Shifting Sands of Global Leadership

By Dustin Cai

Originally published in the Spring 2017 Print Issue

The United States has been in the forefront of international politics and leadership for more than half of a century and this position was only strengthened in the post-Cold War era. America has risen as a global leader through economical, political, and strategic success, gaining support and allies from all across the world. In the past seven decades, the U.S. has played an integral role in building and reinforcing Asian economic stability, campaigning for human rights around the world, pledging economic support for allies in Europe, and fostering peace in the Americas. Although this leadership has not drawn all positive responses, including comments on the U.S. acting more as a “world policeman” than a leader, the U.S. has been at the center of much of the international progress over the past several decades due to the values held by American leaders that global leadership and responsibilities were important to the U.S. The United States is one of the most respected nations in the world, and was recognized as the strongest through decades of international initiatives; however, this position has been threatened as a result of leadership and policy changes under the new President, Donald Trump.

One of Trump’s earliest and most prominent platforms since his election has been the “America First” agenda, which plans to change the focus of U.S. actions and prioritize the U.S.’s interests, goals, and citizens over the rest those of the rest of the world. This represents a stark contrast to the goals of previous U.S. presidents and reflects an isolationist sentiment that has not had such widespread support since pre-WWII cries of neutrality.

While the goal of this “America First” agenda may be to take care of its citizens and its nation first and foremost, it may have significant unintended consequences. Primarily, it reduces the legitimacy of a U.S. international leadership and global hegemony. The United States’ friendship with Russia and antagonistic relationship with NATO may cause many of its allies in Europe to find alternative security measures separate from the U.S. Losing European military allies would be severely detrimental to the U.S.’ strategic deployment overseas, as the U.S. has vital military bases in many European countries, which give the U.S. the important ability to deploy and mobilize quickly to respond to international situations and conflicts. Not only are European allies essential for U.S. strategic interests, but having major military allies in European countries allow for their military forces to share the burden of missions through a multilateral approach.

Rather than joining international initiatives because it might provide a benefit to other countries, the U.S. is taking a selfish approach to global affairs. Although the cost and risk of international leadership may be mitigated through and isolationist foreign policy approach, it hinders the United States legitimacy as a global superpower. For example, a majority of the American defense budget goes towards funding and supporting other parts of the world, including efforts in global counter-terrorism, training other military forces, and peacekeeping missions. The respect other nations have for the US is founded on its global leadership role, as creating a stable, international order through leadership initiatives led to “thriving international trade; the spread of democracy; and the avoidance of major conflict among greater powers.” Trump’s policy of “America First” was crafted to contain U.S. prosperity within its borders, but much of the prosperity America has seen since the Cold War and even WWII has been because of the global hegemony created by American international leadership. By reverting back to an isolationist stance, the US will find it even more difficult to win international allies, keep its military hegemony, and push a global agenda.

So if America steps away from its international leadership position, what’s next for global power?

President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. away from a global stage has the potential to cause major international changes. First, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance formed after WWII to promote security and stability around the world, may lose a lot of operating power. Recently, President Trump denounced America’s relationship with NATO by calling the alliance “obsolete,” which reportedly led to “astonishment and agitation” within the alliance. The NATO alliance includes many significant alliances that the U.S. has, including the UK, France, and Germany. Maintaining a strong relationship with NATO gives the U.S. access to international airspace, the building of defense military bases overseas, and the ability to call on allies for international support in case of emergency or conflict. By threatening the relationship between NATO and the United States, President Trump may cause significant repercussions to U.S. global hegemony and support from European allies as they begin to look elsewhere.

Second, major international aid programs and initiatives may begin to fail due to lack of funding, creating greater instability in the most volatile regions of the world. Trump argues that the U.S. is “giving [prosperity] away” and he plans to reduce spending on global programs by a large margin. Programs such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been around since WWII, are under threat as their budgets may be cut in the aftermath of Trump’s “America First” agenda. Currently, there is a budget of around $34 billion dedicated to international assistance. If the budget were to be cut and major programs ended as a result, Roger Thurow, senior fellow on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, says it would be “catastrophic,” and that others would see it as “a withdraw or retreat of U.S. leadership.”

Although Trump has flip-flopped on his position to support or defund international aid, recent support of the “America First” proposal may point to Trump defunding aid programs. Highly volatile regions of the world, including countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Belize, Korea, Burundi, and Egypt, rely on US funding to support humanitarian campaigns, security measures, and regional stability.In addition, programs that help spread democracy around the world would be in danger if President Trump withdraws foreign aid. Withdrawing much needed international assistance that specifically helps the most volatile regions of the world would certainly not bode well for the U.S.’ image as a world leader or lessen the impact of statements from nations that are already calling the United States out on humanitarian issues.

Finally, the U.S. stepping down from its international leadership position will create an extended period of global uncertainty. Major allies in Europe and Asia may turn to other nations for leadership and partnership or look to stay within their borders as well; countries in need of aid will be severely harmed and look to other means to get aid; and a power vacuum will emerge at the global stage for someone else to step up as the major superpower. Countries like China, Russia, and Germany would be ready to overtake the U.S. as the global superpower and dominate in diplomacy, economic gains, and military alliances. Chinese diplomats have already responded to Trump’s “America First” agenda by saying “if China is required to play that leadership role then China will assume its responsibilities.” Even though China, according to director general Zhang Jun, does not want the global leadership position, they suspect America will leave that role open due to its withdrawal on the global stage, allowing another nation to take its place. China is increasingly becoming the dominate world economic power and threatens to overtake the U.S. in economic output in the near future. In addition, China has made significant investments in Africa and South America, regions of the world the U.S. would have had more influence in if not for Trump’s “America First” agenda, and has cultivated significant relationships in the developing world

Another prime contender for global leadership is Russia. Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, continues to make power grabs, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Moreover, Russia continues to make moves in Syria by directing and controlling peace talks between rebel groups and the Syrian government, strengthening Russia’s position in the Middle East. Recent discussions around Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential election also do not help America’s image in the world.

