The International Relations Review
Published independently by the undergraduate students of Boston University since 2009 Edward Hill, Editor
Winter 2011 Volume 2, Issue 2
The International Relations Review
In this issue:
Chinese Perspectives on Currency Reform Balancing American Demands with Defense of the Chinese Model
Megan Griffith, CAS ’11
Democracy for All Seasons
Arab Dictatorships, Political Islamism and American Foreign Policy
Sam Leone, CAS ’13
Taylor O’Brien SMG ’11
Past His Prime: The Italian State Under Berlusconi
The International Relations Review Volume 2, Issue 2 March 2011
Edward Hill, Editor-in-Chief Giuseppe Caruso, Managing Editor
CAS ‘11 CAS ‘11
Kaitlyn Kiernan, Senior Editor CAS ‘11 Caitlin Lesczynski, Senior Editor CAS ‘13 Stephanie Solis, Layout Editor COM ‘14 Katrina Trost, Copy Editor CAS ‘14 Helena Carpio, Copy Editor CGS ‘12 Madeline Rosenberger, Copy Editor COM ‘14 Jatnna Garcia, Copy Editor CAS ‘14
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Chinese Perspectives on Currency Reform Balancing American Demands with Defense of the Chinese Model
By Megan Griffith, CAS ’11 The global financial crisis of 2008 continues to have ramifications in international economic relations to present day. In particular, the United States has struggled to avoid a doubledip recession and to rise again from low domestic and household savings. At the same time, the United States’ biggest trade partner, China, has managed to escape the recession by relying primarily on export growth. These differences in handling the financial crisis have led to tensions possibly best understood from the Chinese perspective through viewing the Chinese media. Because the value of countries’ currencies can affect how likely populations in one country are to be able to afford exports from another country, media in an export-driven country such as China focus heavily on the issues of currency and currency reform. In discussions regarding currency reform, the Chinese media express a combination of rejection of American concerns and praise for the Chinese model. Opinion pieces and news articles in the Chinese media have evolved over the past few months, from strict rejection of the idea of appreciating the yuan to assertions that appreciation of the yuan would actually benefit China more than the United States by allowing the yuan to take its place in the world as a global reserve currency. Rejection of American Concerns In international circles, United States politicians and officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have criticized Chinese currency policy, citing the yuan’s low value relative to the dollar as the reason for China’s trade surplus with the United States and as the root of high American unemployment and industry difficulties. In response, the Chinese press has taken several measures to discredit and reject these American complaints. Academic Authorities on Economics One of the main ways in which China has
sought to discredit American complaints has been by quoting authorities on economics. These authorities, usually academics, argued that China was a scapegoat or that the United States were ultimately to blame for American financial woes. For example, on 16 September, Xinhua News quoted Economics Nobel Prize Laureate James Heckman of the University of Chicago, who said, “A more expensive Chinese currency would help, in some sense, but the key problem was in the U.S. economic policies which had proven to be ineffective.” In fact, as China increasingly looked to the possibility of internationalizing its currency this past fall, opinion pieces and news articles increasingly cited academics in economics such as Ronald McKinnon, an international economics professor at Stanford University. On 3 September, China Daily quoted Professor McKinnon as arguing, “A more stable, not flexible, yuan would help China’s effort to internationalize the currency while foreign pressure on faster yuan appreciation is counter-productive.”
