SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION 38
THE HOME OF STUDENT POLITICAL COMMENTARY
THE LAST CHANCE OUR FINAL HOPE: COP26 BEN FIRTH
HAITI: A NATION IN CHAOS?
THE AUSTRALIAN COVID METHOD: A FAILURE OR SUCCESS?
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EDITORS' NOTES This latest edition of the Perspectives Magazine, our first as editors, has been a wonderful experience to create. It features a plethora of fantastically-written articles surveying key events from Germany to Australia and Kashmir. This edition focuses heavily on the climate crisis, with a look at the frontline of the fight in the Pacific Islands and a deeply concerning water shortage in Hawaii. Our climate coverage is headlined by a piece about the utterly pivotal upcoming global climate conference in Glasgow. The decisions made there could be critical for the next number of decades. It is most certainly a crucial time for all of global society. Another theme of this magazine is authoritarianism around the world. The magazine covers this via the ongoing totalitarianism in Hong Kong and Xianjing to the ever-more hardline Putinism in Moscow and a concerning spite of strong-man Government in Minsk. I dearly hope all the people fighting both creeping and full-blown authoritarianism, as well as our climate catastrophe, have the agency to enact the change we all need to see. We hope you enjoy our latest magazine.
Creating this newest magazine, the first one with Ben and I as Editors-in-Chief, has been an amazing experience! This edition is full of phenomenal articles, written by incredibly talented members of our Perspectives writers community! The articles cover a wide range of topics, all of which encompass a general trend of crisis across the globe, of things reaching their breaking point, of people being discontented, in short, we are edging towards a point of no return. With this edition we also hoped to bring to light some issues that may not be the topic of mainstream media attention or on the forefront of most people’s minds, including the conflict plaguing the Central African Republic, the Hawaiian water shortage, the conflict in Kashmir, and the existential threats Pacific Islander communities are facing. It’s more important than ever to stand in solidarity with the various communities afflicted by atrocities, or at the very least, be aware of what is going on. A big thank you to the writers, you should all be incredibly proud of your amazing work! Thanks for reading, and we both hope you enjoy our latest edition!
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COVER IMAGE: Unsplash / William Bossen (image of Greenland) and Unsplash/ Patrick Perkins (image of San Francisco)
CONTENTS Profile: Alexei Navalny by Dorka Frisch
Central African Republic: The Forgotten Conflict by Rose Buxton
Gridlock lies ahead for the Biden Presidency by James Baldwin
Our Final Hope: COP 26 by Ben Firth
China: A History of Human Atrocities - What is to be Done? by Sidney Pycroft
Jammu and Kashmir: A Conflict without Resolution? by Hanna Bajwa
German Federal Elections: An Underwhelming New Era by Zach Roberts
Belarus: A Worsening European Dictatorship? by George Miles
Need to Know: Water Shortages in Hawaii by Callum Doherty
Haiti: A Nation in Chaos? by Alice Standen
US Foreign Policy in Disarray: What's Next? by Jhanvi Mehta
The Australian Covid Method: A Failure or a Success? by Matthew Oulton 18 Relocation or Elevation: How Pacific Islanders are Dealing with the Climate Crisis by Lily Meckel
The Shape of the Labour Left by Lucy Young 20 Book Reviews by Niall Hawkins and Jamie Spratt
Should Billionaires Exist? by Dominic Gilonis and Emily Everest 22
ALEXEI NAVALNY DORKA FRISCH
Alexei Anatolievich Navalny has been internationally branded as the face of Russian opposition, the “person Putin fears the most”, and he has undoubtedly earned that title. Working as a lawyer in 2011, Navalny first made news when he bought small shares in various Russian state-owned companies to gain access to classified company documents and use those to expose government corruption. Through those documents the young activist uncovered state officials accumulating massive amounts of wealth in real estate. In the beginning, Navalny shared his exposés on his personal blog, then going on to create a YouTube channel and founding the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which produces extensive documentaries uncovering corruption in Russia. The 2017 documentary about Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has sparked the largest protest in Russia since the 1990s.
BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO PUTIN?
Navalny quickly established himself as the leading figure of Russian opposition – his 2011 description of Putin’s United Russia Party as a “party of crooks and thieves” is a slogan of Russian opposition to this day. Ahead of the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections Navalny was given a suspended sentence for embezzling, yet was still allowed to run in the election. In the end, incumbent Sergey Subyanin won, however Navalny exceeded all poll expectations by getting 27% of the votes. Presumably as retaliation, Navalny received a second suspended sentence for embezzlement in 2014 preventing him from running in the 2018 presidential elections. During the elections themselves, Navalny did everything besides running as a candidate; he organized mass protests against the government, came up with a tactical voting system called Smart Voting to break United Russia’s dominance, and continued his fight with corruption.
In August of 2020 during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow Navalny suddenly fell ill and was immediately hospitalised in Omsk, and then later evacuated to a hospital in Berlin. During his three weeks in a coma, German officials concluded that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent; a Soviet era poison which was also used to poison former UK intelligence agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in 2018. It was revealed how Navalny was poisoned when Navalny called an agent of the Federal Security Service (FSB) who was implicated in his poisoning. Posing as a higher up at the organisation, Navalny had an hour-long phone call with the agent about what went wrong in the operation. Upon returning to Russia, Navalny was seized at the Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport and arrested for violating the parole of his 2014 corruption conviction. Even though his lawyers argued Navalny only exited the country for medical reasons, he was imprisoned in March and is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year long prison sentence.
While undoubtedly a positive force in Russian politics, even some of Putin’s critics are hesitant of Navalny. Besides battling corruption and ending Russia’s Putin-era, the 45-yearold politician does not have a clear agenda for what his vision of Russia might look like. In the past, Navalny has often resorted to populist or nationalist ideas to unite the nation against Putin, and it is worth asking how much of those sentiments would stay under a Navalny government. Similarly, his active online presence built a dedicated following that some fear might turn into a Putinesque personal cult once in power. Dorka third-year from
Frisch PPE Budapest,
a student Hungary.
Since then, with the help of his lawyers, the opposition figure has been posting regularly on social media to highlight the continuing corruption in the Russian government. He most recently gave an interview to the New York Times where he describes his experience as a “modern political prisoner” in Putin’s Russia. According to Navalny “psychological violence” is the key strategy, with inmates having to watch five sessions of propaganda daily. Despite all these hardships though, Alexei Navalny believes that “the Putin regime is a historical accident, not an inevitability” and once the current government is gone, the people of Russia will choose a more democratic path. September 2021
IMAGE: Flickr / Michael Gubi
WHO IS HE?
In January, over one thousand trucks carrying food and medical supplies to a long-overlooked African country found themselves stuck outside the border, as militants attacked the country’s capital Bangui. Food prices skyrocketed, and its main water distributor was close to being unable to purify drinking water for Bangui’s one million inhabitants. This was just the most recent escalation in a conflict that has torn the Central African Republic (CAR) apart and forced almost a third of its population from their homes. Violence as we know it first began in 2013, but it has much deeper roots. CAR secured independence from France in 1960, but suffered numerous autocratic rulers. Its first democratically elected leader was overthrown in 2003 in a coup led by François Bozizé, a high-ranking military official. In 2012, Bozizé was overthrown by the Seleka, a Muslim coalition of armed groups. Though the Seleka had foreign mercenaries in its ranks, many had significant local grievances. CAR contains many distinct communities; its south is more Christian, while the north has a mostly Muslim population and a history of political exclusion and economic hardship. Under President Bozizé, two key sources of northern income had been imperiled through the centralizing of the diamond industry and clamping down on smugglers. As such, many joined the Seleka out of frustration at poor economic conditions and perceived marginalization. The group demanded the implementation of past government recommendations made to improve the country’s elections, the release of political prisoners, and financial compensation for rebels. The Seleka’s coup marked the first time in CAR’s history that the country’s Muslim population had held power. In 2014, the UN warned that 6
there was a high risk of genocide in the country, as the Seleka installed a president and began violent looting, raping, and murding in southern CAR, and their leadership seemed to lose control. In response to the Seleka takeover, coalitions of Christian fighters, known as the anti-Balaka, emerged and began their revenge attacks against Muslims. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes. Today, the conflict continues to rage. The Seleka coalition disbanded and split into new factions that continued to rampage throughout the country and fight over the control of vital resources. Part of their membership joined the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), an alliance of formerly at odds rebel groups that has confounded analysts. The 2020 election saw renewed violence, with the CPC leading the blockade of Bangui and attacks on surrounding towns. To add to the confusion, Bozizé is considered to have been a founding member of the CPC in an attempt to retake power. The number of different militias makes it difficult for peace accords to stick. CAR has had numerous peace agreements, and the current one is extremely fragile. Divided parties complicate negotiations, and many groups have little interest in coming to the table. In some cases, their control of mines or strategic trading and herding routes is a disincentive to peace, as it would mean lost income. Similarly, signatories of peace accords have continued to carry out atrocities, meaning many Central Africans view them as a shield for militia violence. Elections have a long history of spurring attacks if voting seems exclusionary. Much of CAR is without roads, and what network it does have is poorly maintained. Without roads, people cannot get to polling stations to cast their vote. Additionally, threats of violence kept many others away,
despite the presence of peacekeepers. The international reaction has been muted, and has largely focused on military support. The UN maintains a peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) along with Rwandan stabilization forces. There is no doubt that the presence of these troops is necessary, as the fragility of government control in CAR means that military pressure is vital for negotiations and to prevent a civil war. However, this is not a permanent solution. Further militarization does not cool intercommunal tensions. Russia provides military advisors to CAR’S government, but mercenaries linked to the country have been widely accused of complicity in atrocities. Current elected President Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s support is largely from MINUSCA, fueling disillusionment in rural impoverished communities. Above all, CAR needs reconciliation. Though this might be considered a simplistic buzzword, there is no hope of a permanent peace without genuine breaks from past exclusionary politics and inclusion of both Muslims and Christians in government. Civilians desperately need their concerns heard by authorities to address the disenfranchisement at the root of this violence. Regional partners must step forward to mediate dialogues. This conflict needs investment and economic development to solidify a peace. International observers can no longer justify looking away from this forgotten conflict.
