Feburary 28, 2012
Volume XI, Issue II
Tensions with Iran Run High
OVER NUCLEAR PROGRAM, Sanctions
international U.S. Myanmar relations improve slowly by Eric Feinberg, ‘12 - Page 3 war in afghanistan: an update by Megan Augustine, ‘13 - Page 4
national president obama’s enviornmental policy by Rachel Cohen, ‘14 - Page 5
opinion The VAWA DEbate: To authorize or not? by Chloe Reichel, ‘15 - Page 6 Reuters
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (second from left) visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in April 2008.
by Julia Allen, ‘15 Staff Writer
Recent events have raised tensions between Iran and Israel-backed by its American and European allies--to an all-time high. After two days of talks, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency left Iran without having made any progress in the ongoing attempt to verify that the nuclear development going on is actually intended for non-military use. Iran has threatened to close off its oil supply from the Strait of Hormuz if embargoes are imposed due to its failure to comply with international law. This threat, along with the departure of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal towards Syria, challenges international maritime convention
and has raised international concern surrounding the issue. However, arguably the most provocative move in the recent standoff has been Iran’s threat of preemptive action against its enemies. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the international community that anyone who “thought of invading the Islamic Republic of Iran -- or even if the thought crosses their mind -- should be prepared to receive strong blows and the steel fists of the military... backed by the entire Iranian nation.” Israel has also made bold remarks about possibly using preemptive strikes to attack the Iranian nuclear program, and it is these types of provocative
Race should be considered in college admission process by Collette Andrei, ‘14 - Page 7
johns hopkinS’s OnlyWeeklyPublished Political Magazine
claims that officials fear will lead to war. Job B. Alterman, the director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, points to several factors that might spark intense conflict in the region. First, the fact that all parties are attempting to maintain the ambiguity surrounding their intentions makes it very likely that the actors will “stumble into a war that no side is seeking.” Alterman argues that it is in Iran’s best interest to conceal how close it is (continued on Page 2) www.JHUPOLITIK.ORG
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Volume XI, Issue II
THE POLITIK EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Julia Allen Colette Andrei Megan Augustine Michael Bodner Rachel Cohen Robert D’Annibale Virgil Doyle Eric Feinberg Cary Glynn Anna Kochut Hilary Matfess Chloe Reichel Danniel Roettger Ari Schaffer
Randy Bell Jeremy Orloff Matt Varvaro
U.S. Myanmar Relations Improve Slowly
Victoria Scordato managing editor
Alex Clearfield Steven R. David
JHU POLITIK is a student-run political publication. Please note that the opinions expressed within JHU POLITIK are those solely of the author.
interNATIONAL REPORT (Continued from page 1)
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to developing a nuclear weapon, and that Israel has no reason to further clarify the line that Iran would have to cross to incite military action. Furthermore, other than the assertion that blocking the Strait of Hormuz would lead to serious consequences, the United States has not put forth a clear picture of its intentions. In other words, Alterman says, “each side is trying to demonstrate its determination while preserving its freedom of action.” This, he suggests, might be the path towards an all-out shooting war. Internal factors also play a large role in the uncertainty that surrounds this situation. Many people fear that the upcoming American elections will add more confusion to the already strained politics between Iran and the United States. Also, the economic situation within Iran has reached a point at which the leadership will have to address some of the issues at hand. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a divisive figure in Iranian politics, and some argue that his populist economic policies have caused many of the problems now plaguing his country. Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst, contends that these internal issues will play a major role in this international conflict. He states that the “current strategy of isolating Iran and not answering IAEA questions are justifying the sanctions that are ruining the country’s economy,” and therefore,
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that this will be the point at which the leadership will have to make a decision about its nuclear program. It is unclear whether or not these circumstances will encourage Iran to take steps towards complying with international pressure to allow further inspections and regulations of its nuclear program; it is obvious, however, that these internal factors will play a role in the outcome of this standoff. Though the current state of affairs looks bleak, there are some who claim that war with Iran is not inevitable. Shireen T. Hunter, a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, argues that allout conflict can be avoided if both nations overcome what she claims to be “psychological barriers.” If the US steps back from its hard-line approach of demanding that Iran be taught a lesson, and Iran takes “concrete steps to alleviate U.S. fears regarding its nuclear program,” then war seems to be avoidable. Citing the most recent letter from Iran, which has been said to be “more conciliatory than the earlier ones,” Hunter draws attention to minor, but important gestures that allude to a more positive outcome. Regardless of whether that positive outcome is ultimately achieved, the path forward will undoubtedly be a major focus of international attention in the year ahead.
