Sunday, July 1, 2012

Egypt: Setting the Precedence for Change

           About two weeks ago, the civilians of Egypt experienced their first real taste of democracy; freely electing their presidential leader. On 18 June 2012, The Muslim Brotherhood declared their candidate, Mohammed Morsi, as being the first Islamist to be named head of state in the Arab World (Snow, 2012). This alone is seen as quite an accomplishment following the 2011 Egyptian uprisings during the Arab Spring; however, their road to reform has just begun.

            Almost immediately after the elections concluded, newly elected President Morsi announced his intent to name a woman, as well as a Coptic Christian, as his two new Vice Presidents (Staff, 2012).  The President’s spokesman has told sources that this will be done as an attempt to ease fears of the Muslim Brotherhood and help clear the uneasiness of what having an Islamist leader might mean for Egypt (Staff, 2012). Morsi took his official oath of office this past Saturday, bringing nearly six decades of corrupt leadership and military rule to an end (Snow, 2012).

            The progress being made in Egypt has set the precedence for developing countries across the globe. The Republic of Mauritius, arguably one of the most remote island countries in the world, has since decided to follow Egypt’s lead. Spending the summer in Mauritius, I can attest to the tireless efforts being made by those native to this beautiful little country to achieve a much aspired sense of equality across all realms of society. Working in cooperation with the US Embassy and the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare; we have managed to successfully organize and implement the first Women’s Political Training Institute in this nation. This institute consists of two separate programs; the “Training of the Trainers”, and the “Candidate Training”. Each of these programs aims at auspiciously educating empowered women on the necessary knowledge needed to be successful in political leadership. This is a concept that has not yet been introduced in this country, but we hope to see that change upon the conclusion of this highly informative program.

            This is only one of the many countries expected to be affected by the recent accomplishments of Egypt (Staff, 2012). In due time, we hope to see immense progress being made in the elimination of corrupt governments around the world.

Snow, K. (2012). Islamist Mohammed Morsi sworn in as Egypt president. World News on

Staff, C. W. (2012). Egypt's new president to pick woman, Christian VPs. CNN International.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

India: A Potential Member for U.N. Council

President Obama recently took a three-day visit to India in order to endorse India's seat to the United Nations Security Council. With United States vacillating, troubled economy, Obama claims this partnership with India will be beneficial to the United States because India is one of the largest democracies in the world that is growing at an astounding exponential growth rate. According to Obama, "Anything that would stimulate the underlying growth and policies of entrepreneurship in the United States would help the cause of global prosperity [1].” Nonetheless, this is not all that simple for United States present relations with different countries and India's historical ideology behind allies. As history unveils, India has relied on strategic autonomy [2]. India has been wary and quite neglectful towards forming allies because India feels other countries' politics and international relations will impede its strong and growing democracy. The United States relations to other nations such as China and Pakistan exacerbates India's acceptance to the U.N. council. According to U.S. authorities, China would feel threaten with India’s fast paced economic society, even though China’s economy is growing at an ever-lightning rate. Another reason India and China’s relationship is troubling is because India has a contentious relationship with China and has alarmed the U.S. about China’s rising power. Further causing India to be wary about the U.N. Security is Pakistan is seen as a perilous force for India. This is due to the fact that India has traced back attacks at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India allegedly to the Pakistani government. They believe they were in some covert operation linked to terrorists organization allegedly Al-Qaeda.

According to my opinion I feel this is a real great opportunity for India because it can now secure its homeland territory with its previous terrorist attack on the Taj Hotel at its financial capital, Mumbai. In addition, it can now also invest in new relationships for trade with other countries that are also part of the U.N. Council. India should turn to a new page and examine this offer to the U.N. Council as a mean to ease and solve conflicts with Pakistan through the United States. I also think this is a great chance for China to mitigate its deflation problems and perceive India as a potential new import source for it also has a rapidly expanding economy. Nonetheless, I don’t think India should be too intimately close with the U.N. Council since WikiLeaks has posted classified information about many countries’ international affairs. After this, United States relationship with countries such as Iran and North Korea has been even more complex and I definitely do not think India should be tied to these conflicts. Hence, India should seek the U.N. Council for security benefits and international trade for its expansive economy. If India were to take this route, it shouldn’t get too close with the U.N. Council.

[1]-New York Times. Countering China, Obama Backs India for U.N. Council.