Rose Buxton is a third-year PAIS student from Bath, UK.
IMAGE: Flickr/ United Nations Photo
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: THE FORGOTTEN CONFLICT
GRIDLOCK LIES AHEAD FOR THE BIDEN PRESIDENCY lines because of ‘common-sense solutions’ – and, as YouGov polling shows, its broad support across the country. The spending here is on socalled ‘hard’ infrastructure – that is roads, bridges, railways and the like. It will generally improve the fairly rundown infrastructure in the US, whilst also helping create jobs. Yet the overall package that Mr. Biden seeks to pass is worth an awful lot more, totalling some $3.5 trillion in what would be a historic achievement should the Senate ever pass an agreement worth that amount. However, that is unlikely, and this is where a tough fight begins. The $550 billion passed by the Senate still has a distance to travel following Nancy Pelosi’s comments that such a bill would only be put to a vote to the House of Representatives once the entire multi-trillion package has been agreed in the upper chamber. However, this will be a lengthy process – the rest of the bill contains many climate change provisions, something which Republican members are highly sceptical towards. With the near impossibility of the rest of the bill successfully departing the Senate, the Democrats have once again looked to use budget reconciliation. What may seem a simple process, as the Covid Recovery Bill was, is not. The drafting of the text is difficult and, in any scenario, there is a good chance that moderate Democrats in more conservative states may vote against the bill, keeping one eye on their states ahead of the 2022 midterms. Joe Manchin, a Senator for West Virginia, is one who may hold up such attempts. Large roadblocks therefore lie straight ahead for Mr. Biden. Balancing bipartisanship with the wishes of the progressive wing of the Democrat party is a very hard task. The other, more radical, path for the Democrats would be adjustments to the filibuster.
But Mr. Biden is a lover of the American institutions and certain Democrat senators, such as Mr. Manchin, would be likely to prevent any changes there. The infrastructure bill isn’t the only item on the agenda which will face partisan difficulties in the coming months. HR 1, the For the People Act, aims to ensure the protection of voter rights in an attempt to improve democratic quality. The bill faces united Republican opposition, with the GOP trying to do the opposite and restrict voting – notably in states which were close-run affairs in last year’s presidential election. They cite, very conveniently, electoral fraud. As HR 1 is not a budgetary matter, reconciliation is not possible. So, the only possible path for HR 1 becoming law will be filibuster adjustments; which, as we’ve seen, is a way from happening. Mr. Roosevelt had the full support of the House and the Senate throughout his thirteen years as President to help implement his New Deal. Mr. Biden does not have nearly those levels of support, nor that length of time. “Thank you for your patience” were the final words of his State of the Union address. Those words cannot be underestimated. Congress may be appearing to work its cogs slowly, but they will surely stall again.
James Baldwin is a second-year Politics student from Watford, London.
IMAGE: Unsplash/ Elijah Mears
Joe Biden idolises Franklin D. Roosevelt. He hung a portrait of the 32nd President in the Oval Office to say as much. But a portrait isn’t the only thing which suggests this; the opening eight months of Mr. Biden’s presidency have a similar tone to his idol’s. Although it is still in its early days, his presidency has inherited a crisis; authorised more executive orders so far than anyone since the turn of the millennium; and promised to ‘build back better’. All of these were synonymous features of the Roosevelt administrations. As of now, that promise of building back better appears to be riding a smooth course – Mr. Biden has not inherited many a difficulty in enacting his agenda since coming to power. The Covid Recovery Bill, costing an estimated $1.9 trillion, was passed within two months of his presidency through means of budget reconciliation. Reconciliation helps override the Senate’s filibuster, a controversial requirement for certain legislation to have a 60-vote supermajority in order to pass. The measure took pandemic spending up to around $3 trillion and, among other things, included $1,400 direct payments to all individuals. Despite the partisan nature of this bill, it was hard for the Republicans to act in the face of reconciliation. Indeed, many would have found it difficult to argue firmly against, as many of the proposals had also been included in legislation passed under President Trump. Surprisingly though, partisanship has not proved a major difficulty to the current presidency. The Senate beat the filibuster in a vote to advance a huge $550 billion infrastructure package, the start to a keynote of Mr. Biden’s presidential agenda. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, voted for the agreement along with 18 others from his party, helping it transcend party
OUR FINAL HOPE: COP26 hasn’t been the international community’s priority, and it is only now that the effects are on our doorstep that we have decided urgent action needs to be taken. As a result, COP26, to be held in Glasgow in November this year, has been labelled the most important meeting to ever be held on British soil. The resistance to tackling the climate crisis has resulted in the world not currently being on track to limiting global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius agreed upon at COP21 in Paris in 2015. In fact, the targets from the conference in Paris would not even limit warming to 3 degrees by 2100, compared to pre-industrial levels. After initially being hailed as so ground-breaking, the Paris agreement of 2015 failed to oblige countries to act, and as a result, the target of 1.5 degrees warming is slipping out of reach. What is required then is a tangible and ambitious agreement which will require all parties to significantly change their approaches to business, transport, agriculture, and energy production in order to begin to reverse the years of human damage to the environment. COP26 has outlined what it needs to achieve, most notably reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and mobilising finance from developed countries to meet their $100 billion a year promise. Countries have been asked to come for-
ward before the summit with ambitious emissions targets for 2030 which will put them on track to reach the net zero target by 2050. These targets involve phasing out coal, reducing deforestation, and speeding up the transition to electric vehicles. THE MOST IMPORTANT MEETING TO EVER BE HELD ON BRITISH SOIL However, even before it has begun COP26 is being hindered by politics; China, Japan, Australia, and Brazil are just some of the economies which have resisted the pressure to share their net zero plans. China, of course, will be under particular scrutiny as the world’s current largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, over 27% of global emissions came from China, and the country is now home to half the world’s coal capacity. It has lifted restrictions on new coal plants and appears to be moving in the wrong direction when it comes to phasing out coal before 2040, a goal set in order to achieve the 1.5 degree target. Persuading these countries to let their guard down and commit to making these net zero plans will be pivotal to success at COP26, none more so than the infamously secretive superpower of China. Yet it is this challenge which could shape our planet’s future, as well as the UK’s.
