• Standing up for Women's Rights: Japanese Politicians Demand Retraction and Apology

    In 1895 in his Notebook, Mark Twain wrote, "the peoples furthest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart."

    Above: Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto (photo Getty images).

    In 2013 women are still more discriminated against than any other group. Women all too often face callous treatment harmful to their well-being and their very lives. Even today many women are largely excluded from those who have rights. Today women face a long list of disparities - from sport opportunities to job opportunities to health and education rights to political power.

    During World War II, many women from China, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan - the territories occupied by Japan - were forced to become sex slaves for troops.

    On Monday of last week the Osaka Mayor, Toru Hashimoto, said Japanese military's forced prostitution of Asian women was necessary to "maintain discipline" in the ranks and provide "rest for soldiers who risked their lives in battle."

    Hashimoto also suggested that US servicemen at Okinawa be allowed to patronize legal sex businesses there to give them an outlet for frustrations that might otherwise result in violence or crime (click here for more).

    Above: A bipartisan group of female politicians holds a press conference near the Diet to protest Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's justification of sexual slavery during the war. The lawmakers demanded that the Nippon Ishin no Kai coleader retract the comments and apologize.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     While Japanese ministers are playing down Hashimoto's remarks, what might the comments indicate about women's rights?

    2.     Chinese foreign ministry has expressed shock and indignation at the mayor's comments. What might the impact be on Japanese and Chinese relations?


  • Professor Kenneth N. Waltz A Giant in International Relations Dies at 88

    Graduate and undergraduate students have been required to read the works of Professor Kenneth N. Waltz for generations - since 1959 when he published his dissertation, "Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis."

    Above: Professor Kenneth N. Waltz. Professor Waltz died on May 12, 2013. He was 88 (click here for more).

    Professor Waltz's book, "Theory of International Politics" first published in 1979 served to advance our understanding of the once "bipolar" world - a world with two dominant powers - the United States and the Soviet Union.

    Professor Waltz is one of the influential and pre-eminent thinkers on international relations - along with Professors Hans Morgenthau, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Keohane, and Joseph Nye. Professor Waltz suggested that the interaction of sovereign states best explains international relations. The pressures exerted on states by the anarchic structure of the international system limited and constrained state choices.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     How important is theory in our analyses of international and global affairs?

    2.     How well does Professor Waltz's systemic approach predict international relations today? 


  • Myanmar's Resources and People Caught Between Friends: China and the United States

    Relations among the states of our global village are often about finding and keeping friends and partners. This coming week, Myanmar's President Thein Sein will visit the Washington. Aung San Suu Kyi (was at the White House earlier this year) will make an official visit to Beijing soon. The Chinese are planning to make a show of "social responsibility" in Myanmar. Friends all around.  

    While China has backed Myanmar for decades, the United States has not had a close relationship with the state and people of Myanmar.  In fact, Mr. Thein Sein's visit to Washington will be the first since 1966 between an American president and a leader of the country formerly known as Burma.

    While many of Myanmar's citizens live in extreme poverty it is a state that is rich with natural resources. To tap into those resources, the China National Petroleum Corporation has built 12 giant oil storage tanks on Myanmar's Maday Island. President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Myanmar quasi-civilian government are allowing the Chinese to begin transporting energy through the Indian Ocean and across the mountains of Myanmar into China (click here for more).

    The Myanmar-China pipeline (after eight years of planning and construction) is expected to start pumping oil and gas in July. Many people in Myanmar have voiced strong opposition to the pipeline.

    Above photograph by Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Is there a chance that China will no longer be the dominant actor in Myanmar?

    2.     How will and or should the United States relationship with China affect the people and resources in Myanmar?



  • The State and People of Iran: Perceptions Misperceptions and International Relations

    What is your impression of the state of Iran?

    If you saw the movie Argo you might think of it as an angry police state with lots of hatred for Americans and the United States.

    If one listens to the popular media accounts of the rhetoric coming from and about Iran the impressions and beliefs forms might be those of a hostile police state.

    Does the perception of the public affect foreign policy?