[2]-India: History, Geography, and Government.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

From Lemons to Lemonade: How Israel can benefit from a nuclearized Iran

The introduction of a nuclearized Iran will fundamentally alter Israel's security strategy as well as the balance of power in the Middle East. Israel has enjoyed few conventional military threats since the end of the First Gulf War, but a nuclearized Iran presents another unconventional threat with which Israel must contend (in addition to terrorism). However, a nuclearized Iran will present invaluable opportunities to Israel, and may improve security in the Middle East.
Nuclear weapons alter the behavior of states. While they may facilitate low levels of violence [1], they are largely deterrent. Thus, the likelihood of Israeli-Iranian conflict will decrease with the development of Iranian nuclear capabilities. Furthermore, the incessant provocation of Israel and Israeli supporters by Ahmadinejad may cease, as nuclear weapons seem to induce heightened rationality in their owners and those threatened by their existence [2].
Israel must take advantage of the nuclearization of Iran by developing partnerships with previously unfriendly Middle Eastern states. The greatest potential lies with Saudi Arabia. Both Israelis and Saudis feel a legitimate threat from Ahmadinejad; this presents the opportunity to forge an agreement over common interests between the two states. Israel's attitude toward Saudi Arabia appears to be changing as no complaints have been made about the $60B U.S. Saudi-American arms deal [3].
Of course, Israeli-Arab tension will remain at the forefront of Israeli security, but a nuclearized Iran may push Israel to the bargaining table and make serious concessions in order to achieve greater security and stability in the region. While this does mean Israel probably will have to give up some things such as land and the ability to act unilaterally in many cases - the benefits of regional security far outweigh short term costs.
Ultimately, this points to a state known as "nuclear peace" [4]. The enhanced sense of rationality which will be induced upon Iranian leadership with the possession of nuclear weapons, the opportunity to generate partnerships with powerful Middle East actors, and regional stability created through responsible proliferation will all benefit Israel and improve its state security.
[1] Jervis, Robert. "The Utility of Nuclear Deterrence." International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues. 'Comp'. Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 2000. Print
[2] Waltz, Kenneth. "The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better." Conflict After the Cold War: Arguments on Causes of War and Peace. 'Comp'. Richard K. Betts. Needleham Heights: Allyn & Bacon, 1994. Print
[3] Flaherty, Anne. "$60B arms deal with Saudi Arabia goes through." Washington Post. 19 Nov 2010. Print
[4] Jervis, Robert. "The Utility of Nuclear Deterrence." International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues. 'Comp'. Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 2000. Print

Thursday, November 18, 2010

OxfamUM and Poverty Alleviation

Poverty is an important international issue that affects billions of people around the world, and the United States is not excepted from poverty’s global reach. In an effort to help combat poverty, OxfamUM in conjunction with More than Art Group (MAG), a local organization that networks emerging artists in South Florida, is hosting "Reveal the Unseen", this Saturday, November 20, from 8-11pm in the Communications Courtyard. They will be featuring artwork including paintings and photography from over 10 different artists; 5 local bands will be performing, Mangrove writers will be reading their poems, and there will also be 2 artists doing live art. The artwork will draw attention to those affected by poverty, hunger and other social issues that are perhaps unknown, or at least ignored by many. The theme of this event has to do with remembering those who live in poverty during a time that we give thanks. All proceeds from “Reveal the Unseen” will support Re Hope Foundation and More than Art Group, two organizations dedicated to supporting local arts and the less fortunate.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pros and Cons of Smart Systems


