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Volume XIV, Issue V

Volume XIV, Issue V 1


Volume XIV, Issue V

the

POLITIK PRESS

the

OCTOBER 14th, 2013

POLITIK PRESS A publication of

JHU POLITIK jhupolitik.org

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Alex Clearfield & Rachel Cohen MANAGING EDITOR Colette Andrei ASSISTANT EDITORS Julia Allen Katie Botto Christine Server CREATIVE DIRECTOR Victoria Scordato MARKETING & PUBLICITY Rebecca Grenham Audrey Moss WEBMASTER Sihao Lu

HEAD WRITER Ari Schaffer MARYLAND EDITOR Adam Roberts COPY EDITOR Peter Lee STAFF WRITERS Akshai Bhatnagar Mike Bodner Henry Chen Virgil Doyle Rosellen Grant Geordan Williams Chris Winer FACULTY ADVISOR Steven R. David

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OCTOBER 14th, 2013

INSIDE THIS ISSUE WEEK IN REVIEW ....................................................................

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Brian Hershey ’16

THE POLICY DESK

Iran’s Overtures Usher In a New Era of Middle East Politics

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Sal Salehi ’15

CITY-STATE AND SUPERPOWERS:

LESSONS FROM SINGAPORE TO THE UNITED STATES Preston Ge ’17

WHERE DID THE DRONES GO? ................................................. Page 6 Henry Chen ’14

FIGHTING AL-SHABAAB IS FIGHTING FOR AFRICA’S FUTURE ...

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Mike Bodner ’14

YOUR EVERYDAY GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN? ....................

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Dylan Etzel ’17

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OCTOBER 14th, 2013

WEEK IN REVIEW By Brian Hershey ’16, Contributing Writer Fiscal Crisis: Entering Week Two of The Government Shutdown Nearly 500,000 government employees have been furloughed since Congress failed to create a budget and the Federal Government shutdown. The consequences, both social and economic, continued to unfold this week in new forms. “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone”, seems to be the tune on everyone’s mind. Important mercury testing in the groundwater of national parks has ceased. Researchers stationed in the United States’ Antarctic program, who collect vital data on climate change, were sent home. The CDC, CIA, EPA, and a seemingly endless list of government acronyms have been scaled back or stopped indefinitely. It is speculated that the economic implications of the shutdown will be more extensive than anticipated. Even if the shutdown ends soon, experts say employees of the federal government will feel skittish and question their job security, leading to a measurable reduction in consumption spending and a decrease in the economy’s growth rate. Meanwhile, a deal was struck to reopen select national parks, including the symbol of our (currently troubled) nation, the Statue of Liberty.

Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Anti-Chemical Weapons Group Arguably the most celebrated award worldwide, the Nobel Institute’s Prize in Peace was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This group is tasked with upholding the international chemical weapons treaty and is currently in charge of the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles—a truly remarkable feat given the political situation in the region. In addition, the OPCW has conducted over 5,000 inspections around the world and is credited with eliminating 80% of the global stockpile of chemical weapons. The Hague-based, weapon eliminating task force won the coveted prize over Malala Yousafzai, a teenage girl activist who was shot last year by the Taliban for advocating the advancement of education for women.

Janet Yellen Nominated As New Chairman of the Federal Reserve Perhaps the most politicized and dramatic Fed Chair nomination process concluded this week with the selection of Janet Yellen. The announcement caused an immediate rise in futures and stock prices as the country expects Yellen to keep interests rates low by continuing to flatten out the ‘yield-curve’ via purchases of long term securities. Yellen’s history at the Fed tells us that she is a proponent of dovish monetary policy and will continue quantitative easing while being less concerned with inflation. While previous Chairmen Alan Greenspan and current Chairman Ben Bernanke both staunchly resisted bank regulation, Yellen strongly advocates it. Yellen, a woman modest in appearance at only five feet tall, has just become perhaps the single most influential individual in the global economy. PP

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POLICY DESK By Sal Salehi ’16, Contributing Writer