IMAGE: Flickr/ UN Geneva and Flickr/ Roy
“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report certainly left no doubt about the cause of climate change. The recent IPCC report also made it clear that should the current trend continue, we will see more weather extremes in every region across the globe. These extremes have already become more regular, and the urgency of the IPCC’s warning shows just how crucial the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, is. As is often the way, the West has happily turned a blind eye to the deadly consequences of climate change, as they have devastated far-flung corners of the World. Madagascar is currently suffering from the first famine in modern history to be solely caused by global warming. The World Food Programme has warned that 1.12 million people are food insecure, and 400,00 are heading for famine. However, it was the floods in Belgium and Germany during July of this year that were the catalysts for the climate ultimatum headlines and for the spotlight to grow on the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow. The West’s ability to detach itself from climate related devastation in developing countries around the world means that the climate crisis
when the UK has recently just slashed its own budget for these same countries' aid. The UK has led by example in some respects, for example by becoming the first country to establish a legally binding framework to cut carbon emissions, with the Climate Change Act of 2008, and a 10-point plan to reach net zero emissions, which includes banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. However, both the actions of individuals in government and some government policies certainly haven’t aligned with this green approach and have called into question the commitment of the UK’s leaders to truly tackling the climate crisis. The Prime Minister’s flight from London to Cornwall for the G7 summit created 5 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent train journey, which shows a level of hypocrisy we have come to expect from this government. Whilst Tories may use their favoured defence that this is simply ‘political point scoring’, it is part of a wider failure in leadership to truly take the climate crisis seriously. The COP26 President, Alok Sharma, has flown to 30 countries since February to hold talks about reducing emissions, the irony of which surely can not be lost on everyone. This climate hypocrisy is reflected in government policy as well as individual ministers’ actions. In March, the government put its plans for a
new coal mine in Cumbria on hold as the backlash forced Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, into a U-turn after his initial refusal to hold a public inquiry. Similarly, Johnson has hinted that a new oilfield 75 miles north-west of Shetland is likely to receive the green light, which would produce 170 million barrels of oil. The problem with such conflicting policies towards the climate crisis is that they come at a time when the world is looking to the UK as a benchmark, and the planet cannot afford the UK to set the mark too low. As one of the largest polluters historically, the UK must be willing to set ambitious targets and commit to carbon neutrality in order for others to be willing to follow suit, particularly those developing nations which cannot have the same levels of growth fuelled by unrestricted emissions which the likes of the UK and America enjoyed in the past. It seems unlikely that developing countries will subscribe to making the necessary commitments if Johnson’s government is intent on pursuing environmentally damaging policies which directly oppose their green rhetoric. This is why hosting such a pivotal summit is a double-edged sword for Johnson. Get it wrong and the history books will look back on COP26 as the last, missed opportunity to prevent extreme weather, famines, floods, and other disasters which will undoubtedly take many lives and displace huge populations. Of course, the alternative to this is that significant steps are made to ensure the 1.5 degree target is met, a requisite of this being that China is made to make significant commitments too. As the host of the summit and having led the way in the past towards carbon neutrality with legislation like the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK could play a pivotal role in turning the tide in the fight against the climate crisis, which in turn may at the very least halt its demise from global power to the sidelines.
IMAGE: Flirckr / Number 10
Not only has this summit come at the eleventh hour for the international community to prevent irreversible damage to our planet, COP26 also presents a last chance of a different kind for its hosts. This is arguably the UK’s final opportunity to prove itself worthy of its, albeit already questionable, title of a global power that is worthy of a seat at the top table. The UK’s influence has undoubtedly waned, with its relegation to the sidelines compounded by a series of self-inflicted wounds in recent years. Clearly, the debacle of the Brexit process, and how isolated the UK has become as a result, have seriously harmed the country's reputation on the international stage. Couple this with the controversial cut to international aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, and Boris Johnson finds himself coming into this pivotal summit with little credibility and a seriously weakened negotiating position. The international aid cut is significant, because a key aim of COP26 is to agree on a clearer path towards achieving the $100 billion a year of climate finance for developing nations, which was initially agreed upon at the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations. The G7 summit in Cornwall failed to reach an agreement to turn the pledge into the funds needed by developing nations. It will now be much more difficult for Johnson to ask other nations to provide the cash for developing countries
Ben Firth is a fourth-year PAIS and Hispanic Studies student from Sheffield.
CHINA: A HISTORY OF HUMAN ATROCITIES – WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
party officials – purges, public torture, student Red Guard death mobs, the creation of the ‘lost generation’, and abuses against Koreans, Tibetans, and Uyghurs. It only ended with Mao’s death in 1976 and Deng Xiaoping’s ascension in 1978. Fast-forward and we see the Uyghurs in the CCP’s crosshairs again, targeted for ‘re-education’, into atheism and Marxism, and extermination in Xinjiang’s concentration camps, ongoing since 2014. The sudden Western interest belies past ignorance or political opportunism as Western companies continue to use slave-picked Xinjiang cotton. Then there’s Hong Kong, where the CCP’s violation of the 1997 Joint Declaration has followed the failure of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, 2017 detention of democracy protestors, and the 2019-20 protests. Hong Kong as the paradise island within China is over. Their autonomy crushed and freedoms stripped. The state-media Global Times mocked the US over Taiwan too, saying they would need ‘much greater determination’ to defend Taiwan ‘once a cross-Straits war breaks out’ than they had for Afghanistan or Vietnam. The Chinese people have suffered a long history of tyranny, devastation, and indignity under the CCP as the West ignored it. Why would they suddenly genuinely care without an ulterior motive? Boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics has been suggested, but what would this do? Nothing. China’s economic might is a reason raised for their untouchable status. Whilst partially true this hides the real reasons. The US-China relationship is mutually dependent, their economies are entangled. But it is rather one-sided, America is wedded to China. Whatever the West does economically will be like an itch to the CCP. China does not care about Western opinions, moral approbation, or sanctions.
They are powerful, have regional hegemonic ambitions, and have captured numerous global institutions. We mustn’t kid ourselves that anything can be ‘done’ about China. Their One Belt One Road initiative has successfully shifted much of the world from America to a Sino-focus and the resulting capture of the global economy enriches both them and American financial interests. But we should recognise China’s horrendous treatment of its citizens, slavery, dystopian social credit system, technocratic authoritarianism, and total disregard for the dignity of human life. The American financial and political elite are begging for a new outlet now that the Middle East has rejected them, we shouldn’t let this dangerous ploy succeed. Neo-conser vative/neo-liberal talk about confronting China or changing China is nonsense. The West also has no right to speak in its current state with its insistent emulation of Chinese practices whilst decrying their application in, or by, China. China’s inhumane abuses are bad. American hypocritical moralistic crusading is bad. For different reasons neither side is your friend. The answer is not inciting a new war.
IMAGE: Flickr / Etan Liam
China, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has had a meteoric rise in recent decades. One aided and abetted by global institutions and world leaders, not least Bill Clinton in the 1990s. We hear of a Chinese miracle, an Asian century, the ascendancy of China. But many in the West appear to turn a blind eye to the how, their behaviour, and the blood spilt. Over Covid-19 it happened again, with apparently cover-up after cover-up about its origins and the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But what is to be done about China? Should the so-called ‘liberal’ world get to dictate China’s affairs when they have lost the right to call themselves ‘liberal’, ‘democratic’, or ‘free’? Will China be the new Afghanistan and Middle East for the spurned security elite? And how can we square a dislike of China and its behaviour with a simultaneous dislike of disastrous Western moralistic crusades? First, we must chronicle the long history of abuses. The CCP, who now advocate ‘communism with Chinese characteristics’ are no strangers to evil. They find their origin with Chairman Mao Zedong and the atrocities of the twentieth-century, where Mao’s Great Leap Forward, or Second Five Year Plan, of 1958-1962 resulted in deaths so numerous estimates range from 15 to 55 million. The bulk came from the resulting state-induced Great Famine of 1959-1961. In addition, Dutch historian Frank Dikötter estimates that 2.5 million were beaten or tortured to death with 1-3 million committing suicide. The human cost of the CCP is sadly no recent phenomenon. China then faced the 1966-1976 decade of the infamous Cultural Revolution, one of the worst events and atrocities in human history. Death estimates range from hundreds of thousands to 20 million. It saw massacres, pogroms, cultural and historical destruction, mass cannibalism – often organised by local
Sidney Pycroft is a MA Early Modern History student from Rendlesham, Suffolk.
JAMMU AND KASHMIR: A CONFLICT WITHOUT RESOLUTION? On August 5th, 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Article 370, which stripped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and statehood, dividing it into two centrally ruled territories. This decision by Modi repudiated legislation that had previously allowed Jammu and Kashmir to have a separate constitution, allowing them to make laws independently from the Indian parliament. When India first made its move in 2019, it startled the world and led to fears of a rise in violence in the valley and a potential open conflict with Pakistan. New Delhi also worried about the diplomatic fallout with the West, as Pakistan joined China in pressuring India through the United Nations Security Council. But there has neither been a war with Pakistan, nor an eruption of large-scale violence in the valley. Since August 5th, 2019, fundamental freedoms and liberties have been seized from Kashmir’s citizens, over 10,000 Kashmiris have vanished, been arrested, or sent to prison in India, and the political leadership in Kashmir was either placed under house arrest or imprisoned. All modes of communication were cut off, and even two years later high-speed internet has only been partially restored. At the time, Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP-led government argued that the revoking of Article 370 was necessary to restore stability and bring economic prosperity to the region, yet over half a million Kashmiris have lost their jobs, and the region’s economy has suffered losses worth $7 billion in the last two years. Yet peace is still possible. Between November and December 2020 multi-phase local elections were held to elect 280 district development councillors. As of June 2021, Prime Minister Modi has promised elections in Kashmir after the first meeting since 2019 with regional leaders of Delhi
and Kashmir. Former chief ministers of the region and several other leaders attended the meeting, many of whom were placed under house arrest or incarcerated two years prior. Kashmiri leaders have long demanded a restoration of their semi-autonomy and for elections to be held, but India has been working to readjust some assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the region under a process known as delimitation, which involves drawing the boundaries of political constituencies. Many Kashmiris have voiced their criticism of delimitation, fearing it will tilt the balance of power in the region toward Hindu leaders, yet Amit Shah, the country’s Minister of Home Affairs, said the delimitation measures and elections would be important milestones in restoring statehood to the region. Due to the sudden decisions made by Modi in 2019, there is a growing sense of alienation and distrust toward New Delhi among Kashmiris. For Kashmir's future, it’s crucial for the central government to reach out to the people, for example, through fair and credible elections. The delimitation process will be critical. Additionally, the Indian Government must rescind the Domicile law, which was enacted last year to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, all talks must be tripartite, as the dispute primarily involves three parties: India, Pakistan, and most importantly, the people of Kashmir, as it is ultimately their future at stake.