International Leaders in Economics In addition, Chinese media sought to draw in supporting opinions of leaders of other countries and of international organizations, particularly leaders of the G-20 and International Monetary Fund. These arguments have typically focused on the need for countries to cooperate and place global economic concerns above plans that would only benefit single countries. On 7 October, Xinhua News quoted IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard, who highlighted how important cooperation on a global scale, rather than division between economic powers, was: “There is going to be reluctance to achieve [fiscal consolidation], as [advanced economies] need to rely more on exports … various countries should enhance coordination on economic and trade issues to avoid a possible currency war.” Dismissal as Domestic Politics China, like most of the world, remained aware of the American midterm elections and the desperate politicking associated with the polls. By drawing attention to congressional candidates and elections, Chinese papers have been able to dismiss most demands by Americans for appreciation of the yuan or tariffs on Chinese goods as populist politics
The Great Wall of China once served to defend the nation, but in today’s state of affairs, soft dimplomacy and subtle messaging serve to defend its interests. Photo credit: Kaitlyn Kiernan, CAS ’11
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and scapegoating. In early September, United States Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner continued his rhetoric that China should float its currency more freely. In response, People’s Daily published an article on 17 September dismissing these calls, saying, “The effort is seen in part as an American election year bid by lawmakers eager to show voters that they are taking action to revive the economy, although economists say currency revaluation won’t by itself eliminate the U.S. trade deficit with China.” As the midterm elections drew nearer, and American politicians focused even more heavily on the U.S. trade deficit with China, Chinese media seemed eager to simply dismiss these debates as political fodder and unimportant to Chinese economic decisions. Chinese Leaders of Economics Because the United States is important for Chinese foreign relations and because exports constitute a large part of the Chinese economy, Chinese media include articles on the issue of currency reform nearly every day. While these media outlets have often relied on the above examples of academics and international leaders to reject American complaints about the value of the yuan, the Chinese media have not left out the opportunity to quote Chinese leaders as well. Eventually, articles by the Chinese media began to assert that the United States perspective was not just wrong, but would actually be detrimental to the world economy. On 9 November, China Daily quoted Chen Daofu, a senior economist at the State Council Development Research Center. Chen asserted that “Calling for a rapid yuan revaluation is unreasonable … a fast appreciation will block the effective flow of resources, causing serious social and economic problems and even dragging down growth.” Overall, the combination of citing important figures in the economic sphere and dismissing American complaints as simple domestic politics has allowed for a large number of articles rejecting American demands to appreciate the yuan. While this took apart one side of the debate over whether to reform Chinese exchange rate policies, the Chinese media recognized the need to defend Chinese
actions thus far to effectively secure the Chinese angle on the international debate. Defense of Chinese Actions Chinese media widely supported the Chinese government’s policy against submitting to United States demands for the rapid appreciation of the yuan relative to the dollar. In addition to rejecting these American demands, opinion pieces and articles in the Chinese press were careful to praise Chinese actions on the issue thus far, both to legitimize the current government and to justify continued caution with regard to the exchange rate in the future. Newspapers defended
“The Chinese media widely supported the Chinese government’s policy against submitting to United States demands...” Chinese policy by referencing academic authorities, by citing Chinese leaders and by accusing American politicians of acting out of selfishness. Academic Authorities on Economics The Chinese media largely cited academics in the field of economics to argue that a stable exchange rate was necessary since appreciation to date of the yuan had already slowed the demand for Chinese imports. On 15 October, People’s Daily quoted Economics Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who argued, “If the exchange rate goes up, many [barely profitable Chinese manufacturing firms] will go bankrupt, many workers will lose their jobs … Chinese leadership obviously cannot countenance high unemployment.” Even the idea that the United States was acting selfishly was supported with the use of quotes from academics in international economics organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. On 5
November, Xinhua News said that some OECD economists “did not rule out the possibility the U.S. government was deliberately waging a currency war by quantitative easing, depreciating the dollar, shifting the economic risks to others and pursuing the bonus that comes from having a reserve currency.” International Leaders of Economics Defense of China’s policies with regard to its exchange rate also relied on important international leaders, such as the chief of the European Central Bank and the Governor of the Bank of Canada. The Chinese media quoted these leaders to establish that China was not wrong by disobeying American demands. For example, on 21 October, Xinhua News quoted Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney as sympathetically stating, “We understand the reasons for China’s position, we understand the difficulty of movement, and we understand the importance of a degree of gradualism in the movement.” Chinese Leaders of Economics When quoting Chinese domestic leaders, Chinese newspapers publish articles that defend Chinese exchange rate policy by showing how changing said policy could result in domestic instability. On 18 October, People’s Daily polled and quoted several government officials and experts, coming to the conclusion that “China is now facing a difficult time in controlling an influx of overseas ‘hot money’ to the country, and if the yuan keeps rising in value, it will attract more speculative hot money to China, which will add to inflation and equity bubbles.” Such opinion pieces offer a threatening picture of what might happen if China abandoned its defensive stance, convincing the reader that China could only act as its leaders had chosen to. An article published in Global Times on 8 October published a more pessimistic piece quoting Premier Wen Jiabao as saying, “If the yuan appreciates by 20 to 40 percent as demanded, a large number of factories will go bankrupt, and migrant workers will lose their jobs. Should China have problems in its economy and its society, it will be disastrous for the world.”
