Page 1

non partisan political commentary

davis political review winter 2018

Inside: Out with the Old, In with the New The Never Ending War On Drugs Kasur: A Broken Shrine of Pakistan The Olympic Charade The Once and Future War: The Scramble for Syria Post-ISIS Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Doomed for Failure On the Prospect of Abolition



EDITORIAL BOARD STATE Senior State Editor Isabella Lord

NATIONAL Senior National Editor Lauren Johnston

Associate National Editors Ethan Khoe Grant Bonham

INTERNATIONAL Senior International Editor Jacob Ganz

Associate International Editors Upamanyu Lahiri Basanti Mardemootoo

PUBLIC RELATIONS & BUSINESS Chief Financial Officer Hyun Kang

Public Relations Director Brooke Pritchard

CREATIVE TEAM Creative Director Michelle Marin

Graphic Designer Christian Stark

COPY EDITORS Chief Copy Editor Valencia Scott

Copy Editors Kaleemah Muttaqi Aminah Simon-Ortiz Joelle Barnard Sidney Adebayo

Layout Design by Michelle Marin, Grace Weiland & Christian Stark 1

davis political review | winter 2018



Armin Nouri

Adnan Perwez

Atanas Spasov

Andrew Wooler

Brandon Jetter

Ayesha Ishtiaq

Dan Daskal

Irene Ezran

Felix Zhuk

Itamar Waksman

Julia Offutt

Jesse Kireyev

Kaleemah Muttaqi

Kian Rahimnejad

Max Rothschild

Milo Kahney

Mohammad Qayum

Mohammed Albarak

Sierra Lewandowski

Robert Dellinger

W.S. Geringer

STATE WRITERS Brandon Dimapasoc Francisco Ferreyra Lauren Low

On the cover The cover was designed by Creative Director, Michelle Marin, in an attempt to address the undercurrent of discontent and political unrest so commonplace today.

Cover Design by Michelle Marin davis political review | winter 2018



davis political review

5 12

Out with the Old, In with the New Basanti Mardemootoo

The Never Ending War On Drugs Grant Bonham


Kasur: A Broken Shrine of Pakistan


The Olympic Charade

Ayesha Ishtiaq

Andrew Wooler


The Once and Future War: The Scramble for Syria Post-ISIS Upamanyu Lahiri


Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Doomed for Failure Kaleemah Muttaqi


On the Prospect of Abolition Sierra Lewandowski


davis political review | winter 2018

Davis Political Review is the first and only nonpartisan political commentary magazine on the campus of UC Davis. Davis Political Review was founded by former

In March 2016, Angela Su was appointed as

Editor in Chief Alex E. Tavlian in October 2012 the next Editor in Chief of Davis Political in the hopes of establishing a forum for students Review. Her leadership and vision for the to voice their political opinions. On Dec. 5,

magazine spurred our growth, providing more

2012, our first editorial board was elected and

and more students with the opportunity

the publication was born.

to express their political perspectives in the hopes of stimulating reactions, activism and

After a four-month rest period, Davis Political

awareness of the state, nation and world in

Review was re-established by former Editor in

which we live.

Chief Kristine Craig in January 2014. In late April, we launched the Davis Political Review

The 43 dedicated writers, editors and board

website and released our first print issue on the members of Davis Political Review make it UC Davis campus.

possible to achieve our mission: make it possible to engage students and members of the commu-

Under Craig’s leadership, the publication

nity in a constructive dialogue around complex

took on an entirely new life. Through weekly

political issues.

online articles and a quarterly printed publication, writers of Davis Political Review

The baton was passed to current Editor in

were able to encourage campus awareness

Chief Grace Weiland in December 2017.

of meaningful political issues. While the editorial board of our publication remains nonpartisan, each writer is encouraged to express their own opinion when crafting their articles. davis political review | winter 2018


Out With The Old, In With The New:

Africa’s Version of the Arab Spring Political analysis reveals trend of significant shifts in Africa Basanti Mardemootoo

(Tiksa Negeri/Daylifer)

C ontagion, defined as the

a focus instead on the creation

an subliminal political shift oc-

spillover effect, of political and

of a free, developed, and eco-

curring, in which moving away

physical processes across inter-

nomically stable state. Despite

from leaders exerting a more

national borders is often associ-

not being as clear-cut as the

post-colonialist perspective is

ated with the Arab Spring. The

Arab Spring, some of the most

becoming a prominent tenden-

actions of a young Tunisian

influential countries in Africa

cy in the region. Recognizing

ignited a revolutionary flame

have seen a significant political

this shift might give us an in-

which quickly spread across

turnover since October 2017

sight on what to expect from

the Middle East and resulted

as new leaders have emerged

Africa in the coming years.

in a wave of democratization.

across the continent. Through

Undoubtedly, one of the

At the core of this movement,

the resignation of Jacob Zuma

greatest shifts in African poli-

however, is the basic notion of

in South Africa, Robert Mug-

tics has been the recent ousting

a political shift from the im-

abe in Zimbabwe, and Haile-

of Mugabe. It is arguably the

mediate consequences of inde-

mariam Desalegn in Ethiopia,

start of the new trend incentiv-

pendence, where one strives to

along with the controversial

izing people across Africa to

invoke deep nationalist senti-

election of Uhuru Kenyatta in

mobilize their efforts and cre-

ments and self-reliable power,

Kenya, we are able to see a de-

ate political changes. After al-

to the next stage, where there is

veloping trend. There is clearly

most 40 years in power, Zimba-


davis political review | winter 2018

It is arguably the start of the new trend incentivizing people across Africa to mobilize their efforts and create political changes. bwe’s former president stepped down in November 2017 after an impeachment process against him was initiated by parliament partnered with the internal pressures from his party, ZANU-PF. He was succeeded by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president of the country, who is also part of ZANU-PF. Known as Zimbabwe’s longest reigning political leader, Mugabe had been in power since the country’s independence back in 1980. During the early period of his presidency, Mugabe was praised for his work towards key societal developments like bettering services as well as building schools




abe’s present wife, Grace Mug-

ry system. Since then, Mugabe

abe and Mnangagwa. In early

has won every election, con-

November, things started shap-

troversial or not. His repeated

ing up for Grace Mugabe when

wins started getting attention

the ZANU-PF’s internal power

from international media after

struggle led to the expulsion of

the 2008 elections where he

Mnangagwa who then sought

defeated Morgan Tsvangirai,

refuge in South Africa. Shortly

who became prime minister

after his departure, the military

in November 2017 but recent-

seized power of the country

ly died of cancer. The violent

and placed the president under

outbreaks after those elections

house arrest. Coined as a pres-

brought attention to domestic

idential coup by Mugabe, the

issues in Zimbabwe and has led

military stated that it was not

to extensive news coverage of

necessarily a coup but a means

the country since.

by which to assert pressure on

Zimbabwe’s economic diffi-

the president to resign from his

culties after being one of Afri-

position. In fact, that is exactly

ca’s richest nations in conjunc-

what happened. Unable to with-

tion with

Mugabe’s growing

stand the pressures caused by

health concerns paved the way

an increased number of demon-

to his resignation. The contend-

strations, the leader stepped

ers for succession were Mug-

down. Mnangagwa re-appeared

and hospitals. Whilst doing this, however, he also simultaneously engaged in a severe crackdown of his political opposition. The crackdown led to a high number of casualties and was eventually halted by a peace agreement formed in 1987. With it also came a change in the structure of the government, converting Zimbabwe’s political system to a presidential one in lieu

(Jekesai Njikizana/AFP & Getty Images)

davis political review | winter 2018


Reuters reports that, given his resignation, the former president is now facing the consequences of 783 counts of corruption from a government arms deal that was arranged in the late 1990s. The charges were dropped when Zuma was originally running but were reinstated last year. South Africa’s High Court reinstated the charges in 2016, a decision which was upheld

(Nic Bothma/AFP - Getty Images)

by the Supreme Court last

in Zimbabwe and was soon af-

dicament. The no-confidence

year. The Supreme Court also

ter declared president.

vote used to threaten the for-

rejected an appeal made by

This concept of power

mer president comes after

Zuma, claiming that setting

shifting away from initial

years of corruption, scandals,

aside the charges would be an



and controversial legal ac-

“irrational” action.

to new regimes in search of

tions that have jeopardized


the country’s development.



