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The Ethnic Conflict Issue

vol. xv no. 2

columbia political review

the role of ethnic divisions in causing conflict

PLUS INSIDE: an interview with



follow us @CPReviewOnline


Editor’s Note


Volume XV, no. 2

masthead: Editor-in-Chief Publisher Managing Editors

David Blackman Brian Chung Asha Banerjee Sophie Wilkowske

Web Editor

Mengzhou Jiang

Senior Editors

Nora Bailin Amanda Kam Yeye Kysar Omeed Maghzian Antonia Miller Andrew Pasquier Shambhavi Tiwari Amar Zaidi

Art and Design Editor Copy Chief Assistant Copy Editors

Lucy Jakub Sofi Sinozich Dominique Jones Peter Kalicki Haley Zovikian

Artists: Lauren Espeseth Lucy Jakub

(pp. 31-32) (Cover, pp. 5, 17, 25, 26, 28, 33)

n this, the Summer 2015 issue of the Columbia Political Review, we undertake to tackle one of the most persistent and challenging issues of our time, ethnic conflict. What causes ethnic conflicts? How can different political actors address these conflicts? To what extent can ethnic divisions be overcome to create a lasting peace? To answer these questions, and more, is the goal to which our contributors and staff have set themselves, that their spilling ink might have some small part to play in halting the spilling of blood. Our focus can only give glimpses into the immensely complex and global problem of ethnic conflict, but we hope that these snapshots are nevertheless informative and perhaps thought provoking. First, we begin close to home, with an exploration of the role of campus activism in overcoming the problems of ongoing ethnic violence, using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a lens. Next, Angel Wang explores top-down and bottom-up approaches to understanding ethnic conflicts, using Côte D’Ivoire and Burundi as case studies to illustrate the best ways to study the interactions between elites and followers in cases of ethnic violence. Ethnic violence in Africa is further elucidated by Edna Simbi, who looks at the legacy of colonialism and its role in facilitating the 2007 post-election ethnic conflict in Kenya. Additionally, CPR examines the role of ethnic identity in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, drawing on the personal experience of Zoryana Melesh, President of the Columbia Ukrainian Students Society, as well as the expertise of Professor Alexander J. Motyl of Rutgers and Yuri Shevchuk of Columbia’s Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies. But we are fortunate enough to begin our issue by a conversation with President Toomas Henrik Ilves, the fourth President of Estonia, a member of Columbia College’s Class of 1976, and a thoroughly brilliant, engaging, and kind man. It is truly a pleasure to be able to print his words on our pages, and in doing so to be able to share his thoughts with you, dear reader. Additionally, I am proud to present several other features for your intellectual delectation. Vivian Tsai takes aim at the quiet failure of the Kyoto Protocols, and the problem of inequality in international agreements to mitigate climate change. Sasha Zients and Dylan Okabe-Jawdat take a slightly different look at the conflict in Syria, examining the brazen violation of medical neutrality by combatants on all sides, and the silence of the international media and community with respect to the problem. Meanwhile, Catalina Piccato looks to defend Carmen Aristegui and a free press in Mexico from government overreach. Finally, Maren Killackey examines the saga of Anwar Ibrahim as emblematic of the Malaysian government’s systemic failure to implement real democratic reforms. Last, but certainly not least, CPR would like to extend its congratulations to the graduating Class of 2015. Thank you for reading, contributing, editing, and simply sharing Columbia’s community with us. We are poorer for your departure, and we wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors. CPRegards, David Blackman Editor-in-Chief

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed herein belong to their authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Columbia Political Review, of CIRCA, or of Columbia University.


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SUMMER.2015 table of contents Interview: Toomas Hendrik Ilves 4 A Conversation with Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia

By Sophie Wilkowske

13 Reaching Across the Wall The Role of Campus Debate in Achieving a Lasting Peace


Featuring Student Voices

10 Kyotastrophe The Kyoto Protocol’s Inequitable Failure

By Vivian Tsai


A(s)Sad Situation The Brazen Violation of Medical Neutrality in Syria

By Sasha Zients and Dylan Okabe-Jawdat 30

Radio Silence A Defense of Carmen Aristegui and a Mexican Free Press

By Catalina Piccato 33

Cover Story: Ethnic Conflict

Malaysian Malaise Poor Prospects for Democracy in Anwar Ibrahim’s Legal Woes

16 Burning Up and Burning Down Tracing the Flames of Ethnic Conflict in Côte D’Ivoire and Burundi By Angel Wang 20 Identity Theft? An Exploration of Ukrainian National Identity in the Conflict with Russia Interviews by Andrew Pasquier: Alexander J. Motyl Yuri Shevchuk Student Voice: Zoryana Melesh 24 A Fatal Feud The Colonial Roots of Kenya’s 2007 Post-Election Violence By Edna Simbi

By Maren Killackey


columbia political review :: summer 2015


A Conversation With Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia By Sophie Wilkowske Estonia, nestled in northern Europe, is a small nation with a population of only 1,300,000, the size of the city of San Diego. Estonia’s small size prevents it from giving rise to such global industrial powerhouses as BMW from Germany, Samsung from Korea, and Sony from Japan, with the natural consequence that international name recognition remains an elusive aspiration for Estonia. Yet Estonia, in less than 25 years, has become a global player in all but name, despite emerging from the Soviet Union in 1991 with an economy in a state of collapse. Estonia went from a planned economy to a free market economy at lightening speed, becoming a front-runner in democracy, and a shining symbol of what is possible. Estonia is today recognized as the leader for Internet Freedom, ranked as first in the world by Freedom House. On the Heritage Foundation’s and Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom, Estonia is ranked 8th, ahead of the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany. On the Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, Estonia ranks 11th, ahead of the United Kingdom and United States. Economically, Estonia’s GDP, based on purchasing power parity, already ranks a middling 42nd in the world. In nominal terms, by 2012 Estonia had a GNP per capita that placed it ahead of the Latin dynamo, Chile, as well as natural resource rich-Malaysia and the global financial service center Mauritius. Estonia’s economic success was truly a remarkable achievement given its weak economic

On Education and Civil Society: Toomas Hendrik Ilves: The further away from Columbia I get, the more I appreciate it. But I also come from the class that’s probably donated the least. Don Hood, my advisor, said, “The classes of ’75 and ’76 are the most meager donors, because that was the nadir of the College.” That was when Ford said to New York City, “Drop dead.” Columbia did nothing for its undergraduates back then. When you look at it now, you go, “Wow, what a campus.” Back then it was just a big mud field. it?

Sophie Wilkowske: But you liked

THI: You know, it’s only later on— especially because I’ve spent the last 4

starting position in 1991. But rankings do not tell the human side of the story. Estonia is a land of ideas, and of people that give life and meaning to ideas. Estonian developers created Skype, which makes it possible for the world and all of its people to speak to each other for free. Estonia has even creatively rebranded itself as E-stonia. And a leader in this remarkable transformation of Estonia from a Soviet state to a world leader is Toomas Ilves, the President of Estonia. Ilves started his career with Radio Free Europe and has served his country as Ambassador to the US, as Foreign Minister and now as President. He is a proponent of internet freedom as a human right and has been honored as co-chair of the World Bank Development Report on IT. Ilves credits his education at Columbia, in particular its renowned Core Curriculum, with its focus on values, morals, and culture, for inspiring him to make a difference and to lead in a humanistic way. Jenik Radon, Esq., Adj. Professor, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, and advisor to Estonia during its independence movement and its in post-Soviet privatization period. Radon, still during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, reclaimed the premises of the US Embassy from Komsomol (the Soviet Communist Youth League) and was the first to officially raise the US flag in Estonia since the Soviet invasion in 1940.

thirty-five years dealing with Eastern Europe—that the value of CC [Contemporary Civilization] and the Core more generally becomes clear. Every year, I realize it more and more. I tried, twenty years ago, to get CC into my country, but it didn’t really work, it didn’t take. SW: How so? THI: At the time, at least, undergraduate education took a very Germanic approach: you don’t have discussions on books, you have lectures on books, and you don’t even read the books, you’re told what they mean and what they are… Which is so antithetical to my whole sort of understanding. As ambassador, I managed to get a Fulbright for two philosophy professors to come to Columbia and

do CC. After the whole thing was done, I went to the West End, which I suppose doesn’t exist anymore, but that was where, in 1944, 1945, Kerouac and Ginsberg used to hang out. We went there, and they started yelling at me. “What a stupid, stupid way of teaching,” “It’s ridiculous!” And I asked, how do you do it? “You tell them what the book is about, and they write it down.” And you test them on that? “Of course!” More broadly, I think one of the big problems today, with Snowden, or more precisely Snowden’s revelations, is the problem described in C.P. Snow’s 1959 essay “The Two Cultures.” C.P. Snow was a British writer, but he was also a professor of physical chemistry at Oxford. He wrote his essay about how, at the faculty club, there would be a table with

columbia political review :: summer 2015 the physicists and the chemists, and another table with the poets, novelists, and Shakespeare scholars. The only person who could traverse the distance—I mean, go and physically sit with one or the other—was C.P. Snow. “The Two Cultures” is really about academia, more than anything else, in 1959. But today the group we have is geeks. They look around and say, “Oh boy, look what we can do! We can sneak in and do this, or that, and that…” Then you have sort of the liberal arts people who don’t understand what it is that they’re doing, and moreover think anything IT related is bad. Aside from Columbia, where every engineering student has to take CC, these people don’t have a clue, and they don’t really understand the Enlightenment basis of a democratic society. They don’t understand that we live in societies—I hope my country does, especially—in which there is this Lockean social contract between the governed and the government. You have a sense of what’s allowed and what’s not. I would demand that every geek take CC, and in fact Columbia’s the only place that actually does that. The problem is that today, far more than in C.P. Snow’s time or in my time, societies are becoming so much more technological than they were. SW: So, what do you think it’s important for young people today to learn? THI: I would say both, these days. I was in the European Parliament a couple of years ago, and I was vice-chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I remember talking about a lot of technology. Most recently I visited them to talk about some legislation that we need in Europe. These people were all very concerned about Snowden, and the US, and the NSA, and as a result have a completely Luddite view of anything technological. I asked how many of them knew what Moore’s Law was. Do you know what Moore’s Law is? SW: No. THI: It is that the power of a computer chip, at the same price, doubles


every 1.5 years. Moore came up with his law in 1965—he predicted it would hold true for about fifteen years, but it still holds true. So I’m talking with these men and women, they had just been elected. I say to them, your next election is in 4.5 years. That means there will be three iterations of Moore’s law between now and then, which means that, by the time you are being reelected, computers will be two-to-thethird times more powerful. And of course they look around and whisper, “What’s two to the third?” And I say, “Eight!” SW: [Laughter] THI: And then you have the same sort of problems with the geeks, where they don’t understand what liberal democracy is, and they don’t understand that you can’t go snooping into people’s lives. There are cases where you probably have to snoop into things, to avoid New York City being blown up. But, the fact that we are doing this in this massive way is something that we have to be very careful about, so that we do not undermine the foundations of liberal democracy as we’ve known it. So your question, what should people learn. Number one, engineers should take CC. I have a friend, he’s a very high-tech person, and we were both in the honors psychology program together. We both think that the really important thing from Columbia, despite our major, despite everything we’ve done, has actually been CC and Humanities. The Iliad, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics… that’s what really matters. And what I realized, especially when this whole east European revolution started in ’89, was that obviously everyone, any normal person, was against totalitarian government. But it became quite clear, in what people were saying, that they have this sort of German Romanticist view of things, based on Herder and peo-

ple like him. This is part of the German Counter-Enlightenment. It was all about das Volk, the people. The traditions in our country and in the universities in Central Europe were very much based on that, were based on a reaction to the Enlightenment concepts of individual liberty, where it was the Volk that matters, not the individual. SW: I read an interview that you did a couple of years ago, where you said that Nabokov was important to read because he was an anti-totalitarian artist. Do you think that art has a role to play in shaping civil consciousness? THI: I think that Nabokov is important because he is one of the very few liberal voices—liberal not in the US sense, but in the more European sense—in Russian culture, which is all very heavy. I mean, it makes the German stuff look like whipped cream. Very heavy emphasis on folk, people, nation, Orthodoxy… And Nabokov is one of the very few people in Russian literature that really focused not only on the individual, but also on the im5

interview permissibility of the state imposing its will on people. Not to mention that he’s just such a brilliant writer. The political side is quaternary in terms of what he writes. His sentences are magnificent, his puns are amazing; all of that stuff is just great. But part of it, which is often lost in the complexity of his language, is this incessant message on the primacy of the individual, on a person’s right to think as he wishes or she wishes, to say anything he or she wants. But anyway. Art. I mean, who knows. No one reads anymore, so what difference does it make? Movies, maybe. But people don’t read books, they don’t read literature, in general, anymore. This is one of the reasons I like Estonia. A bestselling poetry book in a country of 1.3 million people sold, in absolute numbers, more copies than a best-selling poetry book in the United States. People here read poetry. And I thought, wow, this is really cool. Because I read poetry, and I thought I was a weirdo. Who reads poetry? And I find out, this is important in our culture, people go around quoting poetry. On Technology and Security: SW: I wanted to ask about technology. I know that technology has done a lot for Estonia, obviously. THI: In 1993, Mosaic had just been invented. Estonia was a very, very poor, post-Soviet country with very little infrastructure development, where nothing had really been done since 1939—the Soviets came in 1940. We despaired as to how we would overcome this enormous gap in development. I thought, “Well, we’re on a level playing field when it comes to technology.” We have a lot of smart people, we’re really good in math—we’re at the top in Europe on math skills, we and the Finns. The level playing field was very important, because in every other aspect, the West under liberal democracy went through multiple iterations of growth, whereas we were just stuck. We had a 1938 telephone exchange system, a rotary system. Then I read a neo-Luddite, neo-Marxist book called The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin. He was completely against new technology. 6

columbia political review :: summer 2015 He used the example of a Kentucky steel plant that was automatized and computerized, and they could make exactly the same millions of tons of steel per year with 120 employees as they did with 12,000. From his point of view, this was an example of how terrible automatization and comput-

