SPRING 2013 I THE YALE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF POLITICS VOL. LXVIII
Beyond the Battlefield An expatriate student reflects on Afghanistanâ€™s past and future 1
Dear Reader, You hold in your hands our magazine’s first issue of 2013. It is a product of which we are quite proud, frankly. You will notice that our political journal looks quite different from the one you picked up a few months ago. After one or two botox injections, The Politic 2.0 looks better than ever. To compete in a market cornered by CNN and The Economist, crowded by bloggers and tweeters, we have redesigned the entire magazine with a chic cover and artistic inside. Lest you think The Politic prioritizes style over substance, we invite you to read (and reread) this issue’s six stories and three interviews of local, national, and international scope. Our campus content explores the institutional plight of the Yale Political Union and the rebirth of the college’s ROTC. For a perspective on domestic politics and more, The Politic sits down with New York Times columnist David Brooks. We fix our gaze to the unfolding regional disaster in northwest Africa. A Yale student shares her experiences growing up in war-torn Afghanistan. This study break of yours was many hours in the making. Special thanks go to our editors and writers, transcribers of interviews and 3:00 a.m. coffee brewers. We extend our gratitude to the bloggers helping to expand our web-exclusive content. There is plenty of material to be read at www.thepolitic.org, from a profile of the bipartisan No Labels group to an interview with particle physicistpoliticians in Congress. And of course, to you — our loyal readers — we extend our greatest thanks.
Faithfully, Josef Goodman Noah Remnick
SPRING 2013 I THE YALE UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL OF POLITICS
Editors-in-Chief Josef Goodman Noah Remnick Managing Editors Justin Schuster Eric Stern National Editors Cindy Hwang Marissa Medansky International Editors David Lawrence Eli Rivkin Feature Editor Larissa Liburd Online Managers Rod Cuestas James Pabarue Director of Development Raphael Leung Layout Editors David Mandelbaum Yuyeon Cho Editors Emeriti Byron Edwards Jacob Effron Copy Editor Stephanie Heung Photo Editor Anna-Sophie Harling Illustrators Madeleine Witt Christine Mi Board of Advisors John Lewis Gaddis — Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History, Yale University David Gergen — Editor-at-Large, U.S. News and World Report Anthony Kronman — Former Dean, Yale Law School Ian Shapiro — Director, Yale Center for International and Area Studies Pictures Pictures from Creative Commons used under Attribution Noncommercial license. http://creativecommons.org/licenses Disclaimer This magazine is published by Yale College students, and Yale University is not responsible for its contents. The opinions expressed by the contributors to The Politic do not necessarily reflect those of its staff or advertisers.
Letter from the Editors
Bulldogs in Uniform
Josef Goodman & Noah Remnick
David Lawrence & Rachel O’Connell
Rust Belt Renaissance
The Pot Spills Over
Resolved: The Yale Political Union Is Doomed
The State of the Unions
Benjamin Weiner & Joshua Faber
Regulating the Jungle 12
The Man Behind the Column
Geng Ngarmboonanant 38
David Steiner & Rishabh Bhandari
Gun Violence by the Numbers
From Washington to Tehran Justin Schuster 20
Beyond the Battlefield Wazhma Sadat
Rust Belt Renaissance PITTSBURGH AND THE FUTURE OF THE AMERICAN CITY
— JOSEF GOODMAN —
Pittsburgh may seem the last place to call the city of the future. Its population of 300,000 is less than half its peak 50 years ago. The once proud and profitable steel industry is now all but obsolete. New York has Wall Street and Broadway. Los Angeles has Hollywood. Paris has haute couture, and Rome has architecture. Even Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell. Pittsburgh’s biggest claim to fame is its football team. There is a crisis of the Rust Belt city in this country, and nowhere is it felt more acutely than in Detroit. The 2011 Super Bowl featured a commercial for Chrysler, the struggling automobile manufacturer. Eminem is driving through the city’s streets. A church choir and the beat of “Lose Yourself” is playing in the background as the narrator says:
This isn’t New York City, or the Windy City, or Sin City, and we are certainly not anyone’s Emerald City. This is the Motor City, and this is what we do.