by Eric Feinberg, ‘12 Staff Writer Governed by military junta ever since a coup in 1962, the nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has in recent years been making significant strides toward democratic and economic liberalization. The Burmese opposition party, reinvigorated by a series of protests in 2007 that have become known as the Saffron Revolution, and with the assistance of international pressure and sanctions, has been enjoying increasing cooperation from the ruling authorities. The past few years have seen concrete examples of the Regimes loosened grip on Myanmar’s citizens. In November 2010, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi – who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 “for her nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights”– was released from her most recent stint of house arrest. This was a significant gesture from the Burmese government considering that Kyi has spent roughly fifteen of the last twenty years under house arrest for her political activism. Another reassuring move came in the form of a series of anti-corruption measures enacted in 2011. Myanmar is plagued by systemic corruption that run rampant throughout its authritarian government. Government censorship of the media and internet have been relaxed, with sites like Youtube that were formerly blocked being opened. The government also granted amnesty to and released thousands of political prisoners. Even labor has been profiting through relaxing laws and supervision of unions and worker strikes. The reforms have been paying large dividends. Foreign investment has been skyrocketing in the couple of years since they began, and Burma’s pariah status is dissipating. In December 2011, Hillary Clinton became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Burma in over half a century, and discussed the possibility of normalization of relations if the political trends continued. Last month, more high profile political prisoners were released, prompting another favorable response from the U.S. and an announcement that the two nations were looking into re-establish diplomatic ties. Perhaps in their leniency and good faith, world leaders are hoping that Burma can serve as an example for other harsh regimes of the wisdom of peaceful transition. The unfolding events in Syria serve as a reminder
of how terrible political situations can become when a harsh regime sees doubling down on repression as the only practical option. All of this must be viewed through the lens of the world in the post Iraq war era. The war in Iraq exhibited the cost and destruction of unilateral international intervention. Imposing political reformed through military force is no longer seen as a viable option On the other hand, the conflict in Libya demonstrated how modern capabilities allow for force projection but can spare the lives of American soldiers and the unfathomable cost of another ground war. Burma can also be expected to play an increasingly important role in larger U.S. international strategy. President Obama announced several months ago that America would be shifting its focus to the Pacific and away from the Middle East, and has been spending a great deal of time shoring up relationships with allies and partners in the region. The U.S. has signed trade agreements with a number of regional players, continues to have a significant military presence in Japan, South Korea, and the Taiwan strait, and announced plans to introduce troops into Australia. The desire to make an ally of Burma and contain China’s inevitably expanding sphere of influence. It remains to be seen how this relationship will evolve given the deep political and economic fault lines it sits on. A growing percentage of all U.S trade is with East Asia, so it will only become more important that we have strong ties with the players in the region, including Burma. The Burmese leadership seem to be coming to an understanding of the the paradox that giving up certain kinds of direct control over its people can actually make the government more powerful by endowing it with legitimacy and freeing peoples’ creative energies. Regardless, It does remains an open possibility that these reforms will be derailed and the nation will plunge into another dark period.
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Volume XI, Issue II
April 28, 2012 Volume XI, Issue II
International REPORT The War in Afghanistan: An Update by Megan Augustine, ‘13 Staff Writer
t’s now been over a decade since the war in Afghanistan first began. Although progress is evident in many areas of the country, Afghanistan is by no means close to being considered a stable nation. As NATO countries and their allies seek solutions to rampant government corruption, drug trafficking, and economic and social upheaval in addition to continuing Taliban attacks and strongholds in many areas of the country, they are wondering how many more years and dollars will need to be poured into the country. The populations of western NATO nations are increasingly doubting the sensibility of investing money and lives into a distant land that has been wrought with conflict for three decades now when their own economies at home are struggling to remain afloat. In response to these frustrations and demands the US and its NATO partners established a 2014 troop-withdrawal goal. While this may quell questions and fears about remaining in Afghanistan indefinitely, it subsequently sparks concerns that ten years of investments will be for naught. If the Taliban know foreign troops will be withdrawn within three years’ time, then what is to stop them from laying low and biding their time and then rising again stronger and prepared to re-take Afghanistan? To prevent against this, 85 supporting nations and 15 international organizations met at an Afghani-run conference in Bonn, Germany in December 2011. Participants committed at the conference to continue reconstruction and stabilization efforts for another decade following the withdrawal. President Karzai affirmed this saying, “The people of Afghanistan are looking to this conference for clear affirmation of commitment to make security transition and economic progress irreversible.” Tremendous efforts have already been poured into realizing these initiatives by NATO-led International Security Assistant Forces (ISAF). When General David Petraeus assumed command of the ISAF forces in June 2010 the ISAF mission in Afghan was restructured and prioritized. The stated objectives were to protect against civilian casualties at all costs, legitimize and strengthen governance and rule of law, and to train and grow Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). The suc-