“I and software will become one and the same, ultimately...What are laws? They are the algorithms of behavior in a society.” erization would be. But of course, coming from a very tiny country, you go, “Wow, that’s great. This is exactly what we need.” We want to automatize everything, to liberate people from doing things that machines can do, so that people can do things that only people can do. Now, 25 years later, with Moore’s Law and all this, it may become problematic. At the time, though, it was great. It allowed us massively to increase the functional size of the economy and of the country, just by having everyone do things with computers. That was the idea, at least. Today it’s a little more problematic; you start thinking about self-driving cars and what that will do for the taxi industry, what that will do for trucking in the United States. A couple weeks ago there was an article about a car driving by itself from Mountain View, California to New York City. We do have to start thinking about what we do in terms of education. We have to dramatically increase the amount of math and science, of STEM subjects. Everyone is going to have to know some of that, unless they’re going to make a living as poet. Which is perfectly fine. But unless you know some of that technology… You know, we have the first Law and IT degree program in the world, because in the future, lawsuits are going to be about intellectual property and ownership of software. You can even think about the laws of a society being the software of a society. I think these two things

will merge—law and software will become one and the same, ultimately. SW: That’s interesting. THI: I don’t know if it’s interesting. It’s interesting to see where it’s going to go. What are laws? They are the algorithms of behavior in a society. Can’t do that, can do that, yes, no, yes, no. Everything will become like that. We also have the first, and hitherto only, degree in e-governance, which is a joint program in IT and public administration. Today, if you do it right, you don’t need to do all the stuff that you currently do with paper. We have a once-only law in Estonia, which means the government may never ask you anything it already knows, which comes out of the architecture of our IT system. Filling out your tax returns, or anything requiring information like your address, et cetera—you don’t have to do that. We do it online; it already knows who you are, you don’t have to write your address or anything like that. We do almost everything online these days, in terms of the citizens’ relationship to the government. It just needs a lot of safeguards. SW: So, what are the safeguards? Is cyber-security a big concern? THI: It’s a very big concern, but it’s quite complicated. We were the first country to have major cyber-attacks, but no one actually ever went into the system, all they did was block access to it. That’s just keeping you out, and there are ways to remedy that. Far more dangerous is when someone gets inside. We just have an architecture that makes that very difficult to do. If you do get inside, you don’t get anywhere else, and you can only actually access one person. At this point, it’s virtually impossible to get inside, but maybe you can do it. Getting into a large databank with lots of people is at this point architecturally not possible, you cannot do that. The government, of course, requires a fair bit of trust. But so far it’s worked. When there have been abuses, they’ve immediately been flagged, because everything is logged. If something inappropriate shows up, it’s immediately detected.

columbia political review :: summer 2015 SW: Do you think that other countries are doing enough about cyber-security? Could a digitization project work in other countries the same way it’s worked in Estonia? THI: I’m in Washington this weekend to co-chair the World Bank’s report on development and IT. Typically the World Bank is concerned with irrigation projects, hospitals, anti-malaria programs, et cetera. Now they have begun to get so many requests for money to do things with IT that they’ve said, “Okay, what’s the deal here?” They looked at who’s doing what, and they found that the most advanced countries are Finland, Estonia, South Korea, and Singapore. Of those four, the only one to start off poor was Estonia. The other ones started out developing their IT societies already rich, which is a no-brainer. It’s not hard to digitize a society, or at least make the first steps, if you have a lot of money to burn. We had none. Now, can other countries do it? Yes. But paradoxically and perhaps even ironically, the countries most opposed to having a digital identity are the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Which, aside from being Winston Churchill’s English-speaking peoples, are the “Five Eyes”—the countries that seriously share intelligence information among themselves. Basically, it comes down to this: you cannot have a secure system without a secure online identity. There’s a famous cartoon from about 1994 in the New Yorker, of two dogs; one’s on a chair in front of a computer, and he says to the other, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” That is precisely the problem of the internet. Unless you have a secure online identity, you don’t know who is trying to access something, or whether someone else is using your password. So what we have, and what very secure systems everywhere must have, is a two-factor system. You have a chip, and then you have something else. It could be your iris, a fingerprint, a code. But unless you have a two-factor ID, there’s no security. And on top of that, we use a kind of encryption, which is called PKI, Public Key Infrastructure, a logical encryption system with public and private keys.

Of course, in the United States, and Canada, and the UK, there’s the old “I will take an ID when they push it into my cold, dead fingers!” sort of attitude. So all you can do is say, okay, you don’t have to take an ID—but then you must know: you can’t use anything on the internet securely. To pursue the metaphor invented by Al Gore, who calls the internet the information superhighway, the problem is that everyone is driving on the highway without a license plate. So, okay, you can do that. But imagine driving down 495, or in LA on a twelve-lane highway, with no license plates. You get what you get, and you can imagine what you would get on the highway. Of course, you don’t need that secure identity for everything. You can read the newspaper online without putting in an ID. But if you want to have your health records online, you want to make sure that you have secure access. I also think we’ve become completely obsessed with the issue of privacy. Rightfully so—but there are worse issues than privacy, worse threats. You or anyone else would object to someone seeing your medical records online. On the other hand, far worse would be if someone changes your medical data. Regarding the issue of privacy, I would say, yeah, it’s offensive. As offensive as a violation of privacy can be, violations of data integrity can be lethal, or completely

“As offensive as a violation of privacy can be, violations of data integrity can be lethal, or completely ruinous financially.” ruinous financially. It’s one thing if someone can see your bank account. But if someone changes your bank account, it can be devastating. These are the problems that we have to worry about in this increasingly digitized world, because more and more things are going to be online. Paper is less and less important. Who trusts paper, anyway? You can change paper, too.

interview SW: Do you see data integrity and privacy, then, as opposing? Or can they be complementary aims? THI: No, no. It’s just that everyone is focused on privacy. They’re not opposed at all. In fact, they’re highly related. The point is that we are forgetting that it is not simply privacy; it is data integrity also. Privacy is difficult, but you can deal with that. Data integrity creates this existential angst: are these data real or not? When you think about the US financial system, of course, this is very important. You think about people’s health records and blood type—you change it from RH negative to RH positive and it’s lethal. On Russia and European Politics: SW: Why do you think that Russia seems so particularly aggressive toward Estonia? THI: I don’t think it’s more aggressive toward us than it is toward others. One of the reasons I think they started earlier with us is that, in many ways, we’re an intellectual and historical threat. If your argument is—and it is—that the standard Western liberal-democratic model is not appropriate for a post-communist world, that we have different values, and we are against the gay, decadent West; and then you have this little country next door that is in fact number one or two in the world in internet freedom, is by far the highest ranked in press freedom of any post-communist country, has the lowest level of corruption of any post-communist state. So then if your argument is, “we former communist countries are different”—then there’s Estonia. Our success is one of the things that really irk them. Estonia has adopted a completely different model—I would argue the Columbia-CC-model. This is been my message in all of my speeches. My last National Day speech was about epistemology—sort of a strange speech to give on the equivalent of the Fourth of July, I suppose. It was about multiple truths, Karl Popper, that sort of thing. I’m primarily opposed to this postmodernist interpretation of mul7

interview tiple truths. I believe in empirical truth and Popperian falsification. I think one of the things that threatens us today is a totalitarian or authoritarian appropriation of Heidegger and Derrida, where there are multiple truths allowed. “It was a Buk that shot down MH17,” “No, it was a Ukrainian fighter,” “No, there were three hundred dead bodies on the plane already and it was blown up over Ukraine!”—which was something that was said. When you claim that all truths are equal, and apply this to a state ideology, then we are in trouble… A book came out last year, by Peter Pomerantsev, called Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. It’s about Russian TV, but the title of the book really sums up what the Russian message is today. When you say “question more,” which is the slogan of Russia Today, it isn’t really “question more”—it’s “question truth.” This is why I’ve always been an empiricist. What you see is what you get, or something like that. I’m really into the British empiricists, to this day, ever since I read Locke and Berkeley in CC. SW: What do you think that the United States and Europe should be doing about Russia? Are they doing the right things, are they doing enough? THI: The United States is doing more than Europe is doing. In Europe, mercantile self-interest dominates, in many cases, over morality or ethics. You see horrible things being done someplace in Russia, but you still would rather make more money, and so you don’t want to really stand up against those things. That’s what’s worrisome. One the problems with the postCold War era is the decline of moral clarity. And so you have people making deals with Gazprom while in office, and getting a senior position. You have cases, in the United States, of people who are mid-level officials on a procurement committee at the Department of Defense, and then they go get a job with the company with which they made a DoD deal, and then they go to jail. Now, imagine the leader of a country, of the largest and richest countries in Europe, making a deal with the Russians and then going 8

columbia political review :: summer 2015 to work for them. That undermines the fundamental underpinnings of a liberal democratic society. So, to sum up the difference between the US and Europe at this point, regarding Russia: here, if you do that, even at a low level, you go to jail. There, you just get rich. And there are a number of other people who’ve done similar things, who’ve left politics and then have gotten paid for things they’ve done while in government. That is very disheartening to me. But, on the other hand, in Europe, you still have governments with nonviolent political change. With authoritarian governments, who knows? They’re there until they kick off.

“I think one of the things that threatens us today is a totalitarian or authoritarian appropriation of Heidegger and Derrida, where there are multiple truths allowed.” SW: Is Estonia responding, and if so, how, to Russia’s belligerent rhetoric about Russian minority populations in former Soviet states? THI: One of the big flaws in their whole argument is that, sure, you can look at the percentage of Russians in Estonia, in the Donbas, whatever— the difference is that the income of a Russian living in Estonia is so much higher. They’ll say, we have Russian miners in Estonia, Russian miners in the Donbas. The difference is that they make 150 Euros a month in the Donbas and they make 1,500 or 2,500 Euros a month in Estonia. There’s this kind of alliterative fixation with a city we have, called Narva, which is right across the river from Russia. Journalists are always asking, “Is Narva Next?” So these journalists will go to Narva and people there scream at them—they’ll ask, “Are you next?” and the people say, “What are you, crazy!?” The people who live there go over the river all the time, because everything on the Russian side is so cheap (of course, noth-

ing works). If you’re living in Narva, you can go work or live anywhere in Europe. People do. There’s no irredentist desire in Estonia, no “I want to live in Russia, life there is so much better.” It’s not like that. SW: It seems like you’re not interested in talking about Russia. Not that I wanted to ask anything more, but I sense a distaste for the topic. THI: No, no. I mean, it’s not what I think about; it’s what I have to deal with. There are issues you have to deal with, as president. I do. I follow the news, all the news all the time, because it’s a matter of national security. I find it intellectually utterly boring. I really do. SW: What do you find intellectually exciting? THI: All the stuff I talked about before! Someone asked me, “When are you going to write your memoirs?” Why bother? That’s already gone, that’s the past. I’m interested in where things are going. I want to influence where things are going. My thing as president has been pressing people to develop civil society, liberal democracy, freedom of speech—fundamental freedoms being the core basis of society. Okay, now we’ve gotten there. I’ve been talking about it ad nauseam for about twenty-five years. I guess through constantly hearing this from me, people have said, “Okay, maybe he’s got a point.” But I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in where things are going, I want to influence where things are going. That’s interesting—making societies function better, reducing inequality, increasing people’s participation in governance. That’s interesting to me. Not Russia, especially because what is coming out of there is so awfully dull and boring and tedious, and we’ve seen it all before. We saw it with Nicolas I. Orthodoxy, autocracy, derzhava [power], natsional’nost’ [nationality]… This is not interesting. Aside from the fact that it keeps repeating. SW: That in itself is interesting. THI: It is. But on the other hand… I find it awful, but I don’t find it inter-

columbia political review :: summer 2015 esting. I don’t want to read any more Berdyaev or anything like that. What I do find interesting—I don’t know if you’ve read him, but it’s Carl Schmitt, who was probably the smartest Nazi that ever lived. His book, The Concept of the Political, is probably the most intellectually cogent argument against liberal democracy. He argues that politics defines “us,” and thereby “them”—which made me think of Nashi [Russian political youth organization sponsored by the ruling party]. There’s a very influential man in Russia, named Aleksandr Dugin, who basically has taken over Carl Schmitt wholesale. He even published Schmitt’s complete works in Russian. Carl Schmitt is the intellectual godfather of serious authoritarian ideology. It’s nothing to do with democracy, nothing to do with compromise, nothing to do with votes. It’s us versus them, the enemy. Goebbels sort of picked up on that, with his famous quote, “What must we do? We must create an image of the enemy.” This is what Russia’s doing, if you look at the intellectual basis of it. You think of this group Nashi, “Ours,” Krym Nash [Our Crimea], it’s all this emphasis on “us,” all the time; everything we do is a priori good, and everything they do is bad. It’s all very Nietzschean. If you think of The Genealogy of Morals, which you read in CC, I hope, still… SW: Yes, we do. My class read it last week. THI: You did, okay, good. Well, if you want to read slave morality, as defined by Nietzsche, as hatred toward anyone not like you, I think this is the way to understand Russian political thinking right now. I have this embarrassing copy of The Genealogy of Morals. It’s from CC. I read it about every ten years, maybe eight. I’ve got my original CC scribblings, and then my thirty-year-old scribblings, my forty-two-year-old scribblings, my fifty-three-year-old scribblings… It’s deeply embarrassing, seeing this marginalia from when I was eighteen or nineteen. I think, “What a dummy. You didn’t get it at all.” But on the other hand, it is fun to read. I keep finding stuff there that I didn’t capture before. One of the things that


has interested me in the last couple of years is in chapter two—he uses a French word, because there’s nothing in German for it, which is ressentiment. This is more than resentment. It’s a kind of hatred of whenever people do better. I find a lot of populist politics to be based on this idea of ressentiment. Nietzsche was a wacko, but he really had amazing insights. I’m not a Nietzschean, I don’t believe in what he thought—although I don’t really think he believed in it, either. What he observes, though, is so true. He has amazing insights into behavior and attitudes. Which I only realized reading him a third time. That’s why I think CC is important. I never, ever would have read The Ge-

“It all comes back to Columbia—it ruined my life...I would have been pre-med and probably a doctor by now, but instead ended up taking CC and it ruined my life.” nealogy of Morals if it had not been for CC. In Conclusion: SW: What’s next for you? THI: My term runs out. The presidential term is limited in Estonia, and I wouldn’t want to ever run again anyway. SW: What are you planning to do next? THI: I have no plans. SW: No plans? No ideas? THI: Oh, I have all kinds of ideas. I’d like to give a lecture every once in a while, at SIPA, for example. That would be fine. I like Columbia, really, a lot. It’s pretty self-evident. As I’ve said, I come from the generation with the worst undergraduate experience at Columbia. But, at the same time, what I got out of it was simply amazing. One of the fantasies I’ve had for

much of the last twenty years was that when I’m no longer president, I’ll teach CC at the national university. But then I figure, ach, come on… I don’t know. SW: That would be so cool, though. THI: Yeah, but… People would not take the course for the right reasons. They would think, “Oh, we get to take a course with the president!” Which is not the same as, “I really want to know this stuff.” It would be a celebrity course as opposed to a serious course. Of course, I probably would winnow the class membership down to about three just by the first couple of reading assignments. A lot of people do stuff for the wrong reasons. One of the wrong reasons is this celebrity stuff, which I find kind of… SW: Distasteful? THI: Yeah—tedious, annoying, all of that. SW: How did you become president? THI: Because three parties came to me and said, “We really want you to run. Don’t worry, you won’t win anyway.” SW: They were pulling your leg. THI: No, they really didn’t know; none of us thought I would win. I was hoping I wouldn’t win, because I’d go bankrupt—and here I am, bankrupt. But anyways, I said, “Okay, I’ll run.” I had the center-left, the center-right, and the economic liberals saying they wanted to put up a good fight; they didn’t want it to be a complete slaughter… And then, against all odds, I won. And then I said, “Oh, s---. Now what do I do?” Then I was president for five years, and then I was reelected. So, now it’s over. All my jobs, for the last thirty years, I’ve been recruited for all of them, because I’m nuts. It all comes back to Columbia—it ruined my life. I would’ve been a pre-med student somewhere else. I would have been pre-med and probably a doctor by now, but instead I ended up taking CC, and it ruined my life. • 9