Unfortunately, poetry, no matter how inspiring, can’t save a dying city. Detroit remains on the brink of bankruptcy. To the south, Chicago has witnessed an exodus of 200,000 people in the last decade alone. Baltimore is permanently associated with the urban decay of TV’s “The Wire.” Enrico Moretti crystallizes the crisis in The New Geography of Jobs, published last year. “The most dynamic areas in this country [in the aftermath of World War II] were manufacturing meccas like Detroit, Cleveland, Akron, Gary, and Pittsburgh. These cities were the envy of the world.” The identification of America’s prosperity with industrialization reached its height in the 1950s, when Charles Wilson, then-CEO of General Motors, famously said, “What is good for General Motors is good for the country, and vice versa.” In 1978, manufacturing employment reached its peak, with almost 20 million Americans working in factories. Then suddenly, the engine stopped and the car went into reverse. 4
Since 1985, the United States has shed an average of 372,000 manufacturing jobs every year. “If the current trend continues,” Moretti lamented, “there will be more laundry workers than manufacturing workers in America when my son, who is now 3 years old, enters the labor market.” It is widely acknowledged that Cleveland (population decline since 2000: 17 percent), Cincinnati (minus 10 percent), St. Louis (minus 8 percent), and other metropolises can no longer compete for manufacturing jobs with Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Thailand. However, Pittsburgh bucks this trend of failing Rust Belt cities. This city in western Pennsylvania has become a paradigm for the post-manufacturing American economy. The Austrian-American economist, Joseph Schumpeter, coined the term “creative destruction,” the way in which capitalist economic development arises out of the destruction of some prior economic order. Pittsburgh is a perfect case study in creative destruction. Out of the ashes of its moribund steel industry, a new Pittsburgh — one built on technology and research — has emerged, poised and ready to take on the 21st century. *** In the late 1970s, the U.S. steel industry was failing. Foreign competitors with lower labor costs and lower environmental standards were crowding the market. Coal and iron ore processing had become costly and inefficient. Oil prices, inflation, and interest rates soared. In 1979, the Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Company suffered the largest quarterly loss — $561.7 million — in American corporate history. The episode evokes the recent travails of General Motors and Chrysler, except no bailout came to the rescue. Within a few short years, 115,500 manufacturing jobs vanished in Pittsburgh. The steel industry alone accounted for nearly 50 percent of the losses. The city was being talked about the way Detroit is now: Its very survival was in question. Marlee Myers, managing partner at the law firm Morgan Lewis in Pittsburgh, explained what was at stake. “This region had been dependent on the steel industry and the many jobs
that it provided. We were really at a crossroads. We could have gone the direction of other failing Rust Belt cities, or we could reinvent ourselves.” The city’s revival has been part organic and part good long-term planning. With regards to the latter, Clifford Levine, a fundraiser for the Obama campaign who has sat on both the Pittsburgh Planning and Zoning commissions, gives credit to public-private partnerships. “There is a long tradition of political and corporate collaboration, going back to 1945 when David Lawrence was elected mayor,” he told The Politic. At the time, Pittsburgh was considered one of the most polluted cities in America. A Democrat elected in a largely Republican city, Lawrence forged the now famous bipartisan alliance with Richard Mellon, the staunch Republican chairman of one of the largest banks in the country. Despite their political differences, the partnership drove a postwar urban renewal. “Half a century later, under the leadership of Mayor Tom Murphy, the son of a steelworker, public and corporate leaders came together once again,” Levine continued. “A decade and a half after steel, people were still expecting the industry to return. Murphy came in and said, ‘Forget that past. We need to reclaim our city.’” More than 1,000 acres of abandoned, blighted industrial land were cleaned up. Dilapidated steel mills gave way to thriving commercial, retail, residential, and public spaces. Murphy oversaw the development of more than 25 miles of new trails alongside the river, as well as the creation of urban green space. In total, Murphy leveraged $4.8 billion in public-private partnerships. “The support and growth of the universities can’t be underestimated either,” said Tim White, vice president of development at the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC). The city is home to a handful of institutions of higher learning: Duquesne, Robert Morris, Chatham, Carlow, Slippery Rock, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Washington and Jefferson. But undoubtedly, the two strongest universities are the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), 5
A view of Pittsburgh’s skyline from Mt. Washington in 1904 (left) and 2012 (right)
now one of the top 10 hospital systems in the country, replaced U.S. Steel as the region’s largest employer. An $8 billion health care conglomerate with 50,000 employees, UPMC is now headquartered in the old U.S. Steel Tower, the city’s tallest building. Lest anyone forget how the times have changed, UPMC’s logo sits on top of it. With the help of grant-funded research, dozens of technology companies were born in the shadows of these universities. Fore Systems, a computer network switching equipment company, was founded by four CMU professors in 1990. A few years after a very successful IPO in 1994, it was acquired by a London-based company for $6.4 billion, adjusted for inflation. Myers called Fore Systems “a grand slam home run for the region.” It was one of many. Freemarkets Inc., a software company, and Respironics Inc., a medical supply company, are similar success stories. More than 30 robotics companies make Pittsburgh one of America’s major centers for robotic innovation. They are the product of CMU’s Robotics Institute, the world’s only Ph.D. program in robotics. With the turn of the century, the pace of progress accelerated. Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Trader Joe’s set up shop in the city. Then Google moved into a converted cookie factory — part of $131 million redevelopment project — just outside of the East Liberty neighborhood. East Liberty’s 6
turnaround is Pittsburgh’s renaissance in a microcosm. This neighborhood of about 6,000 residents is wedged between some of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest and poorest areas. Crumbling office and commercial buildings have been converted into apartments, promising “urban chic” for people working at the nearby hospitals and universities. The 2011 average sale price for homes in East Liberty was about $80,000, daylight robbery by Manhattan standards. This modest sum, attractive for many young professionals, is still up more than 60 percent from a decade earlier. The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, explained the search engine’s expansion into the city. “Much of computer science was invented here,” he told an audience at a Pittsburgh Technology Council event in 2009. This was a few days before the city would play host to the world’s wealthiest nations at the G-20 Summit. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs explained the administration’s choice of city: Pittsburgh “has seen its share of economic woes in the past, but because of foresight, investment is now renewed, giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future.” The event was the city’s cherry on top, the irrefutable stamp of approval that Pittsburgh had pulled off an unprecedented Rust Belt recovery. If the 2008 Olympics were China’s coming-out party, then the 2009 G-20 was Pittsburgh’s return to the world stage.
