TheConsul [ A Weekly Commentary on Current Events and World Affairs ] Volume I. | Issue 1
for the week of Monday, November 14
Expanding the World’s Most Exclusive Club? Burmese Election: Will “Though everyone supports some kind of change from the status quo, the there be progress for intense disagreements about the extent and content of Security Council Myanmar? reform do not make for a very progress-friendly environment...”
(page 2) “The last governmental election in Myanmar was 20 years ago, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League The Rambler: An Open Letter for Democracy won 80% of the seats in Parliament. Whatever happened to to Hamid Karzai those seats and Aung San Suu Kyi you “I am sure you are aware that your country is the largest producer of may ask?” opium in the world. Therefore a seizure of $250 million in narcotics, all (page 8) 1088 kilograms of them, makes an excellent story...” (page 3)
SPECIAL: An Interview With Professor Avery Goldstein
“ Less obvious perhaps are all of the complex questions about managing the adjustment to a world in which the US is less economically, and perhaps militarily, dominant than it has been over the past quarter century...” (page 4)
President Obama’s Visit to India: A catalyst for increased collaboration or a potential damp squib?
“Outsourcing proves to be a potentially fractious subject given that the President has increased his rhetoric against outsourcing...” (page 5)
Managing Editor Shubhi Nigam Layout Editor Leonardo Sumulong Columnists Jason Littman Michael Luo Sindhuri Nandakumar Justin Pergolini Akshay Subramanian In collaboration with the IAA Publications Team
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Release: Lasting freedom?
“While there are no outbursts of optimism brought about by the elections, there are some sentiments of what many observers are calling ‘guarded optimism’...” (page 7)
Questions & comments? Please address correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Expanding the World’s Most Exclusive Club?
environment. The initial basis for the current five permanent members’ seats was their status as the major victorious powers in World War II. Later, these five became the five official nuclear weapons powers under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is today the most solid justification for their permanent status. Other measures of national prominence have deteriorated for some of the permanent members, especially France, the UK, and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In economic terms, Japan, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Canada, and India all have larger GDPs than Russia, the smallest economy of the P-5. By population, France and the UK rank at 21 and 22 respectively among the world’s countries. The members of the G4 rival or surpass the P-5 in the key areas of population size, economic output, regional and global importance, and growth. The G4 have pretty solid credentials for permanent seat candidates. As it stands, they are regularly elected to non-permanent seats on the UNSC. It is becoming more and more difficult to claim that the UK and France are more dominant in Europe than Germany, or that Russia has anywhere near the degree of global influence that the Soviet Union had during the Cold War. In fact it is the status itself of the P-5 countries as permanent members that enables them to hold onto the appearance of international preeminence, rather than any a priori qualities.
by Michael Luo
t the end of his weekend trip to India, President Obama made some waves by announcing in a speech to the Indian Parliament that he “[looks] forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.” While this was likely more of a play to his audience than an actual promise to push for UN reform, it is nevertheless an opportune moment to examine the issue of UN reform in the context of changing geopolitics. The structure of the Security Council has not changed since the UN Charter was signed in 1945. The same five countries – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (P-5) – that were accorded permanent seats on the UNSC still have them today, despite huge shifts in international politics. How can a system reflecting the world of 1945 continue to be valid in the world of 2010? Indeed the issue of UNSC reform is prickly and very unlikely to be acted upon anytime soon. Any expansion of the Council’s permanent or rotating members would decrease the power held by the existing permanent members, who would likely veto any expansion resolution. Furthermore, rivals of countries clamoring for permanent seats would surely protest and submit countering requests of their own. Predictably, Pakistan reacted negatively to Obama’s promise to India. A German bid would be opposed by Italy. Japan would receive opposition from South Korea and a Chinese veto. Brazil is opposed by Mexico and Argentina. Though Kofi Annan gave an address to the General Assembly in 2005 calling for swift action on expanding the Security Council, various blocs of nations including the G4 (Germany, Japan, Brazil, and India) and the opposing Uniting for Consensus movement have managed to debate the issue to a standstill.