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The Kyoto Protocol’s Inequitable Failure


ising temperatures. Wild hurricanes. Severe droughts. Disappearing shorelines. Shrinking ice caps. Climate change is an urgent test presented to every person living on the planet—and right now, we are failing. Unlike two decades ago, when a true/false response could withstand electoral pressures, political leaders today are expected to have answers to a far more intimidating question: What should we do to reduce the speed of climate change? In 1997, world leaders proposed a solution to this question. Government representatives from 170 states convened, and negotiated their way to form a single plan of action: the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol called for thirty-eight states to reduce greenhouse gases emissions to 5 percent below their emission levels in 1990 between 2008 and 2012. But not all 38 committed to the plan, as the United States never ended up ratifying the agreement and Canada withdrew from the Protocol days prior to the end of the first commitment period. Fundamental to the Protocol’s design was the classification of states into “Annex B” and “non-Annex B” states. Only the 38 states listed as Annex B were given quantifiable reduction targets, whereas the non-Annex B states had no obligation except to cooperate with Annex B states for technological, educational, and research purposes. As a result of this categorization, a decision to ratify the Protocol was meaningfully different for an Annex B state and a non-Annex B state; the former was required to voluntarily submit to reduce emission, the latter only to make a nominal pledge to the cause. As a consequence of the classification, the Protocol was acutely limited in scope, despite its impressive, near universal membership. The Annex B states were not chosen at random. They were the world’s 10

By Vivian Tsai most developed economies and were responsible in 1990 for at least 55 percent of global emissions. The Protocol did not impose comprehensive reduction goals partly because the negotiating governments presumed that a global solution to climate change should be fair. Given that “the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries,” the world leaders acknowledged that the developed countries should be held more responsible for causing and remedying the effects of climate change. Underlying the logic

“‘Common but differentiated responsibility’ encapsulates the notion that climate change is a shared burden for all, but is distributed unequally.” for classification was also the understanding that developing countries would face “special difficulties” in complying with the reduction standards. “Common but differentiated responsibility” encapsulates the notion that climate change is a shared burden for all, but it is distributed unequally. This phrase was derived from the Protocol’s predecessor, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Though it was an ineffective law that lacked enforcement mechanism and material goals, the UNFCCC passed down the controversial legacy of country classification to the Kyoto Protocol. The trouble began when “differ-

entiated” was emphasized more than “common.” Despite theoretically sharing at least a little bit of responsibility, non-Annex B states were not subjected to any material obligation. A realistic look at the Protocol yields the unfortunate conclusion that developed countries became the only ones considered responsible for and capable of reducing climate change effects. Post-Kyoto, there was both good and bad news. The good news was that the thirty-six compliant Annex B states exceeded the 5 percent expectation, and achieved a total of 22 percent reduction from the 1990 emission levels. The bad news was that none of the top emitters in 2012 were among those 36 countries. Instead, the top 3 emitters, collectively responsible for 51 percent of the world’s emissions, were China (29 percent), the United States (16 percent) and India (6 percent). In hindsight, the Kyoto Protocol was a poor solution. It failed to reduce global carbon emissions, which have caused atmospheric levels to reach 400 parts per million (ppm) today and to continue to increase at a rate of 2 ppm every year. To highlight the gravity of these numbers, Dr. James Hansen, the nation’s leading climatology expert, stated unequivocally in 2008 that a level of 385 ppm is “incompatible with the continuance of life on Earth as we know it.” In other words, we have sped past all warning signs and still have yet to figure out a way to slow down the train. So why did the Kyoto Protocol fail? Two camps of critics can be identified: the framework supporters and the framework denouncers. To the framework supporters, the Protocol was a good plan that did not include enough or the appropriate Annex B participants. These critics believe in mandatory reduction targets as crucial to the goal of constraining global emissions. They emphasize the necessity of placing the top three emit-

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ters under strict reduction goals. To them, the fact that thirty-six Annex B states surpassed the original expectations proves the effectiveness of the Protocol’s compliance mechanism. The second camp of critics says that the Protocol was a bad plan and should be abandoned. These framework denouncers believe that the thirty-six Annex B states’ compliance was coincidental, and emphasize several alternative factors to explain the overachievement. First, before 1997, transitional economies reduced emissions following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Second, the non-participation of the US and Canada skewed evaluations of the treaty’s outcome. Third, the 2008-2009 international economic crisis decreased emissions. They opine that the Kyoto Protocol was far from effective and that there must be a radical departure from the 1997 illusion that all states should participate in one plan. Specifically, these critics raise the following provocative questions: Can a negotiation involving fewer

countries be more effective, considering that fewer than 20 out of the 191 countries are responsible for 80 percent of all emission? Can multiple agreements be more effective than one? Can the Protocol’s top-down approach construct a genuine emission market? Is the Protocol detracting attention away from clean energy and innovation? Frankly, there is little conflict between the two camps of critics. The Kyoto Protocol may not be the best or the only necessary treaty, but it is one that is on the table, quite literally, as 191 states committed to adopt a succeeding agreement by December of this year. Each state will then decide whether to ratify the successor agreement, which is expected to take effect in 2020. Given the tremendous time pressures of climate change, ditching emission reduction targets for a brand new framework is unwise. However, the successor to Kyoto should by no means be considered as the only plan. Further agreements should be developed on small-


er scales among principal emitters. If the aim for the Kyoto successor is to place the top three emitters under quantifiable emission reduction obligations, two hurdles must be overcome. The first hurdle is to ensure that the US ratifies the treaty. The second is to convince China and India to submit to reduction obligations. Unlike domestic laws, an international treaty between governments depends on robust voluntary participation and strong compliance from all parties. The Kyoto Protocol had mechanisms that were designed to deter defection without deterring participation. But though the Protocol generally had a strong compliance record, the lack of US participation significantly qualified its effect. In short, the United States refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because it was unhappy with the fact that only Annex B states were required to reduce emission. The President and the Senate collectively hold the power to ratify an international agreement 11

features under Article 3, section 2 of the Constitution and the Senate in 1997 preemptively passed a 95-0 Byrd-Hagel resolution declaring its intention to never ratify a treaty that would harm the American economy. Former President George W. Bush further disclaimed “the scientific knowledge of the cause of… global climate change.” Despite the State Department’s shameless rhetoric that the US “[was] taking a leading role in addressing climate change,” the country increased emission in 2012 by 4 percent from the 1990 baseline level. To justify the decision, representatives of the American government repeatedly identify the outrage as one directed at the Protocol’s design. President Bush said that he did not agree with a plan that “exempts 80 percent of the world… from compliance [with emission reduction targets].” In other words, the United States chose not to participate in a plan that was selectively enforced and therefore unfair. Without the public exerting pressure on the Senate and the president, the United States can repeat its old trick by vigorously negotiating a deal and then walking away. On the other hand, while both are parties to the Kyoto Protocol, Chi-

columbia political review :: summer 2015 na and India cannot actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions with purely symbolic participation. Facing a Kyoto successor that could push for universal emission reduction obligations, the two developing countries are already making powerful arguments against it based on fairness. Prodipto Ghosh, a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, argues that historic differentiated responsibility of climate change can be quantified, as the greenhouse gases once produced remained in the atmosphere for an extended period of time to cause the rise in temperature. Ghosh calculated individual states’ emission since 1890 and began his analysis under the assumption that all states must be given fair opportunity to develop and pollute to similar extents. The aggregated result was shocking and showed that developed countries have exceeded their share of emission to such an overwhelming degree that other developing countries are “entitled” to continue emitting at current rates for at least another decade. If the objective were fairness, the thirty-six complying Annex B states could argue that not all states contributed to the rise of temperature

or emitted greenhouse gases to the same degree to warrant for equal percentage reduction. Many countries could interpret their own version of fairness as one based on carbon consumption, emission per capita, or energy innovation. Every country could analyze the data differently and build a case advantageous to their own evasion of the commitment to reduce emissions. But it is clear that the objective of the Kyoto Protocol and its successor is not and should not be fairness. So what if the prevention of a global catastrophe is not carried out “fairly”? Will each country stop short at whatever it considers to be unfair? Demanding fairness is a procrastination tactic to justify one’s inaction. It is cowardly rhetoric and it should be recognized as exactly that. • Vivian Tsai is a graduating senior at Barnard College, Columbia University, with majors in political science and psychology. She will attend the UCLA School of Law this fall. She is a practicing journalist and an aspiring storyteller. She can be reached at:

Global CO2 Emissions From the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels for 2006 (in Million Metric Tons)


On the Cover: Ethnic Conflict On the following pages, we examine different facets of ethnic conflict across the globe. What causes ethnic conflict? What is the role of campus debate in resolving these conflicts? How can a lasting peace be created in spite of ethnic divisions? These questions and more drive the following exploration.

Reaching Across the Wall The Role of Campus Debate in Achieving a Lasting Peace


or over fifty years, the impacts of the conflict between Israel and Palestine have reverberated throughout the Middle East and the wider world. From the 1978 Camp David Accords to the Oslo Accords of 1993 and the more recent Annapolis conference in 2007, diplomatic efforts towards peace have repeatedly proved unsuccessful, and cyclical violence continues to rage on in the region. In the weeks leading up to his re-election this spring, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced intense criticism in the United States following media reports that he was backing away from his 2009 commitment to work towards a two-state solution. Netanyahu has since denied the allegation, however, the election season in Israel still served to highlight the fiercely polarized nature of the debate both within Israel-Palestine and abroad. Here at Columbia University, campus is buzzing with debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From demonstrations on Low Plaza to op-eds in the Spectator, Columbia students from all across the political spectrum are clamoring for change in the state of affairs. In early April, Dorm Room Diplomacy—a student organization that strives to bring together diverse perspectives and backgrounds in order to foster dialogue about Middle East related issues—hosted a debate on campus activism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Turnout to the event packed a large lecture hall beyond capacity, a testimony to the widespread interest in the topic at Columbia, and the debate proved to be a valuable platform for reflecting on activism within the community. In order to continue the conversation, CPR reached out to several of the most vocal groups on campus to hear their thoughts on the role of student activism in the debate surrounding Israel and Palestine.

-CPR 13

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Aryeh Columbia

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“As campus activists, we must navigate within the space of humility, knowing that we are not immediate actors in the peace process but that our words and our message can make a difference and contribute to meaningful change. Columbia University students will go on to bright futures. They may work in media, as political staffers, or they may be politicians themselves. Therefore one of our primary goals is to educate and engage the campus community on the critical issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Aryeh’s activism is centered around Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, as well as Palestinian nationhood; we believe in a two-state solution, and operate with the comfort of knowing that being pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they often go hand in hand. Above all, we are pro-peace. We hope to create environments on campus that can foster honest dialogue, and often, intellectual friction. The conflict is complex, and it is the duty of all activists, Zionist and anti-Zionist alike, to engage in meaningful conversation, in the hope of someday creating a lasting and fair solution.” — Daniella Greenbaum, Daniel Parmet, and Marissa Young, Aryeh

“We founded a Columbia/Barnard chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace last year because we were frustrated with the seemingly monolithic viewpoint on Palestine/Israel coming from the Jewish community at Columbia. While there have surely always been Jewish students at Columbia expressing dissent towards this mainstream Zionist stance, there was not a cohesive group through which to organize in support of Palestinian rights. Not only is it powerful and important for us as students to stand up for human rights and justice, it is also vital that we challenge the Jewish institutions that necessitate Zionism for membership. The Columbia/Barnard Hillel is considered the center of Jewish life on this campus, offering religious groups, shabbat dinners and many cultural events. Included in Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership are guidelines that prevent the membership of any group that advocates for boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions (BDS) against, the state of Israel. Jewish Voice for Peace advocates for BDS as a way of ending the occupation of Palestine, and one of the first obstacles we must broach in achieving this goal is the American Jewish fear of taking such strong action against Israel. As students on a college campus in New York City, we have the power to demand that the institution we are a part of, Columbia University, divest from companies that perpetuate the occupation of Palestine. We hope to be part of a divestment campaign at Columbia and also in fundamentally changing the way Jewish students consider their agency in changing the status quo in Palestine/Israel.”


— Eva Kalikoff and Christopher Goodshall, Jewish Voice for Peace

Gavin Lavi

We are first and foremost not advocates, but students—a word with conceptual roots meaning ‘painstaking application.’ If we are live up to that tall order, we must insist that the truth is not simple or readily available. It is important to have a narrative, but it is tragic when a narrative becomes blinding; and on our campus, and during the most recent Dorm Room Diplomacy debate, it was empirically evident that many here have forgotten what it means to listen openly and to learn. If even the idea of peace—and those related ideas of security, and justice—are ever to take hold in the region itself, we must all begin by admitting to the painful truth that we do not know as much as we think we do.” — Josh Fattal, Garin Lavi: Hillel’s Student Center for Israel and Zionist Thought­


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“Prompted by speech and wording that students felt could be ‘polarizing,’ ‘engage, don’t alienate’ was the rallying cry of the Zionist camp at Columbia this past Israeli Apartheid Week, an initiative to raise awareness about the discriminatory policies of Israel. Yet, polarization is to be expected when engaging in political discussion between these two movements—one that advocates for the maintenance of an oppressive system of ethnocratic power and privilege and one that advocates for justice for the victims of land confiscation, genocide, occupation, and systematic erasure. If there is a fundamental lack of acknowledgment of oppression and discrimination inflicted upon the Palestinian people, there can be no common ground. To harp on the ‘mutual understanding’ we must find is to detract time and energy from political realities and to shift the frame to a problem of hostile interpersonal relations that consume our interactions and the campus dynamic we establish. Such a framework ignores the political reality of occupation and systematic discrimination that SJP and other pro-Palestinian groups seek to rectify. More students need to be engaged with the real issues at hand: the $3 billion the US sends annually to Israel in military aid, and Columbia’s investments in G4S and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), whose systems are integral to the maintenance of apartheid. What we need is engagement centered on values and goals, that recognizes disparities of power and privilege between occupier and occupied, and that sets ground rules for bigoted speech and maudlin opinion that has little to do with fact. The myths that polarization is bad and dialogue is good need to be dispelled. The campus debates, and for that matter the wider political situation, are not about mutual hatred, a historic feud, or a lack of understanding. It’s about apartheid and settler colonialism; a situation of oppressor and oppressed. We need a shift away from a focus on interpersonal relations, away from getting two fundamentally incompatible viewpoints to agree, and a shift towards engaging discussion about the issues at hand: ending Israeli apartheid and achieving justice for Palestine.”


