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the

POLITIK PRESS

A publication of

JHU POLITIK jhupolitik.org

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Jeremy Orloff , Matt Varvaro MANAGING EDITOR Alex Clearfield ASSISTANT EDITORS Julia Allen Colette Andrei Ari Schaffer LAYOUT EDITOR Victoria Scordato

HEAD WRITER Rachel Cohen STAFF WRITERS Megan Augustine, Michael Bodner, Virgil Doyle, Eric Feinberg, Cary Glynn, Daniel Roettger FACULTY ADVISOR Steven R. David Cover Art by Will Denton (‘11) and Victoria Scordato

The views expressed within this publication reflect the personal opinions of each article’s author and are not necessarily endorsed by JHU Politik or the Johns Hopkins University.

VOLUME XII, ISSUE III OCTOBER 1st, 2012


Volume XII, Issue III

the

POLITIK PRESS

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

WEEK IN REVIEW by Christopher P. Winer ‘14, Staff Writer Robot Cars Legal in California On Tuesday, a self-driving Toyota Prius drove California Governor Jerry Brown to Google headquarters to sign legislation that establishes safety and performance regulations for autonomous vehicles. California follows Nevada as the second state to approve driverless cars on its state roads and highways. By using computers, sensors, and other technology, autonomous cars can operate independently, while a human driver can decide to man the wheel at any time. Major car companies such as Audi, BMW, Ford, and Volvo may release commercial models in the next decade. According to Google, its fleet of a dozen computer-controlled vehicles has racked up more than 300,000 miles of self-driving without an accident. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said, “I think the selfdriving car can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone.”

Bill Gates’s Plan to Eradicate Polio On Thursday, Bill Gates announced his hope to eliminate confirmed cases of polio among children by 2015 and to eradicate the disease by 2018. In an interview with the Associated Press, the philanthropist and founder of Microsoft said that the world is making “great progress” in the fight against polio. Only three countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria - still suffer from the virus. Gates spoke before a high-level meeting near the U.N. General Assembly, which began the new campaign to terminate polio. Timothy Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, called it “the most important international meeting on polio eradication in the last 20 years.” In 1988, when the global fight against polio began, there were 125 countries in which children were afflicted by the disease. Gates said that, “by 2018, we’d have the certification that this, like smallpox, is now the second disease to be eradicated.”

Myanmar, The Next Asian Tiger On Wednesday, the U.S. lifted a ban on imports from Myanmar, making the country a potential low-cost manufacturing hub in the near future. Washington lifted nearly all economic sanctions imposed against the country, also known as Burma, in light of democratic reforms it has implemented over the past 18 months. International investors have been eyeing resource-rich Myanmar for its wealth of raw materials and its 60 million-strong consumer market since the promising reforms have opened up the country. Foreign investment offers Myanmar the prospect of greater economic growth after a long stagnation under military dictatorship. The National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has supported the lifting of economic sanctions. Nyan Win, spokesman for the NLD, said that the normalization of trade relations between Myanmar and America “will bring a lot of benefits to the country and we will support the government using the benefits for the people of Burma.” PP

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Volume XII, Issue III

the

POLITIK PRESS

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

IN DEFENSE OF NON-INTERVENTIONISM: A THIRD OPTION IN THE MIDDLE EAST by Andrew Doris ‘15, Contributing Writer

H

enry Chen’s recent article, “In Defense of the Arab Spring,” effectively discredits the pursuit of regional stability through the suppression and containment of foreign democratic uprisings. However, it fails to address another important alternative to current U.S. policies abroad. It poses a false choice between two different types of intervention without adequately justifying any need for this intervention in the first place. The best way for the United States to both serve its shortterm interests and enhance its long-term security is to end its material entanglements in the Middle East altogether. American history is rife with ineffective and counterproductive meddling abroad. Chen’s article admits the failure of one such case, the 1953 CIA-initiated coup in Iran. The article presents the disastrous long-term consequences of these actions as evidence that imposing Western ideology on faraway peoples is short sighted and misguided. It correctly argues that America should use more foresight when considering such measures in the future, but then fails to apply that same standard to recent U.S. involvement in the Arab Spring. Many people distinguish between cases of international intervention by citing different forms of motivation. Intervening to spread democracy, they argue, is different than intervening to spread capitalism or pro-Western sentiment. But, just like any other ideal, democracy does not exist in absolute terms. It exists only in degrees, and the presence of democracy to some degree does not guarantee moral behavior now or in the future. Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin, and the Muslim Brotherhood were all democratically elected; they also have characteristics with which the United States might not want to be associated. It is highly uncertain whether the governments the United States is installing, funding and protecting will turn out to be any less oppressive than the regimes they replaced. In a region as turbulent and unpredictable as the Middle