Although the legal implications of Zuma’s presiden-

restructuring was highlight-

A presidency that began

cy are an important factor in

ed once again by the events

as a sliver of hope for many

his resignation, the greater

which unfolded soon after

South Africans turned into

implications fall on the sym-

in South Africa. After nine

one that was primarily con-

bolic nature of his presidency

years in power, Zuma agreed

cerned with the gross mis-

and what his time in office re-

to step down from his presi-

conduct and corruption accu-

flected on Africa as a whole.

dency in early February 2018.

sations facing the president.

Zuma entered the political

In a move primarily ordered



arena as a vibrant, charismat-

by the African National Con-

notoriety for getting away

ic, anti-apartheid candidate

gress Party (ANC) in partner-

with some of the biggest cor-

who was known for being

ship with opposition parties,

ruption scandals to have tak-

jailed alongside Nelson Man-

strengthened by the backing

en place in public office due

dela on Robben island. His

of the country’s citizens -

the protection from prosecu-

candidacy represented a turn

Zuma found himself in a pre-

tion his presidency gave him.

for many young South Afri-



davis political review | winter 2018

cans who had faced immense wrongdoings during the country’s apartheid years. However, like many countries that undergo drastic political and societal change, there comes a time when the concepts of nationalism and re-building a nation can no longer be used to defend the lack of attention given to the development of the country.

(Associated Press)

South Africa, known to be one

party - is still in power. Rama-

the beginning of the political shift

of the most influential countries

phosa has been said to better rep-

in Africa. They are still in the de-

in the African continent due to

resent the ANC’s interests and is

velopmental phase of this change

its commitment to science, tech-

likely to lead them in a direction

based on the fact that both par-

nology, and innovation, is now

with better electoral prospects.

ties in control before the resigna-

seen in a much dimmer light due

With this said, there is no doubt

tion of the two countries’ leaders

to its weak economy and lagging

that South Africa will see a rath-

are still in power. However, it is

development. Allegations that

er monumental change in gover-

clear to see that the current sit-

Zuma was possibly facing im-

nance with a new emphasis on

uations in Kenya and Ethiopia

peachment also surfaced recently

re-structuring the ministerial po-

can also be applied to this grow-

when news broke out about the

sitions. Since his takeover, Pres-

ing concept of a contagious po-

mistreatment of public funds that

ident Ramaphosa has already

litical shift in Africa. The events

essentially were used for Zuma’s

announced a total of 30 position

in Kenya and Ethiopia demon-

personal needs. These events all

changes including bringing back

strate the growing trend of rev-

led to Zuma’s party pressuring

a political appointee who had

olutionary tendencies developed

him to step down, after which

been removed from office by

by citizens as a way to voice

Cyril Ramaphosa, voted in as the

Zuma. This move was strategi-

their concerns. Back in 2011, the

ANC’s new leader in December

cally performed to distance Rama-

demonstrations that took place in

2017, immediately took office as

phosa from the previous president

Tunisia in response to Mohamed

the acting president. Unlike sit-

and symbolically represent the

Bouazizi’s self-immolation in-

uations in other countries where

shift towards a government that

troduced a method of retaliation

the entire government is broken

wishes to re-shape the country.

that had not been widely used in

apart and replaced, the ANC -

Both the events in South Af-

the region. The act of protesting

South Africa’s current governing

rica and Zimbabwe demonstrate

and the creation of revolution-

davis political review | winter 2018


ary ideals quickly caught on in countries like Egypt, Libya and Syria, not because they were all experiencing similar problems but because the peoples of these countries needed an outlet to express their feelings about the actions of their governments. Being countries that just recently came out of a colonial era, the idea of standing up to the actions of one’s government hadn’t be pursued very much. When there was evidence that this method of retaliation existed and was successful, it was not long before others took to it. Similar to the events in the Arab Spring, each country in Africa is having to fight its own battles. Also having been victim to colonial rule, the people residing in many African countries are not necessarily accustomed to taking actions against their governments. Therefore, this trend might very well develop into a continental movement. The recent events in Kenya and Ethiopia help strengthen this claim as they take the cases of South Africa and Zimbabwe one step beyond the initial stage of political shift - showcasing civilian unrest which has been taken to 9


the streets.

preference towards the incum-

In a symbolic act that dou-

bent, Kenyatta. Due to this cir-

bled as a political statement

cumstance, the Court decided to

against Uhuru Kenyatta, who

order new elections to be held

is still the leader of the coun-

in October of the same year. In

try, Kenyan Opposition leader,

response, the opposition party,

Raila Odinga inaugurated him-

led by Odinga, decided to drop

self as the President of Kenya’s

out of the race and boycott the

people. The political crisis in

re-run elections claiming that

Kenya, one of Africa’s richest

the election committee hadn’t

nations, has been boiling up for

undertaken any reforms to the

the past year after a controver-

election system. The lack of op-

sial Supreme Court ruling went

position thus led to the re-elec-

against the expectations of many

tion of Kenyatta, who had also

regarding the August 2017 elec-

won the first round of elections.

tions. Despite only having been

There was a significant amount

around for a couple of years,

of political unrest following

the Supreme Court applied its

Kenyatta’s second term inau-

jurisdiction wholeheartedly by

guration which led to tensions

voiding the results of the Au-

that are still present to this day.

gust elections stating that the

Many of Odinga’s supporters

irregularities witnessed during

believe that the actions taken by

the elections might have shown

the opposition leader to question

davis political review | winter 2018

the authority of the Kenyatta’s

led by Odinga; it could lead to

which was declared the day

government might lead to a more

an increase in public unrest. In

after its Prime Minister, Haile-

inclusive government, one which

the past few months, protests

mariam Desalegn, unexpected-

includes the presence of oppo-

have stemmed mainly from

ly resigned from his position.

sition parties and allows them

pro-opposition camps so there

He stated that he was doing so

to engage in political discourse.

is a possibility that they actual-

because of the “unrest and po-

However, the government has

ly decrease. However, tensions

litical crisis” going on in the

announced that by inaugurating

might grow within pro-govern-


himself, Odinga has crossed legal

ment factions, causing the two

gency is the second one enact-

boundaries and committed trea-

groups to quarrel.

ed in recent history, with the

This state of emer-

son, a crime punishable by death

In addition to the situation

first being the 10-month state

in the Kenyan legal system. This

in Kenya, Ethiopia - one of the

of emergency which ended in

opinion has been supported by

most promising African coun-

August 2017.

the legal branch of the gov-

tries in terms of development

This prior 10-month long

ernment, who - as previously

and financial prosperity - hav-

state of emergency was lifted

seen - does not always act in

ing recently seen a booming

after hundreds of people were

the interest of the government

economy is now also facing

killed whilst taking part in

in power. As a result, there is

political trouble. Being the

anti-government protests de-

much uncertainty in Kenya’s

most recent in the lineup of

manding more political free-

future. There are a few possible

political shifts, Ethiopia found

doms, inclusion, and an end to

outcomes of the symbolic act

itself in a state of emergency

various human rights abuses in


davis political review | winter 2018


the country. Due to this histo-

the death of the previous prime

and many things could change

ry, many currently find them-

minister back in 2012. Many

in the next couple of months

selves reluctant to believe that

within the political sphere in

depending on what actions are

an imposed state of emergency

Ethiopia have criticized De-

taken by the new leaders of

is the best way to deal with the

salegn for being weak so this

these countries. Whether it will

prime minister’s resignation. In

resignation could be seen by

end up similar to the current

Ethiopia, a state of emergency

the coalition as an opportuni-

situation in the Middle East is

restricts the public’s ability to

ty to put in place someone they

something harder to predict but

engage in actions that might be

see as being stronger. One of

definitely a possibility. With

seen as being disruptive by the

these options would be to put

tensions rising in all of the

government. These actions in-

someone from the Oromo com-

countries mentioned above in-

clude but are not limited to pro-

munity in power. The Oromo

cluding others such as Sudan,

testing, displaying information

community is the largest ethnic

Egypt and Somalia, it is quite

that incites violence, and closing

group in Ethiopia and yet the

possible that one of these small

down any service or business

country has never seen a prime

flames will turn into a fire and

that is run by a citizen that does

minister from that community.

fires tend to spread fast where

not support the government.

By replacing Desalegn with an

sparks exist. If not for human

Despite the fact that the

Oromo candidate, there would

natures’ dissimilar tendencies,

Cabinet of Ministers released

be a decrease in protesters from

political trends such as the one

a list of reasons for declaring

this community regarding the

in the Middle East and now in

this state of emergency, there is

marginalization of their people.