cess of these endeavors still remains intensely debated; however, it cannot be denied that much has been accomplished in the last two years. The Taliban regime crumbled and was declared by NATO forces to have been defeated only a few short months of beginning the war in Afghanistan in 2001. Believing the combat mission to be accomplished, the US and its allies were prepared for their work to primarily focus on nation-building. Then the Taliban regained their foothold while the US and other NATO forces were engaged in Iraq. When attention was once again returned to Afghanistan in 2006 the Taliban were more prepared than they had been in 2001. The first few years were discouraging with minimal gains and much higher casualties. President Obama announced in December 2009 that 2014 would be the target date for ending the Afghanistan campaign. However, he simultaneously decided that a surge would be conducted prior to that withdrawal. 30,000 surge forces entered the country in early 2010 and the worst year of fighting with the highest numbers of troop and civilian casualties were sustained. Substantial gains were made and the Taliban were pushed out of strongholds in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. By July 2011 four cities and three provinces were transitioned to ANSF control. On February 1, 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta publicized plans to have U.S. military involvement fully transitioned from combatant to training and advisory by mid-2013.
(Continued from page 4) Transitioning power into ANSF hands has been uphill battle since 2007, but progress is increasingly visible. According to the Brookings Institute, in 2007 no Afghan Army units were side-by-side the NATO forces. By 2010 70% were partnered with allied units due to the shift in priorities by NATO commanders. Since Obama ordered the troop surge in 2009, ANSF grew from 195,089 to 323,410 in January of 2012. NATO allies have facilitated literacy training programs increasing elementary-level reading rates from 19% to 68% in the last three years. In spite of these achievements however, the number of attacks on NATO troops by ANSF members in the last two years nearly doubled the number from 2005 to 2010. ANA troops stationed in eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistani border continue to face high desertion rates, although numbers have decreased form as high as 80% in 2009 to around 20% currently. The road ahead for ANSF and NATO partners remains troublesome. Despite the quickly approaching 2014 deadline and a continued Taliban presence in many regions of the country, Afghani troops and citizens can rest assured that allied nations will not stop pouring money, energy, and people into the mission to stabilize and secure Afghanistan.
President Obama’s Enviornmental Agenda Garners Criticism from the Left by Rachel Cohen, ‘14 Staff Writer
Afghan policemen march during the transfer of authority from NATO troops to Afghan security forces in Chaghcharan, Ghor province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan on Jan. 4.
When President Obama rolled out his environmental agenda in his State of the Union address, it was met with mixed enthusiasm. Some critics argued that, instead of appealing to his base and to leftist environmental groups, the president offered the pro-oil, pro-natural gas positions that Republicans have been pitching. “Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration,” President Obama said. This statement referred to his administration’s decision to open up new areas for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Arctic. “Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years,” he continued. While President Obama made approximately twenty
(Continued on page 5)
references to “energy,” he chose to only mention “climate change” once. This reference, however, came in the context of the president’s suggestion that there was little chance of climate change legislation passing through Congress: “The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.” Furthermore, the president called on Congress to set a clean energy standard – a call he made in his previous State of the Union. But, unlike last year’s, which announced that electricity companies should retrieve 80% of their power from renewable sources of energy, President Obama did not set a goal this time. A controversial measure of his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy included hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking”—a process that releases natural gas from shale formations by injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to free gas trapped in rock. Fracking is among a list of energy policies that President Obama said would boost the nation’s economic growth. Specifically, he argued that pursuing this, among other new measures, could create more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. The president insisted, however, that if hydraulic fracturing were pursued, it would be accompanied by regulations that regulated safe drilling practices. Namely, he promised that new drilling would include a legal requirement for companies that operated on public lands to fully disclose the chemicals they use in their fracking (Continued on page 6) www.JHUPOLITIK.ORG
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national REPORT (Continued from page 5) fluid. Environmentalists are fighting back against fracking all over the country. This past week in New York, state Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey ruled that towns have the authority to prohibit fracking within their borders. In addition, Frack Action, an environmental group, offered this critique of the president’s proposal: “President Obama’s rosy picture of natural gas as a miracle fuel does not stand up to the facts. Not only is there no scientific proof that fracking can be done safely, but the Department of Energy’s just-revised gas estimates contradict President Obama’s promises about natural gas as a pathway to energy independence; there is simply not enough gas to expand our dependence on the fuel in a meaningful way.” Like he did in last year’s address, President Obama called to repeal tax credits for the oil and gas industry. This measure failed to gain support in Congress, as opponents argued that it would only outsource more jobs and production outside of the US. “Advocating greater energy production but penalizing those who provide that energy is not a sound energy policy, but a contradiction,” Jack Gerard, chief executive officer of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. In addition to their criticism of many of the proposals laid out in the president’s State of the Union address, environmentalists have taken aim at another recent Obama initiative: President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget, which was released recently, reduces the Environmental Protection Agency’s by about 1.2 percent, or $105 million, from the FY 2012 budget. This will mark the third consecutive year the agency has received budget cuts. It is worth pointing out that many on the left actually praised the president’s energy program. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for example, stated, “ I also agree with the president that we need to focus on our own energy sources to meet our economic needs. All of that, I think, is very positive and would be good for the country.” The public will have to wait and see what ultimately plays out in President Obama’s environmental agenda, but the president has made it clear that jobs and boosting the economy are his number one priorities for this upcoming year.