We live in a smart world. In a world where slowly but surely we have all become slaves of technology. We no longer can live without Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, phones, and other smart things technology has endowed us with so generously. In the book “Mirror Worlds,” Yale University professor of computer science David Gelernter wrote the following: “You look into the computer screen and you see reality. Some part of your world – the town you live in, the company you work for, your school system, the city hospital – will hang there in a sharp color image, abstract but recognizable, moving subtly in a thousand places.” This was written in the early 1990’s. Today, this description seems to fit surprisingly well into our lives.
A recent article in “The Economist” magazine argues that mankind is indeed building these “mirror worlds,” Gelernter was referring to, coding them simply as “smart systems.” Thanks to wireless networks, proliferation of connected sensors and cameras the real and digital worlds are now converging. A perfect example of such convergence is Google’s Earth and Street View services - the first replicas of the entire world. Smartphones also fall into the same category of converging the physical and the digital worlds. They are packed with sensors that can do lots of great things from tracking people to controlling appliances at home.
Experts say that smart systems are needed in many countries because of the ageing infrastructure. For example, monitoring patients remotely instead of keeping them in hospitals would cut down many expenses. Smart systems also have the potential to help dealing with environmental problems, such as global warming. IBM calculated that if the power grid in America alone were 5% more efficient, it would save greenhouse emissions equivalent to 53 million cars. According to Texas Transportation Institute, in 2007 Texas’ congested roads cost America 4.2 billion working hours and 10.6 billion liters of wasted petrol. Various economic sectors could also benefit from smart systems. For example, the chemical industry has already installed legions of sensors and actuators to increase its efficiency. One company in the paper industry achieved a 5% increase in its production “by automatically adjusting the shape and intensity of the flames that heat the kilns for lime used to coat paper.”
We can definitely benefit from smart systems . But we also need to think about what we all have to lose when adopting them. The first issue is privacy. We now start to realize that whatever we put online has a digital trace. The same concerns smart systems. According to Sam Palmisano from IBM, in London alone “there are now 32 closed-circuit cameras,” which make its citizens feel like they are living in a surveillance world, and not necessarily a safer one. In some countries smart systems can undeniably be used as an instrument of control. Who knows if in China, for example, the operations centers and dashboards being built for local governments will be used only to make its cities smarter and not for something else?
The other problem with smart systems is their vulnerability. They can easily be hacked and spin out of control. People can also become too reliable on them. Nicholas Carr, an American commentator on the digital revolution, in his book “The Shallows” claims that the Internet has already been lowering our creativity and profound thinking. So, with even more smart systems, we are at higher risk of losing whatever creativity and thinking we have yet left.
But the biggest danger about smart systems is that they may become “black boxes.” Citizens will not be informed about smart systems’ pros and cons, just because they may not have the knowledge or skills necessary to understand. We cannot deny the great potential smart systems have for improving our economy, environment, and overall quality of our lives. But, as world citizens, we need to understand what we are going for when adapting smart systems. Otherwise, instead of helping us, they will simply undermine our basic right – freedom.

Works Cited
“It’s a Smart World.” A special report on smart systems. The Economist. Vol. 397. No 8707. Nov. 6 – 12 2010.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tibetan Culture and Students

On Tuesday, October 23rd, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, visited the University of Miami to speak on “The Quest for Happiness in Difficult Times.” Students and attendees lined up hours before the event in front of the University of Miami’s Bank United Center in order to secure good seats that were given on a first-come first-serve basis. Although the event was broadcasted live via the web, traffic was backed up that morning around US-1. Thousands of students as well as visitors from out-of-town came to see the Dalai Lama speak in person filled the venue. This is the Dalai Lama’s first visit since 2004, when he spoke on “A Human Approach to World Peace”. [1]

Throughout the week prior to the Dalai Lama’s visit were on-campus programs sponsored by the University of Miami’s Department of Religious Studies to educate the students on the subject of Tibet, Buddhism, and what the Dalai Lama represents. These included a lecture on China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama relations from Stephen Halsey, assistant professor in the UM Department of History, lectures on aspects of Tibetan Buddhism by Geshe Tenzin Dorje, a speech by Tsering Yanzo on her experiences as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, as well as a showing of “The Little Buddha”.

Nearly eight thousand attended the Dalai Lama’s speech.[2]

While the Dalai Lama and Tibetan culture was warmly received in Miami, news from Tibet were not as pleasant. The Dalai Lama was expelled from Tibet in 1959. The week before the Dalai Lama’s visit, thousands of Tibetan students took to the streets in protest. Some were advocating for a free Tibet, some against the ruling Chinese government, and some simply for the sake of their disappearing culture.[3]

The Chinese government had instituted the “patriotic education” campaign, an educational reform, upon the Tibetan monasteries and students since 1996. It has been a cornerstone of Chinese religious policy against Tibet’s religious leader, the Dalai Lama. The principle and underlying message of the campaign was to “vehemently oppose the Dalai ‘clique” and “to expose the true nature of ‘Dalai clique” and the ‘March 14 riot” through propaganda. [4]

In 2008, China’s Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu called for a renewed launch for a broader and stepping up of the campaign. [5] Tibetans students claim that “their culture is being wiped out” due to China’s control over classroom curriculum and limiting the use of Tibetan in schools. In fact, secondary education is taught only in Mandarin and the university entrance exams are in Chinese, keeping the Tibetans disadvantaged.

The group Free Tibet claims that “The use of Tibetan is being systematically wiped out as part of China’s strategy to cement its occupation of Tibet.” [3] A major conflict between China-Tibet relations is the argument over China’s rights to the ownership of Tibet. The Beijing government claims that Tibet has historically been part of China, while Tibetans say China invaded their country in 1950.[6] The 49th anniversary of the exile of the Dalai Lama coincided with the year of the Beijing Olympics and the world media are still remembering the pro-Tibet protests that resulted in the violence against many Tibetans and Tibetan monks and the deaths of hundreds of people.

For more information about Free Tibet, visit

[1] “The Dalai Lama to Visit UM This Fall”. 26 August, 2010. UM News Releases.

[2] “His Holiness the Dalai Lama”.