— Jannine Salman, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)

J Street

“J Street CU advocates for American leadership in facilitating an end to occupation of the West Bank and a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This means empowering students to take action that moves beyond Low Plaza and impacts the conflict directly. We are one chapter in the national student movement J Street U, organizing on more than 60 campuses across the country. Together, we build intentional strategy to achieve this ambitious and important goal. Our current national campaign asks American Jewish Federations to be more transparent about where their donations go and to design a policy around money moving beyond the Green Line and encouraging occupation. If our communities speak with a clear moral voice against this, it will send a message to Israelis that most Americans do not support the untenable and unjust status quo. Every day, members of J Street CU ask ourselves what role we can play to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dialogue and engagement have a crucial role on our campus, but we must push ourselves to act.” — Noah Schoen, Ben Schneider, and Jordana Narin, J Street CU


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columbia political review :: summer 2015

Burning Up and Burning Down

Tracing the Flames of Ethnic Conflict in Côte D’Ivoire and Burundi


nce praised as West Africa’s “beacon of stability,” Côte d’Ivoire shocked the world when its bloody civil war erupted in 2002. The unrest ultimately killed over 1,000 people, according to Freedom House. What sparked this conflict and propagated the violence? I argue that the main cause of violence in the 2002 Ivorian Civil War was elites’ strategic manipulation of ethnic identity—specifically, the concepts of ivoirité and nordistes. I present the constructivist view, showing identity redefinition by elites from both the incumbent party and rebel forces, and demonstrate the inadequacy of the primordialist counter-interpretation to explain this specific civil war. The case of Côte d’Ivoire exemplifies how top-down factors—such as identity manipulation by elites—can cause civil war violence. However, not all cases can be investigated on this national level. In many cases, bottom-up factors and local-level dynamics like grassroots mobilization or local community tensions may better explain the causes of violence. Burundi’s civil war from 1993 to 2005, for instance, is better understood through this bottom-up lens. To juxtapose these two differing frameworks, I will also examine the causes of Burundi’s civil war, showing how using solely national-level analyses would be insufficient to fully comprehend the factors that drove Burundi’s civil war. Constructivists view identity as malleable, contestable, and socially created by both internal and external factors. One way that identity is constructed is through what James Fearon and David Laitin in their 2000 article termed “strategic action by elites,” in which leaders redefine ethnic boundaries to achieve their personal goals. This method occurred in Côte d’Ivoire when both incumbent and rebel elites manipulated the concept of ivoirité, a formulation of identity that privileges certain traits as being quintessentially Ivorian. In 1995, President Henri Bedie began to change ivoirité from a common


By Angel Wang national identity to one that distinguished between “pure-blooded” Ivorians in the South from “immigrant, foreign” Ivorians in the North. Since northern Côte d’Ivoire contained large immigrant populations from Burkina Faso and Mali, Bedie used xenophobic rhetoric to publically degrade Northerners as “strangers,” unlike their indigenous Southern counterparts. He bolstered his interpretation of ivoirité by changing electoral rules, requiring both parents of presidential candidates to have been born in Côte d’Ivoire (thereby excluding Alassane Ouattara, the primary Northern representative, from the presidential races). Though Bedie was overthrown in 1999 via military coup, his successors also “used ivoirité to consolidate governmental power in the south at the expense of the northerners,” according to Moya Collett’s 2000 article in Nations and Nationalism. Insurgent elites responded to ivoirité by creating a counter-identity as “nordistes,” merging various marginalized ethnic groups. As Matthew Kirwin notes in his 2006 study in the Nordic Journal of African Studies, “The identity of nordistes is a construct [...] nordistes formed from the image of solidarity among the rebels and alliances based upon regional ethnic groups.” One main rebel elite, Guillaume Soro, used the nordistes identity to unite disparate rebel groups into one large group, titled Forces Nouvelles. United as nordistes, insurgent elites organized protests and launched a coup d’etat on September 19, 2002, propelling Côte d’Ivoire into violence and civil war. Ethnic labels were thus the central cause for conflict. Identity construction led to violence through the action of “ethnic entrepreneurs,” elites who constructed exclusionary identities to force individuals to take sides and thereby compete with one another for scarce resources and privileges. Elites then rallied support in two ways. The rebels mobilized around the shared grievances of discrimination and oppression,

while the incumbent elites promised jobs and services to Southern voters. A positive implication of the constructivist explanation for the 2002 Ivorian civil war is its implications for conflict resolution. If elites can construct conflicting identities, then they can also construct identities that facilitate peace. Alex De Waal, for example, argues for the construction of non-violent identity formations and overarching identities that encompass smaller identities to encourage inclusivity in his 2005 African Affairs article. There is thus constructivist optimism for lasting peace if elites reconstruct ivoirité as a form of modern nationalism that encourages national unity. Despite this strength, the argument has two main weaknesses. First, it does not explain why followers follow. Even if elites attempt to reconstruct identity, what motivates the populace to support elite decisions? One potential explanation for this tendency is the ethnic security dilemma; each group’s increase in economic and political power is interpreted by the other group as an escalating threat, prompting both parties to build up defenses and military capacity and therefore propagating violence. A second weakness of the identity explanation is that ethnic labels can obscure investigations of political and economic factors. For example, violence was more likely to erupt when identity divisions were reinforced by systematic political exclusion or economic marginalization. Ivoirité was institutionalized in laws that denied Northern Ivorians land tenure, public sector employment, and public services; the government often refused to issue certificates of nationality to many people from the north on the grounds that they were not Ivorians. In contrast to constructivists, primordialists view identity as defined by innate, pre-determined characteristics that do not evolve over time. For instance, Kaplan suggests that humans adopt fixed characteristics of their respective ethnic groups, while Samu-

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el Huntington argued, in his seminal 1993 Foreign Affairs article “The Clash of Civilizations,” that natural cultural differences between civilizations “will not soon disappear.” In the Ivory Coast case, primordialists claim that the North and South have forever hated each other due to historic tensions, and that this inevitably escalated into violence. While the primordialist approach is appealing in its simplicity and expediency, being particularly useful for journalists who seek easily understandable narratives for a mass audience and for policymakers who must produce quick decisions in high-pressure environments, ultimately there is a crucial weakness in this approach. Ethnic diversity does not always lead to civil war. In fact, in Côte d’Ivoire, there are sixty ethnic groups which peacefully coexisted for years and did not harbor

hatred towards one another. As Kirwin notes,“Despite societal friction based on class, religion, and region of origin, Côte d’Ivoire never suffered from frequent civil wars or military coups.” The primordialist view fails to explain why, givens historical ethnic diversity, civil war erupted in 2002 as opposed to other times. Elites from both the governing and rebel entities strategically manipulated identity in pursuit of personal political power; incumbent elites such as President Bedie, General Guei, and Laurent Gbagbo reconstructed the ivoirité identity to exclude their Northern opponents, while insurgent groups reconstructed the nordistes’ identity to solidify their response. This process of exclusionary identity formulations created antagonist identities, and led to violence. The incentives that lead elites to establish overarching identities,

cover story and the best strategies for using ethnic identity manipulation for the sake of peace, remain open questions. Now I turn to an investigation of Burundi, and with it to a new analytical framework. Burundi’s devastating civil war lasted from 1993 to 2005 and killed over 200,000 people. What explains the onset and perpetuation of this violence? Collier and Hoeffler, in their 2000 paper “Greed and Governance in Civil War,” present a combined model of national-level factors to explain the causes of civil war. I argue, though, that the Collier and Hoeffler (CH) model insufficiently explains Burundi’s civil war because it omits micro-level dimensions at the village and individual level. I pair the village micro-level lens with economic explanations to argue that villages were more prone to violence when they lost agricultural income from decreased rainfall and the individual micro-level lens with Weinstein’s “initial endowments” theory, as established in his 2000 book Inside Rebellion, to argue that individuals were drawn to rebels’ “activist” strategies because they desired camaraderie and the chance to create change. The combined Collier and Hoeffler model, which integrates elements from the opportunity and grievances models, “predicts poorly the risk of [Burundi’s] civil war,” according to Floribert Ngaruko and Janvier Nkurunziza in their 2005 article. I find the CH model insufficient because it relies solely upon national narratives of Hutu-Tutsi hatred. As Ngaruko and Nkurunziza elaborate, the CH combined model claims that the 1993 Tutsi-led assassination of Burundi’s first democratically elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadeye, rekindled historic tensions between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi and thus sparked the onset of war. Furthermore, war was prolonged because the postcolonial Tutsi elite, who came mostly from the southern province of Bururi, excluded Hutus from political power. The CH combined model therefore interprets conflict as mere manifestations of the cleavage between Tutsis and Hutus; it not only ignores the bottom-up influences that fueled violence but also ignores the impact of alliances. According to Kalyvas, “cleavage” is the dominant, nationwide dimension used to explain conflict, and “alliances” are mutually beneficial links between local and supralocal levels through which lo-


cover story cal actors advance their local agendas and central actors gain support and national power. Macro-level explanations of Hutu-Tutsi conflict show overarching patterns of civil war violence, but leave many questions unanswered. Why did certain villages experience more violence and rebel recruitment than others? Why did followers follow the elite leaders’ rhetoric? A fuller picture of Burundi’s civil war must consider periphery events that unfolded independently of the overarching ethnic divides, and contributed to the perpetuation of violence at the micro-level. According to Kalyvas, the micro-level approach asserts that central cleavages on a national scale may differ from cleavages that activate violence on local levels. At the village level, economic factors impacted the village’s magnitude of violence and rebel recruitment. Nillesen and Verwimp in their 2009 article analyzed the effects of local rainfall amounts on coffee production and total village income, since over 95 percent of the rural population relies on rain-fed agriculture as a primary source of revenue. After surveying 872 households across 16 provinces, the researchers discovered that villages experiencing below-average amounts of rain were significantly more prone to violent activity and recruitment by the Forces of National Liberation (FNL), the largest Hutu rebel group. The researchers also discovered that “a drop in a village’s coffee sales in one month substantially increased the incidence and intensity of the civil war in coffee-intensive areas the next month.” Poverty lowered the opportunity costs of participating in rebellions, which increased violence and rebel recruitment in the village. The micro-level approach shows how decreased rainfall generated decreased agricultural wealth, which lowered the risk to the village of violence with other villages, for instance through looting and stealing (often itself intended to compensate for poverty). The second important micro-level lens is the individual level. A survey of 2,980 ex-combatants in Burundi found that individual fighters “expected emotional benefits played a significant role in convincing individuals to join the rebels,” and that 65 percent of Burundi ex-rebels stated one primary reason for fighting was wish that “they might play a pivotal role in winning the conflict


columbia political review :: summer 2015 for their side and helping rebuild their country,” according to Gwendolyn Taylor’s 2010 dissertation Choosing to Fight. In fact, many fighters believed they had no other way to establish a stable system, and “thought it worthwhile to fight for a meritocratic system.” This is also supported by the fact that, when the war ended, the establishment of elections gave individuals more peaceful opportunities to create change and express individual political desires in non-violent ways. Another important factor at the individual level was the desire for camaraderie. Taylor’s surveys revealed that participation in war among boys was “almost entirely volunteered,” so much so that “the fundamental building blocks of the rebellion were friendship groups among Hutu boys and young men.” In one interview, report-

“Interviews and surveys with individuals not only uncovered a myriad of personal motivating factors, but also supplied stories and specific examples to accompany the data.” ed in Cyrus Samii’s Journal of Peace report, an 11-year old boy shared a heart-wrenching story: after his parents and siblings were killed, the boy said, “I found myself completely alone, but my new family took me in,” referring to the FNL as his new family. Many more displaced individuals yearned for a sense of belonging and joined rebel groups due to these higher-level concepts. Weinstein offers two organizational strategies, opportunistic and activist, to explain how individual desires led to large scale violence. In Burundi, since many of the fighters came from above-average incomes and education levels, rebel leaders utilized “activist” strategies to recruit young men and boys. In fact, in the rebel group CNNFDD, Taylor argues that “individual fighters were, on average, more educated” and thus were drawn to non-material goals. One such “activist” strategy for non-material promises was elites’ strategic manipulation of identity. Burundi rebel elites acted as ethnic entrepreneurs to create a higher purpose for

the war through and used identity as a rhetorical tool to rally support, much as did the elites in Côte d’Ivoire. In response, followers followed because of their individual desires for belonging. In particular, boys and young men were, as Samii puts it, “enticed by the concept of solidarity among members of a shared ethnic group.” Even for the army (FAB), Taylor’s surveys found that “very few individuals believed that the FAB would give cash to individuals who joined,” and therefore joined not because of material benefits but because of higher-level promises. Through strategic manipulation of identity, elite leaders of both the FAB and rebel groups such as the FNL gave individuals a higher-level purpose, and individuals followed because of their desire for change and community, therefore perpetuating violence and prolonging war. These interactions were further reinforced by alliances, which Kalyvas defines as mutually beneficial links between local and supralocal levels. For Burundi’s civil war, the mobilization process of the one of the largest rebel organizations, the CNN-FDD, consisted of a local “mobilization officer” who collaborated with an “intelligence network” that not only included mobilization officers from other communities, but national coordinators. While local leaders promoted their local agendas by receiving “external muscle” in weapons, prestige, and local power from national elites, in return national rebel leaders increased their own chances for achieving national power by growing their rebel forces and support base. Hence local dynamics existed independently from national dynamics, and in fact fueled national cleavages. National elite leaders acted as ethnic entrepreneurs, and employed topdown strategies of mobilization. In attempting to understand why followers followed, analyses at the individual level revealed that desires for making a difference and yearnings for camaraderie drove individuals to believe these “activist” strategies. Furthermore, interactions between the different levels complicated the conflict and prolonged violence. This illustrates how bottom up and top down forces worked together to perpetuate violence in Burundi’s civil war. One strength of the micro-level approach is its ability to explain causal

columbia political review :: summer 2015 mechanisms. While the macro-level CH combined model simply notices correlations between the onset of violence and factors such as ethnic dominance, low costs of rebellion, or social cohesion, micro-level lenses show the steps through which an observed cause leads to the observed outcome. A second strength of the micro-level approach is its production of more accurate data and in-depth analyses. Macro-level analyses through the CH model used national statistics of poverty such as GDP, which overlooked the inter-village differences in income. In fact, the CH model concluded that “poverty affects Hutus and Tutsis equally” since the distribution of land was “not significantly different between Hutu and Tutsi landowners,” according to Ngaruko and Nkurunziza’s 2000 Journal of African Economies article. However, a closer examination reveals that there indeed were land differences, based on rainfall patterns and varying coffee prices. The CH model’s use of national statistics to assess poverty overlooked variations between villages, and thus did not capture the fact that certain villages were significantly poorer than others, and thus were more likely to fight. In contrast, the micro-level approach provides significantly more accurate information. Individual interviews are the most granular and direct sources of information. Furthermore, interviews and surveys with individuals not only uncovered a myriad of personal motivating factors, but also supplied stories and specific examples to accompany the data. A third strength of the micro-level approach is that it often dispels primordialist assumptions. The CH model for Burundi suggests a primordialist reading of violence, by claiming that Hutu-Tutsi fighting in neighboring Rwanda somehow sparked ethnic hatred in Burundi. This implies, without providing due evidence, that, since two groups fought with each other in one country, these groups naturally fought with each other in other countries. Micro-level analyses counter the primordialist reading by showing that identities are flexible and can vary by context and situation. These analyses utilize more constructivist understandings that identities are malleable, can change over time, and that different aspects of one’s identity can be emphasized depending on surrounding envi-

ronmental factors. For instance, if individuals yearn for a sense of belonging, they are often willing to change groups to fulfill that desire. Micro-level lenses counter the danger of an incorrect primordialist reading. A weakness in the micro-level approach is its difficulties with data collection. It requires immense human resources: language training for interviewers to converse more naturally with civilians, financial resources to distribute materials to multiple provinces, households, and individuals, and time to aggregate complex data and analyze information. A second weakness in the micro-level approach is its challenging policy implications. In high-pressure situations, legislators and decision-makers don’t have the time or energy to fully understand