The VAWA Debate: To Reauthorize or Not? by Chloe Reichel, ‘15 The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed in 1994, is currently up for reauthorization. In the past, reauthorization of VAWA has been relatively procedural, but the current political climate promises to make this into a partisan issue. VAWA is a bill based on common sense solutions to Non-Partisan issues. All Americans risk being subjected to sexual crimes and domestic abuse regardless of their political affiliation. Congress must act now to reauthorize this valuable bill. VAWA was voted through the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 2, but it is not clear when it will be voted on in full in the Senate. The two sponsors of the bill, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) urged that VAWA should be voted on before April 1. Currently, VAWA has fifty additional co-sponsors. Of the fifty-two sponsors, all of whom, it can be assumed, will vote for the bill when it comes to the floor, only five are Republicans. Under the threat of a filibuster, this bill, like almost all bills passed in this congress, will require a sixty vote super majority. The provisions of VAWA encompass many measures that ensure safety for women and men who are victims of violent crime. Approximately one in five women have been raped, and one in four women has been sexually abused in violent crimes. The aims of VAWA are to protect the victims of these all-too-frequent violent crimes. VAWA has facilitated increased reports of domestic violence, established legislation against stalking in every state, and improved law enforcement response to violent crimes. Furthermore, VAWA provides for greater protection for victims and increased efforts in the realm of preventing violent crimes. As a result of VAWA, according to its proponents, fatal violence against women has decreased by 34 percent. The ten titles in VAWA are, “Enhancing judicial and law enforcement tools to combat violence against women,” “Improving services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” “Services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence,” “Violence reduction practices,” “Strengthening the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” “Safe homes for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, (Continued on page 7)
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(Continued from page 6) sexual assault, and stalking,” “Economic security for victims of violence,” “Protection of battered immigrants,” “Safety for Indian women,” and “Other matters.” Many of the areas of the act are simply being reauthorized, but some areas are being changed. Some proposed changes for VAWA are more LGBT–inclusive protections. For example, the reauthorization now guards against VAWA funded organizations discriminating against the LGBT population. Further, the reauthorization includes a provision for grants that will be used to help those in the LGBT community who are affected by domestic violence. The new draft of VAWA also has greater provisions for undocumented immigrants, who may not report domestic violence since they may be afraid of being deported. To this end, if VAWA is reauthorized it will increase the number of visas for undocumented immigrants. The reauthorization of VAWA also has a focus on preventing violent crimes, and not just protecting victims of these crimes. Specifically, increased efforts to educate people about domestic abuse and reporting violent crimes are efforts that the reauthorization of VAWA would help fund. Despite its non-partisan aims, the future of VAWA remains uncertain. The current lackluster Republican support for the act is not a promising indicator of additional Republican co-sponsorship of the reauthorization. However, if the sponsors of the reauthorization and interested constituents really push for additional support of VAWA, it will likely be reauthorized. For example, eight senators who previously sponsored VAWA have not yet sponsored the 2012 reauthorization. If these senators, and other senators who are interested in VAWA decide to sponsor the bill, there is a good chance that VAWA will get the 60 sponsors it needs to guarantee a floor vote and subsequent reauthorization. The primary reasons why Republicans are not willing to co-sponsor the reauthorization of VAWA are the new provisions for LGBT and undocumented immigrant victims of violent crimes. These measures are important for protecting victims of domestic abuse who previously were not able to seek help, but conservatives such as Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) strongly oppose them. Grassley said that VAWA will be, “manipulated as a pathway to U.S. citizenship for foreign con artists and criminals.” He added that the LGBT anti-discrimination protections are, “a political statement that shouldn’t be made on a bill that is designed to address actual needs of victims.”