Accusations of U.S. Selfishness Over the fall of 2010, frustration with the United States and its demands that China revalue its currency grew. The Chinese media increasingly sought to publish articles that accused American politicians of selfishness. On 20 October, China Daily published a State Information Center assertion that “As China is the largest holder of U.S. national debt, the rapid appreciation of the Chinese currency would cause many of the nation’s dollardenominated U.S. debts to evaporate and promote the redistribution of wealth between the creditor and debtor.” Less widely read newspapers, such as China Youth Daily, ran with the idea that the United States was actually trying to limit China’s growth. On 19 September, Ju Hui wrote, “The ultimate purpose is the same, which is to harm China. [American politicians] make use of the RMB issue to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese goods and wipe out China’s export industry. In addition, deterring Chinese companies from investing in the United States can also hinder the development of those companies.” Evolution of Opinions in the Press The global economic situation changed over the fall of 2010. The Chinese media adapted to these changes and published articles and editorials with rapidly changing views on the issue of exchange rate policies and American demands that China revalue the yuan. In the beginning of September, American concerns about the value of the
yuan started to rise again after China’s careful and limited appreciation of the yuan in the summer months. American politicians started to demand that China continue this appreciative trend. In response, a few articles, such as one in People’s Daily on 8 September, seemed to chastise the United States. Zheng Xinli, the Economic Committee Vice-Director in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was quoted as remarking, “As one of the major reserve currency-issuing countries in the world, the United States’ financial security influence has gone beyond its national boundaries. Therefore, international regulations should be carried out on the financial operations of the major reserve currency-issuing countries.” In late September, the United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee sharply escalated its criticism of Chinese exchange rate policy, arguing that the low yuan made imports to the U.S. from China too easy and robbed America of manufacturing jobs. After much debate, they approved a bill that would impose duties on Chinese imports. On 25 September, a Xinhua News editorial argued that “Protectionist moves by the U.S. would ultimately hurt U.S. –China trade relations, which are becoming more and more important for the bumpy global recovery.” The article even notes that the law could set a precedent for a process of retaliation. As the American midterm elections approached, and the issue of the yuan became a hot topic for the United States press, Chinese media began to push back with anger, accusing the United States
of trying to start international problems for the sake of the midterm elections. A heated editorial in Xinhua News spoke angrily, snapping, “What should be noted is that the United States has adopted a ‘double standard’: in the eyes of some U.S. politicians, it is reasonable for the Fed to ‘print money’ to devalue the dollar but illegal for other countries to hold down their currencies to maintain their economic and financial security.” Tempers nearly reached a boiling point in November, following the American midterm elections, as the Federal Reserve announced and implemented its policy of quantitative easing. Chinese articles cited fiery quotes by international figures ranging from German officials to the Brazilian finance minister, but resolutely included Chinese domestic figures in the debate as well. On 5 November, Global Times quoted Mao Shunjie, the Deputy Secretary-General of the China Chamber of International Commerce. Mao chastised the American decision, stating, “The US government should stop the irresponsible behavior of devaluing the dollar and pressuring for yuan appreciation. This could bring on another economic crisis.” Throughout November, article headlines changed dramatically from those in September, turning from “Geithner places pressure on yuan” to “Beijing ratches (sic) up the pressure on Washington.” Chinese leaders emphatically wrote to the papers arguing that the United States had acted irresponsibly. Eventually, a tone of nationalist optimism began to emerge, with the possibility opening for
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China to become a new leader and for the yuan to become a reserve currency. Though this trend continued through early December, the most revealing article appeared in People’s Daily on 23 November 2010, in which Li Jia wrote, “China’s market is increasingly appealing to foreign capital given the expectation that China’s currency will appreciate and the United States’ recent quantitative easing action.”