IMAGE: Unsplash/ Hamid Roshaan and Unsplash/ Naveed Ahmed
Kashmir is one of the world’s most volatile regions, with two nuclear power countries, India and Pakistan, fighting over it, both of which believe Kashmir rightfully belongs to them. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) project has recently reported that violence within Kashmir is expected to continue without any resolution. Despite its historical past, the issue in Kashmir today is a communalised Hindu-Muslim problem, an internal and external security threat, and an international issue with at least three sovereign stakeholders. To understand this conflict, it is essential to look into the history of the area. In August of 1947, India and Pakistan were divided into their two nations, with Pakistan generally getting the Muslim-majority states, and India getting the Hindu-majority states. Kashmir was a peculiar case, as while the majority of the population was Muslim, the ruler was Hindu, so originally Kashmir was thought to go to India. Kashmir holds great geographical and strategic importance to both nations. Without Kashmir India does not have access to Central Asian and European countries directly through land. Kashmir is also important to Pakistan, since Indian control over Kashmir could potentially paralyze Pakistani agriculture and induce droughts, due to the Indus River flowing through it, which is crucial to Pakistani agriculture. Kashmir is also the only direct link between Pakistan and China, making it an important area militarily for Pakistan, and detrimental for India if Pakistan controls it. Both nations claim the territory in its entirety, but control only parts of the region, leading to the nuclear-armed neighbours having gone to war twice over it. Relations between the two countries have always been tense, but reached an all-time low when Delhi unilaterally revoked the region's special status in 2019.
Hanna Bajwa is a third-year Politics and Sociology student from High Wycombe, UK.
GERMAN FEDERAL ELECTIONS: AN UNDERWHELMING NEW ERA
in the polls. That was until he was recorded laughing during a sombre speech by Germany’s President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in a town in his own home state that had been hit by lethal floods, which led to his lead dropping by 8 points, leaving the race wide open. The other two main candidates share the same aura of tepid excitement. There is Olaf Scholz, a centre-left candidate for the Social Democrats (SPD), who seems to be the least unpopular candidate, but he also lacks charisma. Moreover, he is currently Merkel’s Vice Chancellor and has thus spent many years in her shadow, meaning he doesn’t exactly represent a drastic change.
NO ONE HAS REALLY IGNITED THE IMAGINATIONS OF THE ELECTORATE. Finally, there is Annalena Baerbock with the Green Party, who seems to be the candidate that most represents a change in political direction considering Merkel’s comparative pragmatism. Climate change is on the agenda of any major election today, but the horrifying flooding in West Germany will have pushed its significance up in such a way that may be beneficial to Baerbock and the Greens. However, she is untested at a national level, and since her nomination she has handled several PR issues poorly, including a plagiarism scandal. Additionally, she has since faded into obscurity, leading many experts to consider it a two-horse race for Chancellor. All the three front-runners lack excitement around their campaigns due to their personal and political attachments to Merkel, and many Germans are underwhelmed by the fact that her retirement represents a major political opportunity for change, as no one has really ignited the imaginations of the electorate. The future of the EU is something that the major parties have different approaches towards, with the current coalition of the CDU and SPD consider-
ing the EU to be a central part of Germany’s future, and the Greens having a stronger pro-integration, federalist vision for the EU’s future. It is additionally crucial to consider the influence of smaller parties. The Free Democratic Party (FDP) are also in favour of a Greenstyle EU federalism model, whereas the leftist party, Die Linke, are explicit in their criticism of the EU, with a desire to instead focus on public investment initiatives and to cut all funding for military projects. Likewise, the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are also critical of the EU but would favour Germany leaving the Bloc altogether. Another important consideration is the individual popularity of Merkel herself. She commanded a support of ‘Merkel Voters’ that largely consists of women, fiscal centrists, and ethnic minority voters. They rep-
THERE ARE VARIOUS COMBINATIONS THAT COULD BE FORMED resent a significant proportion of the electorate and there is no guarantee that their support will be passed onto the next CDU candidate, Laschet. So the question is: where will they go? Whatever happens, whoever becomes Chancellor, or whichever parties make up the governing coalition, there are various combinations that could be formed, and that is what will make the upcoming elections interesting to follow. Germany’s vital role on the global stage will make the outcome significant as the nation, Europe, and the rest of the world prepares to move on from the Merkel legacy.
Zach Roberts is a second-year PAIS student from Aylesbury, UK. IMAGE: Flickr/ Tim Reckmann
By the end of September, the reign of Angela Merkel will finally come to an end after over 15 years as Germany’s first female, and longest-serving, Chancellor. Her leadership certainly leaves a remarkable legacy: Chancellor of Europe’s largest economy, a wide range of progressive social policies, and most notably, her influence on the European Union that led to Forbes describing her as ‘The World’s Most Powerful Woman’ in 2018. It would be fair to believe, therefore, that this upcoming federal election, where there is no incumbent candidate running, should carry an air of excitement and anticipation as Germany prepares for a new political era. Those running for Chancellor, however, have caused such anticipation to fall like a lead balloon due to a mixture of status-quo politics, lack of meaningful progressive policies, and easily avoidable PR blunders. But who are the candidates? Firstly, there is Armin Laschet, Merkel’s party colleague from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), differing vastly in style and thus lacking the same personal support that she enjoyed. Despite this, he was enjoying a healthy 11-point lead
BELARUS: A WORSENING EUROPEAN DICTATORSHIP? providing security to Belarus in the wake of mass protests, Russia and Putin can repair any damage caused by Western sanctions. The promise to maintain ‘security’ also came with a $1.5 billion loan, limiting any consequences of efforts by the West to stop loans to the regime. Any efforts by the West with regards to trade are also ineffective, as Belarus’ trade with Russia is double that of the nation’s trade with the EU. Therefore, the sanctions imposed on Belarus by the West are little more than a token gesture, considering these efforts can be diluted through Belarus’ relationship with Russia. ANY CONFRONTATION WITH BELARUS IS A CONFRONTA- TION WITH RUSSIA Whilst the world has developed since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the legacies of a multipolar system remain. There are some areas which the West simply cannot have major influence over because of those states' ties with Russia. Questions such as the impact of the current sanctions or whether tougher measures are needed neglect the fact that any effort that the West makes to try and bring democracy to the Belarusian people will be met with a similar effort by the Russians to halt Western advances. If the West is to remain the dominant actor within international politics, it must continue to try and promote its values. However, the West must also recognise that there will always be significant opposition from powerful forces. Subsequently, the questions that need to be asked are not what can the West do to support the people of Belarus in their fight for democracy, but instead does the West want to confront Russia? Belarus is of far more importance to Russia than it is to the West, so it is likely that if Putin feels that the West is making progress in transforming Belarus, he will respond with significant force. Belarus is a worsening dictatorship with increasing contempt of any form of dissent. In response, the West
has rightly tried to support those protesting against authoritarianism and has attacked Lukashenko for his violent crackdowns against protesters. However, any attempt to bring democracy and the rule of law to Belarus must always consider the fact that Russia effectively controls Belarus. Any confrontation with Belarus is a confrontation with Russia. And this confrontation poses far more risks than a conflict solely with Lukashenko. The argument here is not suggesting that the West should ignore any problems that may impact Russia. The West is right to challenge Russia and its increasingly disturbing antics, such as election interference, and must not appease Putin. However, the West must also accept that to free Belarus and other eastern European nations they must tackle the problem of a nation with declining levels of influence determined to retain some form of regional power, meaning a head-to-head with Russia directly.
George Miles is a second-year PAIS student from Nottinghamshire, UK.