    In a democracy (and also many autocratic regimes) political leaders and policy must have support of the domestic political interests and to some extent even that of the mass citizenry.  Thucydides wrote in his history of the Peloponnesian War that Greek city-state's internal affairs often did more to shape relations among nations than did external behaviors between them.  For Thucydides, the domestic pressures and support of a state's policies were crucial to understanding state-to-state behaviors. 

    The public perception and the conclusions drawn from those perceptions may pressure and shape actual policy and behavior toward others. What if that perception is wrong and or purposely misdirected to achieve some political end? 

    Recently, photo blogger Brandon Stanton made a trip to Iran and wrote, "my trip was an exercise in being repeatedly underwhelmed.  I was underwhelmed by the danger. I was underwhelmed by the religious fanaticism.  And I was especially underwhelmed by the anti-Americanism.  Everything that Western media had conditioned me to expect from Iran, I found in far lesser quantities than I'd anticipated. The only thing present in a larger-than-expected dose was normalcy. The entire country was plagued by normalcy. I couldn't seem to get away from it. Everywhere I looked-on street corners, inside of shops, and even inside of homes- there were normal people doing normal things."

    Click here for Brandon Stanton's photos from Iran.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     How are perceptions or misperceptions formed?

    2.     Do elites behind closed doors make the real choices in foreign affairs?


  • NGOs Push for an Agreement: Walmart Refuses to Sign Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement

    American and European consumers (Walmart and H&M shoppers) will be happy to know the production of their inexpensive clothing will continue without delays - the VOA is reporting today that the Bangladeshi garment factories have reopened just days after thousands have protested the unsafe working conditions in garment factories (click here for more).

    A building housing several garment factories collapsed last month (click here for more), killing more than 1,100 people and highlighting the Bangladeshi garment industry's appalling safety conditions.

    To date, Walmart has refused to sign onto the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement (click here for the Agreement). Walmart officals say they already have adequate standards in place (click here for more).

    Above: The clothing tag on a pair of jeans by Walmart's brand Faded Glory, which is made in Bangladesh, is shown after purchase from a Walmart store in Encinitas, Calif., on Tuesday (photo Mike Blake/Reuters).

    A coalition NGOs in Bangladesh, Europe, and the United States developed the agreement that requires an innovative two-year inspection and renovation program to make factories safer.  The agreement places the responsibility to support safety standards on the brand owners and the retailers.

    1.     If Walmart and other retailers that count on Bangladeshi labor demanded change in safety and working conditions would change likely happen?

    2.     Would signing the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement likely help ensure that the pricing of garments makes it feasible for the factories to adhere to worker safety standards?



  • Complex Interdependence: Google Maps — Real-time, Personalized Maps for Everyone on the Planet

    Although many realists continue to focus on state-to-state relations - it is very obvious that non-state actors are affecting the course of international events.  In 1977 Professors Keohane and Nye argued that "complex interdependence" offered a better and more complete description of global affairs.

    A new Google technology called WebGL renders graphics inside a browser and might dramatically increase this "complex interdependence" and bring the world together - in real time (click here for more).

    While Google engineers were testing their new globalized personal maps, they noticed a black smudge on the Earth. At first, they thought it was a problem with the map, but then discovered that they were seeing an eclipse on the other side of the world, off Australia, in real time (click here for more). 

    Google is allowing us to develop and grow ties across our global village in ways that make us both aware and perhaps even sensitive to each other's needs and lives.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     What changes might Google's real time images offer those who are fighting for peace, human rights, and openness?

    2.     What effect might this have on national security?


  • Russians Expel a United States Diplomat for Spying

    The recent news story of Russian officials arresting an American diplomat, Ryan Fogle, third secretary of the Political Department of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, sounds a bit like an old James Bond movie. Russian officials made a big media splash of declaring Mr. Fogle a "persona non grata" today.

    Mr. Ryan C. Fogal is now fully unacceptable and unwelcome in Russia. 