Africa are repetitive in nature

not much evidence to reinforce

The addition of Kenya

and could very well be avoid-

their statements. One possible

and Ethiopia as case studies

ed - as Hegel once said, “We

reason is that they are doing

strengthen the argument made

learn from History that we nev-

this to ensure a smooth tran-

at the beginning of this politi-

er learn from History.”

sition of power between De-

cal commentary regarding the

salegn and the new candidate

growing political shift in this

for prime minister. Desalegn

continent. They both add a

was not only the prime min-

rather tangible element to the

ister but also the head of the

disconnect between the current

Southern Ethiopian People’s

governments and their citizens.

Democratic Movement coali-

The political consequences of

tion, the country’s ruling po-

the various events taking place

litical party. The coalition has

in the four countries mentioned

been on rocky footing since

above are still to be determined


davis political review | winter 2018

The Never Ending

War On Drugs

Trump is following in past president’s footsteps by weaponizing drug policy

Grant bonham

(Molly Crabapple/Jay Z ‘The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail’)

P resident Donald Trump has

pecially impacted offices like the

dent that had promised to do ev-

left hundreds of key government

Office of National Drug Control

erything he can to solve such a

positions vacant since becom-

Policy (ONDCP), which func-

crisis. Taylor Weyeneth, who was

ing president. Now a year since

tions as the executive branch’s of-

appointed Deputy Chief of Staff

his election, these vacancies are

fice of drug oversight and policy

of the ONDCP by the Trump

taking a toll on the organizations

enforcement. This office would

administration, recently stepped

left without proper staff. The U.S.

be a main channel for President

down amid controversy over his

State Department - which Pres-

Trump to plan and execute strate-

background and suitability for the

ident Trump previously stated

gies to tackle the country’s opioid

role. Weyeneth lacked experience

would undergo budget cuts - is

epidemic. Opioid users voted in

in drug policy or a related field and

operating as slowly as Trump

higher rates for President Trump,

had only graduated college nine

intended, with a high number of

so vacancies this office are par-

months before his appointment.

decision-making positions still

ticularly surprising because they

President Trump’s appointment

vacant. These vacancies have es-

represent the failure of a Presi-

of Weyeneth was particularly ma-

davis political review | winter 2018


tory, alongside an erosion of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Through mandatory sentencing requirements and no-knock search warrants, President Nixon weaponized local and federal police forces to strip Americans of their freedoms, using the banner of drug prevention as a covert way to erode the Constitution. This policy preference was inherently political, and former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman later admitted,

(Maria Alehandra/Getty Images)

licious, as it once again highlights

help prevent illegal drug use, he

“The Nixon campaign had two

a presidency that refuses to priori-

is also attempting to criminalize

enemies: the antiwar left and

tize drug use problems in the U.S.

legal drug users. These moves

black people.” Nixon’s agenda

Weyeneth was given the position

represent a regression back to an

marked some of the most radical

because the Trump administration

archaic war on drugs declared and

and aggressive drug policy in the

did not take the role seriously. By

sustained by administrations in

world at the time, kickstarting

doing this, they are signaling how

the past. This criminalization of

what would become forty years

little they are willing to commit

fairly harmless users, alongside a

to effective drug policy. On the

watered down system of support

other side of this issue, President

for those who need it, character-

Trump has sent Attorney General

izes the classic American assault

Jeff Sessions to prosecute states

on drugs that has been destructive

which allow for the recreational

for the last forty years.

Through mandatory sentencing requirements and no-knock search warrants, President Nixon weaponized local and federal police forces to

use of marijuana. These states,

The “war on drugs” began

which are mostly blue, acted in

figuratively and literally by Pres-

violation of federal drug policy in

ident Richard Nixon’s proclama-

passing these laws, but President

tion in June 1971. His speech,

of mass incarceration and high

Obama’s justice department made

laced with Vietnam war paral-

rates of drug related deaths. This

it clear that they had “bigger fish

lels, delineated his intent to make

new incarceration system was a

to fry” than aggressively pursuing

drug abuse “public enemy num-

systematic targeting of minori-

marijuana policy across the states.

ber one.” What followed was the

ty communities used to suppress

Not only is Trump avoiding mak-

largest increase of federal drug

their vote for political gain. Nix-

ing the necessary appointments to

control agencies in American his-

on created an enemy in his own


davis political review | winter 2018

strip Americans of their freedoms...

a life cycle of jail and home-

be squashed. Summoning the pa-

lessness. While Nixon planted

triotism of the Cold War, media

the seeds for a militarized po-

portrayals of drug users were dev-

lice force, Reagan furthered this

astating to compassionate care, and

militarization and began institu-

citizens, a black enemy, and un-

showed users as dirty, in control of

tionalizing black male youth at a

leashed a newer, more powerful

their own addictions, and hedonists

devastating rate. This mass incar-

federal government that would

looking to harm all around them.

ceration was a racial milling of the

perpetuate racist images against


slogan, “Just say no,”

public and a targeted destruction of

black Americans. In the name of

codified the lack of depth behind

a demographic that had never vot-

“peace and security,” President

their logic, and showed that the

ed Republican. President Reagan

Nixon created a federal police

Reagan administration was pre-

was a wartime president, elected

force that began the United States

pared to jail hundreds of thousands

towards the end of a virtually si-

on a path of self-destruction that

of people with little thought. There

lent war and, to replace his desire

is still being manifested today.

were only 50,000 nonviolent drug

for combat, he began imprisoning

Nixon was succeeded six years

offenders in prison in 1980, but

his own citizens. It was apparently

later by President Ronald Rea-

by 1997 this number reached over

clear that the only room for blacks

gan, who, along with First Lady

400,000. Zero tolerance policies,

Nancy Reagan, led the second

an abandonment of rehabilitation

wave attack on drug use in the

centers, stricter controls, and tight-

United States. The United States

er penalties made any level of drug

government and public contin-

use in the United States a terrible

ued to fuel the perception that

crime and cornered drug users into

While Nixon planted the seeds for a militarized police force, Reagan furthered this militarization and began institutionalizing black male youth at a devastating rate in Reagan’s America was inside a prison. It has been 47 years since Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, yet the United States has not healed from these wounds. The current opioid epidemic is yet another symptom of this misunderstanding, and Donald Trump is another president devastatingly ill-prepared to fight it. In addition to the malappointment of Weyeneth, this fumbling

davis political review | winter 2018


(Molly Crabapple/Jay Z ‘The War on Drugs Is an Epic Fail’)

drug users were an evil that must

This new incarceration system was a systematic targeting of minority communities used to suppress their vote for political gain

of policy can also be seen in the

stigate fear against immigrants.

different U.S. universities found

policies of Attorney General Jeff

President Trump has been able

that liberal recreational marijua-

Session, who is intent on pros-

to attack all immigrants with this

na laws actually reduced depen-

ecuting every drug user. This

rhetoric by equating curbing illegal

dence on opioid use within those

time around, Trump has weaved

immigration with preventing the

areas. Often working as a sub-

the criminal group MS-13 into

importing of drugs. Trump made it

stitute for treating pain, nausea,

his fearmongering, and has used

clear that Mexican immigrants are

or acheness, marijuana could be

their existence in Latin America

his enemy, and by blindly tying all

prescribed in higher levels to

as justification for the ramped-

immigrants to the gang MS-13, he

those looking for relief. Similar-

up war. Much like Nixon did

is able to sustain his most abusive

ly, the federal government could

with the Vietnam war, Trump


reimagine prescription guide-

is using this international crim-

President Trump’s weaponiza-

lines and reinforce provided sub-

inal gang as a poster enemy for

tion of drug policy should come

sidies for rehabilitation facilities

the administration’s campaign

as no surprise. This is the United

to cut down on the number of

against immigration. Instead of

States after all, the very country

yearly deaths from opioid over-

vagabond drug users within our

that has more drug-related deaths

dose. While curbing deaths, the

inner cities, President Trump has

than any other country in the

federal government could also

carefully crafted a message that

world. The country with the high-

make treatment options more

paints innocent immigrants as

est drug overdoses per capita, and

widely available and facilitate

the canary in the coal mine for

the highest number of drug relat-

discussion about opioid abuse

drugs entering into the United

ed suicides. The country with the

that could create an environment

States. This time, he is attacking

highest use of prescription opioids

where people feel safe to seek

the suppliers instead of the users.

per capita, and the highest rate of

help. Whereas Obama strength-

By ramping up rhetoric against

deaths from opioids as well. Our

such a large international gang,

current reality is the manifestation

Trump is following Nixon and

of years of neglect and these sta-

Reagan in finding an enemy to

tistics codify a state that is failing

blame and attack and using it to

to act on such a pervasive problem

serve a larger political function.

in a way that actually solves it.

