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SEPT. 2013



INSIDE THIS ISSUE QIO is the Queen’s International Observer, a quarterly student magazine published by the Queen’s International Affairs Association focussing on international news, politics, art, and technology.


Want to submit a piece to QIO? The submission deadline for the next issue is midnight of September 21st. All submissions are welcome.


Visit our websites at and for submission guidelines and more content. Feel free to email our editorial team at contact@queensobserver. org with questions, comments or suggestions.


Photo: Muhammad Ghafari, Flickr



To Catch A Falling Knife The Crisis in Egypt



fter a year of political gridlock and rising tensions, Mohamed Morsi, the President of Egypt and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted on July 3rd in a military coup d’état after only one year in office. This is where the governing party is suddenly deposed (typically by the military) and is replaced with another body, either civil or military. Leading up to the coup d’état, many Egyptians felt as though President Morsi, who rose to power on the wave of revolution that deposed the Mubarak regime, was abusing his newly-appointed position by imposing authoritarian changes to the Egyptian constitution, contrary to what one would expect of a democratically-elected leader. There were large scale protests erupting across Egypt, in turn resulting in weak economic performance and high levels of unemployment, even among well-educated Egyptians. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), felt it was necessary to intervene before the country experienced political and economic collapse. The SCAF considers itself the sole authority possessing the experience and maturity necessary to protect the country from domestic and external threats,



and vilifies the political parties as self-interested and narrow-minded. As it stands, the Muslim Brotherhood is the only political party organized enough to contend with the SCAF. The SCAF and Egyptian military have numerous interests they wish to protect. They control business ventures that make up 30-40% of the Egyptian economy, including a secret budget, hidden from public scrutiny. The military also has immunity from prosecution, is entitled to better housing, and is the second largest recipient of unconditional US foreign aid after Israel. The SCAF have no real ambition to rule politically; at this point, stepping into power is like trying to catch a falling knife. By exerting power behind the curtain of Egyptian politics, they can avoid public scrutiny while continuing to denigrate the political regimes as the source of Egyptian discontent. The Muslim Brotherhood was an illegal political party in Egypt for decades because it was considered to have too many extremist and anti-democratic Islamic policies. Since the coup,

Muslim Brotherhood candidates have once again been banned from Egypt’s presidential elections. This means that any future elections will appear to be one-sided. In the 2012 election, the Muslim Brotherhood won 51% of the popular vote. If they can not run in the next election, roughly half of the country will perceive that they are not democratically represented, and this discontent has led to numerous counter-protests from supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. As the country remains polarised between leftist secularists and conservative Islamists, violent


outbreaks and numerous injuries and deaths on both sides have created an environment conducive to civil war. In order to restore peace, future presidential candidates must find a way to bridge the divide between these opposing social forces. It is an extremely difficult task to appeal democratically to Egyptians in a political environment which privileges the interests of elite actors, such as the SCAF, over the interests of Egyptian civilians. QIO

Protestors in egypt block the tracks of sadat metro station. photo: bora s. kamel, flickr


// Marriage Equality


“DOMA [wrote] inequality into the entire United States Code,” and that under the Act, “same-sex married couples have their lives his summer saw two landmark decisions for marriage equality burdened… in visible and public ways.” in the United States. On June 26th 2013, the Supreme Court On the same day, SCOTUS declined to rule on Hollingsworth v. of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled 5–4 in favour of the plaintiff Perry, which was centered on Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative in United States v. Windsor, which struck down Section Three of the that banned same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court ruled that since Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. the private group sponsoring Prop 8 could not demonstrate how it DOMA, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, would suffer injury from same-sex marriages, the ruling would be was signed into law in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton with sent back down to the lower Court of Appeals, which had already bipartisan support. Since then, however, a major shift in public declared the bill unconstitutional in 2012. opinion has occurred. A 2013 Gallup poll indicates that over 50% of When these decisions were announced, thousands of LGBTQ+ Americans are in favour of marriage equality. In May 2012, Barack advocates outside the Supreme Court erupted into celebration. With Obama publicly declared himself in favour of same-sex marriage, DOMA eradicated, same-sex couples will now receive the same tax, becoming the first sitting US President to do so. immigration, health, and pension benefits as partners in heterosexual But for Edith Windsor, 84, the case was never about the politics, unions, as well as the right to visit their spouse in the hospital. The but rather honouring a love and commitment that lasted nearly half validity of these unions, however, still depends upon the law of each a century. After meeting Thea Spyer at individual state – which currently only Though they had been thirteen and the District of Columbia a restaurant in New York City nearly fifty years ago, the two women shared married in Toronto, their union recognize. Section Two of DOMA, their lives until Spyer’s death from was unrecognized by the US which remains in force, states that multiple sclerosis in 2009. Though “no State […] shall be required to federal government. they had been married in Toronto, give effect to any other State […] their union was unrecognized by respecting a relationship between the US federal government. Upon Spyer’s passing, Windsor was persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws confronted with not only the prospect of living without her wife, but of such other State.” Such a provision means that a couple married also a bill for $350,000 incurred by Spyer’s estate – a tax that would in Delaware will not be considered legally joined in Texas, where have been waived had her spouse been a man. same-sex unions are banned. In deferring to state regulation rather When Windsor’s challenge was brought before the Supreme Court, than issuing a blanket federal law, the legal lines remain as blurred the Obama Administration refused to defend DOMA. As a result, as ever. House Republican leadership chose to hire a private lawyer to argue Though the fight is far from over, this summer’s victories are more in favour of the Act before SCOTUS. Ultimately, the Supreme Court sweet than bitter. “If I had to survive Thea,” Windsor said, after the declared in favour of Windsor, with Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, ruling was announced, “what a glorious way to do it.” QIO Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan forming the majority opinion, and the minority headed by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. In his majority statement, Kennedy stated that by Deborah Chu