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Iran’s Overtures Usher In a New Era of Middle East Politics

he unexpectedly dramatic Islamic Revolution of 1979, which saw the inept Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty overthrown, engendered tense hostility between the ascending theocratic Iranian regime and the Western powers that continues to this day. Yet after 34 years of bitter relations and several failed attempts at reconciliation, recent electoral developments within Iran have raised the prospects of a détente - an end to the pugnacious mentality of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Instead, the world witnessed the rise of Hassan Rouhani, a purported moderate who ran his campaign on the platform of easing dire economic conditions through genuine peace talks with the West rather than the bellicose affronts symptomatic of his predecessor. Surprisingly, Rouhani and his new cabinet, led by veteran diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, have thus far upheld their promises of entering negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program with an open mindset while mitigating the crude rhetoric aimed toward its regional partners. In fact, the sudden shift away from the antagonistic policies the world had grown accustomed to elicited sarcastic reviews from several in the international community. Most entertainingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Despite this novel attitude to talks emanating from Tehran, the United States and its allies are justified in remaining weary of Rouhani, given the duplicitous actions of past Iranian leaders toward ceasing the country’s nuclear weapons program. But unlike past opportunities at rapprochement, the Iranian state today has never been weaker either economically or politically both at the domestic and international level. The economic sanctions instituted by the United States, which were stringently tightened in 2011, has witnessed Iranian oil exports nearly cut in half to their lowest output in 26 years while also hampering the ability of Iran’s banks to engage in key financial transactions with international merchants. Coupled with the deteriorated state of Bashir Al-Assad’s autocracy, one of Iran’s few remaining allies, the Iranians have no other option left

but to capitulate. In light of this unprecedented reality, it is vital to critique the political agendas of the three most principal states that have much to gain, or to potentially lose, in a likely Iranian deal: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States. For many outsiders, the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia seems moored in a pattern of scathing rhetoric criticizing the legitimacy of the other regime as opposed to overt threats of military action. But beneath this veil of relative stability, a “Cold War” dynamic has been in play for several decades. This clash has pitted the Shiite clerical order of Iran against the Sunni alSaud monarchical family in a constant chess game of Realpolitik for the right to be called the dominant Islamic power. In cooperation with the United States, the al-Saud family forged a remarkably strong set of economic ties with the global community that has resulted in tremendous public prosperity and national advancement. Along with this material wealth, the Saudis also inherited an authoritative voice in political developments throughout the Islamic world, heavily influencing the state affairs of regional countries through monetary diplomacy. However, this regional supremacy was severely eroded during the recent Arab Spring where calls for the end of dictatorial governments directly challenged the right of the Saudi princes, even inciting pressure from their Western partners for modest reforms. But a reduction in hostility between the U.S. and Iran poses an even greater risk in undermining the tenuous reign of the Saudi princes; no longer will the monopoly of world oil production lie solely with Riyadh. A normalization of Iran’s oil producing capabilities would also come as a significant detriment to the glutted Saudi checkbooks that fund a multitude of international operations such as the thousands of Islamic madrassas sprinkled throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, the diversification of world oil supplies would undoubtedly decrease the U.S.’s unsightly reliance