“Decision-makers oftentimes prefer top-down methods and national lenses that present clear, if oversimplified, conceptualizations of conflict.” the complexity of local dynamics and smaller-scale conflicts. Instead, decision-makers oftentimes prefer topdown methods and national lenses that present clear, if oversimplified, conceptualizations of conflict. While a weakness of micro-level approaches is its challenging application to policy, micro-level understandings are critical for future policy reforms to encourage more sustainable peace. For instance, Séverine Autesserre argues, in her 2010 book The Trouble with the Congo, that the bureaucratic culture of key international organizations push decision-makers to prefer national-level solutions, and that these top-down initiatives for post-conflict peacebuilding often fail to address the root causes of conflict. Therefore, though the applicability to policy of micro-level lenses is often complex or unclear, it is crucial that policymakers to embrace this challenge to build sustainable peace. A third weakness is that micro-level explanations may be confusing for the lay reader. Persons unfamiliar with Burundi’s civil war may be “bogged

cover story down” by such small-scale and minute details, and may erroneously assume that all instances of local violence are absolutely unrelated and distinct from each other since they are driven by only local factors. Therefore, over-exaggerating the micro-level approach would confuse lay readers by ignoring overarching patterns that connect seemingly separate acts of violence. To understand the onset and perpetuation of violence in Burundi’s 12-year civil war, both macro- and micro-level explanations must be used. The CH model’s top-down conceptualization of the main cleavage between Hutus and Tutsis must be complemented with micro-level explanations, which reveal that economic factors were crucial in fueling violence at the village level, while grievance-based explanations were more prevalent at the individual level. Local acts of violence were not mere extensions of the major cleavage, but interacted with top-down dynamics and independently fueled conflict. Future research should examine the weight of micro-level vs. macro-level lenses. The answers may have important implications for creating peace. The cases of Burundi and Côte d’Ivoire reveal how political analyses and subsequent conclusions are contingent upon the level of examination one employs. Top-down analyses that first investigate national-level tensions may be sufficient in some cases. However, many others require bottom-up, grassroots-level explorations. Any understanding of Burundi’s civil war, for instance, would be inadequate without this second direction of analysis. This research reveals that academics and policy-makers must be flexible, employing different analytical tools to fit different occasions and understanding different directions of causes of violence, whether bottom-up, top-down, or both. Only then is it possible to craft efficient solutions that truly address the sources of civil violence. • Angel Wang is a junior at Columbia University studying political science, human rights, and business. She is the founder of Empowering Youth in Politics, the President of Barnard-Columbia Design for America, and a Resident Adviser in the Special Interest Communities. She can be reached at:


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Identity Theft?

columbia political review :: summer 2015

Conversations on Ukraine

Interview with Alexander J. Motyl

By Andrew Pasquier

Alexander J. Motyl is a Ukrainian-American historian, political scientist, poet, writer, translator and artist. He is a professor of political science at Rutgers University and specializes in the history of Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR. His recent piece “Is Russia Artificial?” published last November in the Foreign Policy Journal, responds to statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine’s historical artificiality—an interpretation that Putin uses as justification for the seizure of Crimea and ongoing conflict. He writes “The fact is that the Russian state is completely artificial, while the Russian nation is completely fragmented. Both are historically contingent. They’re as real—or unreal—as any non-Russian nation or state or as any recently constructed post-colonial state.” Referencing many historical examples of the composite nature of Russia as the nation grew from the Medieval Grand Duchy of Muskovy to the current Federation, Motyl makes a bold argument on the artificiality of Russia and the hypocrisy of Putin’s claims.

AP: In what key historical examples do you base your assertion that Russia, in addition to Ukraine, is an artificial state? AJM: Every state is artificial, in the sense that every state—from ancient Athens to the USA—is a human construction. Moreover, every state—with the exception of a few small island polities—consists of disparate regions, disparate economies, and disparate populations. No boundaries have ever been historically fixed or predetermined; they always ebb and flow through time. Being so enormous, Russia is especially “artificial,” consisting of hugely disparate regions, economies, and populations, and having emerged as a result of imperial expansion over centuries. Ukraine is actually “less” artificial, inasmuch as it incorporates territories that were overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Ukrainians in the early 20th century. By definition, all empires, such as Russia and the Ottoman, British, Spanish, Portuguese, or French empires, are “more” artificial than non-imperial states, such as Ukraine. AP: Russia may be an “artificial” state, but a sovereign political entity called Russia has existed for centuries. The territorial entity of Ukraine, though, has only existed in its current form since the creation of the Soviet Republic in 1922. Should this difference in historical time affect how the artificiality of each state is understood? AJM: The length of time a state has existed may say something about its stability, but it has nothing to do with its artificiality or “naturalness.” If anything, the fact that the size of “Russia” changed continually over centuries could be said to demonstrate that there is nothing stable about something called “Russia,” and that “Russia” is,


in fact, a fluid, unstable, and utterly artificial historical entity. After all, where would one locate “Russia”? In the area around Moscow? Novgorod? In the area east of the Baltic and north of Ukraine? West of the Urals? East of the Urals, and if so, how far east? Including the North Caucasus? Including Central Asia? Some of the above? All of the above? AP: What about the principle of self-determination? How should the dual move over the last century towards the stasis of international borders under the UN system, and the rise of ethnic homelands following the breakup of empires be understood in relation to the Ukrainian conflict and arguments of self-determination in Crimea? AJM: The USSR was the world’s last empire, and its end in 1989-1991 was a classic instance of imperial “collapse”— the sudden, rapid, and comprehensive dismantling of the imperial system. Ukraine, like the other non-Russian states, was thus a Russian colony that became independent largely because the USSR fell apart into its constituent units. Ukraine’s post-independence attempt at state-building, like the attempts of the other non-Russians, is identical to the state building efforts of former British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese colonies after World War II—and suffers from all the pathologies and difficulties of building states in former colonies still dominated by former imperial metropoles. Although some Ukrainians invoked the right to self-determination before the USSR collapsed, that right, and its practical application, had little or nothing to do with the actual emergence of an independent Ukraine and the other non-Russian states. The USSR, like all other empires, fell apart as a result of its own internal weaknesses. In some

empires, lost wars serve as triggers or accelerators. No such war brought down the USSR. Indeed, if anything served as a trigger, it was Mikhail Gorbachev and his policy of perestroika. Former empires that experience collapse often try to reestablish their empires. That happened in Germany after the Reich collapsed in World War I; that is currently happening in Russia. Unsurprisingly, both Nazi Germany and Putin’s Russia invoked the right of nations to self-determination in their seizures of territory—Austria and the Sudetenland, the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. In fact, they were reviving empires. Both Nazi Germany and Putin’s Russia also claimed that their ethnic brethren were being cruelly oppressed in Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, whereas the exact opposite was true. Czechoslovakia was Eastern Europe’s only functioning democracy, while eastern Ukraine’s Donbas and the Crimea enjoyed de facto or de jure autonomy with all possible rights for the use and development of Russian language and culture. AP: How do you see Putin’s ethnic justifications for seizing Crimea influencing ethnic nationalist movements in other regions of the Russian Federation? AJM: In invoking self-determination and challenging existing state boundaries, Putin has triggered a time bomb that will ultimately destroy the “artificial” Russian state. After all, the country that is most vulnerable to boundary challenges and claims of self-determination is the world’s largest, and most artificial, state—Russia. Unfortunately, as with Nazi Germany, the ultimate decline and possible collapse of Russia will be accompanied by enormous bloodshed within Russia and between Russia and its neighbors.•

columbia political review :: summer 2015

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Despite falling out of the headlines of many Western news sources, the bloody conflict in Eastern Ukraine is ongoing. This feature of two interviews and a personal piece look to explore deeper questions of Ukrainian national identity and how it relates to Russia, the West, and the politics—both cultural and strategic—of the current conflict.

by the Russian Tsars


by Lenin


by Stalin

1939, 1945

Ukrainian Territory


Historical Map of


territories annexed, when and by whom)

by Khrushchev


Interview with Yuri Shevchuk AP: How do you believe videos, the Internet, and other new media have influenced the coverage of the Ukrainian conflict? YS: Well, number 1, you mean coverage in the West. This is probably the first time a big social upheaval in the center of Kiev has been live-streamed to the West. And for the first time it became a very effective tool for countering the huge propagandistic machine that Russia has deployed against Ukraine. Russia had to convince their own public opinion, Ukrainian public opinion, and world public opinion that what they are dealing with in Ukraine are Nazis, right-wing anti-Semites, Russophobes—anything but a people who rose up en masse to defend their human rights. For the first time the

Kremlin had difficulties transmitting that message because people actually located in the Maidan Square in Kiev were able to live-stream eye-witness accounts of what was going on…exposing how many “Nazis” were in the Maidan versus how many common Ukrainian people you could easily identify with. The role of easily available tools of video streaming can not be overestimated—it was huge—setting a new paradigm for the entire conversation. The matter of fact is that those people in the street were basically going against a repressive apparatus of a repressive puppet government, openly supported by Russia, with their bare hands, and they could hardly win other than by mobilizing others in the provinces, as well as world public opinion, without these new media technologies.

AP: In what ways are the shared identities of Russia and Ukraine portrayed in film? How do directors and screenwriters deal with questions of Ukrainian identity? YS: In the strict sense of the word, we don’t have a Ukrainian national film. We don’t have what other national films do in respect to their cultural and political communities, namely being a reflection of their identity: what they think they are, what they want to be, how they view themselves, their culture, their language, their history, their past, their commonly shared experience, and how they relate to others. Using that understanding of a national film, Ukrainian national film doesn’t even exist. What exists is basically the inertia of Soviet informed, colo-


cover story nial representation of Ukrainian-ness which is completely distorted. What we have seen over the 24 plus years of Ukrainian independence is basically the kind of a Ukrainian identity that says that you can be Ukrainian without actually feeling part of your people, without speaking their language, without knowing their culture, their literature, or their historical experience. It is simply a parody of the distorted image of Ukrainian-ness from Russian and Soviet propaganda: namely, that Ukrainians are a lesser version of great Russia, they all are dying to be Russian, that the kind of language they are speaking is not really a language and is instead a dialect, funny distortion of the great Russian language. Ukrainians are chaotic; they sing, they dance, and they drink vodka. They are inherently incapable of ruling themselves. That kind of an identity was instilled in generations of Ukrainians to the effect that a young person finding themselves born in Ukraine would want to have nothing to do with that kind of identity. He would want to be Russian because Russian is modern, and Ukrainian is provincial. Russian is cosmopolitan, and Ukrainian is narrow-minded. Recently, a Ukrainian television station produced a brand new series called “The Last Muscovite.” It is billed as a “fine Ukrainian patriotic series.” It’s about a painfully modern and cool young Russian from Moscow fleeing to the Carpathian region in Ukraine from some Moscow mafia and he finds himself surrounded by these Ukrainian “savages.” They are all nitwits. They are all invariably dumb, thick, funny, and anything they do is infantile. The Ukrainian cultural sphere and information space are solidly dominated by Russian interests. Major television channels and production studios are run by people who sympathize with the Kremlin and therefore these types of shows are the kind of cultural product they produce. In Ukraine, the free paper on the metro in Kiev called Vesti (New) is in the Russian Language only and expresses Russian imperialist points of view. Nobody does anything about that. No one does anything about Russian propagandistic films being broadcast with no competition from other foreign or Ukrainian productions. If Ukrainians have no money to produce their own films, they could use American films, Bulgarian films,


columbia political review :: summer 2015 or anything! Just dub them over into Ukrainian. So people in Ukraine are left with no choice; they are offered almost exclusively the cultural product that peddles Kremlin’s message, variously packaged, but invariably anti-Ukrainian. Where language is concerned, Ukraine has something that no other modern country, to my knowledge, practices. They deliberately and consistently mix two languages in all television and radio broadcasts, so that a Ukrainian who wants their children to learn Ukrainian can’t do that because you always hear, at the same time, Ukrainian and Russian. Russian: refined, nice, educated; Ukrainian: uneducated, translated, stilted. You can tell that the TV anchor who is speaking such “Ukrainian” on air is frantically translating from Russian because that’s their mother tongue. So you end up with the entire country of 44 million people viewing their language as some sort of auxiliary or add-on attachment to the great powerful Russian language. As someone who teaches Ukrainian to American students, I am hard pressed to recommend to a student a speech sample or a television program that is only in Ukrainian because there are no such things. Over a stretch of time of 5 minutes you will hear Ukrainian and Russian together—it’s absolutely schizophrenic. Any kind of national identity creation in the arts is made impossible. This is how “shared Ukrainian identity with Russia” occurs: it’s the kind of identity that Ukrainians are compelled to share with Russians. […] This is so called asymmetric linguistic dualism, whereby every Ukrainian speaker can and does speak Russian, whereas ninety-plus percent of Russian-speakers cannot and will not speak Ukrainian. It’s a colonial relationship and in the cultural sphere nothing has changed. So the situation is very interesting—there is real war going on with people being killed, and in this sphere the frontlines are distinct and clear but in the cultural war there is no telling who is on which side: they use labels like “truly patriotic Ukrainian series” behind which they propound patently racist views of Ukrainians. AP: Do you believe there has been a shift in orientation and focus in the filmmaking and larger art community in Ukraine away from Russian influ-

ences to more Western European and American ones? YS: Yes and no. There are films that are dying to be, or to feel at one with, the rest of the world or to treat their own identities and communities the way American film treats Americans, French the French, and so on. The matter of language is an entirely different matter. Most Ukrainian filmmakers feel noticeably uncomfortable […] with Ukrainian, because they don’t know it. So they choose either Russian or Surzhyk—the macaronic mixture of two that you hear spoken in the streets and aggressively promoted on TV. Their justification is that “this is people’s reality, I can’t construct something that doesn’t exist in real life, I have to reflect facts on the ground.” It means that there is very little film created in the standard Ukrainian language. This one film called Tribe, though, does something brilliant. It’s about a mute and deaf boarding school so there is no talking. The film is very well-done (it was shown at MoMA) but it also reflects the predicament facing Ukrainian filmmakers to answer questions about whether what they are doing fits into their sense of Ukrainian identity, about why someone should make a Ukrainian film instead of a Russian one, and about why a Ukrainian film is not simply a bad knock-off of what is Russian. So to say that no, there has not been a shift in orientation in the filmmaking and larger art community in Ukraine away from purely Russian to more diverse Western influences would not be correct. Despite the puny budgeting that is available, there still are rays of Ukrainian cinematographic self-expression that reaches the public, but the majority of the television stations with the greatest amount of money still produce the cultural product that is more reflective of Russia, its culture, and identity to the exclusion of Ukrainian culture and identity. •