    Russian TV news showed wigs, a letter of instructions, sunglasses, a knife, a compass, and a large bundle of foreign cash allegedly taken from Fogle during his "attempt to recruit a representative of one of the Russian security services," the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Will this "spy" incident come into the political calculations in the upcoming meeting next week between Putin and Obama?

    2.     Why might the Russian officials make such a big media  splash about this arrest?


  • Trendsetters Engaged in Politics on Social Network Sites: Global Relations in Photos?

    For hundreds of years, Americans of different generations engaged in politics in common places and in similar ways - the town square, in political pamphlets, newspapers, in-person activities, speaking out publicly in offline spaces and more recently in online spaces.  Today, the youngest adults are more likely to engage in political behaviors on social networking sites than in any other venue.  Our global village is more interconnected than ever before - with more than 1 billion people, including many young people, using Facebook, to connect, share, and engage in politics and policymaking.

    While there are some modest differences between the younger and older generations in the traditional ways of getting involved in politics it may not come a surprise that Social networking sites now stand in contrast to these other venues.

    Political engagement on social networking sites is especially commonplace among the youngest Americans, as two-thirds (67%) of all 18-24 year olds (and nearly three quarters of those young adults who use social networking sites) engaged in some sort of social network-related political activity in the 12 months preceding a new survey by Pew (click here for more).

    Facebook is a global service of immense scale and complexity - over 1 billion people use Facebook every month, and every day there are more than 2.7 billion Likes and over 2.4 billion content items shared with friends (click here for more). 

    Survey's of my students indicate another change may be taking place. While most student still have a Facebook page - many report not using it as much anymore. One student emailed last week asking for my Twitter name saying, "Facebook does not work for me. It is too much work."

    There is no real data just yet quantifies this Facebook trend. But in recent reports, Facebook has warned investors for the first time that younger users are turning to other services, particularly Instagram, as a substitute for Facebook.

    For the younger generation, Instagram - and, more recently, SnapChat, an app for sending photos and videos that appear and then disappear - is the opposite of Facebook: simple (click here for more).  

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Since older adults tend to be politically active but also relatively unlikely to use social network site what changes do you foresee in politics?

    2.     While Facebook, with its college student roots, is often a brief form of communication what effects on our political discussion do you expect from the youngest of trendsetters - as millions of them turn to Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat?



  • 28.8 million People Displaced by Armed Conflict: Can We Move Beyond the Culture of Violence

    In 2012, a record-high number of people were forced to flee their homes inside their own countries - the largest figures are for Colombia, Syria, DR Congo, and Sudan.

    Professor Gerard Vanderhaar wrote, "We challenge the culture of violence when we ourselves act in the certainty that violence is no longer acceptable, that it's tired and outdated no matter how many cling to it in the stubborn belief that it still works and that it's still valid."

    The total number of people internally displaced by armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations worldwide as of the end of 2012 was estimated to be 28.8 million. This represents an increase of 2.4 million on the previous year, and is the highest figure IDMC has ever recorded. Around 6.5 million people were newly displaced, almost twice as many as the 3.5 million during 2011 (click here for the complete report).

    The increase was the result of new large-scale population movements in several countries in Africa and the Middle East. The conflicts in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo were responsible for around half of the new displacements, with 2.4 million and one million respectively, while an estimated 500,000 people fled their homes in both Sudan and India (click here for the complete report).

    In the above video peace activist Scilla Elworthy maps out the skills we need - as nations and individuals - to fight extreme force without using force in return.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do you agree with Sam Peckinpah, "There is a great streak of violence in every human being.  If it is not channeled and understood, it will break out in war or in madness?"

    2.     What steps can or should we take to handle conflict and promote peace?


  • Virtual Flash Mob Criminals Steal $45m from Cash Machines Across Our Global Village in Hours

    Organized crime has ignored state borders for centuries. Transnational organized crime is an enormous industry. More than a trillion dollars a year are taken from innocent people.

    Globalization has enable organized crime to be more profitable than ever before. The technology that is making our world a village also makes it easier to organize crime - making rapid travel possible, the transferring of money only takes a mouse click, coordinated instant communication with cell phones, and of course, the Internet.

