• MNCs, NGOs, and the problem of deforestation in Indonesia

    In an excellent example of "soft-power" the NGO Greenpeace is currently mounting a global campaign against Disney, Hasbro, and Mattel. Why would Greenpeace (an NGO concerned with the environment) be concerned with these toy companies?

    The short answers is that Greenpeace investigators found that toys such as "Barbie" and "Transformers" are packaged in paper that comes from the Indonesian rain-forests. Mattel, Hasbro, and Disney toy packaging is often produced by the multinational corporation Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). Had you ever heard of APP?

    While Disney, Mattel, and Hasbro are only selling toys around the world, APP is destroying the Indonesian rainforest to package those toys.

    Indonesia has one of the fastest rates of forest destruction in the world.

    Discussion Starters:

    1.     Why doesn't Greenpeace mount a public campaign directly against APP?

    2.     Do you think the "soft power" of the NGO can directly change the behavior of a multinational corporation like Disney, Mattel, or APP? Why or why not?

    3.     Will it take soft or hard power or both to save the rainforest?


  • Is NATO's Libya mission its last?


    President Obama telephoned French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday to talk about the situation in Libya. The two men agreed to continue to work together and with allies to support a peaceful transition to democracy. President Obama said the United States will give the Libyan opposition about $1.5 billion in frozen Gadhafi regime assets.

    President Barack Obama talks on the phone with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Aug. 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

    Months ago, President Obama decided that the best way to confront Gadhafi was to use NATO airpower to protect Libyan citizens from a Gadhafi crackdown and chose a "leading from behind" strategy in Libya (meaning that NATO and Europe would take the lead).

    As NATO moved to lead the Libya operation, Washington, particularly outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, criticized Europe's commitment (funding) to the alliance. Last year, the United States funded seventy-five percent of NATO's operating budget.

    In a widely cited speech to NATO leaders in Brussels, Mr. Gates said that "if current trends in the decline of European defense capabilities are not halted and reversed, future US political leaders - those for whom the cold war was not the formative experience that it was for me - may not consider the return on America's investment in NATO worth the cost."

    Discussion Starters:

    1. Is it in the interest of the United States to continue to support NATO?

    2. How might Gadhafi's removal and a stabilized Libya effect Libya's oil production and the cost of gasoline in the United States?

    3. If you were on the staff of the new US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta what advice would you give him regarding US support for NATO?

  • Is Power Ebbing Away from States?


    As an introduction to current international relations issues, concerns, and the theme of this blog we will focus on Professor Joseph Nye's concept of Soft Power. "Soft power" is the ability to obtain what one wants through co-operation - seeking a win-win situation. This is people working across borders with both government and non-government actors. It can be contrasted with 'hard power' - that is government's use of state power - money, bullets, bombs, and boots. The wonderful thing about soft power is that you (or any other actor such as and NGO) can use it. Soft power is not just for government use.

    Watch a short TED Talk by Professor Nye on the shifting of power in international relations... 

    Historian and diplomat Joseph Nye gives us the 30,000-foot view of the shifts in power between China and the US, and the global implications as economic, political and "soft" power shifts and moves around the globe.

    Discussion Starters:

    1.    How might the use of soft power reshape the global relations?

    2.    How might a small group of concerned citizens use soft power to help solve the cutting down of the rain forest?

    3.    What are the strengths and weaknesses of soft power?

    4.    Can soft power be used to solve civil conflicts?