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on an amoral gang of plutocrats with a long litany of human rights abuses and coercive state policies. Taken together, these factors have the potential of relegating Saudi Arabia to another middle Arab state completely beholden to continued Western interests. As such, it was unsurprising that the initial response from Riyadh concerning a deal with Iran and the U.S. was one fraught with deep remorse and fear as Saudi diplomats in Washington scrambled to deter further progress. However, the most important regional player in any potential peace deal involving Iran is without a doubt Israel. In addition to being a critical ally of the United States, Israel has served as a bastion of stability in a region marred by constant conflict. Yet in spite of the domestic tranquility, the persistent threat from external enemies sponsored primarily by the Iranian regime has forced the Israelis into taking an extremely cautious route to a possible resolution. But despite deep reservations, the recent evolution of Netanyahu’s demands that Iran completely dismantle its “military” nuclear program as opposed to “all” nuclear activities markedly alters the dialogue between the two countries. This move effectively dismantled Tehran’s argument that the Israelis were presenting unreasonable demands that no country in the world beside itself was obligated to follow. Although the crux of the nuclear weapons disagreement has feasible prospects of being resolved, more important considerations still exist for Netanyahu and the Knesset if a long awaited accord is ever to materialize. Once derided as the “sick man of Europe,” Turkey’s recent rise as a formidable power introduced an additional contender to Israeli primacy in the region. Led by the firm policies of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and his Islamic conservative AKP party, Turkish political and economic influence in the region has skyrocketed. Though Iran’s current state of health is quite poor, the human capital and natural resources available in the country hold tremendous potential for rapid growth if the nation transitions into the global community. But in its rise, Iran would necessarily present yet another viable power that Israel would need to contend with in the region, even if it is one lacking nuclear weapons. Would this economically stronger state continue its support for malicious terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas? These are serious questions that must be answered and resolved before any détente can be conceived. For Israeli leaders and any chance of sustainable peace, the answer ought to be nothing less than an unequivocal “NO.”

OCTOBER 14th, 2013

In any event, the ultimate contours of a peace settlement will be heavily shaped in accordance with U.S. national interests in Iran and the broader Middle East region, many of which are similarly shared by Israel and Western allies. At the top of the agenda lie the paramount goals of permanently halting Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations and forcing Iran to renounce its support for international terrorist organizations. Farther down this list, however, is the objective of securing preferential rights to future contracts in exploring Iran’s abundant crude oil and natural gas reservoirs. Not only would a brokered peace deal open Iranian energy reserves, but it would also provide a highly sought after conduit for gas pipelines from the sequestered Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. In today’s new global energy arena, which now includes the immensely hungry markets of India and China, expanding our sources of energy procurement is an essential national interest that must be furthered and protected. Although it might not be immediately apparent to Western audiences, the aggressive economic sanctions of the last three decades have finally achieved their goal of forcing the intransigent regime of the Ayatollahs into humble submission. For a nation that touts itself as one of the greatest civilizations in human history, the unfamiliar reality of being a total pariah in an increasingly interconnected world is a bit unnerving. Fortunately, the Iranian people made a very prudent decision in charging Mr. Rouhani with the noble task of resuscitating their ailing nation. If recent events are any reliable indicator of future developments, the reintegration of Iran into the fabric of global society will undoubtedly result in a tectonic shift in current geopolitical realities. Some nations might welcome it, while others will vehemently fight it. But change is on the horizon. PP

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WHERE DID THE DRONES GO? by Henry Chen ’14, Staff Writer

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ast week, the U.S. executed pinpoint raids in Libya and Somalia with varying results. In Tripoli, Special Forces captured a suspect in the 1998 African embassy bombings during a bloodless incursion. In Somalia, Navy SEALs were forced to withdraw from an amphibious raid that failed to capture an al-Shabaab commander. However, these raids were most notable for what was absent: drones. They reflect a shift in U.S. policy, as I will argue, for the worse. This shift begs a question: where did the drones go? A Predator drone hangs suspended from the atrium of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C, alongside legendary aircrafts such as Charles Lindbergh’s metallic Spirit of St. Louis, the popsicle orange Bell X-1, and Apollo 11. The matte black Predator with Hellfire missiles bristling under its wingtips is enshrined as a fitting acknowledgement of the decisive role drones played during the past decade of the global war on terror. As the United States pulled back from first Iraq, and then Afghanistan, drones formed an effective rearguard against al-Qaeda. Predator strikes have killed key terrorist leaders over the past two years and all but destroyed al-Qaeda’s central leadership cells in the tribal regions of Pakistan, forestalling terrorist attacks in the short-term. Drones are seen as attractive tools because they are inexpensive to operate, relatively accurate, and most importantly do not put American lives in danger. Drones strikes remain controversial due to their violation of sovereign airspaces and their collateral civilian casualties. However, last weekend’s raids illustrate that the alternative of special operations actions is far less effective. In the Somalia raid, the SEALs waded ashore near a coastal village, only to be spotted by an al-Shabaab gunman. This led to a violent firefight as al-Shabaab fighters began to emerge from the surrounding buildings in a Black Hawk Down-esque situation. The SEALs were forced to withdraw under intense fire, without making contact with their target. In this case, two limitations of Special Forces operations were revealed. First, American troops were placed in direct danger. Thankfully, the