Summary of Review Overall, opinion pieces and articles in the Chinese media have quoted international economic leaders and academics both to reject American demands of the Chinese government regarding currency reform and to defend Chinese currency policy. However, this rhetoric seems to be changing as the topic has evolved in the press. For most of the fall of 2010, Chinese journalists rejected the idea that the yuan should have a floating
Democracy for All Seasons Arab Dictatorships, Political Islamism and American Foreign Policy By Sam Leone, CAS ’13 For the past decade, the specter of terrorism has largely dominated foreign-policy debates in the United States. The discussions have frequently involved intelligent probing into the best intelligence practices and the most appropriate counterinsurgency strategies to use in the War on Terror. However, a subtle form of intellectual laziness has also made its way into many of these conversations, and that is to equate all forms of Islamism with violent, al Qaedastyle jihadi Islamism. While President Bush and other American leaders have been rigorous in denying that the War on Terror is in fact a War on Islam, American policy-making circles have tended to see Islamism (i.e. activism which seeks a greater role for Islamic principles in government and society) as intrinsically opposed to Western interests. The reality is that many forms of political Islamism and their relevant parties espouse Western ideals of democracy and liberal economy, and hence, it is in the interests of the United States to reevaluate its tacit opposition to Islamism as a whole. As popular uprisings sweep the Middle East, the reaction among American diplomats has been mixed. On the one hand, there is excitement that, at long last, after years of military intervention and an amorphous desire to spread freedom, democracy finally seems to have a reasonable chance of success in the region. However, this hope
is tempered by the fear that a resulting power vacuum will allow radical Islamists to seize power for themselves at the expense of the various protest groups. So far, observers have breathed a sigh of relief that the movements in Tunisia and Egypt have been largely secular. However, appearances can be deceiving. Tunisia, after all, has long been recognized as an anomaly because of the relatively weak position that Islamists occupy in civil society. In Egypt, the support of the Muslim Brotherhood proved invaluable in the Tahrir Square protests, including the violent face-off with Mubarak’s supporters on the 2nd and 3rd of February.  It is certainly a mistake to think that, as protests spread to countries as diverse as Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen, political Islamism will always take a backseat to secular liberalism. Indeed, modern Islamism arose decades ago to counter the very same forces of backwardness and oppression that have galvanized the discontent of those Arabs marching on the streets today. Throughout the oil boom years of the 1960’s and 1970’s, left-leaning secular governments dominated the Middle East and North Africa; Arab socialists, Ba’athists and even those who called themselves “liberals” controlled the levers of power for both the state and the economy. Propped up by high oil prices from exports or remittances from laborers working abroad, states invested in education and health, and did in fact make improvements in the lives of their citizens. However, the eventual fall of oil prices was followed
exchange rate, calling American demands for this preposterous. In late November and early December, however, these pieces changed. Instead, the prospect of allowing the yuan to appreciate seems not to be submission to American demands, but rather, a way for China to seize the opportunity to make the yuan a global reserve currency, on the same playing field as the dollar and euro.