*** Challenges certainly remain. Many of them are not particular to Pittsburgh. Aging infrastructure, bloated public pensions, and underperforming public schools are among its ailments. Other obstacles are unique. “Pittsburgh continues to struggle with maintaining venture capital groups. Major funding comes almost exclusively from Boston and Silicon Valley,” Levine explained. Scott Stern ’15, a Pittsburgh native whose family has lived in the region for seven generations, pointed to the city’s dynastic politics. Luke Ravenstahl, the current 32-year-old mayor, is a third-generation local elected official. “If politicians are winning elections because of their last names and not their ideas, you’re not going to be electing the best people,” Stern said. The population of foreign-born professionals is also very low for a large American city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2006 to 2010, only 7 percent of Pittsburgh’s total population is foreign-born. Compare this with New York City: 3 million of its 8.2 million residents are immigrants. The city also struggles to retain its youth demographic. Eric Levine ’14 is moving to New York City next year rather than returning home to Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood: “There is no question that New York is the best city to be in when you’re
young.” Levine has siblings in New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Will he return home one day? “Pittsburgh is a great city. There is a feeling of unity and pride.” But he is unsure, as is Josh Kalla ’14. “Eventually, I’d love to raise a family in Pittsburgh,” Kalla said. “I enjoyed growing up there. For now, though, I want to go to a Ph.D. program in political science, and there aren’t any good options in Pittsburgh.” Malia Spencer, a technology and manufacturing correspondent for the Pittsburgh Business Times, has a message for young people out there. “When I arrived here from Silicon Valley, I was surprised to see everything that’s going on. I had no idea about Pittsburgh — I was born and raised in California. I didn’t know what to expect; I thought it was going to be like Detroit. I got here, and it’s beautiful. There are forests everywhere. People are setting up co-working stations, incubators, startup weekends. It’s a small community, but you can definitely be hooked in pretty quickly.” Spencer captures the moment well. Yale “Yinzers” (slang for Pittsburgher) notwithstanding, according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service data, 1,430 more people moved into the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) than packed up and left between 2009 and 2010. This is welcome news for a region with one of the largest elderly populations in the nation. Can this success be duplicated?
What can other Rust Belt cities learn from Pittsburgh? “The key is to understand your assets and build on them,” Tim White from the RIDC offered. “It is a matter of leadership and focus. It is about marketing your city to attract capital and talent. If Pittsburgh can escape from the clutches of misery, I am confident Detroit and Cleveland will bounce back.” Success for the former Rust Belt cities also lies in the diversification of their economies. Finance 101: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Pittsburgh had too many of its eggs in the steel basket. Detroit remains too dependent on the success of its automobile industry. While Pittsburgh is still heavily invested in manufacturing, steel production has transitioned into an industry of specialty metals and sophisticated alloys. Over 300 metals technology firms in the area provide production equipment, engineering services, parts, and supplies. Pittsburgh has more to offer than just specialized steel, booming technology and healthcare industries. It is working to groom its revitalized film industry (part of “The Dark Knight” was shot in Pittsburgh) and music scene to produce more artists like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, prominent Pittsburgh-based rappers. Corporate money in the area, from firms such as Heinz and PNC, has allowed the arts to flourish.
*** “What is good for General Motors is good for the country, and vice versa” is a slogan as antiquated as the typewriter. American prosperity is no longer identified with its manufacturing. And yet, too many of America’s cities are still struggling to grapple with the new economic realities. Yale students, as residents of New Haven, can appreciate this. A 10-minute walk from campus leads to the abandoned Winchester ammunitions factory, once the employer of thousands. A few miles south on the Metro-North is Bridgeport, “the Detroit of Connecticut,” a Third World city in the richest state in the richest country in the world. The coldhearted consultant would recommend that these cities cut their losses and fold to the change of tides. Cleveland’s loss is Phoenix’s gain. Why not close the chapter on the Rust Belt era to make way for the Sun Belt? Investing in Bridgeport is analogous to investing in Blockbuster. Should mayors and their municipalities choose not to surrender, they need not look to China. Should they choose to reverse their dwindling numbers and invest in new industries that will attract talent and capital, they need not look to Germany. They need only look to the Appalachian. P
Resolved: The Yale Political Union Is Doomed — DIMITRI HALIKIAS —
Of all the fish in Yale’s political pond, the largest is the Yale Political Union. Few organizations on campus can boast the YPU’s numbers. Few others can boast its international reputation or an impressive cast of alumni that includes William F. Buckley Jr., Fareed Zakaria, Akhil Amar, and John Kerry. No other group regularly invites the likes of Al Sharpton or Rick Santorum to delight or displease a packed Woolsey Hall. Where else do libertarians and communists, conservatives and liberals meet to relish in ritual? Yet, if you listen closely enough in between the hissing and stomping, it is undeniable: The Union is not its former self. Membership in the debating society peaked in the mid-1980s. As more undergraduate organizations formed, the YPU saw a decline in numbers. Estimates vary, but the Union’s current membership is a fraction of the apex reached two decades ago. A Politic poll of 846 Yale undergraduates betrays a harsh reality: The YPU suffers near-universal disfavor. When asked to describe the organization in a single word, students failed to provide much creativity or diversity beyond the recurring “annoying,” “obnoxious,” “pompous,” and “pretentious” — by far the most popular responses. Can the YPU repair its image and reverse its declining membership trend? Can the organization compete in the modern hypercompetitive, multi8