SEALs prudently withdrew upon taking heavy contact, which prevented more serious repercussions. Secondly, raids are less effective than drone strikes because they leave too much to chance. Because the SEALs were spotted before they could reach their objective, they were unable to carry out their mission, leading to an indecisive outcome that has been exploited and propagandized as a victory by al-Shabaab. In the Libyan example, the results appeared to be more encouraging. Special Forces succeeded in capturing an al-Qaeda leader responsible for the 1998 embassy bombings without bloodshed. President Obama has acknowledged the benefits of capturing terrorists alive when possible, leaving them available for questioning and prosecution. However, the costs of this approach soon became apparent. Special Forces raids constitute a much more direct violation of sovereignty relative to drone strikes: this was one major reason Pakistan expressed outrage following Operation Neptune Spear (the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011) but has been relatively mute regarding drone strikes in its territory. Due to outrage over Washington’s claim that the Libyan government had consented to the raid prior to its execution, an Islamist militia kidnapped the pro-western Prime Minister of Libya, Ali Zeidan, days later. Although the Prime Minister was released without incident, this serves to undermine the legitimacy of a moderate government increasing the instability in Libya. It is dubious whether the information gained from the 1998 bomber will be worth undermining a friendly government with extremist enemies. There is much debate over whether the United States should be conducting strikes against al-Qaeda in foreign territories, and whether negating the threat of terrorism justifies putting civilians at risk and violating the sovereignty of its allies. There are strong arguments to be made on both sides, but one thing is clear: once Washington does decide that strikes are necessary, it owes it to the American people to use the most effective tools available. All evidence demonstrates that this weapon is the Predator drone. PP

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FIGHTING AL-SHABAAB IS FIGHTING FOR AFRICA’S FUTURE by Mike Bodner ’15, Staff Writer

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he horrific attack two weeks ago on Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall brought the militant group al-Shabaab to the front pages of newspapers around the world. Al-Shabaab has long been active in Somalia and has de facto control over large swaths of the nation, where it imposes its own brand of sharia law. The group’s history of attacks, mainly in Eastern Africa, means that many in the United States and the West know quite little about the militia. Yet the fact remains that this group may pose a significant threat to the overall security and development of an already volatile and potentially unstable region. Founded in 2006 as the youth wing of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, al-Shabaab managed to grow in power and influence even as its parent militia was defeated by Somali and Ethiopian government troops. By 2009, it controlled virtually all of Southern Somalia, and proceeded to start its own civil war against the UNrecognized Transitional Federal Government (now simply the Federal Government of Somalia, or FGS).

mass shooting, followed by the brutal siege to reclaim the mall, left at least 72 dead, including six Kenyan soldiers. What does al-Shabaab hope to achieve by these international attacks? While the simple answer is that they are retaliating against the AMISOM mission, it is also possible that the group is trying to drive a wedge between the Somali government and the international peacekeepers. The FGS does not yet have control over all of Somalia, and without international aid it may prove vulnerable to attacking Islamist groups.

The power of al-Shabaab and other militant groups compelled the UN to mandate the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM is a combat and humanitarian mission with the goal of restoring stability to the country, ensuring the necessary conditions for effective humanitarian aid, and preparing for the eventual handover of military command to UN troops. AMISOM troops come from countries around Africa, with the largest contributors being Uganda, Kenya, and Burundi. While the mission still has more to do in fully stabilizing the country, it has proven to be a very effective fighting force by liberating the capital of Mogadishu and other Somali cities, from al-Shabaab rule. It has earned a renewal of its UN-Mandate at multiple six-month intervals, and is currently set to operate at least until the next review in February 2014. Yet, despite over 17,000 foreign troops in Africa, al-Shabaab has continued to operate, and has adopted the tactic of international attacks on AMISOM countries.