Prof. Yuri Shevchuk is a lecturer in the Columbia University Department of Slavic Languages and the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies, specializing in Ukrainian language and culture. He is founder and director of the Ukrainian Film Club at Columbia University.

columbia political review :: summer 2015

Student Voice: Koryana Melesh


recently sat in Professor Richard Betts’ lecture in his “War, Peace and Strategy” class and was astonished by one the statements he made: “Wars are not started by those who invade, but by those who are invaded.” It is the act of responding to an outside aggressor that marks the beginning of a war, which directly explains the current events in my home country, Ukraine: the annexation of Crimea, followed by Russia’s invasion. I was born in L’viv in 1990, one year before the Soviet Union collapsed, in a city that was and arguably still is the core of the Ukrainian language and culture. I moved to Kyiv at the age of five. At that time, Kyiv had only been capital of the new independent Ukraine for four years—a country that many people didn’t very much identify with yet. Eighty years of oppression had been aimed against anyone opposing the government and quelled any cultural identity that wasn’t Russian. In one example, the 1932 genocide in Ukraine, my grandfather who was then sevenyears-old lost nine of his siblings who starved to death in a year-long campaign by Stalin that saw nearly ten million people killed, and to this day isn’t acknowledged by Russia. Today, though, a whole generation in Russia and Ukraine exists that no longer remembers the tyranny, the genocides and “trips” to Siberia—forgetting their forefathers whose identity was forged through fear and repression by the Russian State. Back then, my family and I could be recognized as outsiders by one key feature—we spoke Ukrainian, and the treatment we received was shocking. The assumption was that we came from Western Ukraine and that we must be poor. The challenges I faced were difficult to deal with, especially at the age of seven when you begin to almost feel humiliated for not blending in with your peers. It was a big change when, at the age of eleven, I moved to Vienna, Austria and began

attending an American International School there. In some ways it was harder than in Ukraine, as I had to adjust to the larger Austrian culture and the American and international culture within the school. Who I am today is a result of these experiences. I am a person who identifies with many different cultures and feels at home in three different cities, but no one place in particular. They call people like me “third-culture kids.” For better or worse, living abroad has made me immune to the Russian propaganda at home and gave me a fresh outlook on the situation. In the meantime, Ukraine has gone through two revolutionary waves– the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, a revolution that arguably is not over yet. And I was there for both of them. In 2004, in Kyiv, the atmosphere was different from even back in 2001 when I left the country. People were different. There was hope in the air, for the first time since possibly the 1940s could you see a person holding up a Ukrainian flag, and you could see pride in her eyes. It was truly magical. And here’s why: Ukrainian identity was beginning to find its roots in society. The revolution ended in what seemed to be a success at the time, but now is seen to have given the country no real progress. That is why the Revolution of Dignity is so important; it’s not even a revolution you can put a date on. It has begun, but it hasn’t yet finished. It is not about the EU, Russia or the United States. It is in a way about them all, but at the same time isn’t about none of them. It is about a way of thinking, it is about forging a new identity and one that is truly Ukrainian. If identity is born when we begin to define what we are not, to understand what we are, then that is what I think was and is taking place in Ukraine. And a Ukrainian identity is not one that speaks only Ukrainian or goes to Church. It is Christian and Jewish, it speaks Ukrainian and Russian, and it believes truly in freedom—political and personal. Freedom to believe, freedom to choose, freedom to travel, freedom to speak and freedom to think. And that is why this revolution is remarkably different from any other. It was not divisive in any way; on

cover story the contrary, it united a country that might have been more divided than even I could see. It united the country under one flag and with a belief that seems in the present-day largely Western European and American, and extremely anti-Russian. That is why it has come to be called a Revolution of Dignity, because it is dignity that has been denied to us for so long by Russia. Dignity of simple things: the ability to speak your language, believe not in Lenin but in God, and the dignity of being recognized as a individual with his or her own ideas, beliefs and identity. The only reason it is anti-Russian is because both the Russian government and its people have a strong belief in freedom being defined in a very fluid way: either it isn’t spoken of or it is merely granted, by Lenin, Stalin, or Putin. No reason to even talk about it or mention it. Talk of personal freedoms and human rights in the Soviet Union and Russia today is viewed by the majority as nothing more than a corruption of the Russian blood by evil American propaganda. So for Russia to say Ukraine’s revolution is the work of the CIA, and for the West to try understanding the Russian side, with typical remarks like “the Cold War is over, we can’t act as if Russia is evil” is to, in effect, deny the Ukrainian people the dignity to choose their own path. It is to say that some people deserve freedom less than you do, and there is no other side to this story. The Cold War in its actual definition might be over, but there surely is another war going on. It is taking place in people’s minds and it is a war of ideas. It might have been Russia that sent its tanks and soldiers, but it began with us, when we chose freedom over repression and dignity over subordination. • Zoryana Melesh is a senior in GS majoring in Political Science. She is the current president of Ukrainian Students Society at Columbia University and will be starting at SIPA this coming fall concentrating in International Economic Policy and International Security Policy. Her interests include American and international law, political theory, economics and security policy. 23

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columbia political review :: summer 2015

A Fatal Feud

The Colonial Roots of Kenya’s 2007 Post-Election Violence

By Edna Simbi


ince its independence in 1963, Kenya has been hailed as an island of peace and stability within Africa. It therefore came as a surprise to the international community when violence rocked the country starting December 28, 2007, barely twenty-four hours after the conclusion of a highly contested presidential election. Since independence, Kenya had been largely peaceful, so what could have caused the 2007 post-election violence? This violence is significant because it is representative of the opinions of broader groups of people, and increasing instances of dissension post-2007 seem to have the potential to foment future violence. On December 30, 2007, the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced the results of a highly-contested presidential election. During the election, two major tribes—the Kikuyu, led by Mwai Kibaki, and the Luo, led by Raila Odinga—accused each other of electoral fraud. Immediately after the announcement of the results, Kibaki was hastily sworn into office in a secret ceremony. The ceremony aired on the state-owned television station was comical. Guests could be seen scuttling across the manicured lawns as they were hastily summoned, the state band did not play the national anthem since there was no time to call them, and the entire ceremony was over within minutes. Violent protests, lootings, and killings rocked the country soon after. The international community intervened swiftly because they feared a recurrence of genocide, especially in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the 2003 genocide in Darfur. Kofi Annan, then-Secretary General 24

of the United Nations flew into the country and successfully negotiated a power-sharing deal between the two leaders. However, before the two leaders agreed to share power, more than 1,500 people were killed, nearly 600,000 were displaced, and millions of dollars in damages and lost revenue were reported. Yet, in forcing the two leaders to sign a peace sharing deal and stop their supporters from further killings, the international community failed to acknowledge the simmering tensions that lay beneath a thin veneer of democracy. Kenya’s new democracy, after only forty-four years of independence, was too fragile and the violence was facilitated by identity politics and elite instrumentalization, all of which were legacies of colonialism. The differences in the level of participation between the different ethnic groups emerged due to grievances

“Kenya’s colonial history gave rise to a form of ethnic nationalism that was accentuated by the fear that different ethnic tribes aroused in each other.” that the two dominant communities held against each other. Even though Kenya has forty-two tribes, the violence was mostly between the two dominant tribes, the Kikuyu and the Luo. These two communities shared generational political dynasties that were simultaneously cooperative and

competitive. While the causes of the Kenyan post-election violence cannot be attributed to a single factor, a main cause was the ethnic tensions that have been long simmering between these two dominant tribes. Kenya’s colonial history gave rise to a form of ethnic nationalism that was accentuated by the fear that different ethnic tribes aroused in each other. These differences started with the two founding fathers: Jomo Kenyatta, who was Kikuyu, and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a Luo, who was Kenyatta’s vice president and later, his political rival. The two dominant tribal dynasties led by Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga, distrusted and feared each other, with Oginga Odinga and his tribe feeling deprived of political leadership, while Kenyatta and his tribe feared power being taken away from them. These tensions were created by colonial legacies exploited by the tribal leaders to further attract followers. In Kenya, elite instrumentalization, where what seemed like competitive politics was in fact an insidious power struggle, was therefore paramount in rallying supporters around their strategic interests. The Kenyan masses were pawns in an elite struggle for raw state power. The two parties set groups against each other in 2007 by emphasizing post-independence political animosity and ancient hatred between their founding fathers to mobilize support among their respective followers. Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga were bitter political rivals with conflicting ideological goals. The Kikuyu felt that the presidency was theirs by right: after all, it was the Kikuyu who led the Mau Mau Rebellion that had assured Kenya’s independence. This in turn created tension among the Luo, who were

columbia political review :: summer 2015

excluded from political leadership. Some Kikuyu leaders used political rallies as a platform to mobilize support. The Luo in turn reacted by constructing stereotypes of the Kikuyu that characterized them as inhuman killing machines in order to justify the violence against them. However, aiding these tensions were colonial legacies that existed during Kenya’s colonial and post-colonial history. Kenya’s colonial history gave rise to a form of ethnic nationalism that was accentuated by the fear that different ethnic tribes aroused in each other. The British colonial regime promoted ethnic discrimination to deflect anger from the colonial administration by creating the idea of “others.” When Kenya became independent in 1963, these identities took on a more sinister dimension, where instances of bias and prejudice resulted in the government giving preferential treatment to districts and peoples through the inherited indirect rule that gave tribal chiefs power. Mahmood Mamdani, the former Director of the Institute for African Studies at

Columbia University, refers to this form of indirect rule as “decentralized despotism,” a form of power that excluded “others.” The main pillar of colonialism in Kenya started with a complete rebuilding of native local

“A Kenyan is a member of a tribe first and a Kenyan second.” institutions and traditional lifestyles. Colonizers and their administrative bodies designated authority and split it into three branches, administrative, judicial and executive, in order to keep control on people in the area. Each case of resistance among the local chiefs provoked removing the tribal chiefs from office and appointing a new local authority instead. Cooperation and loyalty to the colonizers thus

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became the basis for incentives and rewards. The “divide and rule” policy was used as a point for contradiction and conflicts between tribes with the colonizers invoking their right to protect in order to shield some ethnic groups against others. This was effective in cementing differences between various groups. The history of colonialism shows how manipulation of “more friendly” people was used to conquer “more stubborn” people through divide-and-rule. The exploits of the British colonizers created a distinct ruling class for the convenient and proper regulations used by the colonial government to tear the indigenous communities apart. The Kikuyu elite thus became afraid of losing their power to their traditional rivals. The Kikuyu first felt threatened when Luo members of Parliament started questioning Jomo Kenyatta’s land policies and asking for equitable distribution of Kikuyu-occupied lands. This move by the Luo legislators motivated the Kikuyu elite to maintain power in order to protect 25

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their lands. Leading the pack was Tom Mboya, a savvy Luo politician who was being groomed by the West to be Kenyatta’s successor. However, this ambition was cut short when he was assassinated by a Kikuyu hitman at the behest of the Kenyatta government on July 5, 1969. Three months after he was assassinated, ethnic animosities came to a head when Kenyatta arrived in Oginga Odinga’s home turf to officially open the New Nyanza Provincial Hospital. The local population pelted his motorcade with stones upon his arrival. Kenyatta’s security responded by shooting at the crowd and murdering hundreds of people in what is famously known as the Kisumu Massacre. In retaliation, Oginga 26

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Odinga was jailed, and since then the security dilemma has functioned as a reason to keep the fear spiraling. Even though the Luo were not the only victims of this fear (they imprisoned vocal Kikuyu rebels like Koigi Wa Wamwere), Luos received the brunt of repressive measures enacted in the wake of these events. The measures included establishing a system of registration and surveillance, ordering expulsions, imposing special criminal penalties, financing the dreaded Mungiki sect used to suppress the Luo, excluding Luo people from important political functions, sequestering and confiscating goods, and subtly discouraging Luo residence in Kikuyu strongholds. The

dominant Kikuyu elite have thus used violence as a means of coercive discipline. The Luo, however, also had a role in the violence. They constantly clamored for a power they once held generations past. Most of the Luo felt the presidency was theirs by right, and they had temporarily “loaned” it to the Kikuyu who were now unwilling to give it back. A Kenyan is a member of a tribe first and a Kenyan second. The systematic structural and institutional exclusion of Luos from politics created a festering resentment which manifested itself as violence. The grievances that the Luo emphasized affected all facets of life. Economically, there was a disparity in levels of development because compared to the lush, fertile, and highly developed Central Province of the Kiyuku, Nyanza Province was seriously underdeveloped. This economic inequality was exacerbated by the social grievances taking the form of ethnic exclusion in terms of government jobs, and politically, the Luo became bitter about perceived chronic betrayal by the Kikuyu. Even though Tom Mboya was assassinated in 1969, when the violence broke out in 2007, his son Lucas Mboya made the following statement: “My goal is to first get Kenyans to understand that I believe my father’s death was the point in Kenya’s history that the two most influential tribes parted, both publicly and permanently and this acrimony has been the root cause of most of the political problems Kenya has had to date.” Kenyan politics is not about policies, but about tribes, communities, and individuals. • Edna Simbi is a dual degree major, studying Political Science at Columbia University, School of General Studies and pursuing a Masters degree in International Security Policy at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). She is an aspiring diplomat. She can be reached at:

columbia political review :: summer 2015


A(s)Sad Situation

The Brazen Violation of Medical Neutrality in Syria

By Sasha Zients and Dylan Okabe-Jawdat


yria is the most dangerous place in the world to be a doctor,” claims a recent report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that compiled the findings of dozens of interviews with medical professionals in Syria. Doctor Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, summarized this danger in the following statement: “What we are witnessing [in the Syrian conflict are] the systematic and deliberate attacks on medical professionals by the government. Doctors are harassed, detained, tortured and killed just because they are performing their humanitarian and professional duties.” Clearly, Syrian civilians are not the only victims of the Syrian conflict, and as Dr. Sahloul illustrates, medical practitioners have been the tragic target of frequent attack. Though there are few substantiated figures that illustrate the civilian death toll since the beginning of the conflict, mainstream media outlets report that as of 2014, over 3,500 children have died as a direct result of the conflict in Syria. Before the start of the Syrian Uprising, the nation’s health care was well regarded in the Arab world, and the population had an average life expectancy of 76 years. The average citizen today is expected to live until 55. Caught in the crossfire of a violent conflict between the Syrian government, opposition forces, and the Islamic State, medical professionals fill a crucial humanitarian role that is more challenging than ever before. While the political and geostrategic interests of parties in the Syrian conflict certainly underlie the violence in Syria, this paper does not seek to address the complex dynamics between the Assad regime, oppo-

sition groups, and the Islamic State, which have dominated coverage in the mainstream media. Rather, the goal of this paper is to critically examine the Syrian regime’s violations of medical neutrality since the start of the conflict in March 2011. Both within the United States and at the international level, efforts have been made to uphold the principle of medical neutrality. The principle of medical neutrality originates from the Geneva Convention of 1864, during which leaders of twelve Euro-