extracurricular era? This is a story of institutional decline and marginalization. It is also a story of resilience. *** Debate has been at the epicenter of student life at Yale since the University’s founding in 1701. Originally a central part of the academic curriculum, college debate was divided into two main literary societies, the Linonian Society and Brothers in Unity. The emergence of Skull and Bones and other senior societies diminished the role of debate groups, which by the late 19th century had disbanded altogether. A number of debate societies were established in the subsequent decades, but none lasted more than a few years. The Yale Political Union succeeded where others had failed. Founded in 1934 in order to combat political apathy on campus, the YPU quickly emerged as one of Yale’s leading undergraduate organizations. Drawing inspiration from the Oxford and Cambridge unions, the YPU follows parliamentary format, complete with motions and resolutions. Most distinctive is the manner in which students respond to speeches: They pound in support of statements they agree with and hiss at those they don’t. The debates often feature raucous contests between Left and Right. Much of the Union’s conspicuity comes from the notable guests it brings to campus. This academic year
alone has featured former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, libertarian law professor Richard Epstein, and social critic Camille Paglia. The format of guest events is simple. Following a 30-minute opening speech, each guest takes questions from students in the audience. Thereafter, students rotate speak either in support or opposition to the visitor’s stance, as well as answering questions, alternating between the affirmative and the negative. For current YPU Speaker Jake Romanow ’14, this open approach to intellectual discourse distinguishes the Union from other organizations. In an interview with The Politic, Romanow praised the Union, saying that since joining as a freshman, “the YPU has given me the chance to put time and energy into building and understanding a political ideology from first principles in an environment where I can be challenged and pushed by others.” Unlike its British counterparts, the YPU is a federation comprised of seven different parties: the Liberal Party, the Party of the Left, the Independent Party, the Federalist Party, the Conservative Party, the Tory Party, and the Party of the Right. Each party has its own traditions and history and is run by a chair or chairman. The individual parties allows for a distinct brand of intellectual debate and engagement not possible on the Union floor. Speeches on party floors tend to last longer than the three to 9
A photograph of the Yale Political Union convening in 1948
four minutes allotted by the YPU. More questions are asked. Outside of the debate hall, parties eat meals together, organize outings and events, and hold regular toasting sessions. For all its benefits, the party structure has proved to be a double-edged sword. Some believe that the institutionalized divisions contribute to an unnecessarily partisan and toxic environment. Competing interpretations of party history, accusations of dubious Union election tactics, and questionable freshman recruitment are all sources of great tension. Executive board panlists can play host to vitriolic email threads that reach up to 100 posts. Andrew Connery ’13, former board member of the Yale Debating Association, explained that the Oxford and Cambridge unions, to their merit, are not divided along party lines. “They are more focused on promoting honest debate that’s less confrontational,” he said. “That’s why they have much higher levels of participation than the YPU.” Charges of unsavory and petty behavior are certainly not new to the Union. In his 1951 polemic, God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote that most YPU proceedings were hijacked by silly power-grabbing backroom bargains. “The inordinate emphasis the Union places on its own politics, are heavy with deals, coalitions, stuffed ballot boxes, and haggling of the most fruitless and extravagant sort,” Buckley wrote. This disdain is shared by many students today who find the Union’s overly formal procedure simply too much to bear. 10
*** In the late 1990s, Communist Party National Secretary Joelle Fishman visited the YPU, only to have her speech delayed as members of the Party of the Right continually interrupted the proceedings with points of order concerning the Pledge of Allegiance. As The Yale Herald reported, the thenYPU speaker finally quieted the room after 45 minutes, only to have chaos erupt again when a Liberal Party member taunted constituents of the Right by holding a match to the American flag and asking, “Does this make you nervous?” In the YPU’s long history of weekly evening debates, this episode stands out as a particularly disastrous public relations moment. But it is not surprising, given the YPU’s public perception. When asked to share their thoughts on the Union, students responded to The Politic poll with comments ranging from the comedic to the vindictive. “Nobody takes them seriously because they’re all so crazy!” wrote one student. “It’s the best physical embodiment of a circle-jerk at Yale,” added another. “It pains me to think about the Yale Political Union.” “Even the Yale-Harvard blood drive inspired me more than YPU.” In light of the incident with the Communist Party’s national secretary, “The YPU frequently reminds me of a ‘Monty Python’ sketch,” seems to ring with even greater truth. Others expressed interest in debate, just not in the Union’s forum: “I loved debate in high school. I wish the YPU weren’t so unappealing.” One
suspects some comments are meant to be read with a tinge of sarcasm: “They are soooooooo coooooooooool. I love how they matter so much and are by far the most important thing in the entire world.” The responses to the other questions corroborate the sentiment. Only 4 percent of respondents believe that YPU membership will return to the numbers seen in decades past. Sixty percent of respondents did not attend a single debate last semester; another 18 percent recorded only one visit. Of seniors surveyed, more than half claimed to have never attended a debate despite three and a half years at Yale. When asked if they were more or less active in the YPU than originally intended upon matriculating at Yale, only 7 percent said “more.” 43 percent said “less” and 49 percent answered the “same.” The downsizing and marginalization of the institution cannot be denied. But the YPU is not solely to blame. Today, Yale offers far more extracurricular opportunities than it did in the past. Some students are less interested in philosophical discussion and more interested in political activism. “I went to an Independent Party debate during Bulldog Days and I went to the Santorum event, but it became pretty clear to me that the YPU was more talking about politics than doing anything about it,” said Diana Rosen ’16. Rosen, an activist with Students Unite Now and a Yale Daily News columnist, concluded, “I think actually taking action is more productive than just debating it.” Nicole Hobbs ’14, the president of the Yale College Democrats, weighed the respective merits of the YPU against those of other student groups. “The YPU is a very structured organization with a singular focus on debate,” she said. “Yale students today are looking to engage more with their extracurricular activities. They join extracurricular organizations that allow them to take ownership of different projects. While there is a place for a debating society on campus, Yale students look to join student organizations that allow them to take initiative and to work to grow an organization and expand its function. The YPU doesn’t offer this opportunity.”