East, the U.S. cannot afford to bet its image on the outcome of such risky experiments. The true lesson to take away from Iran is not that the foreign government propped up by the United States was insufficiently democratic. Nor is that the lesson from our support of Saddam Hussein, the Mujahideen, or Hosni Mubarak. The true lesson is that, in a complex region with complex interests at stake, it’s often difficult even for well-meaning policymakers to objectively discern who the “good guys” are. It’s even tougher to determine whether or not they will remain “good” in the long run. The United States has an atrocious track record when it comes to making that determination, and when it chooses incorrectly it has real consequences for our nation’s safety and message. Ideologically, it damages America’s image, decreases its influence abroad, and diminishes the appeal of democracy to subsequent generations. Morally, it renders the United States partially responsible for foreign atrocities. And practically, it wastes money and weakens our security by inflaming anti-American sentiment across the globe. The recent protests occurred in part because the Middle East does not want to be America’s playground for experimental regime change any longer. If the newly installed governments turn out to be less than ideal, it will only engender even more hatred and extremist violence against the United States. America’s dark history of botched intervention in Middle Eastern affairs demands that it use its money and military more selectively. Its current debt crisis necessitates that restraint. Democracy can be a tremendous force for good in the world, but that does not mean externally orchestrated regime change, nation building, and monetary aid are effective ways to spread it. Rather, the best way to attract foreign nations to democracy is to make our own democracy as appealing as possible. When we instead appoint ourselves as uninvited arbiters in their regional disputes, we rather closely resemble the dictators we depose. PP

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Volume XII, Issue III

Opinion

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

RELIGIOUS BANNERS SHOULD BE BANNED FROM HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAMES by Peter Lee ‘14, Contributing Writer

R

eligion has always been an integral part of American society. More than three-fourths of Americans identify with a religious denomination, while about a third claim to regularly attend religious services. As a nation we are also used to frequent public displays of religion. Professional athletes often thank God for their victories, and politicians often invoke God in their speeches. It is clear that Americans highly value the freedom to express their religion. Thus, it was especially offensive to some when earlier this month Texas school superintendent Kevin Weldon banned religious banners during high school football games in the Kountze Independent School District. Naturally, this has caused quite a controversy. A Facebook group titled “Support Kountze Kids Faith” has already acquired over 44,000 members. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sharply criticized Superintendent Weldon’s decision, stating that the restriction goes well beyond what is required by the United States Constitution. On the other hand, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the organization that originally petitioned Weldon to impose the ban, has argued that the religious banners are a clear violation of the separation of church and state. So far, the critics of the ban seem to be gaining ground, with a judge temporarily lifting the ban until further hearings are conducted in October. While examining this controversy, it is important to understand the full scope of the situation. The cheerleaders of the public high school would, with their own time and money, construct banners painted with Bible verses. Some verses that were used include “But thanks be to God, which gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57), and “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). The cheerleaders would then hold the banners up at the start of each football game while the football team charged through the banners onto the field. This incident confronts an important constitutional

issue. In the 2000 case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the Supreme Court ruled that a policy allowing prayers at high school football games violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The term “Congress” in this case has been widely interpreted to mean government as a whole. The Supreme Court stated that the prayers were clearly endorsed by the school and thus represented public, not private, speech. The Supreme Court also stated that further prayers should be “nonsectarian and nonproselytizing.” In concurrence with this ruling, I believe that Kountze’s religious banners clearly violated the Establishment Clause as well. The banners were created and displayed by an organization representing the public school body, and allowed on public school property during a public school event under the supervision of public school officials. Furthermore, the banners were clearly Christian and inferred the validity of their religion. This fails to meet the standard of “nonsectarian and non-proselytizing.” I can understand the frustration of the critics of the ban in Kountze, a small town in a heavily religious state. Nevertheless, the fact is that the Constitution cannot be applied selectively to different areas of the country. In a public school, a variety of views must be respected, and the school should not endorse a particular religious view over another. This controversy also highlights the pervasiveness and double standards of mainstream Christianity in America. Had verses from the Qur’an or the Hindu Vedas been plastered onto banners at the football games, I doubt that people would have been as quick to defend their speech. The majority religion should not be able to dominate speech or dictate policy over the minority. Furthermore, the idea that government should not show preference to one religion over another has been a fundamental mainstay in our nation’s system of laws. We are free to have and express own our religious beliefs, but only at the appropriate place and time. PP

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Volume XII, Issue III

Opinion

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

SINO-JAPENSE RELATIONS: A CALL FOR U.S. RESTRAINT by Virgil Doyle‘14, Staff Writer