A third player set to steal the show is Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been critical of President Trump from the start of his election campaign, specifically regarding Trump’s immigration policy and his distaste of NATO. While Trump has closed the U.S.’s borders to Muslim countries, Merkel remains on the moral high ground with Germany’s open border stance to refugees, ramping up Germany’s reputation in the world. If Trump continues to deteriorate the U.S. relationship with NATO, Germany would be set to become a more significant leader throughout Western Europe, drawing further support of major European allies. Aligned with China and Russia, Germany has also experienced a period of significant economic growth, allowing Germany to be seen as a greater international leader. As President Trump deliberately diminishes America’s role in world leadership, other countries are primed and ready to take center stage, with some countries, like Russia, more ready than ever.

President Trump’s agenda of “America First” really does represent a significant shift in global trends and leadership. Following a prolonged period of American hegemony, growth, prosperity, and diplomacy, new developments in Trump’s plan for America may change that. International security in the form of NATO may face significant changes, for better or for worse, and may even dissolve in the future as the main source of funding pulls out. The uncertainty associated with America’s actions may lead European and Asian allies to look elsewhere or adopt isolationist policies as Britain has already done. In addition, developing countries may face a significant blow to their growth as they lose foreign aid from the U.S. Aid that has fostered peace and stability in South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe may no longer exist under an “America First” agenda, causing these volatile regions to either look to other countries for help or turn to other means of action, including violence. Finally, a loss of American leadership will allow other countries to step up and create their own period of hegemony. Countries such as China, Russia, and Germany are all ready and able to replace the United States in a new era of global leadership. China, Russia, and Germany have made significant strides in the recent years on a domestic and international stage, giving them the opportunity to quickly overtake America if the U.S. chooses to halt its international plans.

In order for America to retain its prosperity and international hegemony, America should not look to isolationism. In the increasingly connected world, it becomes imperative that countries remain open to collaboration. Turning inward will not produce the economic, military, and strategic gains that Trump hopes to achieve; rather, active participation on a global scale will maintain and build upon America’s existing strength and will also serve as a benefit to countries world wide, from the developing countries that rely on international aid, to major countries that enjoy alliances with the United States. Otherwise, the stage will be set for other countries to take on the role of global leader and assume the title as the global superpower.


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A Hacked Campaign: A Perceived Fascist versus the Perceived Moderate

By Adithya Sivakumar

There’s no way a country would flip its entire trajectory, right?

Sounds like a certain election in 2016, doesn’t it? Call it surprising, but these thoughts not only echoed in the minds of the population of the United States, but also the population of France, as they both went to the polls to elect a new President. However, even with striking similarities, the two elections led to two drastically different outcomes. So the obvious question is, why?

Talk of the 2017 French election began gaining steam in late 2016, in part marked by incumbent President Francois Hollande’s decision to not seek reelection. Hollande was hobbled by a dismal four percent approval rating and numerous terrorist attacks that had marred his term, and many people in France itched for a change, one that would seemingly set the country on the right track.

Initially, there were four candidates who served a serious chance of becoming President. They included Francois Fillon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen, and Emmanuel Macron. Surprisingly, only Fillon, who beat out former President Nicolas Sarkozy for his candidacy on a socially conservative and economically liberal platform, was the only member of the political establishment out of this four. In a world steeped by anti-establishment sentiment, all the other three were steeped with solid bases of support, all with radically different ideas on how to lead France. Fillon did lead polls for a while, but this lead soon dropped after he and his wife were put under investigation for embezzling state funds by creating fake jobs, leaving the door open to the other upstart candidates to take control.

Melenchon served as the far-left candidate, promising renegotiation with the EU, an attack on bankers, and goals Socialist President Hollande could never accomplish. Similar to the United States’ Bernie Sanders, Melenchon did build up a bastion of support among the youth of France, but was widely feared by financial institutions, as they feared “economic disaster” if he was elected.

Le Pen, on other hand, represented the other side of French politics: the far right. Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and leads the National Front. Under the elder Le Pen’s leadership, the party was widely known as the one that promoted xenophobia and Holocaust denial, largely due to the leader himself. Marine Le Pen eventually got her father kicked out of the party after repeated remarks about characterizing gas chambers as a “detail of history.” After taking over, the younger Le Pen has attempted to rehabilitate the party’s image, proving largely successful, although many core points of the party have remained the same. In response to various terrorist attacks that have hit the nation, Le Pen has proposed strict controls on immigration, including the expelling of all undocumented immigrants and the removal of free education for these immigrants’ children. Additionally, the politics of her party largely place the citizens of France first, largely above those of immigrants, including making jobs, housing, or areas of public provisions go to French individuals first, rather than immigrants, an idea seen as unconstitutional by many. Inspired by Brexit, the candidate also has promised a referendum for France to leave the European Union. Most in relevance to the United States, Le Pen believed she had a chance after the surprise election of Donald Trump, indicating a new shift in global politics. Polls gave her the lead after Fillon’s fallout, but this was soon taken over by independent candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Macron is unique in that he formed his own party after serving as an economic minister in Hollande’s government. Frustrated by the lack of progress in his time in government, Macron painted himself as the center-left candidate, promising deregulation and reform to the business industry. Although potentially perceived in countries like the United States as normal, Macron’s proposals to increase the working week beyond 35 hours for younger workers as well as the opportunity to open businesses on Sunday were widely ridiculed by the left and working-class individuals. However, these proposals also have made Macron more palatable for businesses, and his strong support of the EU has also proved successful in wooing individuals from the left and right. Additionally, he has supported working with an array of world leaders, including Donald Trump and the leaders of Russia and Syria to promote peace, and promoted law and order initiatives to fight the ISIS attacks that have plagued the nation.