Members of the Union are quick to defend their organization against its detractors. Will Jordan ’13, former chairman of the Independent Party, told The Politic, “Activism is important, but it is not the mission of the YPU. The mission of the Red Cross is not to prevent foreclosures.” He added, “What we do here is the basis for future activism.” As Julie Aust, the Union’s current president, explained, “The YPU allows students to think about what they actually believe.” To Aust, the Union’s commitment to pure philosophical discussion is refreshing in the age of SparkNotes. “We are less interested in a nice formal argument than we are in someone trying to genuinely think through a question on the floor.” What does this all mean for the Yale Political Union? The organization certainly suffers from a depreciating reputation. But does this spell doom for the institution? Jordan doesn’t believe so. “One can look at its heyday in the ’60s and ’70s, and it clearly isn’t what it was then,” he acknowledged. “But at some points in its history, it also didn’t meet for weekly debates. Today, the YPU meets every week, as do the individual parties. While it is much smaller, the members are overall more active.” Steven Calabresi, a professor at Northwestern Law School who served as president of the Union in the fall of 1978, exuded bullish optimism. “I made friends through the Union who have remained some of my best
It is Monday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. WLH 119 is filling up as members of the Yale Political Union pour in from dinner. Parties are congregating. In three-piece suits, members of the Party of the Right chat and sip port. The Federalists, few in number, sit with laptops open and browse through emails. An “IPster” from the Independent Party has brought popcorn for her crew. The speaker and president gauge the crowd from the front. The room is flanked by the floor leaders of the Right and Left who go over the nuts and bolts of members’ speeches. Like a chess board, the pieces are set for the game to begin. The night is going to be a long one. Dozens of students have signed up to debate “Resolved: That It Is Better to Reign in Hell Than to Serve in Heaven.” Tonight’s Gardner-White Prize Debate is the only competition open to all students. Each speaker will have only a few minutes to make his or her case. First place will win $100 and a lifetime membership to the YPU. After four hours of hissing, stamping, laughter, and questions, the judges announce the three winners and four honorable mentions. Another few hours later, at 3:21 a.m., President Julie Aust sends out congratulations via the panlist.
In your opinion, which of the following political groups is the most active on campus?
Do you believe the Yale Political Union’s presence is greater, smaller, or the same than it was in years past?
Do you believe the YPU will return to its peak level of active membership in the foreseeable future?
67% 27% 6%
96% 4 %
44 % 27% 24 % 5% YALE DEMS
friends in life,” Calabresi told The Politic. Today’s Union “in some ways seems even better,” he noted, than that of his generation. ***
This is the Yale Political Union. It is no longer the largest organization on campus, a bragging right that now belongs to the Yale International Relations Association. It is certainly not the coolest (not so long as the Shades a capella group is singing). The Politic poll revealed that even among self-identified Union members, one in three disapproved of the YPU, and barely one in ten thought it would return to its former glory. For a small yet devoted group of students, however, the YPU continues to hold sway. “No one outside the Union will care about what we do or how we vote on resolutions,” Jordan explained. “Today, there are so many undergraduate organizations that you won’t find one that everyone will care about. The closest thing to a campus-wide organization is the Yale College Council, and I know people who wouldn’t consider the YCC relevant to their Yale experience.” The YPU undoubtedly no longer has a monopoly on organized intellectual discourse at Yale. It is not the force on campus that it once was, and many students view the Union as obnoxious, outdated, or just downright weird. But as Romanow, concluded, “As the national mood shifts and politics go in and out of fashion, Yale students will never not like arguing, and Yale will always have a place for the Union.” P
The Man Behind the Column AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BROOKS
— DAVID STEINER & RISHABH BHANDARI —
David Brooks, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, is one of the most recognized and highly regarded political pundits in the country. Often known as the liberals’ favorite conservative, Brooks is teaching two courses at Yale this semester: “Humility” and “Studies in Grand Strategy.” He sat down with The Politic to talk about President Obama, the Republican Party, Yale, and journalism.
TP Can you walk us through your process of writing a column? DB I am always collecting strings on about seven or eight columns, with one due every three and a half days. I’ve got piles of paper for gun control, immigration — whatever the issue of the day is — and then some intellectual things or cultural things. Based on what happens on the day before it’s due or the day it’s due, I’ll decide, “Okay, I’m gonna do this one.” I have all this paper, documentation, notes I’ve taken from interviews, and I think geographically. I lay it out on the floor of my office in piles of paper. Every pile is a paragraph. I pick up a pile. Write that paragraph. Throw it in the garbage. And repeat for the next pile. By the time I start writing, the column is already 80 percent done. It’s the organizing of the piles that’s the key process. Judges have a saying: “That opinion won’t write.” They think they know what they’re going to say, but when they sit down to start, it won’t flow. That happens frequently. I don’t try to fix the column if it’s not flowing. Usually, I’ll just start from scratch. 12
TP Would you write differently — either in style or in content — for a more conservative audience, such as the one that reads the National Review, than for a more liberal readership, like that of The New York Times? DB Yes. When I wrote for the more conservative audiences, I focused more on humor because people are more willing to laugh with you, but they don’t want to laugh against you if you don’t already say what they believe. Humor is a lot harder. I did one humor piece this year called “The Real Mitt Romney,” which made fun of Mitt Romney. All my Democratic friends said, “Oh, that was hilarious!” and all my Republican friends were saying, “You’re really not that funny. You shouldn’t do that.” Humor has become totally partisan. The other thing is you want to show respect to those who disagree with you. Then the final thing is I’m a big fan of the nonfiction that took place between 1955 and 1965 with people like Jane Jacobs, David Riesman, and Daniel Bell. They were sort of high-brow journalists and low-brow academics, and that’s about where I try to be.