Trump aligns most consistently

Millions of Americans have been

Millions of Americans have been abandoned by our government over the last forty years and their deaths are the tragic result of a state unwilling to act in the interest of those most vulnerable

with the far right on immigration,

abandoned by our government

ened the ability for people to get

where his proposals for a border

over the last forty years and their

treatment for drug abuse, Trump

wall and mass deportations have

deaths are the tragic result of a

has moved to cut it and subsidize

found deep support. Instead of

state unwilling to act in the interest

tax cuts with that money instead.

cracking down on actual violent

of those most vulnerable.

Instead of embracing substantive

crime, he is using MS-13 to in15

Recently, researchers from three

davis political review | winter 2018

policy to help curb the demand

for drugs in the United States,

could make people’s lives easier

drug use and instead has been

Trump has simply grouped im-

but has chosen not to, and has ren-

used as a banner for invasions

Not only has this war on drugs been a facade, it has also caused some of the deepest and most painful problems in American society

dered the American safety net so

of privacy and breaches of the

thin that is is impossible to think that

Fourth and Fifth Amendments

drug deaths will decline.

in the name of racist abuses of

Since the 1970s, drug policy

power. Not only has this war on

in the United States has been a

drugs been a facade, it has also

covert way of stripping away the

caused some of the deepest and

migrants into the same group as

rights of ordinary Americans in

most painful problems in Amer-

drug smugglers to bolster his po-

the name of peace and security. It

ican society. Instead of imple-

litical attacks. President Trump

has never been about preventing




thoughtful policies, the United States has uprooted entire generations of black youth, decimated the possible upward progress of millions of families, and blamed drug users for their weaknesses instead of focusing on recovery. Trump is preparing to continue the ineffective policies of administrations past, and is using Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a political tool to force a xenophobic and malicious agenda on millions of Americans.

(Illustration by Shout/The New Yorker)

davis political review | winter 2018



A BROKEN SHRINE OF Pakistan Souls of pakistani children finally laid to rest as the country breaks decades old social taboos

Ayesha ishtiaq

(Bk Bangash/AP)

The nation of Pakistan is a

health facilities, and most of all,

tricts of Pakistan, renowned for

hub of beautiful traditions, cul-

an incompetent police force. This

its Sufi shrines and the resting

ture, food, and music. In the last

creates a perfect breeding ground

place of famous Islamic mystics

decade, the country has seen vast

for criminal activities, and the

such as Bulleh Shah and Babar

changes in its state system with

district of Kasur, in the province of

Kamal Chisti, two legendary Sufi

continuing projects to enhance de-

Punjab, has been unable to escape

poets of the South Asian penin-

velopment. While there are many

the clutches of this dark reality.

sula. Bulleh Shah is a prominent

progressive changes, the country still has a long way to go - especially in regards to its lack of connection with rural areas. While the big cities are thriving, small towns and villages are struggling with low standards of living, poor 17

Kasur is one of the oldest disThis creates a perfect breeding ground for criminal activities, and the district of Kasur, in the province of Punjab, has been unable to escape the clutches of this dark reality

davis political review | winter 2018

figure in Punjabi literature and culture, popular for his philosophical poetry and resistance regarding equal rights for all. One would think that the burial place of such a figure would be a hub of light and optimism — especial-

‘Bol, ke lab azaad hain teray, Bol, zuban ab tak teri hai. Bol, ye thora waqt bohat hai, Jism-o-jaan ki maut se pehle. Bol, ke sach zinda hai ab tak’ - Faiz Ahmed Faiz ‘Speak, for your lips are still free. Speak, for your tongue is still your own. Speak, time is brief, before your body and soul fades away. Speak for the truth that is still living’ - Faiz Ahmed Faiz ly considering followers from all over the country journey to visit his tomb and pay their respects. However, the reality of Kasur is far more grim. Instead of beautiful mystical poetry and spirituality, the district is defiled with child abuse victims and pedophilia. In 2015, an undercover ring of child pornographers was captured for raping more than 200 children on film, and selling it illegally. This marked the first in a series of horrific events and shook the country. The immense uproar helped bridge the disconnect and class divide between cities and smaller districts. The event opened the eyes of many, helping the country understand the plight of those who lack access to a safe lifestyle. The scandal brought the people together for some time, but the class divide was still too deeply rooted to be eradicated completely. The village had been tainted, its children exploited and the police made fickle promises to be

more vigilant. Soon, those unaffected retreated back to the comfort of their homes while the children of Kasur were left to face their nightmares alone. This was the atmosphere of the village, its wounds still open, when another terrible event shook the town once again. On Jan. 4, 2018, six-year old Zainab Ansari was racing with her friend towards their Quran recital, but never made it to class. She was found a few days later in a garbage pile near her home, kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Her parents, blissfully performing the Umrah - the Islamic religious pilgrimage - in Saudi Arabia, were unaware that their world was being turned upside down in their very home. The case of Zainab Ansari is just one of countless child rapes ending in murder that occur in Pakistan. Every society has its varying social stigmas it refuses to properly tackle and eradicate. Stories like Zainab’s have almost become

background noise, like the rush of traffic or the call of street vendors; sounds people have learned to ignore. Mental health, domestic abuse, religious intolerance, and child abuse are just some of the ever-present examples. While Pakistan continues to progress as a nation, it still has a long way to go in battling such taboos. In the South Asian peninsula, one of these great taboos is related to child sexual abuse. Sahil, a renowned Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Pakistan dedicated to handling cases of child abuse, has reported a total of 270 cases of child abuse in the village of Kasur in the past three years. This staggering statistic is a mirror of the society’s inability to let go of the taboos it has wrapped itself in. Countless abuse cases turn to dust in the scrapbook of unspoken stories that is unwavered by the cries of all the innocent children echoed across the land. Despite such a blatantly ter-

davis political review | winter 2018


rible atmosphere, the social barriers to discussing and reporting such cases still stand strong. The extremist conservatives will provide vague justifications through false religious beliefs, while others will tie the topic of sexual abuse with that of family honor. The latter excuse is highly prevalent in areas where almost every social taboo is seen as a consequence of a damaged honor. The collective society would much rather hide the truth than confront it because the reality of the truth, in their eyes, somehow damages the honor of the families. And so, in the name of such excuses, these atrocities perpetuate themselves. The police force will remain complicit and continue stacking their file tower high with cases of rapes and kidnappings, as long as their pockets remain full of money and the

power remains with them. Many NGOs have objected to the lack of resources provided to and investigations done by the local police, blaming them for weak prosecution and early release of undeserving sex offenders. While there is a vast inefficiency in the present criminal justice system, the problem also stems from the lack of reports because rape cases often never even reach the police. Some police officials claim to have had encounters with rapists but the results of these are not substantial, neither have they had any large effect. Everyone has grown accustomed to this way of handling things, so some cases become priorities while others are ignored. Rape is a common narrative, with almost 11 children abused every day. While many NGOs work tirelessly to erad-

icate these cases, they still lack the proper governmental backing. All available figures handling the cases of rape, abuse, kidnapping and such are only recorded only by these NGOs. In official government documents, there seems to not be much substantial statistical evidence regarding these incidents. Officials tend to stay away from such crimes because of the social thought process behind them. This is because the majority of the time, abuse has its roots with close family members or friends. Such was the case with Zainab, as her rapist was a close family neighbor. In the investigation, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage showed her walking willfully beside a man, indicating her familiarity with him. Cases like Zainab’s are usually deemed ‘ghar ka mamla’ - matter of the house, by many authorities who do not want to interfere in family matters. A child