by the inevitable decline in economic and human development, and for the past three decades, the Arab world has experienced intense stagnation under these secular regimes. Without growth, many Muslims have come to detest their ineffectual and authoritarian governments and to see Islamism as an alternative to the failed ideologies. In other words, there is not now nor has there ever been a successful
“The time has finally come to accept that there is nothing inherently antidemocratic or antiAmerican about political Islamism .” model of secular democracy in the Middle East, and in fact states masquerading as secular democracies have given Western governance a bad name. Hence in these times of increasing uncertainty and chaos, many Arabs may turn to Islam, historically a source of stability and social peace. Yet, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The United States’ mindset has largely been that it is better to have secular authoritarian states in power than to cede any control to the Islamists: better to have a dictator who can keep his house in order than a democrat who may support, or be powerless to stop, terrorism. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has
Winter 2011 always framed his relationship with the United States in this light, telling American diplomats that if foreign aid stops flowing to his military then it may not be able to prevent a take-over by the Muslim Brotherhood or a more extreme Islamist group. Yet the reality is that since America’s financial support for the government’s misdeeds is a rallying cry for the violent jihadi cause, moderate Islamist parties are in fact a reasonable alternative to Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. And now that there is some small chance that a Western-oriented secular democracy will take root in countries such as Egypt, there is even more reason to abandon support for Arab dictators. Preventing radical Islamists from taking power should be of secondary concern, because flouting the will of the people in supporting autocracy is the worst of all possible options. President Obama has only recently spoken out against Mubarak’s regime. It is true Egypt is a large and influential Arab state that has galvanized revolutionary change in the past, but fixing Egypt is not the silver bullet that will turn the Middle East into a Jeffersonian utopia. Rather, the United States should immediately cease its generally un-tempered support for the authoritarian regimes in Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen and the various Gulf monarchies, all of whose moves toward democracy have been at a glacial pace (or nonexistent). There should be no illusions about the danger involved in such a strategy. Yet there are inspiring examples of political Islamism occupying a healthy place in democratic environments, and chief among them is Turkey. Many Islamist parties in these countries see Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party as a paragon, and America should support the chance (in free and fair elections) for these parties to be elected. While the Islamist nature of Turkey’s government does at time put it at odds with the United States, especially regarding Israel, the AK Party’s tenure has seen greater moves toward economic liberalization, a strengthening of democratic institutions in place of undue military influence, greater equality for women, and a push to join Western states in the European Union. Indeed, before last summer’s flotilla disaster, Turkey’s
Protesters gathered in Copley Square in support of the Libyan revolution. In Boston, some are receptive toward the idea of a developed democratic and Islamist Middle East. Photo credit: John Tyler Wiest, CAS ’11
foreign minister was working closely with Israeli officials to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians. The same story holds true outside the Middle East, for countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia are proving that democracy and Islam can coexist. Likewise, Iraq may not yet be a stable nation, but after months of deadlock, its Islamist politicians negotiated a democratic transition of power. As constitutional scholar Noah Feldman notes, divine sovereignty and popular sovereignty are not mutually exclusive in the Islamic context. The Iraqi constitution says explicitly that the parliament shall make all laws, but that it should also draw inspiration for its legislation from the Sharia (Islamic law). Indeed, there is nothing radical about recognizing that human beings can embrace a democratic apparatus for policy making while still allowing their faith to guide decisions made within that apparatus. Hence, there are oceans separating modernist political Islamists who seek peaceful change through the ballot box and medieval jihadi Islamists who seek change through indiscriminate mass murder. Discerning between the two, aiding the former and destroying the latter, is essential. The United States has had nearly a decade to learn these lessons, and
thanks to the righteous impatience of the Arab people, the time has finally come to accept that there is nothing inherently anti-democratic or anti-American about political Islamism. Just as Catholicism has guided the ongoing transition to democracy in Latin America, Islam has its role to play in the Middle East as a defining force within the society. The United States should therefore redouble its support for the opposition, including the moderate Islamist opposition, in unfriendly states such as Syria and Libya. It should also take the courageous step of indirectly aiding the opposition in friendly regimes by pushing for both free elections and free expression. Just as he has warned Mubarak, President Obama should make it clear to Emir Hamad of Bahrain, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Saleh of Yemen, and all leaders like them, that their continued partnership with the United States in the War on Terror, and the money that comes with it, is contingent upon democratic reform. The President, backed by Congress, should make it clear to such leaders that they have until the spring (High Noon, March 21st, this year) to embrace true democratic development. Otherwise, Washington’s foreign aid dollars will start going elsewhere. They can be better spent helping poor Indonesians than Jordanian generals. In the long run, such a policy approach will do more to protect American citizens from the horrors of terrorism.