“Violations of medical neutrality constitute a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Yet as an international norm, the principle has had minimal influence mitigating violence in the Syrian Conflict.” pean countries convened to recognize the neutrality of medical personnel during wartime, as well as to establish neutrality for hospitals and ambulances marked with the sign of the recently established Red Cross. Article Five of the first Geneva Convention extends the right of neutrality to any “inhabitant of a country” who offers medical assistance or shelter to a wounded combatant. Three subsequent Geneva Conventions followed the Convention in 1864, expanding upon the doctrine of humanitarian protection. Today, violations of medical neutrality constitute a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Yet, as an

international norm, the principle has had minimal influence mitigating violence in the Syrian conflict. The presumption that it is upheld in all conflicts likely explains why conversations about medical neutrality violations have not been at the forefront of media coverage, relative to other debates surrounding the Syrian conflict—the debate on the use of chemical weapons being one example. The repeated violation of medical neutrality in the Syrian conflict evokes pressing concerns about the utility of international intervention. On the international stage, beyond the legal precedent of medical neutrality established in the first Geneva Convention, several international nonprofit organizations and transnational advocacy networks have made efforts to uphold medical neutrality. For medical workers in Syria, the constraints of overcrowded and understaffed hospitals compound the stress of near-constant threats of violence, overwhelmingly from the Syrian regime. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a nonprofit advocacy organization that is committed to mobilizing health professionals and the public for the protection of human rights, released a report in March 2015 that documented the killing of 610 physicians in Syria since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), has been similarly active in working to realize the Geneva Convention’s vision of medical neutrality. By highlighting the systematic bombing of hospitals and destruction of ambulances, Human Rights Watch has also drawn attention to blatant transgressions of medical neutrality in Syria. In the United States, members of Congress have made legislative 27

features efforts to hold other nations accountable for maintaining medical neutrality. The Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011, introduced to the United States Congress by Representative Jim McDermott (DWA), requires that the United States Secretary of State annually update a list of foreign governments that have engaged in violations of medical neutrality and formally notify each government implicated. In the bill, violations of medical neutrality are thoroughly defined, including (but not limited to) militarized attacks on health care facilities, providers, or individuals in the course of receiving medical treatment and destruction of medical supplies. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and paramedics are among the many kinds of medical practitioners who may even face greater risk than Syrian civilians because of the nature of their profession. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report that substantiated the anecdotal evidence of the violent targeting of medical practitioners. According to the report, the breaches of medical neutrality in Syria have reached alarming levels, most notably through the targeting of medical personnel and hospitals as a “tactic of war [for] military objectives.” Yarmouk, a besieged, unofficial Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, has recently been the site of violations of medical neutrality by both Islamic State and Syrian regime forces. Though the report from OHCHR indicates that hospitals in Yarmouk camp were shelled in 2012, the Syrian government is also guilty of violating medical neutrality by less immediately violent means. For instance, the OHCHR report claims that the regime is guilty of denial of medical access to civilians on the basis of “real or perceived political and sectarian grounds.” The siege of Yarmouk has also resulted in deplorable living conditions for the 18,000 residents, causing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to de28

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scribe the city as “the deepest circle of hell.” Both the Islamic State and the Syrian military are responsible for blocking the transmission of vital humanitarian aid, including medical treatment and supplies, to its starving and sick residents. While the prevailing number of attacks against medical practitioners are launched by the Assad regime, Syrian medical staff working in government hospitals also face a fear of abduction by anti-government groups who might consider them to be aiding the enemy and loyal to the state. A search for the hashtag, #DefendDoctors on Twitter reveals a collection of stories of Syrian doctors on a government “wanted list” for providing medical care to patients to any members of regime opposition groups. In other words, medical practitioners face being consistently targeted and scapegoated by both

sides. PHR also claims that of the 610 medical personnel who were killed in the last four years, the Assad regime perpetrated the killings 97 percent of the time. PHR has compiled the attacks against medical personnel in Syria since the start of the Syrian Uprising in 2011. According to PHR, 88 percent of the 233 attacks on hospitals since March 2011 have been made by government forces, using various methods ranging from barrel bombs to arson. Erin Gallagher, Director of Emergency Investigations and Response at PHR, claims that the figures are actually conservative estimates based on verified reports, suggesting that the true mortality rate is much worse. The undeniably systematic targeting of hospitals by government forces is evidenced by reports of particular hospitals that have been repeatedly bombed, as

columbia political review :: summer 2015 well as ones in remote areas with no nearby alternative targets. Furthermore, the hospitals that have suffered the greatest number of attacks have been located within Syrian opposition strongholds, including Rif Damashq, Homs, and Aleppo. Both in anticipation of targeted bombings, as well as due to the scarcity of hospitals, many medical practitioners throughout Syria now operate in field hospitals located in basements, homes, factories, and other hidden facilities where the risk of attack is lower. Shoddily assembled field hospitals lack vital equipment such as CT scanners, intensive care units, and ultrasound machines to carry out the most basic of procedures. The security situation in Syria has eroded so drastically that many residents expect hospitals to be bombarded, and as a result do not seek proper medical treatment. With dwindling numbers of medical professionals still living in Syria, the roles and responsibilities of those who remain in the country have become increasingly onerous. Data from the World Health Organization indicate that before the civil war be, an average of 1.5 physicians served every 1000 people in the national Syrian population. By comparison, a study conducted by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University reports that in 2014, “only 13 surgeons and a total of about 30 doctors serve[d] 300,000 people in Aleppo,” marking a near 150 percent decline in the current density of physicians in Aleppo (what was once the most populous city in Syria). This figure confirms that the constant threat of violence has come at a serious cost to anyone living in Syria: the exodus of medical practitioners from the country. The following accounts shed light on the reality on the ground for doctors and the often overwhelming circumstances in which they operate. A recent op-ed in the New York Times by a Syrian surgeon named Abdel presents a harrowing story of his daily routine as a medical practi-

tioner. Abdel recalls assisting a man whose leg had been severely fractured. The man, along with two other patients, were placed inside of an ambulance to be taken 90 minutes away to the Turkish border at a safe facility that promised better medical care.While they were en route to the border, a barrel bomb landed and detonated next to the ambulance, killing all passengers except for the paramedic. Abdel requested anonymity for the interview, for he, too, is being targeted by the government for the medical services he has offered to the wounded. Another New York Times article in March of 2013 chronicled the experiences of violence and targeted

“The security situation in Syria has eroded so drastically that many residents expect hospitals to be bombarded, and as a result do not seek proper medical treatment.” attacks that practitioners have experienced since the outset of the war. In the article, Aleppo-based urologist, Dr. Yassir Darwish, reports that while imprisoned by the Syrian government, he experienced frequent interrogations involving torture. He was originally arrested for sneaking medicine and treating patients in field clinics. Dr. Hassan Julaq, an orthopedist, reported that torture in a prison in Damascus included being forced to walk constantly bent over, which has resulted in long term back damage. Many detained health workers have similarly reported being tortured by the Syrian secret police force. Yassir and Hassan’s experiences are by no means unusual—they are emblematic of systemic detention and torture of doctors by the Syrian regime.

features Medical practitioners in Syria today are resilient, risking their lives and facing prison, torture and targeted bombings to uphold humanitarian commitments to health care amidst an unbridled civil war and regional conflict. Yet, beyond the media coverage referenced here, the discussion on the violation of medical neutrality in the Syrian conflict is relatively limited. This is not for lack of narratives, as demonstrated by the stories of Abdel and Dr. Darwish presented in the New York Times. Nearly every doctor that remains in Syria today is living under serious threat of sustained violence and persecution. The doctors remaining in Syria are fully aware that their sustained presence maintains the sole means by which civilians can continue to endure unchecked violence. Yet countless practitioners have fled and will continue to do so, as the preservation of their own lives depends on it. •

Sasha Zients is a sophomore at Columbia College majoring in sociology. She is a staff writer for The Columbia Daily Spectator and enjoys volunteering for Peer Health Exchange. In her academic work and outside of the classroom, Sasha is most interested in exploring the power of documenting experiences. She can be reached at: Dylan Okabe-Jawdat is a sophomore in Columbia College studying History and Economics. He is the Syria Conflict Coordinator for STAND, a national advocacy organization that lobbies United States lawmakers for the prevention of mass atrocities and genocidal violence. He has also produced several programs for War News Radio, on subjects ranging from the roots of civil unrest in Sudan to the impact of international sanctions on Iraq’s intellectual class. He can be reached at: 29


columbia political review :: summer 2015

Radio Silence

A Defense of Carmen Aristegui and a Mexican Free Press

By Catalina Piccato “This battle is for the liberty of expression, for the editorial, for the audiences, for the citizens. For the right to say, for the right to listen. It is about resisting the authoritarian gale that has been unleashed in Mexico, not permitting another turn of the screws on that old authoritarian machinery that remains among us…”


armen Aristegui’s resonating and mobilizing message traveled through the airwaves, deep into the homes and consciousnesses of thousands of Mexican listeners. It anticipated the escalation and severity of the forthcoming occurrences in the Mexican media world; what Aristegui described as “an ominous sign of something that we should certainly avoid.” She transmitted a message of non-partisan, universal import: freedom of the press is an assurance of liberty, and certainly something worth fighting for in a democracy in crisis, as Mexico is currently. The morning of March 16th, three days after the country awoke to silence on her channel, her message about the importance of freedom of the press for the future of Mexican democracy seemed prophetic. Carmen Aristegui, considered the most famous newscast journalist in Mexico, once hosted a daily morning radio talk show followed devoutly by millions of middle-class Mexicans. Her personal brand of investigatory journalism was markedly different from the standard of Mexican media: aggressive, probing—if sometimes lacking in reportorial rigor. Though criticized for being hyperbolic and factually unsound, her voice had become an integral and respected part of political dialogue across the country. Her radio show was particularly important within a Mexican society with limited access to the internet and without universal literacy, whose 30

alternate source of news is the pliant duopoly of Televisa and TV Azteca, neither of which provide legitimate news under any standard. Hers was a critical voice in a country where the media too rarely acts as a counterweight to opaque, corrupt, abusive governmental power. She stood as the antithesis of the system she exposed and decried on her show. The famous Mexican historian Karuze refers to her as a “journalist caudillo”—a charismatic, populist leader. Though her cult-like following and fierce conviction made many resent and critique her, Aristegui’s show provided a critical space for political debate within a society oppressed by

“Though her cult-like following and fierce conviction made many resent and critique her, Aristegui’s show provided a critical space for political debate...” a universal lack of transparency and rampant corruption. After being fired from MVS Communications, the media conglomerate that aired her talk show, three days after the transmittal of her prescient message, she became a martyr for press freedom in Mexico. If her views are polarizing and disagreeable, the symbolic weight and magnitude of her dismissal is not: it is reflective of a perverted relationship between the Mexican government and media, and of a Mexico that is feeling, in her words, the “strong authoritarian wind” of a government that seems to have no effective solutions to the problems facing the country—and whose response to

criticism and complaints of the people is to limit freedom of expression and social organization. The silencing of Aristegui by MVS Communications came after the dismissal of two other journalists from Aristegui’s investigatory team. Daniel Lizárraga and Irving Huerta had been fired a week earlier by MVS Radio, which reported that the two were let go for using the company’s logo without permission in support of Méxicoleaks, a whistle-blowing portal created by five Mexican media outlets and two foreign civic groups. Aristegui immediately broadcasted an ultimatum, threatening to resign if the journalists were not reinstated. MVS released a statement two days later terminating its work relationship with Aristegui, claiming that it could not allow one of its employees to “impose conditions and ultimatums on the administration,” and that the newly-enacted set of guidelines, allowing for further interference by the company on the content of its associates’ broadcasting, had been violated by her and her collaborators. This official account is markedly different from Aristegui’s own; she describes “a conjunction of irregularities and reportable situations.” The two reporters who were fired were at the time investigating a property in the municipality of Malinalco, belonging to the Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray – one of the president’s closest advisors – who had acquired it at a lower-than-market value with credit. The house was sold to him by the same contractors that had previously sold President Enrique Peña Nieto’s wife Angélica Rivera a $7 million mansion in exchange for thousands of dollars in government contracts. The property was dubbed “The White House” by Aristegui’s team of investigative reporters who first broke the story. Their investigation provoked one of the most

columbia political review :: summer 2015 significant crises in confidence that any president in Mexico has ever faced, particularly for a government already reeling in the face of public anger over the disappearance of forty-three college students from a rural college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. The investigation of the Malinalco property occurred less than three months before midterm elections, during which Peña Nieto’s party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), will surely struggle. Aristegui’s firing also comes few weeks after Peña Nieto promoted Eduardo Sánchez, a former lawyer for MVS, to be head of government communications. All this led Aristegui to announce in her first press conference since her dismissal that the issue of Méxicoleaks and the company logo was merely a “pretext,” an “artificial conflict…forcibly installed” by external interests. The particular circumstances surrounding Aristegui’s dismissal fit well within the historical context of the relationship between the Mexican government and the media. During the seven-decade rule of PRI until 2000, Mexico had truly no free press. Media outlets existed under the shadow of state censorship. Political analysts in Mexico have said that in the face of the recent crises, Peña Nieto’s government has been trying to restore some of the old forms of control over the media, harking back to the days when nobody dared to investigate the president or his ministers. Instances of journalistic repression by the PRI include the closing of the 1920s magazine Hoy after publishing photographs of then-President Lazaro Cardenas wearing a bathing suit, the closing of the newspaper El Diario de Mexico after mistakenly printing a photograph of then-president Diaz Ordaz next to a shot of monkeys at the zoo, and most famously the coup d’etat within the Excelsior corporation against director Julio Scherer orchestrated by the Echeveria administration of 1970-76. Scherer had been the only editor of a major Mexican media news corporations to report critically on the role of the Mexican government during the famous October 2nd student massacre in Tlatelolco, for which he was quickly fired from his role. Aristegui herself made reference to this incident during her

most recent press conference at the Museum of Memory in Mexico City, stating, “Mexico is not in a position to be accepting Echeverristic practices—for we believe that such a thing is possible.” Market liberalization, the economic crises, and the stagnation of the PRI regime during the 1990s all helped to loosen state control over Mexico’s media. But now, it seems that once again a journalist has come too close for comfort to the President of the Republic. Peña Nieto’s government has emphatically denied any role in MVS’s decision to terminate Aristegui’s contract. The Interior Ministry issued the following statement: “The government has respected the exercise of critical and professional journalism and will continue to do so with the conviction that the plurality of opinions is indispensable for the strengthening of democratic life in the country.” This official communication is not merely an inadequate response to the obvious questions concerning the role of the administration in Aristegui’s dismissal. It is a perverted account of the Mexican State’s regard for investigative journalism of any sort. A brief survey of the history of