by Alexander McGurk


ll wars result in unwanted loss of life. The death otherwise. Notwithstanding this ungenerous definition, of innocents is a regrettable but necessary truth current targeted action inflicts no more incidental loss of in war. So too is war often regrettable, but necessary. That life than is conscionable under existing norms of armed these truths hold does not make a just war impossible. It conflict. Of the 2020 to 3350 deaths counted by the New only means that our moral calculus must help us decide America Foundation, no more than 15 percent have been between strategic alternatives. If we cannot prevent the positively identified as civilians. Other counts suggest that deaths of innocents, we must minimize the absolute loss civilians have accounted for a ratio of between 15 and 45 of innocent life. percent of deaths. Success in a defensive war is one means to that end. This would be a remarkably good result if true, and International law recognizes the legitimacy of military compares favorably to other limited armed interventions. action taken in self-defense. The Charter of the United In the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, better known as ‘Black Nations, for example, declares that nothing should impair Hawk Down’, a US Army force attempted to capture a member state’s natural right and kill a Somali militia leader to self-defense against armed and his lieutenants. About 200 attack. The 2001 Authorization civilians died out of a total for the Use of Military Force 500 to 600 Somali dead. Black Against Terrorists permits Hawk Down is instructive for ‘all necessary and appropriate another reason: the Somali force’ against the terrorists who leader survived the attack, living planned 9/11 and those who on until 1996. Had he been Photo: Iwan Gabovitch, Flickr harbored them. targeted by a Predator instead, Given the continued presence he might have died that day. of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hundreds of civilians would have survived. targeted action against militants remains formally Moreover, complex actions with a small number of targets, appropriate, whether or not it violates the nominal so beloved of Hollywood, are usually unworkable in real sovereignty of Pakistan. (Never mind that the actual life. For instance, the capture and killing of Osama bin sovereignty of Pakistan is incomplete to the extent that Laden involved a high risk of failure, and an even higher peoples in the Tribal Areas can engage in armed conflict risk of reprisal. Boots on the ground are more offensive to with a foreign power.) The question now is whether these the sovereign power than a high-altitude killing. Today, strikes are appropriate when compared to the military Pakistan provides intelligence for the United States’ drone alternatives. strike operations. I doubt they would be so eager to supply The administration’s definition of ‘necessary and flight paths for black helicopters. appropriate force’ incorporates principles of distinction There is another regrettable truth to consider: that all and proportionality in the exercise of force. Force can only nations, including the US, are more interested in the lives be used against military targets, never civilian targets, and of their own soldiers than the lives of foreign innocents. attacks that may be expected to cause loss of civilian life On that count, at least, the drone war has been an absolute in excess of the direct military advantage are prohibited. success. There have been no American casualties in the In spite of these high-minded principles, the Obama drone war. There have been 2,163 American Forces deaths administration has permitted itself a restrictive definition in Afghanistan. QIO of civilian life: all military-age men in a targeted area are classified as ‘militants’ until specific intelligence proves