The first round of the presidential primaries clearly demonstrated rejection of the status quo, as Macron took 23.7% and Le Pen took 21.7%, while Fillon and Melenchon each took 19.5% of the vote. Since no candidate received a majority, Macron and Le Pen fought each other in the runoff. At this point, the rest of the world cautiously placed its eyes on the French Republic, worried about another Trump-esque victory or a Brexit, results they had slowly become accustomed to in 2016. Many defeated candidates, such as Fillon and the Socialist Party’s Benoit Hamon, pledged support to Macron, wishing to stave off the possibility of Le Pen taking power. Oddly enough, Melenchon’s supporters largely rejected voting for Macron, as even though the candidate said he would not vote for Le Pen, he also did not profess support for Macron either, echoing a similar situation in the United States after Bernie Sanders did not initially support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for President.

In a further ode to the United States’ election, a massive email hack was conducted on Macron two days before elections, leading to the release of documents about the internal workings of his campaign, leading to speculation that Russian sources were yet again attempting to influence the democratic process of a country. However, since campaigning on the day before an election in France is illegal, talks about the hacks were largely kept silent, and the effect on the election was likely not large.

On May 7, the day of reckoning came. Was France to become another follower of populism, or an adherer to the status quo? Its people gave a resounding answer: 66% voted for Macron, and 34% voted for Le Pen. This outcome confused many, as France appeared to have the same markers for a populist victory as the United Kingdom and the United States: fear of outsiders, economic uncertainty. So what changed?

France’s history was largely seen as a catalyst for rejecting Le Pen. As much as Marine Le Pen attempted to detoxify her party’s image, the history of her father and his statements brought a lot of weight for the people of France, especially one that had suffered through the far-right regime of Vichy in World War II. Additionally, in relation to the United States, one factor that may have been different was that of voter turnout. In the primaries, a slight dip in turnout led to 77% eligible individuals voting, while 53.5% voted in the 2016 United States Presidential Elections. A higher participatory rate may have led to more individuals, those more in favor of a France that ran more center than left or right, to influence the decision.

Although France stuck to EU integration, it is important to acknowledge the gravity of Macron’s win. Traditional parties now have to acknowledge they have to change their message to not only play to the same bases they have for decades, but rather reach out to broader swathes of the populace. Macron may move on making big moves in the business sector, but 34% of the country feels ignored, necessitating action on his part to make them feel acknowledged, while also assuring them that business reforms and EU integration do not pose a threat, but may actually lead to an opportunity.

Lampedusa: Europe’s Border Isle

By Jackie Olson

An Italian island with a population just over 6,000, Lampedusa was once considered a secret vacation getaway for Europeans, receiving almost 50,000 tourists a year. Now, due to its proximity to the African continent, just 70 km from the Tunisian coast, it has become a border-state between the EU and the volatile African nations, primarily Libya and Tunisia for thousands of refugees.

In 1985, the first round of the Schengen Treaty was passed which eliminated border checks at most EU-member countries along with the harmonization of visa guidelines. In addition, the legislation ordered whichever Schengen-country first received a migrant would be forced to take responsibility for the individual. This clause within the treaty has proven most problematic to the European Union and for countries especially Greece and Italy with their natural closeness to the migrant countries. Questions concerning the relative fairness to their disproportionate influx of migrants in comparison to other mainland EU countries has been in contention in recent years, especially after the massive increase of migrants to Europe in 2015 running concurrently with the Syrian Civil War.

Lampedusa became a stopping point for refugees into mainland Europe after the passing of the Martelli Law in 1990 which prohibited the free travel of North Africans into Europe and sanctioned airlines and ferry companies from permitting undocumented North Africans to use their transportation services in Europe. The passing of this act, in essence, gave birth to illegal, often unsafe, ways into Europe for migrants and created an opportunity for a border economy: local border entrepreneurs currently charge 1,000 Euros for direct transfer from Tunisia to Lampedusa and North African port authorities have reaped massive profits from mass migration.

In 1998, Lampedusa opened the first detention center and overtime expanded the local services to include longer stays for migrants. The services also changed from non-profit workers to profit which has altered the nature of Lampedusa into an economy that is largely now police and military personnel.

In 2002, Italian naval patrols were forced to direct migrants’ boats to shore resulting in the disproportionate number of migrants to Lampedusa between 2003-2008, in 2008 alone over 30,000 migrants stopped in Lampedusa. Even though North African readmission policies were in place since 1998 with an agreement with Tunisian to send migrants back to North Africa, it took ten years before the policy drastically shaped migration patterns. In 2004, the EU lifted embargos on Libya, at the time the most popular embarking country and stressed for support with naval patrols and deportations. Yet only in 2008 after Italy paid reparations for its colonial history did Qadaffi actively help in the migration crisis, reducing overall migrant travel in 2009-2010.  

Although, after the Arab Spring in 2011, Italy was left to fight the influx of people alone and saw a drastic increase in migration due to the Tunisian Revolution and the Libyan Civil War. The Italian government declared the increase as a North African Emergency which lasted until 2013.  Within that period, 1.5 billion euros were allocated to reception asylum centers and most importantly in 2011, a German court overturned the Dublin Regulation of the Schengen Treaty and permitted migrants to not be deported back to Italy from other countries within the EU, the first country where they entered the European Union. This ruling has had wide repercussions in the crisis, especially after 2013 when Italy declared the Emergency status over and closed many centers leaving once Italian-settled refugees to flood northern European states such as Germany for support.