features the relationship between this president’s party and the media is enough to prove the statement insulting in its blatant falsity. The words are a direct affront to the hundreds of journalists, including Carmen Aristegui, who have suffered repression and violence while trying to carry out their important work. It is certainly true that “the plurality of opinions is indispensable for the strengthening of democratic life in the country,” but governments like that of Mr. Peña Nieto are still relentless in their efforts to prevent media services from being a source of democratization in Mexico. Mexico currently is among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Reports by media freedom groups including Article 19 and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) have documented an unprecedented level of violence faced by the Mexican press as a result of corruption, organized crime and the armed offensive against drug traffickers. During the first two years of Peña Nieto’s term in office, the average number of attacks against journalists in Mexico rose significantly to an average of 328 attacks per year—a reporter is attacked every 26.7 hours. Nine reporters have


features been killed, and the disappearance of at least ten journalists had been documented. The situation is markedly worse for reporters in peripheral areas, where a slower transition to democracy has often allowed for the survival of old abusive and authoritarian practices of state governments against the media. Here, local reporters face a myriad of pressures from the authorities, including intimidation by the police, violence from the cartels, and corruption by local officials. The privileged status of Carmen Aristegui within the media world may have protected her from greater harm, but her treatment highlights the eminent danger faced by any honest journalist in the country. Few of these crimes are properly investigated and even fewer have resulted in prosecutions and convictions, reflecting the general state of impunity within Mexican society. They occur even as a federal law, protection mechanism, and “special” prosecuting unit all exist for the sole purpose of protecting the press. The Mexican government has the legal tools to guarantee freedom of expression but is evidently unwilling to use them in order to improve the situation for journalists in Mexico. Across the country, there is a corrupt symbiosis between the government and media owners that serves only private economic and political interests, while neglecting the public’s right to legitimate news. The opaque allocation of government advertisement is one of the most pernicious and rampant forms of soft censorship exerted by the government, which effectively constrains pluralism and a diversity of voices by selectively funding media outlets that support officials and their policies. Peña Nieto’s administration has spent almost one million dollars more on advertising than the previous administration. Radio corporations in particular face soft censorship by the government in the form of selective allocation of the broadcast spectrum. The state imposes serious pressure, even on commercial outlets as large as MVS. In 2012, the CEO of MVS accused the Mexican government of threatening the company with the loss of spectrum unless it fired Aristegui, who was a harsh critic of then-President 32

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Felipe Calderon. Reforms must be made to protect the media in Mexico and reporters like Aristegui. The 2013 Telecommunication Reform Act contains several important moves towards transforming relationships between the media and government. The provisions that aim to limit concentration and boost pluralism and competitiveness in Mexico’s media should be implemented and enforced. All broadcast licenses and spectrum allocations should be transparently regulated by law on an objective criteria. Public debates on financial relations between government and media outlets should be encouraged to address institutional reforms. Political leaders and media owners must be made accountable for their abuses, becoming watchdogs and platforms for democratic debate, rather than remain tools of political and special interests. In firing Aristegui, the company MVS violated the “human right to freedom of thought and to receive information and ideas and content that reflect the country’s ideological pluralism, political, social and cultural,” stated Mexican political analyst Denise Dresser. The symbolic weight of Aristegui’s dismissal is especially felt at this moment in Mexico, when the desire for truth has reached a hyster-

ical climax. Federal Judge Fernando Silva ordered a meeting between MVS and Carmen Aristegui on Friday April 24 in the presence of an impartial arbzitrator, stating that the mediated meeting should aim to help resume Aristegui’s news radio show, and that MVS jeopardized the freedom of expression of its workers, warning that if MVS does not reach an agreement with Aristegui before the beginning of the hearing on April 27, he will make the decision whether or not to resume the news show. Aristegui’s investigative journalism fights for a fragile Mexican democracy. An independent, free, and critical press is a fundamental and necessary tool to enjoy the benefits of a democratic government. The outcome of her dismissal will speak to the capacity of Mexican society to fight for and defend individuals that speak for transparency and truth. • Catalina Piccato is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Economics-Political Science with concentration in Latin American Studies. She was born in Mexico City, Mexico, but has lived in New York City for most of her life. She can be reached at:

columbia political review :: summer 2015


Malaysian Malaise

Poor Prospects for Democracy in Anwar Ibrahim’s Legal Woes

By Maren Killackey


o be sure, the headline “Malaysian Court Upholds Opposition Leader’s Sodomy Conviction” is not necessarily shocking in its own right. This is, after all, the era in which political figures being caught up in purportedly lurid sex scandals is now almost cliché. But setting aside that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s “crime” is an activity that many do freely around the world, the drama’s deeply troubling nature stems from the unpleasant message it sends about the progress of Malaysian democracy—namely, we shouldn’t hold our breath. To fully understand Mr. Anwar’s woes, we look to 1998. Malaysia, like most of Southeast Asia, has only begun to recover from the Asian financial crisis that destroyed markets in 1997. As finance minister, Anwar was responsible for deftly navigating the Malaysian economy out of dire straits. He did so by taking a fat IMF loan, and acquiescing to all that came with it, a decision that earned him international praise and domestic enemies. Differences over monetary policy caused a rift between Anwar and then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Until then the two had enjoyed a mentee-mentor relationship, though Anwar was already seen as something of a liberal, while Mahathir had earned himself a reputation for being an anti-Western, anti-Semitic dictator fond of curbing civil liberties. Later that year, the first in a series of “poison-pen” letters appeared, denouncing Anwar as corrupt and a “sexual deviant,” which is illegal under the antiquated section 377 of the 33

features Malaysian penal code—a colonial relic. Initially, Mahathir denied the charges, but the tide was beginning to turn against his protege. During the 1998 General Assembly of the United Malays National Organisation (UNMO), the Malaysian ruling party, Ibrahim Ali, a staunch supporter of Mahathir, lashed out against Anwar. Ibrahim, a UMNO Supreme Council member, reiterated allegations that Anwar had participated in illegal sexual activities and was guilty of corruption. Shortly after, UMNO Youth Leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi alleged Anwar’s involvement in corrupt activities, including nepotism. A book entitled 50 Reasons Why Anwar Can’t be Prime Minister was even released. Around the same time, PM Mahathir began to suspect that Anwar harbored ambitions to challenge his, by that time, 17-year rule. Anwar’s rapid political ascendancy, from Minister of Culture in 1983 to Minister of Education in 1986 and finally to higher offices (Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister), made the likelihood of betrayal all too real. The Prime Minister’s personal suspicions, paired with Anwar’s limited support among Malaysian political elites, inspired Matathir to launch an investigation of the supposed “sexcapades.” Ultimately, Anwar was fired from his posts and expelled from UMNO. In the days that followed, Matathir enjoyed immense support from political leaders and the national press. Proponents claimed there must have been overwhelming evidence against Anwar for such drastic measures to have been taken; even if such evidence was not forthcoming, the nation should trust its leader. But not all Malaysians were convinced. The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, founded by Anwar after his graduation from university, quickly criticized the developments against Anwar as a political conspiracy. Muslim Youth leader Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman said, “There are some people with political interests who thought the ascension of Anwar as PM would affect their 34

columbia political review :: summer 2015 political [lives].” Another subset of Malaysians soon realized Anwar’s situation didn’t gel with their political beliefs, and questioned the legal process by which the case was brought. A Malaysian human rights group was quoted as saying, “Mahathir owes the people of Malaysia a lot more than a smorgasbord of [...] allegations.” After being fired, Anwar found himself in court. The trial dealing with corruption charges ended in 1999 and resulted in a guilty verdict. Anwar was ordered to serve six years in prison. A year later he found himself in court again to be sentenced for sodomy, receiving an

“Anwar served nearly six years in solitary confinement, but was released in 2004 after a sympathetic judge reconsidered the veracity of the evidence against him.” additional nine years. Anwar served nearly six years in solitary confinement, but was released in 2004 after a sympathetic judge reconsidered the veracity of the evidence against him. When his five year ban from politics expired, Anwar returned to parliament in 2008, leading a coalition of opposition parties as the head of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), which won a third of parliamentary positions and several state governments. He set to work carving away the ruling coalition’s base by luring away minor parties. There were rumors that he would be the next prime minister, but there were also rumors he had sexually assaulted his young male aide Saiful Bukhari. Anwar Ibrahim went back to court. This time, in the case that became known as “Sodomy II,” few believed the allegations against Anwar and most dismissed them as political-

ly-motivated. First, it was found the aide’s testimony was inconsistent with the charges. Though Saiful alleged the relationship was non-consensual, Anwar was charged under section 377B dealing with consensual sexual “misconduct.” In addition, the aide was never charged for his role. The prosecution’s credibility was further undermined when it was revealed Saiful had an apparent connection to certain government ministers and had even been seen with Prime Minsister Najib Razak. Anwar was found not guilty on January 9, 2012, more than two years after Sodomy II started. Some argued that this trial was just as politically motivated as the first, but the government let him go because of its stable position with respect to the electorate. Though initially unpopular, Najib somewhat endeared himself to liberals when he repealed the Internal Security Act that had allowed police to detain Anwar indefinitely. He also ended an affirmative action policy that had been intended to address discrimination historically experienced by the Malay ethnic majority, but in practice resulted in rampant corruption and economic inefficiency. In 2011, before Sodomy II was over, The Daily Beast reported, “Najib has gone so far that, even if Anwar is acquitted, the ruling coalition [Barisan Nasional (BN)] might genuinely triumph in the 2013 parliamentary elections.” Triumph, perhaps, but to describe it as “genuinely” is a stretch. It was widely held that gerrymandered districts were to thank for BN’s victory, which despite being the smallest ever (the coalition received just 47 percent of the popular vote), allowed BN to secure 134 of 222 seats in parliament. Many noted that regardless of creative cartography, BN, by virtue of its long-lived incumbency, could and did mobilize a formidable political machine, deploying civil servants to dispense handouts and buy votes. Still, even these best efforts left Anwar’s coalition with a popular majority. In light of this strong showing, Najib launched a campaign to crack down on the opposition—Anwar was back in court.

columbia political review :: summer 2015 In March 2014, Karpal Singh, Anwar’s defense lawyer and a sitting MP of the Democratic Action Party, was convicted under the nation’s 1948 Sedition Act, which Najib’s government had promised to nullify in 2012. The charge stemmed from a 2009 statement he made regarding his legal opinion of Anwar’s case. At the same time, the Court of Appeal overturned Anwar’s previous acquittal and delivered a five year jail term. The reversal came just days before Anwar was to be nominated to run in an important by-election for an assembly seat in Selangor, Malaysia’s wealthiest state. As he had become accustomed, Anwar appealed the decision, taking the case to the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest. It was here that on February 10 of this year, all five justices found in favor of the prosecution and ordered Anwar back to prison. The events of February 10 were not unexpected, but that doesn’t mean Anwar Ibrahim’s saga isn’t exemplary of the ugliness of autocracy. By enforcing archaic laws to weaken a perceived threat, the allegedly independent judiciary used the rule-of-law as cover to pervert its spirit. Until Anwar and Karpal rose to power, section 377, the Internal Security Act, and the Sedition Act had rarely been invoked. Additionally, the speed with which the courts acted—not to mention the timing of its actions—raised more than a few eyebrows. Through each trial, international press made fleeting references to the “obsequious” Malaysian national media, but stopped short of a more complete assessment. A cursory survey shows mainstream Malaysian periodicals tend to be intimately affiliated with the establishment, if not entirely run by it. This was even more true back in 1998, when newspapers toed the UMNO party line, defending Matathir’s decision to fire Anwar and have him expelled from the party. Yet, now that more people have access to the web, Anwar has enjoyed support among upcoming digital journalists, both locally and in the region. To be sure, the new perspectives and opinions in the Malaysian me-

dia have not necessarily inspired government lapdog dailies like the New Straits Times to ease up on their unflaggingly pro-BN commentary. In response to the events of February 10, NST proclaimed, “It is difficult to read the judgment and not be convinced that the deliberation of the Federal Court had been thorough and fair,” adding, “the credibility of the complainant [Saiful]… has never been in doubt from the very first trial,” a patently false statement. Fortunately, political analysts have shown that today’s Malaysians are savvier and more discerning media consumers than they were, fourteen years ago,

“By enforcing archaic laws to weaken a perceived threat, the allegedly independent judiciary used the rule of law as cover to pervert its spirit.” meaning unsubstantiated points of view are less likely to catch on. The next election in Malaysia isn’t until 2018, at which point Anwar will still be in prison. Given the current discord within Pakatan Rakyat (PR), the three-party opposition coalition, it is uncertain whether the group will survive without Anwar’s leadership. In the past, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife, proved a capable interim. The future may depend on the continued political success of Nurul Izzah Anwar, Anwar’s daughter, especially in the event that the already 67-yearold icon become unable to mount a political comeback. What happens to the opposition next is of the utmost importance for Malaysia, at least in the short term. In February, the South China Morning Post wrote, “Malaysia needs a viable opposition voice and the differences have to be overcome so that

features it can provide a check and balance to the government.” Such an occurrence would be something of a novelty in Malaysia, where one party (BN and its similar predecessor Perikatan) has dominated for the better part of six decades. Though Anwar Ibrahim is lauded as the most successful opposition leader since 1957, that he can’t seem to shake trumped up legal woes leveled at politically inconvenient junctures speaks volumes about Malaysia’s democratization progress. Of course, competition is but one part of a democracy, and the case of Anwar has demonstrated other weaknesses, such as a lack of independence for the judiciary and the press. Whether or not these issues of institutional independence would actually be addressed by PR, the world may never get the chance to know, but given its leader’s personal experiences, the likelihood seems high. One hesitates to say it, but Anwar’s ordeal is poetic: he has made a name for himself challenging the outdated, draconian and autocratic nature of the Malaysian state, and in doing so, became a victim of those very tendencies. Though not mentioned in mainstream international media, Anwar does have something to gain from this nightmare: legitimacy. Indeed, Anwar Ibrahim has already used his personal troubles to rhetorical advantage, asking The Diplomat, “Where do you go if you have a problem? Are you going to go to the courts? You will not get a fair trial. So I think what the authoritarian leaders fail to realize is that there is a limit to what people and the society can endure.” BN had better take note. • Maren Killackey, CC `15, is majoring in Political Science and Sustainable Development. She’s interested in economic development, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as international relations. Maren is a member of the Growth and Development Project at Columbia (DeltaGDP) and the Columbia Economics Review. She can be reached at: 35

CPR vol. xv no. 2


columbia political review

Summer 2015  

Summer 2015 Issue of CPR

Summer 2015  

Summer 2015 Issue of CPR