IMAGE: Flickr / Zachary Harden
Situated in Eastern Europe and with a population of just under ten million, Belarus would not typically be one of the major talking points within Western foreign policy. However, because of the actions of President Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of the country for over 25 years, the former Soviet state has caused international outrage following the 2020 Presidential Election. The elections were described as fraudulent by many in the West, yet it was the actions of the regime in response to subsequent protests that forced the international community to act. Stories include journalists being jailed for filming protests, protesters being attacked with stun grenades, and leading opposition activists being kidnapped. International condemnation increased further after the Belarusian state diverted a Ryanair flight to detain an opposition journalist. New measures were consequently imposed on Belarus, which included limiting revenue and loans to the regime, and sanctions on individuals and organizations accused of money laundering and sanction evasion. Regrettably, the impact of these sanctions has been minimal, and this is likely to continue. Belarus explained that the commercial aircraft carrying an opposition journalist had to be diverted because of a bomb scare, a claim the Russian Foreign Minister later described as “reasonable.” This example demonstrates that whatever attempts the EU, Britain, or the US make to weaken Lukashenko are unlikely to succeed, as Lukashenko is supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a continued nemesis of the West. Putin is opposed to Eastern European revolutions, and following the 2020 elections promised to ensure security in Belarus. Therefore, the aim of the sanctions, which is to put further pressure on Lukashenko to step down, are likely to have little impact. The President has the support of a nation that may not be the superpower that it once was, but can nonetheless still propel its influence outside its own borders. In addition to
NEED TO KNOW: WATER SHORTAGES IN HAWAII CALLUM DOHERTY
The drought is not simply an environmental issue either. It is increasingly a social issue, as many local Hawaiians complain of a double standard when it comes to the state’s water-guzzling hotel and tourism sector. According to one 2013 report, Hawaii’s tourism industry accounts for 44.7% of the state’s water-consumption, yet drought measures do not apply to hotels. The disparity is such that in July former state lawmaker, Kaniela Ing, complained that Hawaiians were being treated “like second class citizens” and begged tourists to “stop coming to Hawaii”. For many Native Hawaiians, the difference in treatment is emblematic of a largely foreign tourism industry, which, though a vital part of the state’s economy, makes life difficult and even unlivable for many local Hawaiians. 14
Callum Doherty is a third-year PPL student from Sheffield, UK.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE SHORTAGES? The drought in Hawaii is, like many other cases, a generations-long problem that is being caused by climate change. Surrounded by the sea, Hawaii’s small land mass leaves very few sources of freshwater. Scientists have warned that up to 70% of Hawaii’s coastline is eroding, seas are rising, and important supplies of freshwater in the mountains are drying up. As well as droughts, risk of flooding threatens infrastructure and cultural sites. Environmental changes threaten much of Hawaii’s unique wildlife, from the forest birds threatened by increasing mosquito numbers, to the coral reefs that are expected to bleach annually by 2040. Given that Hawaii is home to 1/3 of the US’ threatened or endangered plants and animals, this is a worrying development.
A COLONIAL LEGACY
Hawaii was an independent country before annexation by the US in 1893, which occurred largely at the behest of American businessmen on the island. Used for scientific and military operations at the expense of sacred sites like Mauna Kea, Hawaii became a state in 1959. However, the lasting effects of annexation are seen in the ongoing struggles of Native Hawaiians, who suffer disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment. Since 1980, income inequality and the cost of living has grown. The wealth brought in by tourists and mainland expats doesn’t reach poorer Hawaiians, who instead find their communities becoming increasingly unaffordable. Large tracts of Hawaii are still owned by outside interests, most notably Mark Zuckerberg, who bought another 600 acres of Hawaiian land in March 2021.
SHOULD TOURISTS STAY HOME?
Hawaii’s Governor, David Ige, says that now is not the time to visit. Tourism is Hawaii’s largest industry, making up 21% of its economy, but the sheer number of tourists is growing unsustainably. About 1.5 million people live in Hawaii, yet in May 2021 alone over 600,000 tourists visited. Having gotten used to a tourist-free Hawaii during lockdown, locals are increasingly resentful of tourists crowding beaches and sacred sites, using up desperately needed resources such as water, and paying little heed to surging cases of a virus that has disproportionately affected the Native community. In this context, it is unsurprising that there are increased calls from within Hawaii to sharply reduce the state’s reliance on tourism and transfer to a more sustainable, equitable economy.
IMAGE: Flickr / Governor David Y. Ige and Flickr / Justin Sloan
Over the course of July and August a severe drought has hit the Hawaii archipelago, in particular, the state’s second largest island, Maui. Since July 2nd, a Stage 1 water shortage has been in place, meaning that residents of Maui county could be fined up to $500 if they use water for nonessential activities such as car washing. The ban has raised the ire of many Hawaiians, especially those in poorer and agricultural areas, who also complain of unequal treatment between them and the big hotels that dominate Hawaii’s economy. The ongoing water shortages, part of an increasing number of environmental challenges the state faces, has raised questions about tourist numbers, island inequality, and the extractive and unsustainable nature of Hawaii’s largest industry.
HAITI: A NATION IN CHAOS?
fuel. The country also suffers from endless corruption, with the ex-president allegedly being involved in a $2 billion fraud scheme, involving Haiti’s political and business leaders. Even Moïse’s death is murky, accompanied by secrecy and corruption, with little being uncovered about the culprits and conflicting reports about the assassination; some have even accused the president’s own security guards. What is known is that the 51 year old was shot 12 times in the head and torso, had several bones broken, and had his left eye gouged out by his killers. Prime Minister Ariel Henry was sworn in as the new head of state at the end of July, and was thrust into a national emergency immediately after assuming the position of prime minister. An earthquake on August 21st, 2021 left the island "physically and mentally devastated” and no doubt brings back memories of the earthquake that shook the island a decade ago. Officials estimate there are 600,000 people requiring emergency assistance, but aid has once again been slow to arrive from external groups, due to both the ongoing tropical storm and local gangs. Henry has stressed that his priority is to “restore order and security” to Haiti, although this will no doubt prove difficult dealing with a natural disaster on top of the economic crisis and the recent assassination of his predecessor. This earthquake is just the most recent of natural disasters to hit Haiti in recent years, the last notable one being Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The nation is devastated, having been faced with problem after problem, and is in desperate need of external aid. So, how should the world respond to Haiti in crisis? One thing that has been made clear by the earthquake in 2010 is that short-term aid only provides relief after the initial disaster. Long-term strategies must be put in place in order to support Haiti, both to help the people there and improve the infrastructure of the country. That doesn’t mean that autonomy should be stripped from the island entirely, for instance another country ruling by mandate would likely cause more problems than it would resolve. Instead, Haiti should receive long-term support from the international community. Any so-called “help” should also be vetted by more than one group to avoid situations like the cholera outbreak caused by the UN in 2010, and to make sure that any aid does in fact benefit Haiti.
THE NATION IS DEVASTATED, HAVING BEEN FACED WITH PROBLEM AFTER PROBLEM Haiti has been neglected by the rest of the globe for far too long, especially considering the majority of problems faced by the country were caused by outside intervention in the first place. The assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, possibly a form of vigilante justice against a corrupt ruler, and the natural disaster currently taking a toll on the island should be a wakeup call for the rest of the world: Haiti should not be ignored any longer.
Alice Standen is a second-year History and Sociology student from Bristol, UK.
IMAGE: Flickr / The National Guard
On July 7th 2021, President Jovenel Moïse was found dead in his home after unidentified gunmen stormed his property in Port-au-Prince. Moïse served as president from February 2017, and dealt with opposition and unrest for most of his term as head of state. Prior to his assassination, Haitians had been demonstrating for his removal from office for over a year and arguing that the economic crisis in Haiti proved his poor leadership skills. Currently, nearly 60% of people in Haiti live below the poverty line. Haiti is an island situated in the Caribbean Sea, which has a rich political and cultural history. Following the Haitian Revolution, it became the first nation which was both free from slavery and ruled by former slaves. Political instability and crippling debt are largely due to the international community. From the money demanded by France following the nation’s insurrection, to the ostracisation by other countries who wanted to discourage rebellions in their own colonies, to the occupation by the US in the early 20th century; economic and political problems formed the backbone of the nation. These problems were only exacerbated by a severe earthquake in January 2010, which left 300,000 people dead and up to 1.6 million homeless. Furthermore, the United Nations (UN) has been criticised for causing the following cholera outbreak that infected over a million people, which it has refused to take any responsibility for, financial or otherwise. While the international community provided short-term emergency relief, there were virtually no provisions put in place for long-term recovery from the natural disaster. It was reported in 2017, the same year Moïse took office, that there were still 2.5 million Haitians in need of humanitarian aid. Haiti’s economic crisis only grew worse under President Moïse, making it hard for citizens to access food and
US FOREIGN POLICY IN DISARRAY: WHAT'S NEXT?
IS AMERICA’S ROLE AS THE WORLD’S POLICEMAN COMING TO A FINISH?