Art: Angels Gate, Flickr






by Corey Schruder

The result is an economy that lacks capital, labour, and ust like any other kid, eight year old Noor Aziz interim aid, and lacklustre economic growth in an area is playing on the side of the road with his friends that desperately needs a path to prosperity. Economies that are under-developed require reliable in rural Pakistan,when they hear the distinct hissing of infrastructure and an environment where the property a hellfire missile. Immediately, they cover their heads rights of civilians are respected. Taxi drivers refuse to drive like they are taught in school. Meanwhile in the United from the cities to rural villages because they fear being States, a drone operator reports to his superior the strike targeted by American drone operators. Fruit and vegetawas a success. ble vendors refuse to move their goods between villages As of 2013, eight hundred civilians have been killed in and towns, thus effectively destroying local trade. FarmUS drone strikes. To put this in perspective, thirty-six ers can no longer grow crops because their homes have civilians have been murdered for every terrorist. It is diffibeen destroyed. It doesn’t stop there – the ramifications cult to believe that civilian deaths are necessary to protect of these realities are even the strategic interests of the more devastating. CutUnited States. However, ting off villages who may perhaps the greatest effect not have local farms from the drone war has had is the valuable goods and sereconomic damage that it vices diminishes economic has inflicted upon Afghanactivity. People may not istan and Pakistan’s rural be able to work without economy. the local taxi company to Drones scare people from commute people into urgoing to work, prevent ban areas where the good children from attending paying jobs exist, and if school, and make the jobs the local farm is destroyed, of humanitarians much the community effectively more dangerous. NGOs ‘Drone Shadow 002’ in Istanbul disappears. The locals then order their workers to wait Photo: STML, Flickr look to the only source at least four hours before of local employment: the they enter an area attacked Taliban controlled poppy fields. by drones. First responders are thus unable to attend The constant fear of a drone strike is enough to shut the scene of a drone strike before the prerequisite four down essential services in rural Afghanistan and Pakihours, and as a result necessary medical services cannot stan and drive people into the comparatively open arms be rendered. Furthermore, areas in need of proper irrigaof the Taliban poppy fields, where work is safe, plentiful, tion systems, infrastructure, fresh water, and many other and an income is guaranteed. Wars are won by helping essential services will never receive them. Moreover, the the people they allegedly serve. To do this, the American presence of drones makes it difficult for communities to government needs to foster economic growth, not kill it. enforce local customs that aid in economic development, The path to an affluent and free Afghanistan, as well as as was the case in Dhatta Khel where a drone strike taran American victory, is therefore one that focuses on jobs, geted a meeting of town elders, politicians, and policeman growth, and prosperity. QIO who were discussing a workers’ issue in the local mine.





ART TALK // Photo: Schimonski, Flickr

critically acclaimed. This selection process is indicative of the power held by governments as the major patron of public art, in their ability to censor what the public sees and control societal perception at both national and international levels. In many cases, the chosen artist is one whose personal philosthe design of Britain’s World ophy is in line with that of the Fair, with one key modification: government, or one who will that the buildings would be per- idealize the national sentiment. manent. This has led to a struc- However, in the digital age, it is ture which preserves and reflects no longer necessary for artists to the balance of power and state operate within the confines of of international affairs at the this outdated system. Enter the turn of the century. The colonial Ideological Guide, an exposepowers of England, Spain, and cum-tour guide in the form of the Netherlands maintain prime an iPhone app. The app provides position, while Canada’s pavilion users with a wealth of information about each sits tellingly in pavilion that the shadow of won’t be found Great Britain’s. in the wall Newer powers, text, including such as Chiinformation na, are entirely about the cuwithout a parator, artist, the vilion and are budget providthus forced to ed by the state, find space elsethe country’s where in the politics, history, city. and involveThe pavilions Photo: Darren and Brad, Flickr ment in interserve as a type of cultural barometer: their con- national affairs. The app aims tents allow visitors to take stock to bring the issues that lurk beof the state of culture in over neath the surface of the Biennale 80 countries. In most cases, the to light, and therefore add a layer artists are selected by a cultural of meaning to the art that neiministry or national gallery: the ther the artist nor curator sought chosen are typically a mature, to include. The Iraqi pavilion illustrates the living artist who best exemplifies contemporary art in their coun- precarious position of a relative try, whose work is innovative and newcomer to the Biennale. Not