In addition, al-Shabaab poses a threat to regional security as it has recently affiliated itself with al-Qaeda. While al-Qaeda’s central command was dealt a massive blow with the death of Osama bin Laden, the organization continues to have influence across Africa and the Middle East, with groups in the Islamic Maghreb, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula continuing to attack civilians and government workers alike. Should al-Shabaab grow in power or be allowed to continue to rule parts of Somalia, it could serve as a powerful recruiting ground and base of operations for al-Qaeda in Eastern Africa. Such a situation must not be allowed to occur.

While the collapse of the AMISOM peace mission would prove devastating for Somalia, it would also be a blow to African unity. AMISOM is not the first African Union military mission (others have occurred in Darfur and Burundi), but it is by far the largest in scale. African Union missions help build political ties between member countries, just as NATO interventions have helped in the past to secure Atlantic relationships. Should AMISOM be abandoned it could be a blow to African unification and coordination attempts in the future.

The recent attack on the Westgate mall highlights the importance of increased UN funding and support for AMISOM so that al-Shabaab does not grow in power, fracture African unity, and become an important and powerful new base through which al-Qaeda can spread farther into Africa. PP

In recent years Al-Shabaab has launched many attacks in Africa, and the Westgate Mall shooting is only its latest deadly attack on civilians. The Westgate Mall

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CITY-STATE AND SUPERPOWERS: LESSONS FROM SINGAPORE TO THE UNITED STATES by Preston Ge ’17, Contributing Writer

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owever controversial Singapore’s human rights record may be, it is clearly doing something right. Singapore is miniscule: smaller than New York City and endowed with virtually no natural resources. Yet, from 1960 to 2013, it transformed from a backwater British colony to one of the most vibrant markets on the planet. Since gaining independence, it has developed into an exporter of high-quality goods with a highly sophisticated financial system. Foreign investors, assured of the government’s reliability and of Singapore’s potential, invest heavily in Singapore. From 1980 to 2012, Singapore’s GDP by power purchasing parity (PPP) increased by around 675 percent while the United States’ increased by 133 percent. Even more striking, Singapore’s GDP per capita (a measure of average income) is nearly 20 percent higher than that of the United States. Regardless of the many differences between the U.S. and Singapore, Singapore’s extraordinary success demonstrates that we must be willing to learn from a nation small enough to be one of our cities. A cursory glance at the available information reveals one prominent factor in Singapore’s growth: economic freedom. For decades, Singapore has been known for its low corporate taxes[3] and lightly regulated markets: Singapore places first in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings and second in the Milken Institute’s Global Opportunity Index. Profits provide the incentive for corporations to hire workers and produce goods. Since low taxes and lower regulation make Singapore a cheaper location to operate than other nations, foreign firms are attracted to Singapore. Empirical data show that the level of foreign direct investment in Singapore amounts to 20.6 percent of GDP; in the U.S., it is a paltry 1.3 percent of GDP. Although Singapore is far more dependent on foreign investment than the United States, a more pro-business approach to American policy can provide the boost for a more robust recovery.

In addition, investment has proved instrumental not only for Singapore’s growth, but also for its rising standard of living. Singapore boasts one of the most highly skilled workforces in the world and remains committed to education; the government even sponsors workers and students studying abroad. By 2012, 60 percent of Singapore’s resident labor force had attained postsecondary education and training. In stark contrast, the U.S. currently faces an alarming shortfall of skilled labor. As a result of its workforce and its economic policies, Singapore is highly attractive for high-skilled workers and advanced research investments. These investments not only add considerably to current developments, but also set the foundation for Singapore to become a world leader in technological, scientific, and economic advancement. Meanwhile, American unskilled labor is under attack from significantly cheaper labor in underdeveloped nations. Years ago, Singapore faced this same problem. Their solution was elegant, and it is one that the U.S. should adopt: shift the economy towards more technologically advanced industries, in which underdeveloped countries cannot compete. Not only will this reduce the burdens of outsourcing, it will increase productivity, which has historically been the greatest contributor to rising income and higher standards of living. The world’s eyes are fixated on our economy, fearing for the slightest hint of weakness and hoping with the smallest glimmers of strength. The United States and Singapore are both advanced economies. But while the competitive edge of Singapore’s economy has sharpened, ours has dulled. In the past, the American private sector was the vibrant cornerstone of the world economy. It is time that we once again live up to our capacity as the largest economy in the world. PP