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#DoesSocialMediaMatter? By Taylor O’Brien, SMG ’11
This February has been marked by a whirlwind of unforeseen protests and popular uprisings throughout the Middle East. As protests broke out in each new country, various social media platforms including Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook played a strong role in facilitating communication and organization of the general movement. There is a revolution afoot in the Middle East. The first domino to fall was Tunisia, where Twitter was instrumental in promoting the activities of protesters to an otherwise apathetic world media. A second domino was knocked in Egypt, where protests were coordinated through a Facebook group started by Google’s Head of Marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, Wael Ghonim. The contagion effect of these protests in Tunisia and Egypt has already made waves throughout the rest of the Arab world with political unrest coming to light in Bahrain, Libya, Saudi Arabia and a number of other nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa. One of the more interesting facets of these protests is the impact that social media has had in helping facilitate them. I mean to say exactly that: help facilitate. Not catalyze, but rather, act as a utility in sending a message out to a decentralized mass united behind a cause in a way that we have never seen before. It is particularly telling how important social media is in an area of the world where freedom of the press is not guaranteed and the government shuts down all Internet Service Providers and SMS in the wake of such protests, yet the message still finds a way to reach the world. As both an internal and external communications platform, Facebook and Twitter have been instrumental in organizing the so-called “Facebook Youth”, who are behind the protests, and in getting their message out to the rest of the world. Another key point to consider: traditional media has failed us in many ways including speed, accuracy, and relevancy of coverage. I can open Twitter, search the “Egypt” hash tag, and obtain insightful information from people on the ground in Egypt. If I flip on MSNBC, chances are I’m going to hear about Martha Stewart’s dog or something
similarly irrelevant to my life. I agree that the drawbacks are significant, especially the lack of analysis, information overload, and decentralization of information. However, it is important to note that most people do not get their news from reputable international news sources such as the Economist or Foreign Policy magazine, so the insightful analysis noted
“It is particularly telling how important social media is in an area of the world where freedom of the press is not guaranteed.” above is often absent from the start. It is easy to become jaded watching the world news or reading a cursory overview of affairs abroad from NY Times or USA Today. Chances are, I wouldn’t pick up a newspaper and read a random story about protests in a Middle Eastern country, but if I saw one of my friends post on Facebook about it, that brings the issue home. And it’s hard to be jaded when you hear the recordings of “Voice of Egypt” via the speak-to-tweet recordings from SayNow. (Google recently acquired SayNow and partnered with Twitter, allowing Egyptians to call in and “voice-tweet” messages that would be instantly posted and tagged #Egypt.)
popular books, who wrote a rather lengthy article in the fall of 2010 that opened with an important tale of social activism in the 1960s: the Greensboro Sit Ins. Gladwell argues that this simple action of four black college students refusing to move from the “white” section of a lunch counter in North Carolina was actually evidence of a deep commitment to a cause as “Greensboro in the early nineteen-sixties was the kind of place where racial insubordination was routinely met with violence.”  He claims that this level of commitment to “high-risk activism” is only found in situations where there are established relationships and hierarchies in place, like that found in the Civil Rights Movement. Gladwell goes on to say that the fleeting and highly transient interactions on Twitter or Facebook are not nearly established enough to generate the level of commitment that is facilitated by hierarchies and strong tie relationships. Later, Gladwell uses Egypt to launch an attack on the alleged overemphasis on the “how” of communication, rather than the message itself.  Gladwell even went so far as to say, if Mao Zedong’s comment “power springs from the barrel of a gun” were to
Of course, there are plenty of naysayers about the importance of social media, who claim that this is not a “Twitter Revolution” and that social media has had no real impact. Most notably, This photo taken of SherShah Atif, CAS ‘14 showcases the Malcom Gladwell, author of power of social media against tyranny. The Tipping Point and other Photo Credit: Helena Carpio, CGS ‘12.