Haywire domestic politics are impeding a long-term and clear-cut foreign policy. The US negotiated a deal to suppress Iran’s nuclear program, strode out, and then wanted back in. It joined the Paris Climate Agreement, abandoned it, and re-joined it. Russian election interference took advantage of the US’ internal political rupture and further aggravated it. The withdrawal from Afghanistan wasn’t strategically conducted, but rather based on domestic political factors. The democracy-endangering cultural and political war ripping through America has cost the nation the capability to wield consistent and credible leadership globally. A bigger question may perhaps be if the crisis in Afghanistan implies the “American century”, a term coined by Henry Luce in 1941, is in its final phase. Is America’s role as the world’s policeman coming to a finish? The fall of Kabul to the Taliban
through military withdrawal is paradoxical to the US’ rationale for intervention in 2001, which claimed moral obligations to liberate Afghan women and democratise the nation, whilst defending against the spread of terrorism by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It seems the US’ purpose of intervention wasn’t about ending terror, but rather exhibiting power. Expending $2.26 trillion over two decades only to leave an unsecured and unstable nation has yielded a humanitarian humiliation for America’s moral standing. American withdrawal basically surrendered the country to Taliban rule, leading to Afghanistan’s collapse, and Iraqis dread they could face a similar calamity next. The foundation for any form of nation-building is security; a lack of security allows unpredictability and corruption to flourish. The primary lesson other militant groups are likely to draw from America’s slipshod departure from Afghanistan is this: if America becomes tired of fighting their enemy, they will withdraw and allow its client regime to deteriorate. If Biden ends the US’ combat mission later this year in Iraq, tragic blunders could repeat themselves. America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, was an unwarranted conflict provoked with a purpose to locate apparent WMD and overthrow Saddam Hussein’s political monopoly, all on a falsified “war on terror” pretext to reap Iraq’s oil. Washington’s assumption that removing Hussein would ensure a continuing political presence in Iraq was false. The US was unable to comprehend the complexity of Iraqi society and failed to plan for post-invasion, giving rise to sectarian clashes between Sunni’s, Kurds, and Shiites and the formation of ISIS after Obama withdrew troops in 2011. It would have been sounder for the US not to intervene to avoid Iraq’s instability and a waste of resources, instead there is continued militarisation of the US to prevent ISIS’ rise. Now, a similar lack of at-
tention towards the US’ significance and influence in Iraq may conclude in Iraq becoming an afterthought for US policymakers, in spite of the consequence of instability in the regional and domestic dynamics of the country. The slightest downgrade in American commitment to Baghdad may drastically alter the equilibrium of power in favour of renegade non-state actors, including ISIS. Fortunately for Baghdad, the Biden administration isn’t in a hurry to remove the US presence from Iraq, and Iraqi forces are better integrated into their nation’s political and security infrastructure compared to Afghan security forces. The US’ decision to leave Iraq is more likely to be based on the US’ tactical repositioning of foreign policy priorities, as Iraq’s government retains a sturdier shape than the Afghan government. The greatest risk that lies ahead for Iraq is long-term sectarian and regional differences and demands for more power distribution, especially as economic resources are unequally spread across Iraq and geographic and socio-economic disparities will determine the future security landscape. The ruinous and messy endgame in Afghanistan has resulted in security and humanitarian crises due to policy reversals. The Taliban’s success and US neglect will grievously set back Afghan human rights, allowing terrorism and militancy to thrive. The swift demise of the Afghan government has boosted the possibility of similar power snatches in tenuous Middle Eastern states. For Afghanistan, the lessons of the US taking calculated decisions come too late; it may not be for Iraq.
IMAGE: Unsplash / Yasmine Arfaoui
It is becoming harder to recall when the US actually had foreign policy achievements, as America’s chaotic domestic politics are debilitating its foreign policy. Two decades of war following 9/11 culminated with America handing back Afghanistan to the unchanged fundamentalist force that controlled Afghanistan at the outset of the “War on Terror”, the Taliban. The Iraq War, battled on false pretences, was not only a diversion from Afghanistan, but morphed into an exorbitantly-priced catastrophe. An American-led attempt to prevent genocide in Libya created mayhem. A US-backed campaign to destroy ISIS in Syria witnessed the US ultimately discarding its Kurdish allies. And Trump’s presidential term isolated American allies and extended legitimacy towards autocratic enemies.
Jahnvi Mehta is a second-year History and PAIS student from Leeds, UK.
Throughout the pandemic people of all political persuasions have made liberal use of international comparisons when it suited them, and shunned them when it hasn’t. Sweden, once a poster child of the anti-lockdown lobby, rapidly declined as a topic of conversation once the infection numbers began to paint a less positive picture. Likewise, the status of Australia – a country which from the start of the pandemic has been lauded by proponents of tough Covid restrictions – is now being called into question. Just a few months ago in March 2021, Forbes described the Australian Covid response as ‘the envy of many countries’, citing the lack of substantial restrictions and the absence of community transmission. Through a combination of brutal pre-emptive lockdowns, a very tight ‘hotel quarantine’ system for isolating imported cases, and mandatory social distancing Australia managed to avoid a serious peak. Australia was one of the first Western nations to be exposed to Covid-19, with a confirmed case all the way back in January 2021. Likewise, its proximity to China and other initial hotspots led many to expect a severe outbreak to be inevitable. However, Australia’s first two peaks in March and August of last year saw a seven-day average of just 367 and 476 new cases respectively. To put those figures into context, the UK had an infection rate of over 50 times that during the January 2021 peak, when new cases approached 60,000. Even in the summer of last year, when Covid was at its nadir in the UK, the Covid rates were still, for the most part, higher than that of Australia in its peak. The response was, therefore, considered an overwhelming success. There were economic costs to lockdowns, of course, but the country suffered nothing like the damage that ‘late lockdowns’ caused in the UK. Many Australian companies were able to op18
erate normally, since restrictions could often be eased due to the very low levels. Now, however, the story is radically different. Driven by a burgeoning outbreak of the Delta variant, especially in the Sydney metropolitan area, cases are approaching 1000 new infections per day, over double their previous peak. The new restrictions being brought in rapidly in Sydney and other major cities aim to curb these alarming rates. So, did the Australian method fail? First, let’s get some perspective. The vaccination rate in Australia is terrible. The Australian government was slow to secure doses and has suffered substantial supply and logistical challenges. Similarly, the Australian public was initially quite reluctant to be vaccinated, given their low Covid rates. Today, only around 1 in 4 people in Australia have been vaccinated, compared to 65% in the UK. Nevertheless, fewer Australians are dying each day of Covid than Brits, despite our high vaccination rate. Australia’s current potentially worrying outbreak is a blemish on what is an otherwise very impressive response. Similarly, though the situation is worsening for Australia right now, it remains much, much better than in the UK during our various coronavirus peaks. In total, Australia has still suffered fewer than 1000 deaths from Covid, whilst in the UK more than 140,000 people have died. It is almost inconceivable that this current crisis in Australia will escalate to the levels seen in the UK.
So-called ‘lockdown hawks’, who favour an intense response to Covid-19, need to be upfront about the experience of Australia. It shows that a ‘0-covid strategy’ does not necessarily mean there won’t be any Covid outbreaks. Even countries like Australia - an island nation that’s geographically isolated - cannot keep Covid entirely off their shores and, therefore, cannot prevent the capacity for transmission. Short of the ever-elusive herd immunity by vaccination, there doesn’t appear to be any economical way to entirely eradicate the virus. Vaccination is the only valid long-term strategy for escaping the cycle of restrictions: brief easing, followed by outbreak, followed by restrictions. THE AUSTRALIAN SITUATION IS PRECARIOUS, BUT... THE COVID-19 SITUATION IS STILL BETTER DOWN UNDER. Nevertheless, the scale of outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand are not vaguely commensurate to those seen in Europe or North America. We should not overreact and condemn their approach entirely. The schadenfreude expressed by some lockdown-sceptics is misplaced. After all, Australia is just now facing its first significant Covid-19 outbreak, over 18 months after their first reported case, which can definitely be considered a triumph. The lives of tens of thousands of Australians have been preserved so far, and during this time effective vaccines have been developed, which now need to be employed to their fullest extent. The Australian situation is precarious, but like barbecues, beaches, and the weather, the Covid-19 situation is still better down under.
Matthew Oulton is a third-year Economics student from Merseyside, UK.
IMAGE: Flickr/Number 10
THE AUSTRALIAN COVID METHOD: A FAILURE OR A SUCCESS?