Yet in 2013, the Lampedusa crisis did not lessen in severity. 14,753 migrants passed through Lampedusa that year and the island was marked by two tragedies. First, on October 3, approximately 500 Eritreans, Somalis and Ghanaians died meters off the shores of Lampedusa, the worst disaster in the Mediterranean since the Second World War. The tragedy brought attention to the efforts on the island and some proclaimed the locals rescue efforts to be worth the recognition of a Nobel Peace Prize. A few weeks later, Italy passed the ‘Mare Nostrum’ act to increase military naval patrols to stop any future tragedies from occurring near Italian waters. Yet in December, Lampedusa’s efforts were thrown aside with the exposure of reports that the local centers sprayed refugees for scabies, sparking massive protests from EU legislators who threatened to block financial support to Italy for their inhumane migration policies.

In 2014, migrant crossings substantially increased to over 165,000 people and was the deadliest year with 3,500 dying in transit. This was primarily due to the defunding of the ‘Mare Nostrum’, a systematic program that was too expensive to fund: over 10 million dollars per month. Italy, instead, looked to the E.U. for a naval search program which instigated the foundation of Operation Triton. Triton was considered useless with its low-budget and short range of 30 miles off Italian coasts.

In the ongoing Syrian Civil War since 2015, Syrians have disproportionately made up the largest nationality of Mediterranean crossings, from January 2016 to April 2017, 83,000 have used the routes to escape the bloody conflict. While in 2015, Italy saw only roughly 150,000 migrants in comparison to the 800,000 Greece had, overtime Italy has increased migrant inflows to roughly its 2011-2013 numbers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) predicts that Italy will receive 190,000 refugees in comparison to Greece’s 44,000 in 2017.

Yet with the ongoing Islamic State terrorist attacks on European cities, Italy has been less willing to take massive amounts of migrants with the fear that terrorists from Libya will use the Mediterranean routes and ultimately attack the Vatican. Although, Italy may have to actively devote more resources to asylum-seekers, especially after the numerous European elections in 2017 that may place many far-right agendas in power which have condemned open asylum policies. Therefore, while Italy has reached reception capacity, it is currently looking at plans on how to better structure services to refugees with the view that the situation will still be severe but will garner far less internationalist-European  and more nationalist-based sentiment against relief for the mass-migration tragedy. What support Italy will receive or if they will stand as the lone-wolf against the volatile crisis will certainly be seen but will only be another layer added to never-ending cycle of mixed support and anguish from Europeans and the rest of the indecisive world.

Aung San Suu Kyi: The Cost of Silence of a Nobel Peace Prize Winner

By Adithya Sivakumar

In the midst of the instability present in Eastern Europe in the early 1990’s, as well as the Persian Gulf War, the world received one gleam of hope from Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese citizen awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent methods to resist the ruling Burmese military junta. Although she was unable to receive the award at the time due to her presence in house arrest, the awarding of the prize symbolized that the world was behind the fight against authoritarianism, and that if you were willing to make a stand, the world was ready to back you.

Nearly twenty years later, elections were opened in Myanmar, and although Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate, she was released from house arrest, and soon contested her party in increasingly-freer elections, which allowed her to become the leader of the opposition. In 2015, the military junta finally held openly-contested elections, and her party took control of the country. It appeared that Suu Kyi’s destiny was realized: democracy had taken hold, and Myanmar looked towards a hopeful future.

However, even with Suu Kyi’s triumphs, they came with the cost of ignoring a sizable, growing problem within the nation-state, one that threatens Suu Kyi’s record as a defender of human rights, and instead leads her down the path of the dictators who suppressed her. That problem, unfortunately, is masked within her own people: it is the plight of the Rohingya.

The Rohingya: A History of their Conflict

The Rohingya are a group of people primarily characterized by their religion, which is a variant of Sunni Islam. This group traces its origins in Myanmar through immigration starting in the fifteenth century, under the tutelage of the Arakan Kingdom, and continuing under British rule of then-British India in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They are also very different than other groups in Myanmar, “ethnically, linguistically, and religiously,” especially the dominant Buddhist population.

These stark differences enabled Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya since the country’s independence in 1948, including the proclamations that denied the people status as a recognized ethnic group within the country. Instead, they were commonly regarded as illegal Bengali immigrants from the neighboring country of Bangladesh, despite the residence of the group for centuries, as citizenship laws only conferred status on those considered “indigenous” groups. These types of laws left the Rohingya as a stateless people, leading to a serious deprivation in basic human rights for these individuals. The government also advanced processes that only allowed two children per family of the Rohingya, limited movement outside of certain villages, and constantly enforced a concept of otherness, calling the Rohingya “Bengali” in temporary identification cards in a reference to their South Asian heritage, instead of their desired identifier.

The plight of this group came into full focus in 2012, with the outburst of sectarian violence in Rakhine State, where many Rohingya resided. Resulting from accusations against a group of Rohingya men surrounding the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, the violence killed more than 280 people, and displaced more than 120,000 people. Many Rohingya began fleeing the country, fearing an increased crackdown from the government, prompting a refugee crisis that reverberated throughout Southeast Asia. Countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Bangladesh were faced with an influx of individuals, and much like the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, countries were unaware on how to deal with the large amount of migrants, creating a large number of displaced persons within Southeast Asia.

Where Aung San Suu Kyi Has Failed

Aung San Suu Kyi could not have done much in the initial creation of the restrictive citizenship laws, as she was either in house arrest or away from Myanmar. However, since the transition to democracy in 2015, Suu Kyi has seemingly had a large opportunity to expand the rights of the Rohingya. With increased reforms in the government, the potential for citizenship reform also seemed possible. Unfortunately, with the outburst of sectarian violence, supporting the rights of the Rohingya became politically unfavorable. Under pressure from Buddhist nationalists in 2015, the Myanmar government revoked temporary residence cards from the Rohingya, effectively silencing their opportunity to vote in the national election in which Suu Kyi won by a landslide.