Any neutral observer can see that in this multipolar climate, the system put in place during the bipolar climate of the Cold War is outdated. Though the specifics will obviously be debated, a few general proposals come to light. The first deals with specific members’ bids for permanent seats. As said before, the G4 states represent the objectively best candidates for permanency, though many countries oppose them for reasons of regional balance-of-power. If India and Brazil continue to grow economically at their current pace, their exclusion from the P-5 while the shrinking Russia remains will undermine the legitimacy of the body. Japan and Germany are already at the top of the economic and are the 2nd and 3rd largest monetary contributors to UN operations[vi], a main pillar of their claims for permanency. A broader issue is that of regional representation. Africa currently has no permanent representation,
Though in reality, UNSC reform might be a pipe dream, it is still useful to analyze the various reform proposals and bids for permanency in order to better understand today’s turbulent geopolitical
and the G4 have called for at least one permanent African seat to be added to the UNSC to ensure that the continent receives adequate representation, seeing that many UN humanitarian missions are aimed at African needs. The leading contender for this seat is South Africa, though Egypt and Nigeria would likely contest the seat as well. Proposals for an African seat are stuck on this three-way contest, so perhaps a rotating arrangement could be designed. Regional representation is also the basis for the claims of three of the G4, as Brazil, Japan, and India would bring more representation to their continents and shift the global balance of power away from Western Europe. Alas, the issue of Security Council reform has more to do with political maneuvering than actually judging the merits of permanent seat candidates. Any statement by a leader in support of one position or another is more likely a political tool than a substantive argument. Indeed, this is not the first time India has been offered a permanent seat by the US – Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rejected an offer in 1955 in order to not aggravate an already tense relationship with China[vii]. This US overture is itself a political act to contain the ever-growing influence of China – supported by the fact that the US has supported the bids of India and Japan while remaining silent toward Germany and Brazil. Though everyone supports some kind of change from the status quo, the intense disagreements about the extent and content of Security Council reform do not make for a very progress-friendly environment. In the end, the main issue may just be that this is a structural issue that does not produce any noticeable crises that could motivate swift action. How long do we have to wait until we reach a critical mass of frustration with the current situation?
the US within your borders. Seldom do I pause to criticize the US anymore. As my radical passions have waned, so has my distaste for American public policy. But in this case I can certainly see her in the wrong. We are nothing if not a communicative people. Any casual stroll down a Philadelphia street, the air full of the colorful language of perturbed morning commuters, will drive home this point. We have never been shy about making our intentions clear, whether it is to stick the buffoon who cuts us off or to conduct a drug raid across international borders. But somehow when it came to informing you that Russia, that perpetual thorn in your side and ours, would participate, we were utterly and curiously silent. I urge you, however, to consider the hard facts of our situation. Our present age, sir, has lost all interest in abstract principles of governance. It is unfriendly to idealists like you and me, men who enjoy what Kant would call “the metaphysics of politics.” I lament the passing of the days when a man could make his living selling dialectical materialism and social constructivism, but – alas! – they are no more. “Transparency” and “mutual consent” are such cumbersome words nowadays; they demand a sanguinity that none of our politicians – short of those with Nobel Prizes – find fashionable or necessary. Our colleagues are fixed on the dreary business of “empirical data” and “quantifiable results.” I am sure you are aware that your country is the largest producer of opium in the world. Therefore a seizure of $250 million in narcotics, all 1088 kilograms of them, makes an excellent story, not only for the papers, but for a global public that prides itself on practicality. You and I know that Russia is particularly adept at the art of subterfuge, both in warfare and democratic procedure. What does a bit of bad blood matter, if she might help us get the job done? Besides, it appears that you could use the help. Five members of your elite force, sir, were killed in an assault that encountered grenades and heavy mortars, hardly the weapons of a benign and unthreatening cartel.
The Rambler: An Open Letter to Hamid Karzai by Justin Pergolini
In sum, I entreat you to be generous and, barring that, hopeful. Men like us, who still hold to a sort of political bushido, may yet have our day in the
I was deeply troubled upon reading of your dissatisfaction with the joint action taken by Russia and
sun. For now, however, we must put up with the vogue of instrumentalism and efficiency, or else find ourselves a new line of work. Here’s to definite results.
borders of their local communities and their own careers. 3) What do you think are issues of prime importance in the field of international relations today?
Respectfully yours, The obvious security concern is the struggle against extremist violence that includes transnational terrorism. Less obvious perhaps are all of the complex questions about managing the adjustment to a world in which the US is less economically, and perhaps militarily, dominant than it has been over the past quarter century. Whether one is concerned about economic, military, or social issues, the reality of the new century is that there is a growing number of states and nonstate actors with the ability to influence events. Part of this is simply a matter of shifting patterns of wealth and power. But part is also a result of the globalization of production and rapidly changing means for transmitting information. These create new opportunities for constructive cooperation, as well as new vulnerabilities that adversaries can exploit.