RELOCATION OR ELEVATION: HOW PACIFIC ISLANDERS ARE DEALING WITH THE CLIMATE CRISIS Marshall Islands, are most at risk of facing the consequences of climate change according to the IPCC. The unfair bearing of consequences caused by developed countries is true for many other regions in the world, especially those that are less developed and not able to invest in climate adapting infrastructure, showing how unjustly climate change is affecting different parts of the world. Only recently has the developed world come to the realization that climate change has arrived. The 2021 IPCC report linked many of the devastating disasters that occurred recently to human-made global warming, from the heatwaves and forest fires in Southern Europe and the United States, to the heavy flooding that hit Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, as well as China. Climate change cannot be ignored, it has reached every corner of the planet. The Pacific Islands have come to this realization much earlier and have already been forced to adapt to a changing environment. The double threat of rising sea levels and coastal erosion has forced people to move further inland, higher up, or away from the islands altogether. This dilemma of relocation or elevation is faced by many in the region. The Marshall Islands, for example, is planning to raise the land, which former Chief Secretary Ben Graham considered to be the only possibility to ensure the islands’ survival. Relocation to other islands or countries has also been considered as an option, yet the abandonment of these islands threatens the loss of entire cultures, which include languages, land ties, traditions, and more, making this decision a very difficult one. Other methods to adapt to a changing climate are often traditional and community-based. Traditional examples of making agriculture more adaptable include using palm leaves to
provide shade for crops or using seaweed to compost. On many islands, mangroves have been planted, which act as a natural form of coastal protection and are cost-efficient. These are only some of the ways in which the Pacific Islands have adapted to a changing climate using natural community-oriented methods. A lot can be learned from these approaches to climate adaptation. The challenges the Pacific Islands endure will soon face many more places around the globe. Every effort should be made to preserve these islands and their people, and to do so, the largest emitters, and in particular Western countries, need to take responsibility for the climate crisis and take drastic action to become carbon neutral. They must also aid less economically developed countries and those that are most affected by climate change in adapting towards a changing environment and take those in who will be forced to leave their homes. COP26, which is due to take place in September of this year, is possibly the last chance to take action to protect both the future existence of the Pacific Islands, as well as many other places around the world.
Lily Meckel is a second-year PAIS student from Frankfurt, Germany.
IMAGE: Unsplash/Winston Chen (Marshall Islands)
The Pacific Islands are home to extraordinary natural landscapes and some of the most diverse surviving Indigenous communities in the world. The Pacific Islanders, their cultures and traditions, as well as the coral reefs, the marine life, and rare species of flora and fauna that make up the immensely biodiverse landscape of the Pacific Islands, are under existential threat by climate change. They have been at the forefront of the impacts of climate change, and according to this year’s IPCC report, they are at risk of extinction within a century if the climate crisis is not acted upon immediately. The ways in which the Pacific Islands are being affected are extensive. Rising sea levels, which result from melting ice sheets and glaciers, are causing coastal erosion in the low-lying islands, forcing inhabitants to relocate. The rise of saltwater also threatens freshwater as a source of water and food, which endangers the very livelihoods of the people, who mostly rely on their income from fishing, agriculture, and other occupations that rely on these natural resources. Rising temperatures cause coral bleaching and threaten marine species. Additionally, numerous natural disasters, such as cyclones, droughts, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, and more are increasingly hitting the Pacific Islands, causing immense damage. These are only some of the ways in which the Pacific Islands and the Pacific way of life are being affected, with worse to come if the climate crisis is not addressed. These predictions paint a devastating picture for the future of the Pacific Islands. Even though the region only emits 0.23% of emissions worldwide, it is experiencing first-hand the consequences of a crisis that others have caused. The islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu have already started to disappear, and, together with the Maldives and the
THE SHAPE OF THE LABOUR LEFT
Some may disapprove of Corbyn’s leadership, but it is difficult to sneer at his policies when the current leader doesn’t have any to call his own. To maintain public approval, the Conservatives implemented ‘Corbynist’ policies which were well received, including free domestic internet access, nationalisation of rail services and a halt in corporation tax cuts. After assuming leadership in 2020, Starmer promised to maintain efforts towards the 10 pledges that he campaigned on; his cabinet have since acted in direct opposition to these. Alongside many others, I believe the Tories are wholly incompetent and self-serving as leaders of the nation, and they need to be voted out. However, there is no logical reason to remove the current cabinet if it will simply be replaced by a red-rose replica, with the same commercial and lobbyist priorities. Starmer demonstrates these attitudes when being interviewed by the Guardian, stating, “my number one priority is winning the election”. With his plan to leave his 10 pledges behind, we won’t know what he stands for until the party conference in September. So far, we’ve been given celebratory remarks about the Blair epoch, with former ridicule and distaste towards his efforts now evolving into uncomfortable glorification across British media. With all this being said, it would be naive to ignore the problems that exist on the left. While Corbyn managed to get the youth engaged in political discourse, he became something of a populist figurehead that the opposition electorate often feared or rejected. The internal divide seen throughout the party itself could be tied to the simplification of intersectionality in everyday life, leading to old-age debates about the relevancy of class on cultural development, whether 19th century philosophy still holds relevance
in 21st century pluralistic society, and whether the youth are capable of carrying perceived ‘comradeship’ through the next era of socio-economic strife. The left needs to focus on the fundamentals. Tony Benn stated the decline of the Labour party was caused by a shift of party politics to the right. Therefore, rather than creating confusing online discourse, the left needs to create socialist policy plans accessible for all - on housing, employment, education and empowerment of the youth. The idea of socialism, the very mechanism that created and maintains the NHS, is something mocked and ridiculed for its ‘failures’ - despite these ‘failures’ actually being caused by corporate greed and commercially-vested interests of our political leaders. The left needs to get serious. Politics, despite its reinforcing party system, is not a binary structure. There are thousands of discussions to be had on a variety of issues, and not everyone will agree on everything. If the party is meant to organise as a unit, members need to actualise this, rather than ostracise the alternative view. Ultimately, the new manifesto will redefine how the Labour left will act towards the party. Starmer must remember that persistent anguish from an ignored substratum of voters will only cause greater rifts when election day arrives. Starmer must find solace in the members that remain, rather than subscribing to the elitist agenda he was enlisted to fight.
Lucy year dent
Young is a fourthLaw and Sociology stufrom Luton, Bedfordshire.
IMAGE: Flickr / Jeremy Corbyn
The next democratic election is due to take place in May 2024, but if Boris Johnson continues along the same feeble path as a powerless PM, the House may trigger a vote of no confidence or for an early election. One of these mechanisms was triggered just four years ago, resulting from a series of blunders surrounding Brexit. The question is whether Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will be ready for action. The last Labour cabinets sat in office from 1997-2010, and unfortunately, alongside other Conservative cabinet counterparts, they left their own stains on the fabric of British political history. This included the mutual agreement to join the illegal conflict in Afghanistan with insubstantial strategy, persistent and flimsy cabinet reshuffles causing mass confusion, and the adoption of Thatcherite economic policies which worsened the blow of the economic crash for lower class communities. Starmer is the new frontman for Labour, although it is difficult to gauge his passion for the party. He was once the editor of Socialist Alternative, later becoming a member of the Haldane Society for Socialist Lawyers. It is now Starmer’s favourite hobby to expel party members who share the same ideology he once had. It is clear that the internal division across the party spectrum will be Labour’s ultimate downfall.
BOOK REVIEWS NIALL HAWKINS REVIEWS THE POWER OF GEOGRAPHY In the sequel to 2016’s ‘Prisoners of Geography’, Tim Marshal repeats a familiar story. ‘The Power of Geography’ sees the expert in foreign affairs use a new cast of ten countries and their maps to reveal ‘the future of our world’. He dwells heavily on their pasts, telling geopolitical tales most humanities students are familiar with, and probably tired of. The reader should certainly be wary of Marshall's writings. After a while they will make you weary too. ‘The Power of Geography’ is a fun read, but not an enlightening one. Perhaps Marshall's task was too much. His brand of geopolitics fails to consider much beyond militaristic narratives and crude economics. Mountain ranges can only be likened to fortresses so many times. Geopolitics often forgets that humans always trump geography. How come such ‘strongholds’ as the Iberian Peninsula and Iran have still been victim to such substantial historic invasions if their mountains are so formidable? Militaristic analogies, hypotheticals, and histories occupy far too much room in this book to give it proper credibility. Geopolitics is about so much more than warfare and strategy. Marshall appears to be hemmed in by a realism that sees militaristic relations as the cornerstone of geopolitics. It gets very tiresome and is a shame, because at times the book does have potential. Of all that is omitted, Marshall’s tendency to only pay lip service to climate change renders the book irrelevant if you want to really consider the geopolitical futures of each country. Far from being static facts, geopolitics is as changeable as the histories which entrench the field, and Marshall focuses far more on the exciting facts of history than the changeable and largely unquantifiable realities of geopolitics. The Power of Geography was written to be a popular book, not a prescient one.
Niall Hawkins is a third-year History and Politics student from Berkhamstead, UK.