    A "virtual criminal flash mob" pulled off two bank robberies (one in December 2012 and the other in February 2013). The operation included a worldwide network of sophisticated computer hacking experts manipulating financial information with the stroke of a few keys (click here for more).

    In this 21st-century bank robbery, the criminals never waved guns at bank tellers, wore ski masks, or even set foot in a bank! In a total of about 10 hours in the two worldwide robberies about 36,000 transactions netted about $45 million dollars (click here for more).

    The plundered ATM machines were in the United States, Japan, Russia, Romania, Egypt, Colombia, Britain, Sri Lanka, Canada and several other countries.

    Above: Elvis Rafael Rodriguez, left, and Emir Yasser Yeje, two of those charged in Brooklyn on Thursday, posed in March with approximately $40,000 in cash that the authorities say they were laundering.

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Do crimes like this call for more globally centralized international law enforcement?

    2.     What is Interpol and how does it work?


  • An Immigration Policy Based on an I.Q. Test?

    Jason Richwine is a co-author of a Heritage Foundation study that is highly critical of the US Senate's current bipartisan immigration proposal. This week, Mr. Richwine is finding himself in heated controversy over his dissertation on immigration. Richwine, is a Heritage senior policy analyst who wrote his dissertation, "I.Q. and Immigration Policy," on his view that the "lower intelligence of immigrants" should be considered when drafting immigration policy.

    People, with some exceptions, possess a nationality. A nationality is a legal identification of a person with a specific state - and carries certain duties and responsibilities in exchange for the rights and privileges of citizenship and protection of a state.

    Of course, individuals change - or seek to change - nationality all the time. Nearly 190 million people, about three percent of the world's population, lived outside their country of birth in 2005 (click here for more).

    Some countries - including the United States as well as those in Western Europe - are "immigrant magnet" states that draw millions of migrants each year seeking a more desirable life. These magnet states are often selective in deciding who to let in and who to keep out. The development literature has for decades noted a "brain drain" of highly educated and skilled people leaving developing countries and heading to the developed world.  Anecdotally, it is not uncommon for my international students to be working very hard to find a way to stay in the United States.

    Given the nature of a person who packs up everything and immigrates to another country and the history of "brain drain," one does wonder about a doctoral dissertation that argues that immigrants generally have an I.Q. that was "substantially lower than that of the white native population."

    In the above Daily Show with Jon Stewart discusses "a fevered ruling class lamenting the rise of a diverse new class that will destroy the American experiment."

    Richwine's dissertation suggests that states test each individual's IQ and exclude those with low scores (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Should and or could an I.Q. test be used as a "selection factor" in admitting immigrants into the United States?

    2.     How might such an I.Q. test immigration policy effect international relations and US domestic politics?


  • History, Nationalism, and Cooperation in Japanese Foreign Policy with South Korea and China

    According to poll released this week, nearly 80 percent of South Koreans have a negative impression of Japan, while about 40 percent of Japanese have an unfavorable image of South Korea (click here for more).

    Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had a strong reputation as a nationalist. As a politician, Abe was a security hawk who had angered Koreans and the Chinese with statements that what were seen as denials of parts of Japan's wartime aggression (click here for more).

    In office, however, Abe has been more conciliatory, and today he moved to avert further hard feelings and damage to Japan's already precarious ties with Seoul and Beijing. In an apparent attempt to avoid further diplomatic clashes with China and South Korea, the Prime Minister said he had ruled out any revisions to previous official apologies for Japan's wartime conduct.

    In 1993, the Japanese government acknowledged Japan had forced tens of thousands of women - mostly Korean -into sexual slavery before and during World War II (click here for more). 

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Why might Japanese nationalist seek to inflame hostilities with China and South Korea?

    2.     Does nationalism and or historical relations hinder the cooperative and collective resolve to find solutions to the problems with North Korea and its nuclear program?

  • Bank of China Sends Message to North Korea: Cuts Ties with North Korean Bank

    Economic sanctions are punitive economic actions - such as the cessation of financial ties - by one global actor against another to make known an objectionable behavior.  The North Koreans are today experiencing yet another deliberate action intended to deprive them of the benefits of continuing economic relations.