THE ART WORLD by Claire Pierce rt fairs may call to mind images of mega-yachts, Chanel-hosted bonfires and the ubiquitous Brant brothers, but beneath its Bacchanalian exterior, the Venice Biennale solicits reflection on- and idealizations of- national identity. Unlike other art fairs, the Venice Biennale does not offer pavilions to commercial galleries, and although some pieces are later sold, no art is on sale during the Biennale. Instead, it consists of a veritable village of pavilions, each allocated to a different nation. It is left to the government of each country to select an artist as the delegate of their home country, creating inevitable friction between political agendas and artistic license. First held in 1895, the Venice Biennale has since become a model for hundreds of Biennale’s around the world, yet Venice remains the stage on which this tension truly springs to life.. But in this age of increasing commercialization of art, is it in the interest of the artist to engage with the harsh realities of current affairs, or is it best to paint on rose-colored glasses? The organization of the national pavilions were modeled against




only does Iraq lack prominence in the art world, but its pavilion is a prime example of a government attempting to use art to further its nationalistic agenda. Titled “Welcome to Iraq,” the message here, as illustrated through the work of Furat al Jamil, Hashim Taeeh, Yassen Wami, and Jamal Penjweny, is that Iraq is more than the tanks and explosions seen on the newsreels. The organizers from the NGO RUYA- an organization which aims to increase cultural production in Iraq- sought to put a face to the “new Iraq” in their showcase. Although, as the Ideological Guide points out, much of the promotional material positions the Western curators as explorers in a savage land, and the prevalent orientalism in its display is reminiscent of the attitudes towards colonial art at the turn of the century. Additionally, while the art engages with the horrors of Saddam Hussien and his government, particularly Jamal Penjweny’s series of photographs titled Saddam is Here, the artist does not comment on the role of the United States and other Western powers in this destruction. This is likely a result of the political organizers of the pavilion, as the Ideological Guide astutely points out. Art is not created in a vacuum, and whether they are obvious or not, international affairs have a way of always getting sucked in. QIO


// 3D printed GUNS

Lock ‘n (Down)load

Cody wilson of defense distributed with the 3d printed liberator pistol


by ERICA MClachlan


hen the Liberator file was uploaded onto Defense Distributed’s servers this spring, it provoked a wide range of responses from the international community and fuelled the already heated debate over gun control in the United States. The file, which consists of blueprints for a 3D printed polymer gun, is the creation of Cody Wilson, a law student and self-proclaimed libertarian from the University of Texas. His attempt to circumvent gun control laws by uploading the file to the public domain has been heavily contested by regulatory agencies around the world. Defense Distributed, a nonprofit that actively promotes the proliferation of arms, has willingly complied with all legislative injunctions; they view their acquiescence not as defeat, but rather as evidence of their capacity to undermine the system by working within it. Claiming that the blueprints may violate the International Traffic in Arms


Regulations (ITAR), the State amend the Undetectable Department Office of Defense Firearms Act, which expires this Trade Controls Compliance year, reverberated throughout demanded that the group remove American political circles, their file from the public domain. particularly in New York, where Despite their cooperation in Congressman Steve Israel removing the Liberator file from and Senator Charles Schumer Defense Distributed’s servers, expressed their outrage over Wilson told Forbes these “invisible” that their demands weapons. For two to remove “all such them, the current reporters laws data…from public prohibiting access” might be successfully firearms that can “an impossible smuggled the pass through metal standard.” Wilson printed gun detectors undetected has a point, as the are insufficient; on a train file was reportedly instead, they wish d o w n l o a d e d from london to extend coverage almost a hundred of the Act to to paris. thousand times in specific components the first two days and has since such as firearm receivers been adopted by a number of and ammunition magazines popular file sharing sites. in order to encourage more Aside from the questions rigorous governance of these surrounding the limits of new weapons. Israel was very governmental control over data transparent with his concerns, sharing, the polymer gun itself has pointing out that, “Security caused a number of politicians to checkpoints, background checks, panic over the potential security and gun regulations will do threat it may pose. Calls to little good if criminals can print


plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser.” This fear manifested itself a mere week following the debut of the printed gun, when two reporters from the Daily Mail smuggled the weapon onto a Eurostar train from London to Paris. The reporters carried neither the bullets nor the metal firing pin necessary to open fire, which rendered the gun about as dangerous as a carefully wielded spatula. Nevertheless, the incident dredged up deep-seated fears about airport security. Despite these controversies, Wilson continues to operate by the book, describing his “strategy” as one of “overcompliance.” In response to criticism from the likes of Israel and Schumer, Defense Distributed acquired a federal firearms manufacturing license and later incorporated a trivial lump of metal into the gun design in order to make the otherwise plastic gun compliant with the Undetectable Firearms Act. With the original file still in circulation, enforcement will certainly pose a challenge to legislators and compliance officers in the coming years. The Internet has increasingly rendered governments’ attempts to censor information difficult at best, and futile at worst. With firearm regulations now conflating with issues of Internet censorship, gun control has truly become a nightmare for legislators. Unless governments can find a palatable way to either monitor or restrict the flow of electronic information, they may just have to bite the bullet and endure the regulatory headache of printed guns. QIO


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QIO Volume 10 Summer 2013  
QIO Volume 10 Summer 2013