An Interview with PIRC Presenter Professor Avery Goldstein by Sindhuri Nandakumar
very Goldstein specializes in international relations, security studies, and Chinese politics. Presently he is conducting research on China’s grand strategy. He is the Associate Director of the Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. 1) How would you describe your overall experience as a presenter at PIRC?
4) What role do you see emerging nations like China and India playing in the future?
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to speak to the group. It gave me an opportunity to present my ideas about America’s role in 21st century international politics to a different audience than I normally address. It was especially nice to speak to a group which is highly motivated to explore international affairs even though it is not part of a required class.
Especially China, but also India, Russia, Brazil, and perhaps South Africa will surely be more active within their own regions. They will also be more active in trying to ensure that global arrangements in areas that directly concern them—for example treaties about climate change that impose uneven economic costs and rules about trade and investment—reflect their input. China’s still uncertain vision for its future regional and global role will probably be the most important determinant of the approach that the United States and other countries engaged in East Asia adopt in the coming half century. China claims that it harbors no ambitions that would threaten others. Recently, one hears claims in the US, Japan, and some parts of Southeast Asia that China has revealed its true intentions through allegedly assertive or aggressive behavior in the past year. In fact, neither the Chinese nor foreigners have it quite right. China’s approach to its international relations is a mixed bag, and not yet locked into either immutably hostile or friendly relations with others. The choices it makes, and the extent of cooperation and conflict
2) Why do you think it’s important for high school students to have a good grasp of international relations and current affairs? Today’s American high school students, indeed high school students ever since the middle of the 20th century, are living in a country that plays a leading global role. Especially since the blossoming of truly global economic activity and cultural exchange that have been facilitated by new technologies and the dropping of old political barriers, US citizens remain ignorant of the wider world at their own peril. Both the opportunities and the dangers they will face in their careers and in their lives are shaped by forces that extend beyond the
President Obama’s Visit to India: A catalyst for increased collaboration or a potential damp squib?
between China and others will be shaped both by changing economic, political, and military circumstances, as well as by the policies that others adopt as they either welcome or resist the emergence of a stronger China.
by Akshay Subramanian
5) Are you optimistic about relations between countries (such as Iran and the US, India and Pakistan) in the future?
resident Obama shall cap what has been a rather eventful week by embarking on a tour of Asia. His first port of call will be India and the visit has generated much hype about the potential deals and agreements that will be signed between the world’s largest democracies. Relations between India and the US have witnessed tremendous improvement since the beginning of this decade and there exists potential for even further progress. Much of this improvement can be attributed to India’s emergence as an important economic power not only in Asia but also the rest of the world. The strength of the ties is exhibited by the fact that US exports to India, which now stand at around $17 billion, have increased three fold over the past 7 years and annual bilateral trade has steadily increased over the years and now amounts to $37.6 billion. Given the size of the two economies, the economic and strategic potential that can be achieved through strong Indo-US relations is vast. However, bonds between countries are seldom built without obstacles and challenges, all of which have manifested themselves in some form or the other through differences in opinion at global trade and climate change conferences and the difficulty in gaining access to each others’ markets. Despite the strength of the mutual relations between the US and India, recent economic ties between the two countries have not been all too bright. The US and India are at odds when it comes to issues such as outsourcing and restrictions on foreign investment to name a few.
Rather than being optimistic or pessimistic, I try to be realistic. With respect to Iran, the obstacles to improving relations are obvious and so significant that it is likely to take many years before any substantial improvement is possible. US relations with Pakistan have been complicated by the connection between terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, and especially by the related war in Afghanistan. Cooperation in responding to extremist challenges is a basis for strengthening long-standing US-Pakistan ties, but internal political divisions within Pakistan about US policy in the region continue to trouble Washington’s partnership with Islamabad. US-India ties are now stronger than at any time since the late 1940s. The economic benefits of this bilateral partnership are clear, as is the diplomatic payoff of leverage for both in dealing with China. But despite these tangible common interests and the frequently repeated mantra about our common democratic values, India’s interests are not always the same as ours. Disagreements about their nuclear weapons program and more importantly the future of Afghanistan and Kashmir which bear on US-Pakistani relations remain. Because differences in these areas, as well as differing economic interests, are not easily resolved, there are limits to how close and harmonious US-India relations will remain. Americans should not expect India to embrace policies that the US prefers when such policies clash with India’s understanding of its own interests. And Indians should not expect the US to embrace policies that India might prefer when doing so would not serve American interests.