[3] Hong, Helena. “Tibetan students protest, say China is wiping out their culture.” 21 October, 2010. CNN World.

[4] TCHRD. “China launches renewed “Patriotic Education” Campaign across all sections in Tibet.” 24 April, 2008.

[5] Fan, Maureen. “China Moves to Tighten Control Over Religion in Tibet”. 26 March, 2008. Washington Post.

[6] “2008 Protests in Tibet”.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nationalism Past and Present: the future of Sino-Japanese relations

The nationalist outcry to the detention of the Chinese boat captain in Japan after fishing off the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands and the subsequent ban on exports of rare earth materials demonstrates the willingness of China to defend its interests beyond its national borders and defend territories which it believe it has the right to govern[1]—something Japan and many other countries in Asian Pacific are increasingly concerned. For it has been almost a century and a half since the Middle Kingdom was the great imperial it once was.

For centuries, the Middle Kingdom created a vassal state system in East Asia, with leaders from Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other nations paying tribute by performing the koutou to the Chinese emperor in exchange for aid and protection. However, by the mid-19th century the Manchu Qing dynasty was bankrupt both economically and politically. The Opium Wars in 1840-42 opened Chinese markets to British and other Western nations giving them large territories. Japan took a different route when Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Harbor in 1853 by emulating and eventually surpassing Western military tactics and strength. Gregory Moore notes that “Japan’s rise as a power coincided with China’s decline. In the first half of the twentieth century China became known as the ‘sick man of Asia”[2] while the militant ultranationalists in Japan became so proficient at war as to defeat China in 1895 and take control of Taiwan, Russia in 1905, Korea in 1910, China again to a devastating extent between 1931 and 1945, and eventually taking control of Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and other Asian regions, and ultimately performing a daring surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1945.

This last move ended up being the Japanese downfall, for the United States would defeat Japan in August 1945, and with the advent of the Cold War, the US realized that it was geo-strategically important to keep Japan under the its security umbrella. Although Japan never remilitarized and sought economic development instead, the tensions between them and the mainland never abated. The war crimes committed against the Chinese people during the occupation included such atrocities as ‘comfort women’ (Chinese and Korean women who were forced into prostitution for the Japanese soldiers on the front line), chemical and biological warfare, and the “Rape of Nanking in which over 300,000 Chinese were murdered and an estimated 20,000-80,000 women were raped in the course of the invasion.”[3] While the Japanese claimed to have atoned for their sins by pursuing the democratic and liberal economic model of development, China does not see this as sufficient apology, especially when former Japanese Prime Minister Koizimi visited the Yasukuni Shrine which is a shinto shrine in Tokyo dedicated to the memories of those lost serving Japan. Normally it should be no issue because it is a place to honor the spirits of people such as Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia; however, the difference of Arlington and Yasukuni is that names of 14 Class-A war criminals including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo are inscribed at the shrine.[4] Japanese textbooks that whitewash the criminal nature of the occupation are other examples of contentious issues, and China will increasingly assert itself economically and geo-politically in matters that could potentially cause the People’s Republic to lose face.

China’s usurpation of the second most productive economy in the world from Japan signifies much in the way that Sino-Japanese relations will be conducted in the upcoming future. No longer will China have ‘little brother’ status diplomatically or financially. In fact, China proved one of the most stabilizing factors in East Asia during the financial crisis of ’97-’98 and the global financial crisis of ’08. With respect to its recent success, there has been a proposition by Suisheng Zhao of a Beijing Consenus, in evident to contrast to the Washington Consensus, which first coined in 1989 and contained 10 ‘rules’ in a one size fits all package for economic development in Latin America.[5] The apparent failure of the Washington Consensus after the failure of the Argentine and Brazilian economies in the late 1990s made many look to China as a model of liberal economic development with a political party that could retain a firm grip on government, the courts, the army, the internal security apparatus, and the free flow of information.[6] The past few years have indeed been telling about China’s desire to become an important player in the international arena; the real question is how China will integrate and what it will do to change the rules of the global system in its favor.

[1] Amako, Satoshi. ‘ The Senkaku Islands Incident and Japan-China Relations.’ East Asia Forum. 25 Oct 2010.

[2] Moore, Gregory. ‘History, Nationalism and Face in Sino-Japanese Relations.’ Journal of Chinese Political Science. 4 June 2010. Page 285

[3] Ibid. 2010:285

[4] ibid 2010:293

[5] Suisheng, Zhao. ‘The China Model: can it replace the Western Model of modernization?’ Journal of Contemporary China. June 2010. Page 420

[6] Rowan, Callick. ‘How long can economic freedom and political repression coexist?’ The American, The Journal of American Enterprise Institute. Nov/Dec 2007.