    North Korea has overtly brushed diplomatic warnings from Beijing about its outlandish threatening rhetoric and its continued push to establish nuclear and ballistic missile programs (click here for more).

    Sending a clear message, the state-controlled Bank of China said today that it has halted all dealings with a key North Korean bank (click here for more). The Bank of China said that it has "issued a bank account closing notice to North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, and has ceased accepting funds transfer business related to this bank account."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Is this perhaps a step by the Chinese to show that they are willing to cooperate with the United States and the larger international community?

    2.     What if any effect is this likely to have on the North Korean leadership?


  • The Digital Revolution in International Relations: Chinese Accused of Widespread Cyber-Espionage

    It is amusing (and a bit frustrating) to watch the primitive communications (landline phones, typewriters, and teletype machines) in the Carter-ear movie Argo (click here for more).  Watching CIA officers waiting for someone to answer a landline phone that is ringing in an empty office was really odd.  It reminded me of a remark President George Washington is reported to have said about communicating with his diplomat serving in France, "We haven't heard from Benjamin Franklin in Paris this year. We should write him a letter." Obviously, the way we interact and communicate across oceans and between nations and the very speed of the way we share information has dramatically changed our relations within our global village.

    From family and personal communication to global networks communication technology is indeed reshaping the very nature of our relationships.  Much of the change is positive - as digital communication is forcing more openness and democracy.  However, there is also a dark side to our digital linking. As more and more links are created and more and more of our global village comes online, technology doesn't just help the good guys push for openness and democracy - it is also provides powerful new tools for governments to interact, spy, and perhaps even attack one another (click here for more).

    A cyber-spy sitting with her laptop at a Starbucks anywhere in the world is able to conduct espionage - snapping screen shots, reading email, recording of audio conversations, and monitoring network traffic.

    The Pentagon said Monday, that the Chinese government and military have engaged in widespread cyber-espionage targeting United States government and business computer networks. This has been an ongoing accusation - but the new report is very direct (click here for more).

    According to Pentagon's report "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China" (click here for the report), "In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military."

    "China is using its computer network exploitation capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense programs."

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Is this issue calling for global governance?

    2.     Does the craft of cyber-espionage simply force governments to build farther inland - meaning that they will not keep certain "sensitive" data on public web servers?


  • Syrian Spillover: Hundreds of Thousands of Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq

    The Syrian civil war has killed thousands, destroyed the country and the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. The numbers on Syria say enough. Two years, 5 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, 1 million have been forced to settle in severely stressed neighboring countries. 70,000 Syrians are dead. As the rebels fight to overthrow the regime run by al-Assad (whose family has ruled the country for more than 40 years) many people are seeking to escape the violence of civil war.

    A refugee is person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

    Jordan this week has expressed that the growing exodus of Syrian refugees who have flooded over its border to escape civil war - already more than 500,000 - are placing a "crushing weight" on the country. There are also hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in other countries in the region - including Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

    Interestingly, Jordan has long served as a haven for those displaced by the various wars in the region. Jordan, for example, is also currently home to more than 1.8 million Palestinian and 500,000 Iraqi refugees. As a result of the region's history there is a historically strong bond between Jordanians and the Syrians and Palestinians.

    Most of the Syrian refugees live in tents provided by the United Nations. Half of the more than 100,000 Syrian refugees at the overcrowded Zaatari camp in Jordan are children

    Oxfam and partners are providing essentials like access to drinking water, latrines and showers. But now that summer is approaching, life for Syrian refugees and the Jordanians who host them is about to get worse - as Jordan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world.

    UNICEF is seeking more money to help the Syrian children refugees (click here for more).

    Discussion starters:

    1.     Is the United States allocation of $200 million in additional U.S. aid for Jordan to help in caring for a flood of refugees an appropriate policy?

    2.     Does the "crushing weight" of the refugees cause concern of a risk of spillover of the Syrian war?