T

he dispute between China and Japan over sovereignty of a group of islands appears to have reached a boiling point over the past week. Known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, they are a series of small, uninhabited islands located about 200 miles away from both the Chinese mainland and other islands of Japan. The issue of the islands’ sovereignty came to the fore after the Japanese government purchased the Senkakus from a group of private owners on September 11th. China responded immediately and severely with their Foreign Ministry moving ships to the islands. Additionally, the ministry called the Japanese government’s purchase both “totally illegal and invalid” as well as “a gross violation of China’s sovereignty.” The following weeks have seen attempted Chinese boycotts of Japanese products, tussles between Japanese and Taiwanese ships in the disputed territory, and further diplomatic breakdown between the two leading East Asian powers. Sino-Japanese tension is nothing new. But given Japan’s alliance with the United States and the Obama administration’s “pivot” toward Asia in general, the Senkaku dispute represents a test of American leadership and influence in the region. However, it would be unwise for the United States to take too aggressive a position over the question of the islands’ sovereignty. The rift between China and Japan is more likely driven by domestic political factors within each individual country rather than by either state’s passionate belief in their claim over the Senkakus. As a result, the United States should be confident that an armed conflict will not break out, taking a step back to allow China and Japan to work out the dispute between themselves. China is in the process of a once-in-a-generation transition of political power. The 18th Communist Party Congress, to be held in the coming months, will see power transferred into the hands of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, expected to become China’s new president and prime minister, respectively. This power transition within the one-party state has not occurred smoothly: the Party has recently expelled Bo Xilai, once considered a rising star within Chinese politics, for his role in the murder

of Neil Heywood, a British businessman working in China. While the circumstances of Heywood’s death remain opaque, the response to Bo’s ouster has been clear: waves of protest, dissent, and dissatisfaction with the Communist Party from Chinese microbloggers and political activists. By escalating the Senkaku dispute and taking a hard line with Japan, Chinese leaders are providing their citizens with a cause around which they can rally. This will hopefully create a wave of nationalist support during the Party’s time of transition, thereby minimizing the increasingly prominent voices of dissatisfied members of the political community. Meanwhile, Japan has elections for the upper house of their legislature in 2013. As a result, various Japanese political parties are jockeying for popularity and seeking to reinforce their credibility. Taking a strong stance against Chinese encroachment on Japanese territory is an easy way to score political points with the electorate. Thus, similar to Chinese officials, Japanese politicians have much to gain domestically by stoking the nationalist flames provoked by a dispute over sovereignty. These domestic political contexts in both China and Japan call for a measured response to the Senkaku crisis from the United States. Leaders in the Communist Party are attempting to establish their credibility as the future leaders of a prosperous and regionally dominant China, while Japanese politicians on the campaign trail hope to elicit enthusiastic support from their electorate by using the familiar trope of taking a tough position on China. But neither nation is likely to allow the conflict to escalate into a full-blown military conflict: the economic destruction of a Sino-Japanese war far outweighs the benefit of gaining sovereignty over the Senkakus and their relatively limited resources. Given this unlikelihood of escalation, the United States should take a more reserved approach, reaffirming our alliance with Japan while working to ensure that the dispute is resolved without the use of military force between China and Japan. The two leading powers of East Asia have not nearly enough to gain and far too much to lose from a protracted conflict over an obscure, uninhabitable series of islands located hundreds of miles from either of their shores. PP

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Volume XII, Issue III

the

POLITIK PRESS

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

NYC’s BIRTH CONTROL PROGRAM: A SIGNIFICANT STEP IN THE EVOLUTION OF THE NANNY STATE by Victoria Scordato ‘14, Layout Editor

O

ver the past week, news outlets all over the country have picked up a story about the New York City public school program that gives high school students free access to emergency contraception without parental consent. The controversy comes at a curious time, considering the program was first enacted in 40 schools more than 4 years ago and then expanded to another 13 last year. But now that it has been brought to the public’s attention, the dismayed reactions are rolling in. Much of the controversy concerns access to Plan B, the hormone-based emergency contraception drug that is also known as the “morning-after pill.” Through the program, students have access to Plan B as well as regular monthly birth control pills and Depo Provera, another hormone-based contraceptive administered by injection once every three months. According to school administrators, parents are given a month-long window at the beginning of each school year to opt-out of the program, but only 1-2% do. After that, students can procure any of these drugs for free without parental consent. This program raises a number of medical, legal, and political issues that have been hotly debated for years: the role of government in administering health care, women’s reproductive rights, sexual education curriculums, and many others. But ultimately this program, no matter its legal, political, or medical ramifications, is a distinct and significant step in the evolution of the “nanny state.” It’s no coincidence that the program was enacted under Michael Bloomberg who, despite being elected as a Republican, is one of the most socially progressive mayors in the country. Many of his policies, including the new city law that bans the sale of sodas over 16 ounces, have been criticized as overly paternalistic by pundits on both sides of the aisle. But, the choice Bloomberg has now made for all New Yorkers had already been made for the city’s public school students nearly a decade ago when the mayor began enacting