In part due to this electoral result, as well as pressure from the electorate that voted for her, Suu Kyi’s administration has been criticized as being largely silent on addressing the crisis in the Rakhine state. One state-run commission did not necessarily recommend changing the discriminatory citizenship laws, but rather just incorporating the Rohingya in the same law. Anti-Muslim sentiment is high in Myanmar, causing Suu Kyi to have little impetus to risk political expediency, despite large amounts of pressure from the United States and the European Union.

Solving the Rohingya situation in Myanmar is not simply a matter of making Suu Kyi take another stand for democratic ideals. Myanmar is filled with a complex history, one filled with exclusion and sectarianism. Making constitutional changes will likely not cause substantive change, as seen in many nations around the world. However, Myanmar has the unique opportunity of having a unifying figure, one that is seen by the rest of the world as a marker of peace. If Suu Kyi can force democracy in a state ruled by military strife, there is no reason why she cannot work to bring peace to Rakhine state, especially in a time in which her people need it the most.

South Korea’s Political Changes

As of March 10, 2017, the South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been impeached after it was discovered a citizen with no government post, Choi Soon-sil, was acting as a “shadow president” with significant influence over Park, undergoing executive decision making and even was extorting government money. In addition, other individuals, including Lee Jae-yong, heir to the Samsung empire was arrested for bribery and embezzlement of funds in exchange for political favors from Choi and Park. Although this scandal was revealed in October of 2016, the unanimous Constitutional Court decision to uphold Park’s impeachment is making huge changes now on South Korea. For one, South Korea is currently left without an elected president as Hwang Kyo-Ahn has taken over as the acting president. But, more importantly, South Korean political parties are gearing up for the next presidential election, which is expected to be held on May 9, 2017.

The current power vacuum left by ex-President Park has substantially changed the political landscape in South Korea. Park’s ruling conservative party, the Saenuri Party, has since split into two factions, the Barun party, which opposes Park, and the Korea Freedom Party, which still supports Park. Part of this split is because there is no sole leader, and hopes of finding one dissolved when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, predicted to be the frontrunner of the upcoming elections and unofficial leader of the Saenuri Party, dropped out of the presidential race in early February. The split of the Saenuri Party will cause a huge loss of power for the conservative party and for their candidates; on the other hand, this also allows the liberal party, which has not been in control of the government for many years, to regain power in South Korea.

The liberal Democratic Party has been given the opportunity to return to power in the coming election, which CNN calls a “campaign frenzy,” given just a 60-day period between impeachment and election. A Gallup Korea poll shows Moon Jae-in as the front runner for the Democratic candidate with 32% of the people polled supporting him, 15% ahead of the next highest candidate. Reuters predicts Moon to become the next president of South Korea, although his leadership is yet to be determined given his four other potential Democratic candidates. The existing situation in South Korea all but points to the liberal party taking control of the government from the conservative party.

If Moon Jae-in and the liberal party does win the presidential election, which is the most likely scenario, South Korea will certainly push for new developments in the Asian-Pacific world. One issue addressed will be the current U.S.-South Korean relationship. The U.S. developed plans in the summer of 2016 to place Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles in South Korea as a defense mechanism against potential threats in Asia. This plan was signed and agreed to by ex-President Park, and was moved forward by interim President Hwang. However, many Democratic candidates, Moon included, are opposed to this plan and are critical of the recently strong U.S.-South Korean relationship developed under the conservative rule, saying that the U.S. intention to deploy THAAD missiles should not be trusted. This could put a large dent in the relationship between South Korea and one of its greatest allies of late, the United States. On the other hand, liberals in power could foster greater relationships with closer, Asian allies – both China and Russia have strongly opposed U.S. THAAD missiles, citing great security threats. The Chinese-South Korean relationship stands to heavily benefit from a liberal president, as South Korean liberals are heavily critical of U.S. involvement in South Korea, but much more welcoming to a Chinese presence.

In addition, a liberal win in South Korea could lead to faster peace between South and North Korea. Presidential-hopeful Moon has made fostering friendly relationships with North Korea a centerpiece of his campaign, something that liberals have historically supported during their last power regime between 1998-2008. During this time, South Korean enacted Sunshine Policies, designed to fix relationships between North and South Korea through openness, aid, and trust. Part of Moon’s plan to tend this relationship is to reopen the joint-venture factory in Kaesong between the two countries, which was closed by ex-President Park following North Korean nuclear missile tests. While this would certainly benefit South Korea’s diplomacy and creating better relationships with North Korea, it would set back the UN’s plan to force North Korea to stop its nuclear tests, as scholars have called this proposed move, “a major step backward for taming Pyongyang.” This would set back the U.S. and many UN nations’ plan to force North Korea away from nuclear testing via stronger sanctions.

While the UN and the U.S. have become wearier and more aggressive against North Korean nuclear tests, a changing political landscape in South Korean may not bode well for these plans. Liberal leaders in South Korea have a history of becoming more friendly towards North Koreans, and Moon states he wants to do the same. The next South Korean president will have a difficult job, balancing relations between the U.S., China, and North Korea. In addition to these international affairs, the next South Korean president will also have the job in mending domestic trust within the government following the presidential impeachment. Given the state of turmoil the conservative party in South Korea is in, the stage is nearly set for Liberals to assume power in South Korea’s government under the likely Moon presidency, which is something that is sure to have large impacts on international relationships.