IMAGE: Simon and Schuster/ The Power of Geography
JAMIE SPRATT REVIEWS A STATE OF FEAR Laura Dodsworth’s newest book is not a critique of the efficacy of lockdowns, but rather the way the government and its advisors have used fear and propaganda to terrify the British population into conforming with lockdown rules. SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) advisors are on record saying that the level of personal perceived threat to individuals needed to be increased. There were deliberate tactics used to manipulate people into believing the coronavirus was more dangerous to them than was the case. Shockingly, there was absolutely no public debate about the ethics of such tactics, and even worse, there was no plan devised for a ‘way out’ – no plan to unlearn the excessive fear. There has been a lack of critical thinking over the past 18 months, with any question over government policy followed by the passive rebuttal that we are ‘following the science’. Many of the men and women who sit on the SAGE and SPI-B (Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours) advisory boards are not virologists or epidemiologists, but rather behavioural scientists whose entire career is based on behavioural change and subconscious ‘nudging’. So, when the Prime Minister explained he was ‘following the science’, that was an incredibly misleading term. Science is not one homogenous body with fixed and unchanging opinions. ‘A State of Fear’ was an incredibly refreshing read, and one of the best pieces of journalism to come out of the past couple of years. There are interviews with government scientific advisors, politicians, journalists, and many more people involved in the decision-making regarding the pandemic. The book explores carefully crafted adverts, such as the emotionally manipulative plea to not ‘kill your granny’, the deliberate misuse of statistics and graphs in order to inflate the risk of the virus, and much more. A must read for anyone that cares about the future of our democracy. IMAGE: Pinter and Martin/ Blackwell's/ A State of Fear
Jamie Spratt is a second-year Economics and PAIS student from Durham, UK.
THE EXISTENCE OF BILLIONAIRES
Wealth inequality has been a perennial problem in all human societies, explicitly or not. Feudal societies were rocked with peasant revolts, the English Civil War unleashed the Levellers, and Karl Marx’s writings continue to inform the most pointed critiques of market economies. With the data techniques of the present, we are able to lay out this issue more clearly than ever before - in the US alone, the top 10% of Americans own 80% of the wealth, while globally just 0.7% of people own 45.9%; at the bottom the reverse is true, with the bottom 70% (earning <$10,000 p.a.) owning just 2.7% of global wealth. The flashpoint in this argument currently is the ethics of billionaires, those 2,755 individuals who embody the accumulation of wealth so plainly. This article does not seek to justify the status quo in its entirety - after all, the very existence of billionaires presents a problem when there are still people below the poverty line. What it will say though is that accumulated wealth plays a very important role in the economy, and that government led action is not a good solution to this ethical quandary. Instead, the power of social conscience and pressure (a far stronger force in my opinion) should be brought to bear - a process that is already working itself out. The common arguments against ‘banning billionaires’ are both libertarian and utilitarian. The first emphasises the rights of individuals to the fruits of their labour, and to do with it what they want. Given most billionaires are self-made, this appears strong at first, yet ignores two issues first, that a lot of this wealth is also the fruit of employees’ labour; and second, that individuals contribute to collectives already through taxation, so why is this not an appropriate measure when it comes to billionaires? It also fails to account for the fact that wealth has di22
minishing utility the more you have, i.e. a million dollars is life-changing to a factory-worker, less so for Jeff Bezos - so that same amount grants greater freedom if redistribution is employed. The utilitarian argument is that billionaires already provide plenty of socioeconomic benefits that otherwise do not occur. Banks rely on accumulated wealth when issuing loans, allowing greater freedom for the have-nots in society; early consumption of new technologies makes them more affordable in the long-term for all, while large investments in small companies further benefit both entrepreneurs and consumers. Even the apparently frivolous space projects yield prizes - SpaceX employs over ten-thousand people, and likely will stumble across technologies otherwise unknown, like NASA and MRIs. On top of this, one must consider what the alternative is to the billionaire economy, the commonly cited model being highly redistributive tax policies. The problem with this is that the state has proven to be a fairly terrible spender of money: Test & Trace cost £37 billion in two years, while HS2 is expected to cost over £40 billion more than initially estimated. Billionaire philanthropy has been massively successful by contrast, with Bill Gates’ foundation playing an integral role in the eradication of polio-virus in Africa for example. Without a viable alternative, the argument against the billionaire economy cannot claim utility. This might miss the point however - the main criticism of billionaires is not just that the wealth could be better managed, but that it should be. The claim is that billionaires have a social obligation to use their wealth to benefit all of society, through taxation or philanthropy. Indeed, most of the utilitarian benefits come from accumulated wealth rather than billionaires themselves. The question then is can humans use such vast sums of money for the good of all, or are external regulations needed to enforce this behaviour?
A huge issue is that humans have yet to devise a socio-economic system that solely encourages and selects for virtue, while leaving no inequality or immorality behind. The Soviet and Chinese models both attempted to empower the state as a moral arbiter for the economy, yet this merely led to the state itself being enriched for its supposedly good work - in fact the gap between the rich and poor in China is rapidly growing. What seems to be working better is instead social pressure to encourage positive behaviour from billionaires; indeed Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were among a large cohort of the world’s wealthiest who pledged in 2010 to give half of their lifetime earnings to charity. Pressure need not just be vocal - it includes boycotts and divesting of those billionaires who do behave selfishly - and it will not always be effective. However, until someone can develop an alternative system that can truly fix the problem of wealth inequality, this will remain the worst system apart from all the others.
Dominic Gilonis recently finished the third year of his History degree and is from London.
IMAGE: Flickr / Dunk
As the world is inundated by the Covid-driven tides of extreme change and devastation, one relic remains unscathed. Steadfast in its foundations, class society, and the dichotomy it bears between the extremely prosperous and the precariat, has not only persisted, but instead intensified. While billionaires have reaped a great reward, the rest have only been dealt more hardship. Now more than ever, we must question the very existence of billionaires. In a 2020 report, Oxfam unveiled the extent to which this dichotomy manifested throughout the pandemic. With the world’s 10 richest billionaires amassing over £393 billion since its onset alone, estimates indicate that billionaires’ aggregate wealth will soon hit £9 trillion. These peaks of wealth have occurred in tandem with new heights of people pushed into conditions of extreme poverty, defined as less than £1.50 a day, which has surpassed 125 million within the last year alone and is predicted to reach levels not seen for more than 20 years. As someone who has struggled to grasp the magnitude of one billion pounds, illustrations comparing it to the minute quantities lived upon by the extremely impoverished are shocking. An individual in possession of a singular billion could spend £1,000, each day for nearly 3000 years, before finally exhausting their finances. Combined with major international job loss, acute income insecurity and general impoverishment have plagued the lives of the many, whilst a minority of the population stand atop a pile of riches. Frankly, the immorality of such inequalities is stark, and the existence of such hoarded wealth abhorrent. It is this very economic inequality, however, which lies central to capitalism. The works of Marx ring true as wealth forged through the exploitation of workers accumulates in the hands
of billionaires. This can notably be seen in the experiences of Jeff Bezos, former Amazon CEO and the world’s richest man, amassing nearly £73 billion since the start of the pandemic. With reports detailing gruelling 14-hour shifts, high injury rates, monotonous labour, and insufficient breaks, the Amazon factory workers, upon which Bezos’ business entirely depends, risk their health and wellbeing amidst the pandemic. Due to a history of union-busting, seen in the firing of outspoken employees, Amazon workers face difficulty in advocating for better conditions without risk of losing employment. This has reached such an extent that a member of Amazon warehouse staff reported relying merely upon the grace of their respective deity as a means of protection. The exploitation workers are subject to at the benefit of billionaires is clear.
WE MUST QUESTION THE VERY EXISTENCE OF BILLIONAIRES Despite attempts on the part of the bourgeoisie to cast billionaires in a light of positivity by drawing upon their acts of philanthropy, such fail to hold sufficient weight. It is important to recognise the contributions of the wealthy, such as the work of the Gates foundation in aiding the radical reduction of Polio, and Bezos’s donations to combat climate change, but also to question these contributions: such acts represent a disconcerting reliance upon the unaccountable wealthy in place of transparent democratic state institutions. In an age of austerity, the location of social investment is largely dependent upon the personal goodwill and fancies of the rich. It is therefore no surprise that such has been critiqued as historically failing to address the collective priorities of local populations, as such voices are ignored. The extent to which this plutocracy reigns is only exacerbated by billionaire attempts to avoid paying taxes, a critical resource for important coun-
try-oriented improvements. Utilizing tax-havens and other loopholes, billionaires notably led to the loss of over £115 billion in US tax revenue in 2017. With US donations proportionally minute in relation to their operating income (at only 0.32% going towards charitable causes in 2019) or to the total quantities spent on the current egomaniacal space race, such philanthropy fails to even reimburse that which they initially avoided paying, all whilst receiving great acclaim and the overlooking of other wrongdoing. Bezos may have been charitable against climate change, but let us not forget that Amazon is a major contributor to the climate crisis, with a whopping 51.17 million metric tonne carbon footprint in 2020. This pandemic has been a time of great upheaval, but we must not forget that which it has given us. We have been able to see, clearer than ever, the corrupt nature of the billionaire class, thriving whilst others suffer, and prioritising profit over people. We must act and expropriate their riches for the betterment of all members of society.
Emily Everest is a third-year PAIS & Sociology student from Surrey, England. SEPTEMBER 2021
IMAGE: Flickr / National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution
EMILY is EVEREST