his ambitious plan to combat childhood obesity. Under Bloomberg’s plan, New York City public schools removed soda from vending machines, eliminated deep fryers, and cut the number of calories in school lunches so severely that, as of earlier this month, they didn’t meet the minimum number of calories required by USDA guidelines. In New York City public schools, students can now get prescription-level drugs, but neither Coke nor french fries. This is important because, while New York’s birth control program hasn’t yet spread outside the region, its approach to school lunches has. In fact, Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, a piece of federal legislation passed back in 2010 with new standards going into effect this year, stipulates that school lunches cannot exceed 850 calories and significantly reduces the amount of protein and carbohydrates that can be served to students in a given lunch period. As a result, stories have popped up all across the country, including in neighboring New Jersey, about students lashing back against these new guidelines through “brown bag” protests and social media campaigns. Students at one Kansas high school even created a video parodying the song “We Are Young” by replacing the lyrics with, “We are hungry.” This all seems to indicate a trend of increased government involvement in areas previously thought to be the domain of the parent--like childhood nutrition. Hence the phrase “nanny state.” The belief that underlies this approach to politics is that, when faced with temptation, people can’t help themselves. As a result, the government must protect the people from themselves by legislating away their temptation. With his birth control program though, Bloomberg has taken this one step further by usurping the position of the parent entirely. He has effectively decided that young women across New York City, the same young women that can’t be trusted to not gorge themselves on cafeteria pizza, can make serious medical decisions without parental consent. His is the only consent they need. PP

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Volume XII, Issue III

Opinion

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

AFGHANISTAN AND THE MEANING OF STATEHOOD by Wolfgang Alders ‘14, Contributing Writer

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ervasive in the popular western mindset is the idea of teleological (purpose-oriented) cultural evolution. Ultimately derived from the Aristotelian notion of an ordered, hierarchical natural world, the idea of teleological cultural evolution gained momentum in the 19th century through a misinterpretation and misapplication of Darwinian theory. This belief in political and cultural teleology is so bound up in the modern western mindset that we very often assume things about foreign cultures that have utterly no basis in reality. One such assumption is the notion that statehood is the normative system of political organization, or the one that all societies should strive for and will eventually reach. Often you hear: “Democracy doesn’t work in Afghanistan because the people there aren’t ready for democracy”. The primary flaw in this argument is that it assumes a teleological progression of culture towards a certain goal, in this case the formation of a democratic nation state. This idea is completely divorced from reality and it is the reason that “states” like Afghanistan are said to “fail”. They “fail” because they never existed in the first place. Afghanistan is a region that has been governed for many thousands of years by various ethnically and linguistically diverse clans. Still today, people do not identify as Afghan, but as their specific tribal group. In many parts of Africa and Asia it is the same story. Imperial powers drew lines on maps to demarcate “state” boundaries, but these in no way reflected the ethnic and linguistic makeup of the population that was contained within. Often, the sole purpose of this practice was to ensure: 1.) That imperial powers would know which territory belongs to which other imperial power, and 2.) That there would always be a nominal puppet government in place to sign over the wealth and resources of the land.

What is a state? At certain points of history, there were certain groups of people that were similar in significant ways: by language, by culture, by trade, and by proximity. These groups of people (from the Romans to the Chinese to early modern France) organized themselves into a single political unit that can be called a state. But for the most part, they existed few and far between, amid a sea of highly diverse tribal groups that traveled, traded, and practiced various subsistence strategies. By the end of the 19th century, a small handful of these states came to militarily dominate the entire world and each imposed its own political system on the people they conquered. It is only in the last two centuries that the majority of the world came to be ruled by a state-based system. Two centuries is nothing in the long view of history, so it is quite unreasonable to assume that the western conception of statehood is, or should be, the normative mode of political organization. Even pragmatically, should we really consider democracy and statehood to be the ideal form of government, towards which all humankind should strive? The clans of Afghanistan have been warring for millennia, but they cannot be blamed for about 100 million deaths in World War I and II, nuclear proliferation, the extinction of species on a global scale, or the death and displacement of millions through large-scale conflict. Afghanistan has had urban life since about 3000 BCE, and for the majority of people, subsistence strategies and lifestyles have only changed dramatically in the last 100 years with the imposition of colonialism and more radical strains of Islam. The modern system of global statehood is off to a rocky start if it hopes to ever achieve that kind of longevity. PP

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Volume XII, Issue III

OCTOBER 1st, 2012

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Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 2012 Sponsored by

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