The Women’s Movement Voices in South America

By Victoria Herring

Women around the world rallied together on March 8th to celebrate International Women’s Day. The celebration turned into both a triumphant and somber note, as women went on strike, left their jobs early and took to the streets to protest the ominous wage gap, among other issues the movement fights to eradicate. This particular day was indeed one of the most highly charged and political of its kind in recent history; the changing of hands in many political systems has urged both men and women to speak out against problems that affect the lives of millions of women worldwide, including both workplace and reproductive rights. This day marked the second major event of the women’s movement after the international marches on January 21st. Titled “The Day Without Women”, its purpose was to bring light to the inequalities faced by females on a global scale.

This past week, South America’s turbulent political climate became once again surrounded by tumultuous protests crowding their busy avenues. This time, the “manifestations,” as they are known to be called, were not concerning the government but were concerning the rights of women and protesting the increase of violence against women that has become prevalent in recent years. Although some South American countries were among the first to welcome women presidents and prime ministers, inequality nonetheless prevails in various aspects of life. Domestic violence and femicide, particularly among romantic partners, is an epidemic in Latin America. Between January and October of 2015, 223 women died as a result of gender-based violence in Argentina, according to La Casa del Encuentro. Since 2008, there have been over 2,224 reported cases of femicide in the country. The particularly large number of attacks on females at the hands of men inspired the hashtag #NiUnaMenos, meaning “not one less”. The inspiration for the hashtag arose from Mexican poet and activist Susana Chávez, who was murdered in 2011 and was known for her advocacy against gender-based violence, primarily femicide, in Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez.

Brazil was the only BRIC country – an acronym representing Brazil, Russia, India and China, referring to economically burgeoning and promising countries – to have a woman president. Unfortunately, Dilma Rousseff was impeached in May due to charges of money laundering and corruption and was replaced by her Vice President, Michel Temer. This example of poor leadership dealt a blow to the women’s rights movement, who heralded Rousseff as the quintessential example of feminine leadership in a country who needed reparations, both politically and economically. Brazil has recently erupted in these protests after comments made by Temer in his own International Women’s Day speech: he praised women for their ability to compare supermarket prices, and went on to thank his wife, Marcela, and other Brazilian women, for everything they do “in the house, in the home and for their children”. The leader has also come under fire for abolishing the ministry of women, racial equality and human rights shortly after becoming coming to power and for appointing an all-male cabinet. Two of the 28 cabinet positions were then given to women after large protests. While Brazil is in its largest recession in recent history for the second consecutive year with a GDP drop of 3.3%, it is projected that Temer’s economic plan will disproportionately and negatively impact women.

Globally, 35% of women have experience physical and/or sexual violence in their life, according to the World Health Organization — and for 30% it was at the hands of their partner. This problem was exacerbated in Brazil, when in 2005 domestic violence was not considered a crime. The Maria de Penha Law passed in 2006  finally condemned domestic violence as crime. Nonetheless, today, a staggering 88.5% of women in Brazil have experienced violence; 15 women are murdered every day. In response, movements in South American countries, like that in Argentina – Ni Una Menos – have urged their governments to increase protection for the defense of women. Ni Una Menos calls for “a collective cry against machista violence,” and has spearheaded the effort of the Argentine Supreme Court to create a femicide registry. Organizations like Amnesty International and Vital Voices have joined local efforts in South America to educate young girls and to cultivate a culture of peace. Over 5,000 people have participated in their workshops, and some have even taken place outside of Brazil, furthering the case for women – not as victims but as fighters.

Research indicates that feminist mobilization in society is a catalyst for change, and not initiatives taken by governments (especially since these are largely nonexistent). What type of women’s movement is most conducive to policy changes? How large of a scale must they be in order to herald the attention of lawmakers? Although it is disheartening that governments cannot mediate this problem on their own, this research gives the women’s movement hope that the protests, assemblies and conventions do in fact serve to light the spark of changing times for females.

The Next Crusade

By Javan Latson

Two hundred and fourty-one United States soldiers were killed in a bombing at the marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983.  It was the deadliest attack against U.S. marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima. These individuals were a part of a contingent of 1800 marines stationed in the country since President Reagan dispatched them in 1982. American, English, French, and Italian forces formed a multi-national force that was supposed to help pacify a country that found itself in the midst of a sectarian civil war. The conflict in Lebanon was complicated, involving numerous factions including Christian, Druze, and Shiite militias, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. This situation was further complicated by the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982 with the hopes of creating a buffer against PLO attacks, and the installation of anti aircraft weaponry by Syria in the north. The multinational force (MNF) was sent in to help PLO militants evacuate, protect civilians, and assist the Lebanese government in stabilizing Beirut in what was supposed to be a non-combat mission.

There was no definite timetable as to when the MNF would leave the area, and no clear objectives or methods as to how they were to help the Lebanese restore order in the country.  The mission was subject to frequent change and eventually the MNF was designated as an “interposition force” which is an armed group that serves as a buffer between two warring factions. The role of the U.S. continued to escalate and shift from that of a peacekeeping and humanitarian one to a military deterrent in what was becoming a more and more dangerous place. In the midst of the growing chaos, congress enacted the War Powers Act that authorized the marines to remain in Lebanon for 18 months. Furthermore it was advised that the troops be evacuated from Beirut offshore to one of the U.S. battleships in the region.  However, this was not done and as a result more than 200 lives were lost in attack perpetrated by Shiite militants backed by Iran. Thus President Reagan was forced to withdraw the remaining troops while the French retaliated against an Iranian Revolutionary Guards barrack the month after.