Winter 2011 have been said today: We would say that Mao posted that power comes from the barrel of a gun on his Facebook page, or we would say that he blogged about gun barrels on Tumblr… the verb would come to completely overcome the noun, the part about the gun would be forgotten, and the big takeaway would be: Whoa. Did you see what Mao just tweeted? TechCrunchTV anchor Paul Carr argues similarly that Twitter is not the cause of these revolutions. He says people would have risen up without social media. Let it be reiterated. No one relevant is saying that Twitter caused these events. That is not the point. The point is, as TechCrunchTV’s Sarah Lacy says, “as media changes there are inherent characteristics of any new media that necessarily redefine how we all experience the news, and by the same token, frequently have ripple effects that define real policy, how people react, [and the] pressure put on governments…” Gladwell misses the point not only with his arguments that these uprisings would have happened without social media, and as well, his point about “strong ties” being necessary in high risk activism. The point is not that Twitter has allowed the people to rally around something and protest. The Tunisians and Egyptians have been living under dictatorship for decades; protests would have happened eventually without Twitter or Facebook. However, without social media, the level of activism seen across the Middle East and North Africa would not have been as viral, effective, and the West would not have cared. Social media allowed these activists to convey their message in ways traditional media does not allow. To Gladwell’s point about hierarchies and strong tie relationships being necessary for successful uprisings to occur, I only need to point to the fact that Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s President of nearly 30 years after 17 days of protests largely coordinated over Facebook.
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Staff Editorial Past His Prime: The Italian State Under Berlusconi Two millennia ago, the Roman Empire thrived as the political leader of Europe. Five hundred years ago, Italian city-states were intellectual and trading capitals of the world. And just half a century ago, Italy finally became a republic following World War II. Today, the Italy formerly known for the Renaissance, Dante, Galileo, and global trading is now nothing more than Bunga Bunga parties, mob-run cities, and political theatrics. But where did it all go wrong for this original member of the European Union and G-8? World War II ended fascist rule, and the Tangentopoli scandal of the early nineties cleaned up much of mafia links to government. While there are a number of politicians and political parties at fault, most blame the leadership of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, criticizing his deceptive political choices and promiscuous personal life. Formerly respected businessman turned politician,,Berlusconi has failed to maintain the moral decency required for such a position in public service. The list of crimes committed in his three stints as prime minister would, if committed by other men, merit decades in prison sentences. A brief summation of his crimes includes: several cases of soliciting prostitution, statutory rape, embezzlement and tax fraud, along with links to the Sicilian mob, and numerous abuses of power, including bribery of government officials and promotion of unqualified “politicians” to high ranking or ad hoc ministerial positions. In one painfully ironic example, the ad hoc Minister of Equal Opportunity is a former “showgirl” for one of Berlusconi’s television networks and self-proclaimed anti-feminist and anti-gay rightist. His most recent lawsuit, involving “Ruby Rubacuori,” or “Ruby Heart-stealer,” a 17-year-old Moroccan girl whom Berlusconi allegedly paid for sexual services, has further evidenced this lack of moral judgement. In addition, Berlusconi allegedly mislead heads of police in order to release Ruby, who had been arrested for stealing a sum of Euros. Berlusconi’s claim: she was a distant relative of resigned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
President Giorgio Napolitano has pushed for Berlusconi to attend his trial in early April. In the past, Berlusconi has avoided trials by allowing the statute of limitations to expire; however, this strategy may no longer suffice. In addition, his self-proclaimed diplomatic immunity is increasingly coming under question. Corruption predates and even continues regarding Berlusconi’s business relations with Fininvest, his former company, which remain intact through indirect family ownership despite his political position. This has caused numerous conflicts of interest. Fininvest controls equity of several large entities including soccer team AC Milan, Mondadori (Italy’s largest publisher), a banking company, a film company (previously acquitted for accounting fraud, but only for lack of evidence), and several newspapers. Most important, however, is his control of