Both the US and India will try to use this visit to clarify their positions on various thorny issues and promote further collaboration and cooperation between American and Indian firms. President Obama’s priority on this trip will be to tie strong economic links with India to increased job creation back home. This proves to be particularly crucial given the setback faced by the President and the Democrats in the recently concluded midterm elections. It is widely expected that defense
deals tuning to around $12 billion will be announced, a move that will help generate jobs back in the US.
to express its view that outsourcing is mutually beneficial for both countries and stress that Indian companies, in fact support around 57,000 jobs in the US.
The landmark civilian nuclear energy pact that was announced during President Bush’s visit to India in 2005 will also play an important role in the discussions. The nuclear deal which ended India’s pariah status as far as nuclear trade was concerned was expected to result in contracts worth billions of dollars being awarded to US energy companies as India strived to meet its burgeoning energy demands. However, the pact has not achieved its desired results. The Indian Parliament recently passed a nuclear liability bill whereby it increased the compensation that energy companies were liable to pay in case of an accident. As per conventions, the nuclear plant operator bears the liability of compensation. This legislation has proved to be a major spoke in the wheel of a plan that could have propelled the economic association between the US and India to another level. India will not want to discourage foreign investment in the nuclear energy sector which is crucial to meeting India’s future energy needs. India will have to use this opportunity to alleviate concerns regarding the legislation and take steps towards ensuring that the nuclear pact becomes operational.
The US will also argue that India has not been proactive enough in increasing foreign companies’ access to its markets. The retail and agricultural sectors are still not open to Foreign Direct Investment as India fears that domestic players will get dwarfed by foreign competition. Pressing India to ease restrictions on foreign investment and improving access to its markets will be high on the US agenda during this trip. Besides economic ties, geopolitical matters will also hold significant weight during the talks. India fears that once the US and NATO pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban and its alleged supporters in Pakistan will direct attacks on India. India’s long standing disputes with Pakistan are bound to crop up in discussions. Pakistan has proved to be a major US ally in its campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan and it has been in the interests of the US that tensions between India and Pakistan do not spill over as it would have distracted Pakistan’s attempts to combat the influence of terrorism and the Taliban on its own soil. Given that the US plans to end its Afghan campaign in the foreseeable future, it will not want to be dragged into negotiation of disputes between the cantankerous neighbors. India has long been a victim of terrorist strikes and there is a lot of scope for cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering.
Another issue that will rank high on the agenda of both countries, especially that of India’s, is President Obama’s stance on outsourcing. Outsourcing proves to be a potentially fractious subject given that the President has increased his rhetoric against outsourcing over the past few months. The high unemployment rate in the US has been blamed on US firms outsourcing skilled jobs outside the US where labor is cheaper. While it is understandable that such rhetoric will fall on keen ears during election season, India’s outsourcing sector has grown apprehensive especially after recent moves taken by the administration to discourage outsourcing. Fees for hiring foreign skilled workers have been hiked, a move that directly impacts Indian outsourcing firms. Some in India view this move as unconcealed protectionism. The growth of the outsourcing industry is often viewed as the symbol of India’s economic progress. Thus, given the significant importance of this sector and its dependence on the US, India would like
Given the emergence of China as the center of the balance of power in East and South East Asia, India, with its huge population and robust economic growth, appears to be a natural ally for the US to keep China’s regional hegemony in check. However, challenges remain as the two countries move towards establishing a strong strategic and economic partnership that will prove to be largely symbiotic. However, concerns abound that President Obama may still be distracted from the results of the midterm elections. Given the hype surrounding President Obama’s visit and the high expectations, it remains to be seen if any concrete agreements are arrived at during this trip and if
cornerstone deals can be struck which will go a long way in underscoring the depth of the collaboration between India and the US. Thus, a lot remains at stake as President Obama is expected to land in Mumbai this weekend. Will this visit prove to be as successful as the ones undertaken by Presidents Clinton and Bush?- we shall find out over the next few days.
optimism”. This has been reinforced by Suu Kyi’s release, which wasn’t confirmed by the junta in the days leading up to it amidst speculation that this time around, like previous instances, November 13th would just be a broken promise and a day of disappointment. Even though her party, the NLD is now disbanded, Suu Kyi’s lawyers have made it clear that she is going to get re-involved in Burmese politics, even expressing a desire to start tweeting to reach out to Burmese youth, who she believes are instrumental in bringing change to the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Release: Lasting freedom? by Sindhuri Nandakumar
The big question in all the recent activity in Burma is, what does Suu Kyi’s release mean for the country?
n Saturday at around 5.30 p.m. more than a thousand people waited eagerly, some of them there since morning, to catch a glimpse of the now liberated Burmese political activist, Aung San Suu Kyi. Many have argued that Suu Kyi’s release marks an important point in the history of Burma and sets the tone for the future. But some are still pessimistic.