TP Who are some thinkers or intellectuals who have helped shape your convictions and political philosophy? DB When I was a freshman in college, I was assigned Edmund Burke and I hated it. I was a big leftie and I reacted so viscerally, I think, because he was touching something I actually believe. Later, I came to take a very similar view of the world that he had, which is that our power of reason is very weak so we should be suspicious of central planning. The core of my philosophy is epistemological modesty in that we can’t know much about the world. It’s quite complicated, but that’s the core of my belief system. TP Can you identify one moment when you changed from being a “big leftie” to a conservative? DB There wasn’t one moment, but I was a police reporter in Chicago and I saw the effects of the social policies of what I think of as the Great Society of the 1960s. In some of the povertyridden neighborhoods, I thought they were making things worse and that disabused some of the more liberal 13
ideas I had. They were destroying families, creating a lot more crime, helping drug cultures, so — unintentionally — they were making things worse. TP On the subject of your policereporting career, what do you make of the current crime in Chicago? Can you think of a solution? DB Their current crime is different than the crime I was covering. When I was a police reporter in Chicago, crime was pervasive. Crime was random. It was just people shooting each other. Now it’s just very localized; it’s warfare between gangs. Machiavelli would tell you, “Just tell the gangs to cut a deal. Don’t try and solve the problem. Just get them to cut a deal so they stop killing each other.” TP When you first met President Obama, you said (a) he’s going to be president and (b) he’s going to be a very good president. DB One out of two, not bad, right?! [Laughter] TP How has he changed from when you first met him and why is he not a “very good president”? DB He could be a lot worse. There are two things I underestimated. One, he’s a lot more liberal than I thought he was, and I would say he’s a lot more liberal than he thinks he is. He’s always lived his life in a very center-left atmosphere, and he looks at the people around him and says, “Well, I’m not as liberal as those guys, so therefore I’m moderate.” He has much more faith in technocratic planning than I thought, and he’s much more aloof from business than I thought. That has been disillusioning. The second thing, though this is not his fault, is that his style of governing is based on discussion and deliberation, which is just not possible in this day and age. From the first time he ran, or from when I knew him in the Senate, to now when I speak to him, he’s a much tougher bastard. The times are tougher, so he reacts. He thinks, “How am I going to be effective in a very polarized country?” TP In your Jan. 28 column, you 14
called for a new wing of the Republican Party, one that “would be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power, but who don’t share the absolute antigovernment story of the current GOP.” How would you propose building this second GOP? DB You have to start by asking, “What are the problems?” I don’t believe you can build a party by looking at voters. Then it’s just like marketing. You’re not going to get the substance. The way I put it in that column was the Charles Murray problem of widening inequality and the Mancur Olson problem of stagnation. I’d combine a very aggressive human capital education reform, training, early childhood education, and social mobility agenda with a pretty aggressive entitlement reform agenda. That’s the little stuff that appeals to Democrats — the human capital — and the entitlements also appeal to Republicans. You just jam ’em in together. I think that would appeal to people in California, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. I mentioned Edmund Burke before and that’s part of my conservatism, but I’m an American, and so was Alexander Hamilton who was all about social mobility. I think that’s the right agenda which the current Republican Party can’t do because they don’t believe in government at all, and the Democrats can’t reform the welfare state because all their interest groups believe in it. That’s the vacuum. TP When you came to teach at Yale this semester, you joined a faculty that is often best known for its conservative professors — John Gaddis, Charles Hill, Donald Kagan — yet the student body is overwhelmingly liberal; according to a poll conducted by The Politic, roughly four out of five Yale students identify as liberal. What do you make of this dichotomy? DB Well first, the class isn’t particularly conservative unless you count our views on Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. When I went to school I wasn’t aware of politics because I spent my entire life in the third century B.C. We were pretty divorced, and so far the course
is divorced from politics in the modern sense. But secondly, I’ve taught here before, and the last time I taught I was very reticent about talking about my own politics. I decided that was a mistake because it’s possible to go through an Ivy League school and never meet a conservative professor. My view is that if people are curious, I want to show them what one looks like and why I believe what I do. If anybody asks, I am happy to talk about it. TP We live in an age where a lot of people look to the media not for information, but for affirmation. Do you, as a moderate, see your role as one of persuasion? DB I actually do. This is controversial. I have friends who are at The Wall Street Journal and The [New York] Times who say, “You’re crazy. No one is ever persuaded by columns. What you should do is fire up people who you believe in and give them arguments that they need to go forward.” I guess I can see that point of view, but I happen to be in this weird, uncomfortable position where I’m not really on either team. So I believe in persuasion. I’m not sure I persuade anybody, but hopefully I prompt thinking. I recently read a good phrase: “A writer’s job is to provide a context in which other people can think.” People are not going to read a column and say, “Oh, he’s right. I’ll believe what he believes.” But it might provoke a thought of their own. The job is to shake people up and provoke something.
They’re off the record, but you get a sense of what he’s thinking. TP Who do you think today’s politician reads? DB They do not read. They’re too busy. They’ll read some historical biographies. Some senators have some more time, but most politicians will not. They are just getting dumber and dumber. Obama had time when he was a senator or state senator — God knows he had plenty of time — but now he reads reasonably few books. They get more and more exhausted as time goes on. And when they read a column like mine, it’s not so much for information; they just want to know if I am on their side, to know if I am helping or hurting. It’s not for intellectual stimulation. They’re too busy. TP Fifty years, 100 years from now, how do you think we will judge
Obama’s first term? DB Well, tell me how health care works. If it works, he’ll be up there with Roosevelt and Johnson as a big domestic policy innovator. I still think that the debt will be looked back upon as a big problem that was punted, not only by him, but by Bush before. I think that will be seen as a missed opportunity. Without doubt, he’ll get credit for ameliorating the recession. You know I don’t agree with all the stimulus package, but they did a pretty good job with the banks. They’ll get credit for doing a good job. TP If you were elected president, and you had one act, could solve one problem, or write one bill, what would it be?