 About 10 years after the Beirut Bombing, President Bill Clinton and the American public watched in horror when seeing the footage of a dead American soldier who was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somali, amidst a crowd cheering Somalis. Simultaneously, Somali-warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed shot down two Blackhawk Helicopters and led other uprisings in the Battle of Mogadishu that killed 18 U.S. servicemen. The American servicemen were originally sent to East African nation in 1992 as a part of a United Nations mission to help provide humanitarian aid to provide food to the thousands of starving people who were enduring a horrible famine. During a speech to the nation, President George H.W. Bush painted a vivid picture of suffering children who were unable to receive assistance due to the anarchy that existed in Somalia. In fact when he sent the troops, he told the public that the men and women participating in the mission were “doing God’s work”.  However, much like the Lebanon campaign, the mission shifted from one of peace to a military endeavor to capture Somali Warlord Aideed after his forces had attacked a contingent of UN troops.  This episode would provide another example of good intentions gone badly, and the current situation in Somalia is no better than it was 24 years ago.

Fast forward to the present. The nation of Syria has been embroiled in civil war for over six years and more than 400,000 people have been killed with millions more being displaced.  What originally began as an attempt to pressure President Assad into making reforms has spiraled into a multisided conflict that now currently involves Russia, U.S., Turkey, Iran, ISIS, and consortium of rebel groups and militias. Under the Obama administration, American action in the region consisted mostly of airstrikes against ISIS and other terrorist groups. Funds, weapons, and training have also been given to anti-government forces that hope to depose the authoritarian Bashar Al-Assad. There is a lot of controversy in regards to supporting groups that we are still unsure of their motives, and even the United States support has led to some instances where rebels funded by the CIA and rebels funded by the Pentagon have fought each other.

Though there have been U.S. forces on the ground in Syria, these troops were mostly Special Forces that have been deployed to provide logistical support and training for our allies. The number of Americans had been kept very low due a cap imposed by the Pentagon under President Obama that limited the number to 500. However, on March 9th it was announced that 400 troops were being deployed to Syria to fight ISIS with plans to send 1000 more in the upcoming weeks. Among those that were sent was a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit, which raised the number of soldiers in Syria to around 1000. Their mission is to advise Kurdish militants in Northern Syria, share expertise on bomb disposal, help coordinate airstrikes, and provide artillery support. Another 2,500 soldiers are being sent to Kuwait with the expectation that they might also be sent to Iraq (where more than 5000 troops are already deployed) or Syria. U.S. soldiers have already made their presence known earlier this month where photographs were taken of armored vehicles flying American flags driving in the Syrian town of Manbij.

Syrian President Assad has not been silent over the increasing number of Americans in Syria, and has gone as far as to call them “invaders” because he hadn’t given them permission to operate within Syrian borders.  In an interview with Chinese network Phoenix TV he went on to say that U.S. forces being in Syria would not improve the current situation and cited the military failures in Somalia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to support his belief that Americans only make things worse. In addition President Assad expects the Trump administration to take a more constructive role in the conflict since both U.S. political parties are against ISIS, but has yet to see him act accordingly.

All things being said, it seems as if the Syrian Civil War is about to get a lot more complicated. Much like Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton before him, President Trump is placing American men and women into an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. Although our soldiers volunteer their lives for the betterment of our country and others, their lives are precious and shouldn’t be thrown away without cause. It’s hard to believe that there will not be a casualty as the troop presence increases, and if something drastic occurs how are we going to respond? Are we going to escalate what is already hopeless situation? What history has taught us is that before entering into enemy territory, there needs to be a clear and definite mission objective as well as a timetable. The frequent change of mission for the MNF in Lebanon and the shift from humanitarian endeavor towards a military excursion only resulted in death and a dissatisfied public. If President Trump truly is America first, then he will take a course of action that values the lives of Americans first and won’t hastily rush into battle in Syria. In order to truly make America great again, we must learn to stop making the same poor choices that have been a detriment our nation.

Persistent Surveillance: the Repercussions of Snowden and the Bundesnachrichtendienst

By Jackie Olson

Edward Snowden, four years after his monumental exposure of U.S. governmental efforts to hack and surveil domestic and international computer networks, remains in Russia without fear of expatriation back to the United States where he would face numerous charges including his violation of the Espionage Act. While Snowden now plays the role of motivational speaker, just last week he was part of a panel discussion on the role of surveillance in the Trump Administration with Daniel Ellsburg, famous exposer of the Pentagon Papers whose 2013 leaks still linger today.

Last month, German chancellor Angela Merkel testified in the on-going investigation of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of international personal networks. Their investigation included Chancellor Merkel’s phone calls, and the questionable link to the NSA’s German counterparts, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), in a few of the suspicious activities Snowden exposed in 2013. While Merkel, like in 2013, held to her “spying among friends is unacceptable” stance at the hearing, her position is a reminder of the German government’s failure to adopt a “no-spying” agreement with the United States in 2013.

Even though Germany has many protections against domestic surveillance of journalists, recent reports have accused the BND of tapping into international news outlets such as the BBC, New York Times and Reuters. Recent disclosures have indicated that the BND since 1999 has surveilled journalists’ communications with private sources, ranging from the Congo to Afghanistan.

In 2006, Spiegel journalist Susanne Koelbl’s email server was intercepted by the BND to observe communications with the Afghan minister for industry and trade. In 2008, the agency apologized for the interception, however, nine years later public scrutiny is still fervent in the belief that the BND has faced little regulation, with their many incidents of rule-breaking and misconduct.  

In fact, late last year the German Bundesrat, the German legislative body, approved expanding the power of the BND to have more discretion in foreign-foreign signal intelligence: a policy that allows for increased gathering of information of people and locations from foreign targets. In addition, while the BND was previously under direct control of the Chancellery, a new independent body was formed to increase oversight on the intelligence organization. The Federal Chancellery is now required to receive authorization from the independent body before any action is taken. Even though there have been mixed opinions on the restructuring of the intelligence service, after this new leak of international press eavesdropping, some people fear the law will just exacerbate the already problematic situation.