Mediaset, a Euro-wide television studio that runs Italy’s three largest private channels. Consequently, Berlusconi has used his position in government to control RAI, which runs Italy’s three largest public channels. Standard, non-satellite televisions have only one channel not indirectly controlled by Berlusconi: MTV Italia. In response to his recent behavior and past criminal activities, several feminist and government transparency groups have protested against Berlusconi in over 200 Italian cities and dozens of capitals worldwide in past weeks. Why have the Italian people not taken action sooner? Some place blame on Berlusconi’s stranglehold on the media limiting exposure of his trials and behavior. This would at best promote indifference. However, a high percentage of voters remain strong supporters of Berlusconi. Political analysts blame the ineptitude of the centrist (Christian Democrats) and left (Democrats) coalitions. While constant inter-coalition bickering has foiled plans for an opposition to Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, there remains infighting within coalitions as well, particularly within the Democratic Party. Due to the fact that
The International Relations Review anti-living will policies favored by the Catholic church while also granting tax exemptions to church owned properties. In exchange, bishops and cardinals often praise Berlusconi for his support. The communist past of numerous Democrats also makes for an easy target regarding their level of religious support.
Wine country in Tuscany Photo Credit: Megan Griffith CAS ‘11
this coalition is currently composed of politicians ranging from secular Christian Democrats, standard leftists, and moderate former communists, this coalition fails to form a common platform as each political party leader fights for their own causes. This constant fighting has both limited the Democrats efforts and highlighted the strong leadership of Berlusconi. As a result, even Italians aware of Berlusconi’s misdeeds endorse him as the better option, if not the only one.
remains in a position not dissimilar to their historically traditional roles. Italy leads EU states in male-to-female employment discrepancy and is second in OECD states behind only Turkey. In national media, women are almost always there for sex appeal only as scantily clad women plaster nightly Mediaset variety shows. Rather than abhor this, many Italian women still see this as their best opportunity for employment, fame, and a secure future as an actress or news anchor.
The Italian voter does not so much expect the government to serve them, but rather expect corruption as inevitable. Most Italians are sick of being fooled. As a result, they accept Berlusconi’s promiscuity and corruption in exchange for definitive leadership.
Berlusconi’s evident favoritism towards attractive, but unqualified, women regarding positions within his government and television networks, in addition to his general promiscuity, ultimately led to his wife filing for divorce in 2009.
What about the women of Italy? Though most of the recent protests were heavily female, the average Italian woman
But how do corrupt morals slip through conservative, Catholic Italy? As most states become more secularized, Berlusconi openly supported pro-life and
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For the time being, Italy holds on; but for how long? While politics are in limbo, Italy continues to have severe issues to solve. Italy remains deeply in debt (over 100 percent GDP) despite its seventh place world ranking. In education, Italy struggles with domestic retention and graduation rates, while its brightest students often choose universities abroad, causing significant brain drain. Lastly, political disorganization has opened the forum for extreme separatist parties such as the Lega Nord, posing serious threats to Italian unity. As Italy continues to stagnate, it may not be enough to depose Berlusconi, which has already occurred on two previous occasions. A united coalition, regardless of political leanings, will be needed to prevent future autocratic leaders from rising to power. The public have had it with parliament, all 945 members (1 for every 62,000 people). Only via politicians’ combined efforts will the public begin to have respect for them once again. Politicians will have to sacrifice individual policies or continue to risk losing Italy’s role as a European and global leader. In the end, the future is neither left nor right; the future lies ahead. Italy must move forward together or they will not move at all.
Retraction From everyone at the International Relations Review, our sincerest apologies go out to all of our readers and the Fall 2010 contributors, Hassan Awaisi, Jacob Geller and Shazi Usman. The editorial mistakes that were made in this issue have been corrected and can be referenced. Please visit our online Fall 2010 issue at http://www.buiaa.org/ir-review/ irr-issues/ for the most up-to-date International Relations Review.
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