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, JOIN ‘EM by Dylan Etzel ’17, Contributing Writer

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t is safe to say that War on Drugs has failed. Over the last twenty years, the potency of common street drugs has increased, but their cost relative to the standard of living has decreased. I would like to stress that by waging the War on Drugs, the debate about whether or not to regulate street drugs— which was once a huge taboo—has gained legitimacy. Prior to the 1990s, the social stigma associated drugs would make any such idea impossible. Now, the United States has two states—Washington and Colorado—that have legalized recreational marijuana. Is this a result of natural liberalization or a conclusion that was only possible to reach as a result of the massive failure of the War on Drugs? To delve into this question we will turn our attention to another unsuccessful government restriction on a recreational substance: Prohibition. From 1920 to 1933, the 21st Amendment managed to increase the rate of drug addiction, violent crime, and theft, all while forcing the government to spend heavily on the enforcement of its strict anti-liquor laws. Similarly, the War on Drugs has cost unthinkable sums to maintain. Police are paid to investigate and seize drugs and drug paraphernalia, and the powerful drug cartels outside of the states are constant threats to national security. Clearly, drugs are harmful, but institutionalizing or allowing businesses to sell a barbiturate like marijuana, which is rarely cited as an influence in violent crime, could potentially reverse some of the costs of the War on Drugs. The most unusual aspect of this concept is how socially acceptable it has become. The massive cost of the War on Drugs has made it clear that gaining revenue from drugs could have an impact on the government’s spending, a hot topic amidst the budget discussion.

This seems unfair to many, and the reaction to these imprisonments has caused subtle changes in the penal system. Without the War on Drugs these changes in public ideals would never have occurred. A radical attack leads to a radical reaction. The labeling of crack users as violent and dangerous rather than directing these criticisms towards those who sell it has proved false. Drugs are not something that only well-off teenagers and minorities abuse; by bringing them to the forefront it has become possible to compare them to alcohol, cigarettes, and other harmful (but legal) regulated substances. The regulation of marijuana stands to look almost identical to alcohol in Washington; permits to produce are required, machinery including automobiles cannot be operated under the influence, and an age limit exists. Various other regulations stand to be made, but none of them other than possession restrictions differ from codes regarding alcohol. The War on Drugs has not failed because efforts to control drugs have been too weak. Efforts to expose the harm that drugs cause have been crucial to controlling drug abuse, but temptation is a part of human nature, and as the cost of drugs goes down, temptation rises. It is not a matter of whether or not the government will decide to beat drugs by joining them, but when. PP

The War on Drugs has had another nasty side effect: an increase in imprisonment figures. Penitentiaries require a lot of funding to maintain operations at this capacity, and many inmates in federal and state jails are non-violent offenders arrested for using crack cocaine.

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Photo Courtesy: United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division

The Politik Press, originally founded in 2008 as JHU Politik, is a weekly publication of political opinion pieces. We proudly seek to provide the Johns Hopkins campus with student voices and perspectives about important issues of our time. Rather than hide within a cloistered academic bubble, we know we must critically engage with the world that surrounds us. That, we believe, is at the heart of what it means to be learning. We’re lucky to be situated in the city of Baltimore, a city with a rich history and an ever-changing politics. We aim to look at the politics of the Homewood campus, of the city of Baltimore, of the domestic landscape of the United States, and then of the international community as well. While we publish the Politik Press weekly, we work simultaneously on our special issues which come out once per semester. These magazines confront a single topic from multiple angles. We have run issues covering topics like the political nature of research, the Arab Spring, and our city Baltimore.

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