single policy that gives the biggest bang for the buck. TP Best guess, who’s going to be elected president in 2016? DB I already screwed up my call in this year’s Super Bowl, but you have to think it will be Hillary. I think she’ll run, and I think the Republican Party is in deep doo-doo. [Marco] Rubio, if I had to guess, will be the Republican nominee, and he’d be pretty strong. But she’s quite impressive, and the Democratic coalition will just be bigger, so I don’t think the Republicans are going to fix their problems in the near term. P
DB Early education. I would fix Head Start and make universal preschool available to everybody — quality universal preschool. I think that’s the
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TP The White House used to call columnists such as yourself and ask “Is it going to be a good day or a bad day?” Do they still do that now that the president was re-elected? DB They used to care about me. And then during election time, they cared about TV. Now they’re back to caring about me because the only people who pay attention are political junkies who read columns. I get reasonably constant contact with somebody in the White House, and they’ll call in columnists. We’ll go in in groups of six or seven to meet with Obama for 90 minutes. In the last two months, it’s probably been one a month with him. 15
From Washington to Tehran AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN KINZER
— JUSTIN SCHUSTER —
Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led The Washington Post to place him “among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling.” His national best-selling book All the Shah’s Men examines the lead-up, execution, and legacy of the CIA’s overthrow of Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953: the CIA’s first overthrow of a democratically elected government.
TP Most people are familiar with the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, but surprisingly few are well-versed with the 1953 CIA overthrow of Mossadegh, the country’s prime minister. Could you provide a quick background to the premise of your book All the Shah’s Men? SK Americans and Iranians have parallel narratives of their relationship, and these narratives never coincide. For Americans, the beginning and end of American-Iranian relations was the hostage crisis. For Iranians, however, that was just a minor episode, and the real, key moment in this relationship was 1953 when the United States participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Iran. For Iranians, that moment is definitely seen as a key turning point both in their own history and in their relationship with the United States. TP This was the CIA’s first overthrow of a democratically elected government, and you stated in your book that “Iran was the place where the Dulles brothers chose to start showing the world that the U.S. was no 16
longer part of ‘Dean Acheson’s College of Cowardly Communist Containment.’” How did U.S. foreign policy change after that point, and do you think that Eisenhower attributed the “success” of the overthrow to a changing foreign policy? SK Eisenhower did not arrive in office determined to overthrow Mossadegh. I think that John Foster Dulles (secretary of state) and Allen Dulles (CIA director) did. They had a long history with Mossadegh, dating back to their years as corporate lawyers in New York, because Mossadegh had been bothering a number of their most important clients. They saw him as a threat to American and Western economic power, as well as a geopolitical danger. Eisenhower was persuaded essentially by John Foster Dulles that this operation was necessary. Afterward, however, he seemed quite satisfied with it. He seemed from his writings and his comments genuinely to have believed that Iran was poised to fall into the Soviet orbit and that the CIA had done something decisive to change the course of history. Certainly, this intensified his enthu-
siasm for future operations. TP In response to British imperialism before 1953, Iranians turned to a nationalist figure in the form of Mossadegh; however, in the lead up to 1979 and the Islamic Revolution, Iranians turned to a religious leader in the form of Ayatollah Khomeini. What is it that happened between 1953 and 1979 in Iran that eliminated those nationalist aspirations and drove people into the arms of Khomeini? SK The shah imposed a repressive form of rule that made it impossible for independent institutions to exist. There was no civil society. Every kind of organization had to be tied in some way to the government and controlled directly or indirectly by the government. This meant that it was not possible for political parties to provide alternatives to the shah’s rule. Therefore, over the last decade of the shah’s rule, people who were genuinely in opposition had only one place to go and that was the mosque. That was the one place that the shah didn’t dare crush. Over a period of time, opposition figures in Iran came to be linked
with mullahs, and they found their political space in a religious context. That was the only place where opposition to the shah was allowed. The result of that was that when people looked for an alternative to the shah, there was no secular alternative. The shah had systematically crushed every possible other alternative. As a result of his policies, the regime that followed took on a religious tint, which might not have been the case had there had been other secular, political alternatives allowed to thrive in the previous years. TP In your preface to the newest version of All the Shah’s Men, you presented an argument as to why the current course of American policy towards Iran is going in the wrong direction. Why is that so? SK The United States over many years has gotten into the habit of treating small, faraway countries as if they were just pawns on a geopolitical map that could be pushed around pretty easily from Washington. Somehow Iran got thrown into this category along with Paraguay and Burundi and countries like that. Iran doesn’t think of itself that way. This is a country with a tremendously rich history. Iranians have a very strong sense of themselves. They don’t think of themselves as a country that should be pushed around by foreign power, because so much of the tragedy in their history has resulted from the imposition of foreign will. The United States still hasn’t gotten used to the idea of trying to treat Iran with the respect that Iranians think they deserve. There is a deep element of emotion guiding American policy towards Iran. Many people in Washington still have a sense of deep bitterness about what Iran did to the United States through the hostage crisis and the actions that Iran has taken in the decades since then, many of which have been aimed directly and sometimes quite violently at undermining American and Western power all over the world. The emotion leads people in Washington to wish to crush Iran and to teach Iran a lesson and to show the world that there is an unacceptably high price to pay for defying the United States. Emotion is always
Primer Minister Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran waves as he leaves for the Iranian Embassy in Washington D.C. in 1951