(K.M, Chaudary/AP)


davis political review | winter 2018

rights activist in Pakistan, Iftikhar Mubarik, has been tirelessly working towards the establishment of a child rights commission. He sums up the attitude of the government when he rightfully states that, “at the governmental level there are verbal or on paper policies, but the lack of a child rights commission proves that the government is non-serious.” As these abuses continued to be swept under the rug,

people fell back on using customs of honor and family to justify these occurrences. This was the status quo until the day the body of the small girl woke the country up and prompted a massive response. After Kasur’s child pornography scandal subsided, it left behind the residue of pain that stitched itself into the people. It provided the spark for the beginning of a forceful resistance. Youth movements and the work of Sahil created a larger sense of awareness all over. Students, children and parents alike, began coming forward with their own various stories. Suddenly, it was not just Kasur that revealed its horrors, but the entire country. The towers of files stacked high by the police officials were beginning to tumble down. The need to educate children on how to distinguish unwanted sexual advances started becoming a priority as horrified parents realized that their child could be the next victim. The reality of sexual abuse stemming from within the family rather than from strangers shook families into a sense of awareness. The reaction to Zainab’s murder triggered a widespread backlash against the police force, the deep rooted social stigmas, and the taboos stemming from centuries-old thought. On Feb. 17, 2018, Pakistan finally broke through the ironclad shackles of stigma as it caught and sentenced the man responsible for

Zainab’s rape and murder. Public outrage prompted swift investigation. Before Zainab, around 12 girls had been previously raped and murdered within the same radius. Their autopsy results indicated a common DNA sample, indicating the work of the same serial rapist and killer. Riots broke out around the country, demanding justice for Zainab and prompting the police further into their search by beginning DNA matching with multiple suspects. As the public anger grew, so did the efforts put into the investigation. These efforts yielded the CCTV footage of Zainab with a man, later identified as Mohammed Imran, 24. He was arrested and his DNA was found to be a complete match to the DNA found on Zainab, alongside eight of the 12 other murdered girls. “at the governmental level there are verbal or on paper policies, but the lack of a child rights commission proves that the government is non-serious.” Irfan confessed to the rapes and murders, stating that he had lured Zainab out on the pretext of taking her home. Government Prosecutor Ehtisham Qadir Shah announced in a press conference that the court has sentenced Muhammad Imran to death for his crimes after a fiveday trial period on the matter. Zainab’s murder, and the capture

of her murderer, had an astounding effect on the country. In her cries mingled the cries of countless before her, echoing into the hearts of the entire nation. It provoked a massive protest movement, and showed the hidden zeal of the Pakistani people. The picture of her in a pink jacket with beautiful smiling eyes triggered an immense surge in the country. Every mother felt the pain, every father felt the rage, and every child felt the loss. It saw the rebirth of the society as it shed away its ignorance and tackled the issue in a way that stands as an example for the times to come. The attention given to the most vulnerable people in the society shows the immense step the country has taken to protect the rights of its citizen. It is hard to look for silver linings when the clouds are so dark and full of black. It is hard to think of sunshine when the sun never rises, but this incident brought with it something remarkable. It marked the beginning of a new thought, a new fighting spirit, sparking a fire in the people. It gave people the courage to speak out, to overcome their suppression, to break free from their shackles and move towards a realization that the handcuffs only stay on because they let them. The cultural psychology of stigmas grounded in century-old practices and customs is suddenly being challenged.

davis political review | winter 2018


In villages such as Kasur, there is a great deal of conservatism stemming from a lack of education and opportunities. The people living in rural areas are subjected to unfair treatment because it is hard for them to get their voices heard. The gap between cities and villages has been large but it is slowly being connected. The public outrage is prompting the government to realize its duties towards the people. Their inefficiency has motivated NGOs and media activists to work even harder. Because of them, Zainab’s stories reached the ears of the entire country, causing the large backlash. The amount of public anger showed that the people are not numb, but in fact just ignorant of these problems. This ignorance is made worse by lack of resources and education. Authorities’ in the movement also provide an optimistic outlook. The people of Pakistan are ready to fight and they just want to be heard. This incident allowed the people to call out what they see as wrong and have their words heard and put into action. The arrest and punishment of Imran is a symbol of hope for countless citizens. It stands as an example of justice that the Pakistani authorities tirelessly brought about and will continue to. Pakistan is a small country, quite low on the rung for many who care about world events. And yet, this year, this small country expe21

rienced the rippling effects of a social movement. Parents became more wary of their surroundings and realised that rape is not just a tragic news story, but, in fact, In her cries mingled the cries of countless before her, echoing into the hearts of the entire nation the reality of many children. This has led to an increased dialogue in sexual education in school. There is a surge in the state’s capacity regarding the handling of such crimes. While hard evidence of an improvement of the country’s criminal justice conditions is still hard to come by, it is important to realise the positive emotional and social impacts of this incident. The capture of Imran has created a greater zeal as the people and the police force realize that it is necessary to capture such criminals. The mass disillusionment with the justice system has lifted as the people finally learn to trust the system with their own cases. The authorities are less reluctant to take up such cases, and there is hope that they will continue to work for any other such victim just as hard they did for Zainab. The social barriers, while not fully removed, are not standing as high and mighty as they did before. The country woke up from a slumber, stretched and turned and swallowed the grime consuming

davis political review | winter 2018

it. Zainab Ansari marks a legacy, a warrior symbol of the nation’s awakening. In a country seemingly silent and unimportant, the people are burning up with a need to bring justice. This was shown in the way the Kasur case was handled by authorities, in the masses that swarmed the streets demanding justice, and when this justice was provided by the authorities. One step towards a hundred more, Pakistan is well on its way to turning the tides and taking on the deepest, darkest demons of its streets. The rape of Zainab hit the country, buckling it down to its knees, but the nation got back up to fight. The girl with the green eyes and a pink jacket struck a fire into the hearts of the people, a need to fight for every child crying into the night, for every parent to never see their child’s coffin and for the country to stand its ground on century-old taboos, breaking out of them and surviving even in the harshest of trials.

The olympic charade

This year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea highlight international tensions

andrew wooler

(Steed/The New Yorker)


Feb. 9, the Winter

United States President Don-

Kim Yo-jong, the younger sis-


ald Trump. However, that an-

ter of Kim Jong-un, attended

South Korea kicked off in

tagonism could not have been

the ceremony and met with



spectacular fashion with an opening ceremony aptly titled “Peace in Motion.” The Olympics have often served as a platform for the promotion of harmony, but rarely

The Olympics have often served as a platform for the promotion of harmony, but rarely has the message been so pertinent as it is under the current climate on the Korean peninsula

has the message been so per-

South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Kim Yo-jong left a well-received message in the presidential guest book, writing, “I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people’s hearts and move forward the future of pros-

tinent as it is under the cur-

further from the scene at the

perous unification.”

rent climate on the Korean

opening ceremony in Pyeo-

The recent display of fel-

peninsula. The specter of con-

ngchang. Athletes from North

lowship, in juxtaposition with

flict has hung over the region

and South Korea marched side

the hostility in recent months,

in recent months, fueled by

by side, united under a single

exhibits the varying facets of

posturing from North Kore-

flag bearing the silhouette of

this complex relationship. Un-

an dictator Kim Jong-un and

a unified Korean peninsula.

fortunately, the confrontation-

davis political review | winter 2018


al nature of this relationship

fore ignores the little agen-

argue Kim Jong-un is merely

currently holds more weight.

cy it possesses. Furthermore,

acting in his self-interest by

United States Vice President

examining North Korea itself

developing a nuclear deter-

Mike Pence, also in atten-

casts doubt on the sincerity of

rent. In fact, the United States

dance at the ceremonies, did

Kim Yo-jong’s ap-

has even propped

not meet with Kim Yo-jong


up certain author-

and Moon Jae-in and refused

The Kim regime is


to stand for the North Korean

a brutal dictatorship

when it suited its

national anthem. Additionally,


interests. Howev-

Dr. Victor Cha, the front-run-

centration camps for

ner to become American am-


bassador to South Korea was

and starves the majority of its

American rationale for a bel-

recently removed from con-

citizens to fatten the ruling

licose strategy. It is not simply

sideration. Cha, an academic

class. It is absurd to think that

that Kim Jong-un has obtained

and former National Security

such a regime would willing-

nuclear weapons, it is that he

Council member, was notified

ly loosen its grip on power in

has done so in complete de-

that his nomination would not

order to advance its people’s

fiance of the international

proceed after he expressed

“prosperity,” as she wrote.

community and internation-





(Steed/The New Yorker)


er, this argument misconstrues


concern about a potential pre-

Many pundits analyzing in-

al law. This sets a dangerous

ventative strike. While it could

ternational politics question

precedent, as allowing North

be argued that South Korea’s

whether the United States is

Korea to continue to possess

receptiveness to the North re-

justified in its confrontational

nuclear weapons grants flex-

mains promising - even if the

approach towards North Ko-

ibility for disruptive action

U.S. harbors other designs -

rea. It is reasonable to point

and encourages other states to

this perspective ignores the

out the United States’ appar-

follow in their footsteps. For

degree to which South Korea

ent disinterest in countering

example, Iran could certainly

is dependent upon the United

various repressive dictator-

feel emboldened to obtain nu-

States for security and there-

ships across the globe, and

clear weapons and possibly to proliferate technology to nonstate terrorist groups. Thus, the United States is entirely justified in its agitation over nuclear proliferation to rogue states. Nuclear proliferation is potentially the greatest threat