To these claims, Leahy replied, “Some are saying we seek to protect too many victims. One thing I know from my time as a prosecutor, and I would hope it is something we can all agree on, is that all victims count. All victims deserve protection. That is a message we have heard loud and clear from our states and something I hope is common ground.” As Leahy said, protection of all victims of domestic abuse should be the top priority of any legislation on these issues. It is of utmost importance that VAWA is reauthorized so that women, men, and minority groups affected by violent crimes are afforded the protection and response they deserve.
Race Should be Considered in the College Admissions Process by Collette Andrei, ‘14 Staff Writer Adding to its already stacked slate of controversial cases this election year, the Supreme Court agreed on February 21 to hear a case that will effectively decide whether affirmative action should be eliminated in public college admissions decisions. The case will challenge the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted, but did not require, public colleges and universities to consider race in its admissions decisions. Some states, such as California and Michigan, do not permit race to be factored into the admissions process. However, most colleges and universities employ a more holistic approach to evaluating applicants, taking achievement, test scores, race, socioeconomic status, and other factors into account. The new case, Fisher v. University of Texas, was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims that the University of Texas denied her admission because of her race. Fisher argues that she was the victim of the university’s race-conscious admissions policies, while the university asserts that its impetus for racial and ethnic diversity is educationally enriching and beneficial to all students. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in her majority opinion in Grutter, “Diversity encourages lively class discussions, fosters cross-racial harmony, and cultivates leaders seen as legitimate.” Racial and ethnic diversity contributes greatly to college environments. College is an opportunity for students to engage with and learn from those (Continued on page 8) www.JHUPOLITIK.ORG
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opinion (Continued from page 7) who are different from them. A broad range of perspectives from a diverse student body enriches both personal experiences and carries over into society as a whole. We live in an increasingly global society and it is imperative that students, the future leaders of multiple communities, learn to navigate in this modern world; and one way to do so is through a college experience infused with diversity. The outcome of Fisher has the potential to eliminate diversity as a sufficient rationale to justify any use of race in public college admissions decisions. While the caseâ€™s central focus is the issue of race in education, it points to a greater issue in the country: the achievement gap and inequality in the American education system. African American, Hispanic, and Native American students continue to lag far behind their white and Asian American peers in academic achievement, and remain heavily underrepresented among young people who earn college degrees. Efforts to improve educational outcomes for minorities have been growing since the 1960s, and real progress has been made since the time when affirmative action measures were put in place. But America is a diverse society in which educational differences have the potential to become a progressively larger source of inequality and social conflict. Education has long been considered a great equalizer in the United States, capable of helping less advantaged children improve their chances for success as adults. However, the gap between rich and poor children is widening, threatening to dilute educationâ€™s equalizing effects. It is well known that students from more affluent families tend to do better in school. Recent studies show that the gap in academic achievement between richer and poorer students has grown substantially during the past few decades. Socioeconomic status remains closely tied to race, and minorities tend to be overrepresented in families of low socioeconomic standing. Affirmative action in higher education represents a corrective measure to address the gap in academic achievement, but comparable efforts need to be made to address the issue of inequality in primary and secondary school achievement. Until then, it is prudent to leave in place measures that provide higher education opportunities to students that otherwise might not be given the chance to enroll in college. Perhaps policies such as that of Texas, which guarantees admission to the state university for all students in the top ten percent of their class - a mark that Ms. Fisher did not reach - are along the right track. Such policies allow students with similar backgrounds to contend against each other, which increases their chances of admission.
The new case thrusts the long dormant issue of affirmative action back into public and political discourse this year. Arguments for this case are likely to be heard just before the presidential election in November, which may oblige candidates to weigh in on this contentious issue, an act that presents political risks for both Democrats and Republicans. It is unlikely that one of the candidates will stand up and oppose the consideration of race in the college admissions process, but it is also unlikely that the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision, no matter what it is, will cause the issue to disappear. When the Court made its decision in 2003, it stipulated that there would come a time when racial preferences would no longer be necessary to foster educational diversity. The disparities that remain along race and class lines, however, show that this time has not yet come. The real and difficult task for policymakers is to address these disparities that lead to large differences in academic achievement, so that all students may have equal opportunity to succeed.