She has been an active political figure for much of her life, the daughter of the founder of the Burmese army, Aung San, whom many credit with bringing about Burmese independence. She became involved in Burmese politics in the late 1980s, making many personal sacrifices to be in Burma and fight for democracy. She was put under house arrest in 1989 and was offered freedom if she left the country, but she denied to do so. Over the past 21 years, she has spent 15 under house arrest, with limited contact with family, friends, colleagues and supporters. Given the past records, one cannot help but question how long her new freedom will be.
The ruling military junta’s decision to have the first elections in two decades in the country before Suu Kyi’s release date has barely gone unnoticed. On November 7th, as a fraction of the registered voters lined up to cast their votes in polling stations around the country, there was no suspense or anxiety as to who would win. In a pre-election column, IAA blogger Jason shared the opinion of many observers that the elections in Burma were nothing more than a façade, an ostentatious display of a non-existent democratization of governing. The junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won a landslide victory, surprising no one.
Given the amount of support that Suu Kyi, fondly referred to as ‘The Lady’ enjoys in Burma, the looming question is whether the junta will arrest her if they find her to be a threat to their power in the country; and this is plausible, especially if Suu Kyi acts on her promises to get involved in politics again.
Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy called for a boycott of the elections and decided to disband itself rather than campaign and contest in a process that was obviously skewed to favor some over others. The leading opposition was therefore provided by the National Democratic Force, an NDL breakaway group.
Over the years, despite protests and pleas from the international community, the government of Burma has ignored calls to democratize the country. The world witnessed in 2008 as Cyclone Nargis created so much destruction in the country, with government efforts so inadequate that so many more people suffered than was necessary.
While there are no outbursts of optimism brought about by the elections, there are some sentiments of what many observers are calling “guarded
The past definitely is not a source of optimism in Burma. But times are definitely changing, and one can only wonder how long the Burmese people are going to sit and watch while the government plays dangerous games with their lives.
model UN conference at the actual United Nations. While doing research I came across an article that talked about how there are still landmines all over Myanmar from WWII. Instead of the military junta purchasing mine removal equipment, people are actually ordered to walk across fields to detonate the mines.
Burmese Election: Will there be progress for Myanmar?
The fact that practices like using humans as mine disposal equipment still exist in the country severely limit my prediction for Myanmar. Obviously the upcoming election will be unsuccessful in developing true representation, so I see three unlikely ways of actually creating progress in Myanmar. First, the junta collapses due to financial reasons, giving people like Suu Kyi the opportunity to create a democratic government. Second, the Burmese stage a national uprising against the junta. And lastly, a foreign nation gets involved in getting rid of the junta and developing a democratic government. All of these options are extraordinarily unlikely to occur, due to the power of the junta compared to all other citizens and Myanmar’s non-important role in the global marketplace. Therefore, unfortunately, Myanmar will most likely suffer for many years to come.
by Jason Littman
he last governmental election in Myanmar was 20 years ago, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 80% of the seats in Parliament. Whatever happened to those seats and Aung San Suu Kyi you may ask? Well the National League for Democracy never got to see those seats and Ms. Suu Kyi hasn’t been under house arrest for fourteen out of the last twenty years! Is there any hope for the elections coming up in just four days? Well not really. The military junta governing Myanmar/Burma (The United States only recognizes the name Burma because the military junta government established the name Myanmar.) obviously wants to maintain power, which is why this election will probably have the same results as the one in 1990; absolutely nothing. In my predictions, Myanmar will not be making true progress anytime soon. First, the elections are once again rigged; a candidate’s participation in an election requires $500 (nearly half the average salary of a Burmese citizen). The military has stated that the election will give citizens a chance to have input in government, but didn’t the Burmese attempt to take that opportunity 20 years ago when they fruitlessly voted the National League for Democracy into parliament? We all know that the military junta is just trying to please the international community. Secondly, progress will not be made because the Burmese military junta is only interested in power and money. This lack of respect and care for citizens can clearly be seen by the country’s failed economy, lack of necessities, and human rights atrocities. I remember a few years ago I represented the delegation of Myanmar in a high school