(LucinGutierez/The New Yorker)


davis political review | winter 2018

to mankind’s continued sur-

undeterred by military threats from non-nuclear states. Despite South Korea’s economic and technological advantages, their possession of nuclear weapons hands North Korea the ability to militarily coerce the South. Given that South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world by GDP and North Korea is 125th, the military disparity creates a strategic incentive for the North to forcefully take control of the South and its resources in order to further enrich the North’s leaders and ensure their economic survival. Given the Kim regime’s predisposition to violence, the unification they speak of is more likely to be compulsory than

(Mark Ulriksen/The New Yorker)

vival. An increasing number

confront the Kim regime over

of states with nuclear capa-

its nuclear program. Some

bilities raises the likelihood

would assert that it is due to

of a miscalculation setting off

the morality of American ex-

a nuclear exchange, leaving

ceptionalism but it is in the

billions dead and large swaths

interest of this country and the

of the planet uninhabitable.

majority of the world to con-

Although the odds of such an

tain North Korea, regardless

event are still small, the stakes

of any sense of exceptional-

are high enough that pursuing

ism. A nuclear program poses

a course to reduce the proba-

a great danger both in its po-

bility of its occurrence is wise.

tential to create nuclear war as

This begs the question of why

well as in its ability to grant a

it falls to the United States to

nuclear state the leeway to be

peaceful. Threatened with the loss of major cities to nuclear strikes, the leaders of South Korea would be helpless to prevent invasion. The majority of the world would have a keen interest in preventing this not only for the moral value of protecting a democracy from a dictator, but to prevent the crash in the international economic order that would certainly come about due to the loss of such a valu-

davis political review | winter 2018


able trading partner. For all its

United States to order a pre-

undersold because it is not

flaws, the international order

ventative strike on North Ko-

particularly exhilarating, but

based on open societies and

rea. Now that North Korea can

the United States strategy has

trade has brought about the

miniaturize nuclear warheads,

consisted almost entirely of

greatest advancement in hu-

it would be irrational for the

diplomacy. Secretary of State

man progress the world has

United States to risk one of

Rex Tillerson has embarked

ever seen, bringing billions

its own cities, not to mention

on a relentless campaign to

out of poverty and boosting

millions of lives in Seoul and

isolate North Korea econom-

literacy, life expectancy, and

Tokyo, for the forced removal

ically by coercing other coun-

peace. Therefore, it is nec-

of the program. Wars have a

tries to expel North Kore-

essary for those who support

tendency to rally a population

an ambassadors, businesses,

the world’s continued prog-

behind their leaders, creating

ships, and to prohibit bilat-

ress to underwrite South Ko-

a slight chance of war if the

eral meetings. The idea is to

rea’s security by guaranteeing

Trump administration decides

raise the cost of North Korea

to counter any North Korean

the domestic political gains

retaining its nuclear program

strike with a strike of their

would be worth it. Verbal ex-

until it is forced to negotiate.

own. The United States just

changes between Kim Jong-

Coupled with sanctions, the

so happens to be the only na-

un and Trump have contrib-

program appears to be work-

tion both capable and willing

uted to the drumbeats of war,

ing. On the last day of the

to extend its reach across the

but the odds of such an event

Winter Olympics, North Ko-

globe to make such a promise.

have been drastically played

rean officials announced they

No other Western power has

up by the media because sen-

were now open to further talks

the naval and air capabilities

sationalism sells papers and

with the United States. This

to make this distant commit-

generates clicks. However, no

was an attempt to lessen sanc-

ment. Powers such as China

matter the tone of Trump’s re-

tions announced a few days

and Russia, who do possess

marks or tweets, verbal spar-

earlier, described by Trump as

such capabilities, have incen-

ring of this kind is a part of

the “heaviest sanctions ever

tives to aid in the disruption

deterrence. Mutually assured

imposed.” United States’ offi-

of the international order.

destruction does not function

cials have continued to insist

However, there admitted-

unless both sides demonstrate

that denuclearization be on

ly are limits to United States

a willingness to use their

the table for talks to proceed.

military action on the Korean

weapons, and public threats

It appears to have worked be-

peninsula. Although a retalia-

are useful in creating pressure

cause South Korea recently

tory strike could prove nec-

to drive bargained outcomes.

indicated that Kim Jong-un

essary, it would be illogical

The effectiveness of diplo-

expressed a willingness to

and therefore unlikely, for the

matic pressure is massively

discuss denuclearization with


davis political review | winter 2018

ter alternative, especially if coupled with a major United States concession to partially roll back its military presence in the region. North Korea would not survive long without China’s support, as 85 percent of North Korea’s trade is with China and the Kim regime would have little recourse. A diplomatic proposal with similar tenets is the most

(Hendricl Shmidt/

the United States.

turn as of late by abolishing

However, the ultimate suc-

presidential term limits, and

cess of the U.S. State Depart-

it is unlikely he would easily

ment will not depend on the

allow such a blatant challenge

skill of American diplomats,

to his regional dominance. At

but rather on the choices of

the same time, it is unclear



what lengths China would go

China looms large over the

to protect North Korea and it is

Korean peninsula and so far

possible it could be convinced

has acted to ensure the bal-

that withdrawing support is in

ance of power remains against

its national interest. To solve

the United States by support-

the diplomatic puzzle, the

ing the Kim regime. Chinese

United States could propose

ships were recently found to

granting nuclear technology

have been violating interna-

to South Korea and Japan as a

tional sanctions by trafficking

counterweight to North Korea.

supplies to North Korea. The

China would certainly oppose

potential of Chinese count-

allowing two nuclear powers

er-intervention may prove a

in its backyard to constrain

deterrent to any kind of Unit-

its regional endeavours. It

ed States military action. Chi-

may decide that pushing for

nese President Xi Jinping has

a removal of the North Kore-

been taking an authoritarian

an nuclear program is a bet-


likely peaceful path to removing North Korea’s nuclear capability, but China is the key element in its success. Despite inflammatory posturing, the standoff between the United States and North Korea is unlikely to end in violence. The State Department’s strategy of relentless diplomatic pressure, while not flashy enough to grab headlines, is capable of forcing a resolution. If it does, the harmony of the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony may prove prescient after all. The State Department’s strategy of relentless diplomatic pressure, while not flashy enough to grab headlines, is capable of forcing a resolution

davis political review | winter 2018


The Once and Future War:

The Scramble for Syria Post-ISIS Upamanyu Lahiri

(Bulent Kilic/Getty Images)

Che deadly attacks by the

ous foreign powers involved in

gled in Syria, all with conflicting

Assad regime on the rebel-held

the conflict, each with sometimes

goals. Russia and Iran support

Damascus suburb of East Ghouta

conflicting or overlapping agen-

the regime of Syrian president,

killed over 200 people. This trag-

das. Exploring this complicated

Bashar al-Assad. Russia became

edy, described by many as one the

mesh of interests helps us under-

the pivotal foreign power in the

deadliest 24 hours in the Syrian

stand why, even after seven long

conflict when it intervened mili-

War, brought back the global spot-

years and the imminent defeat of

tarily in support of Assad in 2015.

light on the humanitarian tragedy

ISIS, the war in Syria is unlikely

The United States, on the other

that is the Syrian War. However,

to end anytime soon.

hand, wanted the Assad regime

for observers, Syria has also re-

For the past few years, the

removed from power. However,

cently been in the news because

United States, Russia, Iran and

the simultaneous goal of fighting

of complex clashes among vari-

other foreign powers were entan-

ISIS made this goal more com-


davis political review | winter 2018

plicated. Despite these, and other contradictory aims, the United States, Russia, and other powers largely avoided any overt clashes amongst themselves even if they did not always work together, as the common goal was the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. That is, until now. As the Islamic State faces imminent defeat, retaining just pockets of territory, all parties involved are scrambling to take advantage of the situation. Each wants to be in the position to shape the postISIS political situation of Syria. The war has morphed from one in which the rival alliances have an unofficial, if uneasy truce, into one characterized by rival alliances engaging in open conflict with the potential to escalate into warfare. This continued presence of foreign powers on Syrian soil will only continue the misery of the Syrian people. On Feb. 7, a U.S. airstrike on the Southeastern city of Deir alZour reportedly killed dozens of Russian military-contracted mercenaries. The strike was in response to these pro-Assad Russian military forces’ assault on a base where U.S. troops were operating. Apart from its official military forces, Russia has an unknown, presumably large, number of unofficial mercenaries fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in