Reporters without Borders has claimed that the new law will still allow international journalists little protection against the intrusive BND whereas domestic journalists receive the fullest securities. Along with Reporters without Borders, the Society for Civil Rights is preparing a legal challenge to the expansive BND law that went into effect in January.

This controversy comes at a time when Angela Merkel’s popularity with her open-door stance for refugees has been largely criticized and has inspired neo-Nazi and alternative right groups, such as Pegida, to gain momentum with their anti-immigrant, pro-German national rhetoric.

In September, Angela Merkel’s seat will be in question during the upcoming elections. Recent polling suggests people care most about their country’s future refugee policy and how it relates to their position in the EU. While Merkel’s stance may hurt her, especially after the Berlin Christmas market terrorist attack, her party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is polling at 38% in the proportional government. Yet supporters of Merkel fear a left-wing alliance that would put her out of office.

Germany is not the only European country to have elections this year. France, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic also will have monumental elections that will not only determine their stance on asylum seekers, but will determine how fervent and important nationalistic identity will be in the European continent.

Mexico, Syria, and the Executive Order

By Victoria Herring

President Trump signed an executive order on January 27, 2016 that banned immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries in order to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists”: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Citizens of these countries were banned from entering the U.S. for ninety days, and authorities were ordered to reject Syrian refugees from opening new visa applications. The order also set the quota for all other entering refugees at 50,000 – a drastic difference from the Obama’s administration’s 85,000 limit. A variety of reactions ensued from the general public – intense criticism and protests along with applause for this new law’s promise of protecting the American ‘homeland.’ Yet critics noted the apparent paradox with the seven-country ban: no person from any of those countries have killed any American in the U.S. since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Chaos reigned in airports where families were detained with no clear instructions for next steps. Dual citizens and green card holders were also detained, while large crowds of protesters accumulated in the vicinity of major international airports. Simultaneously, three federal judges questioned the constitutionality of the order, prompting the president to threaten to challenge the judges at the Supreme Court.

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Above is a map detailing the entry of Syrian refugees primarily in the year 2016. They are concentrated in four states, similar to the pattern with the total number of refugees: 10 states accepted 54% of them, demonstrating that the burden of immigrants is not equally spread out and that border states take the greater responsibility, which affects their economies and workforces significantly. If the weight were to be distributed, perhaps greater immigration numbers could in fact be a more feasible. The influx of Syrian refugees due to extreme turmoil in Syria was up 675% in 2016 as compared to the previous year.

After much confusion, a revised executive order has been proposed. What exactly does it entail, and how has it changed from the original? How will its novelty and controversial regulations affect the lives of millions of immigrants attempting to leave Syria, as well as those in foreign countries who are in the process of applying for Visas?

The new executive order is yet to be approved by the president, but its memos have been signed by John F. Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This new order exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they have not used it yet. The White House also said that green-card holders and dual citizens of the United States, and any of the seven targeted countries, are exempt. Nonetheless, the refugee problem in Syria is at a point of crushing immediacy and requires immediate attention.

The Syrian civil war is now in its sixth brutal year. United Nations emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brian describes it as “a slaughterhouse, a complete meltdown of humanity, the apex of horror”. This tragic war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced more than 11 million Syrians from their cities. Children are unfortunately the most drastically affected, as they lose parents, family members and friends. The physical and psychological ramifications of the violence they have observed will undoubtedly manifest itself in coming years. These young Syrians have also fallen years behind in school hampering their already fragile educational efforts. Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Slightly more than 10 percent of them have left Europe, the majority of these seeking peace in the United States.

The embattled city of Aleppo became well known across the globe when the picture of a young boy salvaged from the remnants of his bombed house went viral on social media.

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While only ten percent of Syrian refugees seek shelter in America, this number still constitutes over one million people. With the Trumps administration’s cap of 50,000 immigrants, and blocking the entry of Syrians, the situation will undoubtedly grow worse. Peace talks have been underway since 2015, with both the rebels and the government struggling to maintain ceasefire and in the process destroying much of an innocent population.

Syria is not the only country to be drastically affected by Trump’s executive order. Millions of Mexican immigrants face the possibility of deportation, as the recently reported memos highlight an increase in the discretion of immigration authorities among previously unharmed groups. required While the Obama administration focused mostly on criminals, Trump executive order will rescind these regulations and seek out many types of undocumented people. Although he will not seek to deport Dreamers – individuals in the U.S. who were brought to the country at an early age without documentation but have assimilated to U.S. culture – parents of these young children along with their families face a fearful directive.

The contested story of Guadalupe is a tragic yet bold example of the danger faced by many people who are currently stateless – they do not have papers from the country in which they were born and remain undocumented in the United States. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, was deported to Nogales, Mexico on February 16th, 2017,  according to her attorney, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. A mother of two, she came to Arizona at age 14 and lived in the US illegally for 22 years, until the Trump administrations placed priority on any immigrant with a criminal record. She was convicted in 2009 of felony identity theft in a workplace raid for using a fake social security number, and thus was placed on the priority list for deportation.

The consequences for the economies of states where illegal immigrants constitute a large part of their workforce – like California, New Mexico and Arizona – could be detrimental to the nation’s GDP. A Mexican movement dubbed #AdiosProductosGringos on twitter soon received national attention last week to boycott American brands in Mexico, such as Starbucks and Walmart. Unfortunately, these corporations are staffed in Mexico by Mexicans, which would harm their own employment rate. These ramifications will continue if Trump signs the proposed executive order, and if authorities have clear directions on how to carry out protocol. While displaced immigrants in countries like Syria and Somalia, and fleeing immigrants in Mexico, await an action from the White House, the future of millions of people remains uncertain.