Syria. Although no official Russian forces were killed in the attack, this was the first public case of U.S. military actions leading to Russian deaths in the Syrian Civil War, marking a new and potentially dangerous phase of Russian-American clashes in Syria. As the common goal of defeating ISIS fades into the horizon, similar clashes like these could occur with increasing frequency, thus risking a larger conflict in the coming months and years. Complicating the conflict further is not just the various rivalries, but the often fragile nature of the alliances on the ground. The contradictory nature of the various alliances and their wildly unexpected outcomes is most clearly on display in Afrin, a Kurdish town in northwest Syria. In January, Turkey - a NATO member - escalated its involvement in the conflict by launching a ground assault against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia despite protests from the U.S. This was supposed to have the tacit support of Russia, which wanted to use this as an opportunity to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its NATO ally while remaining distant from the offensive itself. Meanwhile, Iran, the most influential regional power in the conflict, opposed the assault. Turkish President Erdoğan has criticized U.S. support for the

Kurdish groups in Syria in the past, considering them an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which Turkey has designated as a terrorist group. Washington also considers the PKK a terrorist organization, but in Syria it has backed the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia fighting against the Islamic State over objections from Ankara. The latest complication in this saga came last month when pro-Assad forces stormed into Afrin, apparently backing the Kurdish forces under siege from the Turkish assault. The United States’ precarious role in all this, including its desire not to get into a direct conflict with its NATO ally, made it decide against intervening too much in this conflict. The Kurdish militia thus turned to the Assad regime for help, which Assad promptly provided. This has led to a situation in which the United States finds itself on the opposite side of its NATO ally. Even more astonishingly, with pro-Assad and Iran-backed forces backing up the U.S.-backed Kurds, the U.S. nominally finds itself on the same side as that of the regime is wishes to see removed and another whose role in Syria it vehemently opposes. At the same time, the Syrian regime is backing tribal militias that are attacking the Kurds in Eastern Syria.

davis political review | winter 2018


Meanwhile, Israel has watched the rapidly growing power and clout of its biggest rival, Iran, in Syria with increasing fear. Iran, along with Russia, has been instrumental in helping the regime beat back the rebels and the Islamic State, to which it lost vast swathes of territory in the early years of the war. Iran has provided the regime with money and manpower during the war, expanding Iranian presence in the process. Israel sees Iran’s growing influence in the region as a direct threat because it faces the danger of Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah militants on its northern border with Lebanon. It desperately wants to avoid a similar threat from Iranian-backed militia on its northeastern border with Syria. Therefore, Israel may want to get involved in shaping Syria’s future, if only to counter Iran, and a showdown between Iran and Israel is possible. The stakes for this were raised last month when an Israeli warplane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles. This was the first time an Israeli warplane had been shot down since the 1980s. This was triggered by the entrance of an Iranian drone into Israeli airspace. If an Iranian-Israeli conflict does break out in Syria, it will further crowd an already overcrowded theater and further complicate an already over-complicated war, likely pro29

(Mauricio Lima/The New York Times)

longing it further and extending the misery of the Syrian people. The United States’ position in this war is complicated and any possible action it can take is limited. It lost its position as the most influential foreign power in the conflict when Russia intervened militarily in Syria in favor of Assad in 2015 while the U.S. dithered on military action even as Assad crossed President Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons. In recent months, the Trump administration has been shifting the focus of U.S. involvement in Syria from defeating ISIS to countering Iran’s influence. More than a change in ideology, this is simply a reflection of the changing reality. During the Obama era, defeating ISIS was the glue that held the foreign powers involved in the

davis political review | winter 2018

conflict together. Now, amid the scramble for influence, the U.S. sees opposing the Assad regime and Russian and Iranian influence as its biggest goal in a post-ISIS Syria. In all, the imminent defeat of ISIS does not signal the end of the war. It signals merely the morphing of it into a new and potentially even more dangerous phase where world and regional powers jostle for power, often clashing with each other and risking a larger conflict. Amidst all this, it is the Syrian people who continue to suffer, caught in the middle of crossfire between global powers struggling for influence and their own leader, a brutal dictator who has massacred thousands of innocent civilians in his own country.

Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan

Doomed for Failure Kaleemah Muttaqi

(Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)


mong various promises made by the Trump administration throughout the past year, one has rung resoundingly clear: brokering peace in the Middle East. Deemed the “ultimate deal,” Trump and various delegates have promised to work towards remedying conflicts in the region whilst working towards an overall goal of established peace. The plan centers primarily on negotiating the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Iran negotiations & ISIL conquest subsequently following as

other areas of concern. While talk of such peace may look promising on the surface, the question lingers as to just how plausible such prospects are, and where intentions truly lie. A major concern regarding the credibility of such prospects lies in the peacemaking team, many of whom are relative newcomers to Middle East peacemaking, and one in particular who holds potential both for bias and personal agenda. Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump and current senior White House advisor,

maintains both personal and economic relationships within the region that are concerning. The Kushner family shares a history with Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Israeli Prime Minister, that dates back to Kushner’s childhood. Netanyahu and Charles Kushner - Jared’s father - have maintained economic and personal ties throughout the years; the Prime Minister has even slept in Jared’s bedroom at the Kushner’s home in New Jersey. The Kushner family has shown their support for

davis political review | winter 2018


Israeli causes through personal donations to Netanyahu amounting to “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and donations to illegal Israeli settlements, the Beit El settlement in particular. Recent reports have uncovered ties between the Kushner family and one of the richest fami-

(PPO/Getty Images)

lies in Israel, the Steinmetz

ons deal negotiated by none

attention to another area of

family, amounting to millions

other than Kushner himself.

concern: the Saudi-led cam-

of dollars. While these invest-

The deal’s informality was

paign against Houthi rebels

ments may appear unalarming

surpassed by Kushner’s will-

in Yemen. Many worry that

on the surface, Kushner’s new

ingness to secure a better

the new arms deal will be

role in brokering peace be-

deal for the Saudi govern-

used to prolong the already

tween Middle Eastern states

ment. He reportedly “person-

devastating conflict, one that

changes these dynamics. It’s

ally called Lockheed Martin

has resulted in over “15,000

reasonable to question wheth-

CEO Marillyn Hewson and

human casualties” since 2015

er or not Kushner can broker

asked if she would cut the

as reported by the UNHR’s

a fair deal between Israel and

price of a sophisticated mis-

Office of the High Commis-

Palestine considering he has

sile detection system.” Not

sioner. It’s hard to envision

millions of dollars invested

long after, Saudi Arabia and

the success of peace talks

in one of the regions. Should

UAE pledged to donate $1

when weapons deals (such as

his eagerness to prioritize the

billion to a World Bank fund

the one just established) are

well-being of these assets

inspired by none other than

bound to raise civilian death

outweigh his impartiality, the

Ivanka Trump, inciting con-

tolls. A similar deal was re-

potential for bias arises.

cerns that White House mem-

cently struck with Bahrain,

Outside of Israel, concerns

bers may be using leverage to

when the U.S. State Depart-

arise within Saudi Arabia,

inspire personal favors from

ment announced to Congress

specifically regarding a bil-

their foreign counterparts.

“that it would proceed with a

lion dollar U.S.-Saudi weap-

The weapons deal draws

$5 billion sale of fighter jets

Since publication, Jared Kushner has been “stripped of top security clearance” by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.


davis political review | winter 2018

bases will serve as means of preventing China from trading successfully with Afghanistan. These power-grab tactics potentially create both national and international dangers. In response to Trump’s



U.S. forces, the Taliban has sent threats to the Pentagon, promising to continue fight-

(Thomas Coex/Getty Images)

to Bahrain, waiving concerns about the Gulf state’s human rights record that initially delayed the deal under the Obama administration.” The Trump administration’s inconsistencies



boding amidst Middle East peace negotiations. While the White House has no problem criticizing Israeli settlement expansion and construction, labeling them as “an impediment to peace,” Trump’s foreign policy choices don’t match up. Sticking true to his campaign promises, Trump recently announced plans to move the Israeli U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, officially recognizing the city as the capital of Israel. This move proves problematic and definitely qualifies as ‘an im-

pediment to peace,’ seeing

ing so long as U.S. troops

as both Israeli and Palestinian

remain in Afghanistan. The

states claim Jerusalem as their

group made its anger clear,

capital, land which was con-

stating, “If America doesn’t

stituted as Palestinian territory

withdraw its troops from Af-

according to 1967 borders.

ghanistan, soon Afghanistan

In fact many of Trump’s

will become another grave-

foreign policy actions appear

yard for this superpower in

to be hindering peace rather

the 21st century.”

than propelling it. Trump’s

These acts, be it the es-

arming of Saudi Arabia, as-

tablishment of new weapons

sisting them in their bomb-

deals, expansion of military

ings of ports, bridges, and aid

facilities, or relocation of

warehouses in an attempt to

embassies, all hold one com-

“starve Yemen into submis-

mon element: Iran. Trump

sion” is only leading to more

has made his unfavorable

destabilization and destruc-

stance on the country and its

tion in the region. Trump’s

foreign relations clear from

new strategy in Afghanistan

the beginning, primarily in

is to expand military inter-

regards to Syria and Israel.

vention, but for what reason?

Last year, the White House

The location of such military

imposed sanctions on Iran

facilities near China’s West-

despite certifying its compli-

ern frontier suggests that the

ance on the nuclear deal. As

davis political review | winter 2018


(Tom Bachtell/Getty Images)

a result, the preservation of

plan’ from going forward.

Personal agendas, ego-driv-

the agreement does not look

The U.S. UN Ambassador,

en power grabs, and outright

promising. This decision, like

Nikki Haley, recently stated

hypocrisy all represent the

the others, could potentially

that the peace plan is current-

antithesis of what this peace

further destabilization in the

ly being “finished up.” Final-

plan supposedly stands for.

region rather than promote

ization may be hindered by

Ongoing conflicts in the re-

peace, as Iran has already

new developments, as Pales-

gion, and an unwillingness to

threatened to withdraw from

tinian leader Mahmoud Abbas

negotiate by various states,

the nuclear agreement if U.S.

recently publicly rejected the

threaten to further instabili-

sanctions continue.

U.S.’ role in leading Middle

ty. As tension builds up, the

East peace efforts, proposing

outcomes following the im-

“convening an international

pending release of said peace

peace conference” instead.

plan will be telling.

The future doesn’t look promising,




stopping this supposed ‘peace 33

davis political review | winter 2018

on the

prospect of abolition San Francisco marijuana expungement & the work undone

Sierra lewandowski

(Rupert Smissen/Buzzfeed)


n Jan. 31, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office released a press statement announcing their intention to retroactively apply California’s Proposition 64 to current drug felons. Proposition 64, proposed initially on the November ballot of 2016 and enacted in January of 2018, outlines the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and possession for those over the age of

21. The San Francisco District Attorney (D.A.) has agreed to revisit nearly 4,490 non-violent federal marijuana convictions, dating back to 1975, via a petition process available to felons with the hope of having their sentences reduced to a misdemeanor. Additionally, nearly 3,038 misdemeanors will “automatically be erased” from the record of identified offenders. The city of San Francisco has

received great praise and odes of liberal triumph following this announcement last month. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón remarked, “San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country’s disastrous, failed drug war” has caused. While this plan to free individuals of their drug-related charges is a positive step towards increasing justice within the state of

davis political review | winter 2018


California, there are still shortcomings and ironies within the policy itself that should be addressed. It is estimated that there have been over 2,750,000 cannabis-related arrests under California law enforcement between 1915 and 2016. Though addressing nearly 8,000 cases related to marijuana is an important step, the petition process involved burdens the individual by requiring personal time and resources to advocate for their case to be reconsidered. While expunging records for individuals who have been convicted can have positive impacts on increasing their ability to find housing and jobs, the devastating effects of conviction remain. Incarceration’s psychological and emotional trauma cannot be undone. As San Francisco advertises this plan as “an opportunity to rectify wrongdoing,” the state’s ulterior motive is to effectively wipe their hands of the historic effects of the war on drugs and crime by framing their work as a matter of overcoming previously wrong judgments. Marijuana criminalization has demolished communities. While San Francisco gets applauded 35

(Illustration by @Themoonbacon_/Buzzfeed)

for its progressivism, individuals remain incarcerated and unable to receive employment or housing for a crime that is increasingly legalized. While recent efforts have begun to to address the impacts of incarceration, these steps cannot be enacted in isolation. This policy change comes as marijuana is simultaneously becoming legalized across the nation. Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have recognized the recreational use of cannabis as legal. Whole industries dedicated to its commodification are booming, and it is estimated that 2018 marijuana sales will produce almost $11 billion dollars nationally, with projected increases reaching $21 billion by 2021. As individuals continue to be criminalized and incarcerated, capitalist corporations are prof-

davis political review | winter 2018

iting. The profit produced by this growing industry not only goes to the state via taxation, but also benefits the disproportionately white and wealth private industries. Despite marijuana use between blacks and whites being “roughly equal,” blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for its use according to a report published by the American Civil Liberties Union. And of the approximately 3,400 marijuana dispensaries in the United States, roughly 1 percent are owned by black people. The irony in these policies suggest the bias of criminalization and decriminalization. There is a blatant disconnect between who is afforded the opportunity to have wealth and protection, and which types of people are deemed undeserving of freedom. While whites are able to profit off of the cul-

tivation and use of marijuana, for illegally selling marijuana communities of color remain destroys the individuals’ life either negatively impacted or without addressing the societal left out of its positive benefits. ills of drug trade, cyclical povReporters have referred to this erty, and homelessness. From phenomena as the gentrification policing to prosecution, the of marijuana. California, and state is able to remain authorthe nation as a whole, should be itatively objective by simply imparting the focused on rules of the eradicating justice system. incarceration This perpetufor non-vioates a cycle of lent offendincarceration ers and for tha t c o n t i n pe t t y d r u g u e s to lock up crimes in orbodies without der to reinvest addressing the in broken state (Illustration by @Themoonbacon_ syste m s t h a t infrastructure. Our societal conception of disproportionately funnel comcriminality recognizes acts of munities of color to a life behind crime as a matter of personal bars. Stemming quite obviousmoral failing. Individuals be- ly from the legacy of slavery, come incarcerated because they mass incarceration today has a are identified as bad, have “act- particularly racialized tone. A ed out,” or are deemed harmful lasting history and rhetoric of to society. Because crime cen- “tough on crime” policies has tralizes the individual and re- worked to successfully shift quires them to expel their most blame to individuals, while igprecious resource - time - as noring violence systemic to the reparation, nothing is done to state, as incarceration rates remitigate the sources of crime main steadily increasing. State sanctioned violence in our society. Focusing explicitly on individual acts ignores and conditions under late-stage the greater structures and sys- capitalism have crafted a sotems that produce instances of ciety in which individuals are crime. Arresting an individual valued based on their ability

to contribute to the economy. The historic and institutionalized nature of the U.S. economy as being reserved for the white and wealthy has led to the segregation and disenfranchisement of communities in disinvested areas devoid of access to resource and opportunities. Crime is a systemic product of failing school systems, lagging job growth, limited company investment, inequitable environmental access and high rates of incarceration recidivism that facilitate mass incarceration in communities of color. Incarceration is a cultural phenomena involving the intentioned and damaging isolation of individuals from their communities, the economy, civic engagement, and access to resources that typically enshrine an individual’s experience of freedom. And yet, the experience of imprisonment is not confined to the jail cell or physical institution, but becomes produced as an internalized characteristic of an individual’s identity. Rather than referring to individuals as people who have committed a crime, we

davis political review | winter 2018


deem them criminals - in-

become permanently disen-

the money spent funding the

separable from their actions.

franchised. While efforts to

inhumanity of the prison in-

The stigma of criminalization

expunge the records of thou-

dustrial complex would be

follows previously incarcer-

sands of San Franciscans is a

better allocated to fixing dis-

ated people and impacts their

positive step, true equity and

invested communities, revi-

ability to find housing, get

freedom is impossible while

talizing in education, and ad-

jobs, receive benefits from

the institution of incarcera-

dressing systemic racism.

the state or, in some states,

tion remains intact. Perhaps

(Rupert Smissen/Buzzfeed)


davis political review | winter 2018

davis political review | winter 2018




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