the enemy of wise statesmanship. We are following now an emotionally guided policy that has only intensified the differences between Tehran and Washington. TP With a state that is close to becoming nuclear-capable and a president who is threatening to wipe Israel off the map, can the United States afford to let a country like Iran with its current leadership become nuclear-capable? SK I hope that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. I hope that Iran is sincere when it says that it’s never going to do that. I don’t want other countries to get nuclear weapons, either. In fact, I would like to see the number of countries with nuclear weapons reduced. The reality is that in the 21st century, more countries are going to have nuclear weapons. Whether it is going to be Iran or others, we don’t know, but we are going to have to live with more nuclear-armed countries. That’s almost a certainty in the coming decade. I also agree that it is urgently in the interest of the United States to
try to domesticate the Iranian nuclear program and bring it under some form of international control. The question is, “How do we get there?” Do you get there by hectoring and threatening and sanctioning and pushing Iran into a corner and making it feel angry and alone and friendless? Or do you try to coax Iran out of its isolation? You may look at an analogy in Europe, and that is Germany after World War II. When you look at a map of the Middle East right now, one thing jumps right out at you and that is that Iran is a big country right in the middle. There is not going to be stability in that part of the world so long as Iran is angry and hostile. That was the same situation with Germany after World War II. There was a tremendous amount of anti-German emotion in the world for very obvious reasons. At the beginning — at the period when World War II was just ending — the United States adopted a policy called the Morgenthau Plan, under which Germany was going to be forbidden to ever have a factory again; it was going to become only an agricultural country. This was a way to punish Germany and also to 17
ensure that it would never disturb the peace of Europe again. Fortunately, after a few months passed, cooler heads prevailed. We decided to take the opposite approach, which was embodied in the Marshall Plan. The idea was that as long as Germany was angry and hostile, you are always going to have instability in Europe. Better would to be to try to integrate Germany into a regional security system. Up to now, the United States has not been willing to recognize or accept that Iran has legitimate security interests of its own. As long as we expect the resolution of the Iranian
crisis to be based around an effective surrender by Iran and Iran’s embrace of the conditions that the United States wants to impose on it, we are not going to have a settlement. TP Iran’s presidential elections are coming up in June 2013. What is the best-case scenario for the United States with these elections? SK Frankly I don’t see a great deal of hope. I think the results of the last election show that the electoral solution is not at hand for Iran. Nonethe-
less, I think that there is the possibility that there will be more discussion and that various points of view may be presented. That would be about the most that you could hope for. I don’t expect that Iranian voters will be presented with a legitimate option to choose between a candidate fully committed to the policies of the Supreme Leader and one who is not fully committed to those policies. That is not going to happen. Such an election will happen at some point in the future, but I don’t foresee this election having a decisive effect on the path of Iranian
politics. I do think that we have a very short window right at this moment for negotiating with Iran because we have our president and secretary of state in office, and in a couple of months Iran will be caught up in domestic politics and that will make things very difficult for negotiations. We do have a window now, but I don’t see any sign that we are going to take advantage of that opportunity. TP In 2009, we saw a public outcry in the form of the Green Revolution. Do you foresee any form of public noise-
making anytime soon, whether it is in this election or in the years to come? SK I don’t anticipate an outburst like what we saw after the 2009 election anytime soon. The last time I was in Iran a couple of years ago, I spoke to a number of people about this, and I’ll tell you one story about a gentleman that I met at Cyrus’ tomb. He said to me, “We tried something. It didn’t work. Now we want to live our lives. The situation here is not so awful that we cannot live under this regime. We do not want to throw ourselves against the bayonets of the Revolutionary Guard. We want to live our lives. We are going to get the result that we want; it is just going to come at a different time than we had hoped. It is going at its own schedule. Meanwhile, we want to live.” This is very Iranian. When you have been around for 35 centuries, and you have had great peaks and tremendous periods of tragedy, you realize that history unfolds at its own pace. It’s a very different attitude from what Americans have. Americans want everything to happen very quickly. We would like to see something happen right now. Iranians don’t think like that. I think they would like that to happen, but their understanding of history is different from ours. They believe, and I agree with them, that they are going to see a new form of government at some point in Iran, but they wouldn’t dare to suggest when that is going to happen. I sense that there will be growing frustration. Possibly there will be divisions in the ruling group. The Supreme Leader will die at some point; possibly that will change the system to a certain degree, but I don’t see dramatic or violent mass uprising or protest in Iran any time soon. People sometimes ask, “When is Iran going to have its revolution like what Egypt had and the other countries in the Arab world?” The answer is that Iran already had its revolution. They are not going to have another one. Iran has learned a lesson 30 years ago that the people in Egypt and in Libya are learning now. No matter how bad the situation is, it can always get worse. Revolution doesn’t bring you what you think it’s going to bring. Oftentimes, it is better to live with what
you have. They all gathered together as a nation to overthrow the shah. Even though they disagreed widely among themselves, Iranians agreed on one single, obvious fact, which was although we don’t know what’s coming next, it will certainly be better than what we have. They learned that this was a mistake. Other countries are learning that decades later, so I think that the Iranians are what I would call a “post-utopian society.” They don’t believe in the fantasy of the revolution in the same way that the Egyptians did a couple of years ago. They [Egyptians] may be coming around to the Iranian point of view these days. TP The United States has a longstanding history of supporting autocratic regimes in the region. Now, in the midst of the Arab Spring, do you think that there are any lessons that policymakers in Washington can take from 1953? SK Maybe the best lesson to learn is that the United States doesn’t know what’s best for countries in the Middle East. We should be guided by some of our friends in the region and not arrive and try to dictate to people and countries what direction they ought to take. I think we’ve shown over the years that we misunderstand much of what happens in the Middle East. There, as in other parts of the world, we often take steps to resolve short-term problems. We are able to do that because our power allows us to make dramatic, short-term alterations in politics, but in many cases we resolve short-term problems in ways that create long-term problems for us that are far greater than the ones that we originally intervened to resolve. P
For the full text of this interview, visit The Politic’s website at www.thepolitic.org
Beyond the Battlefield A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN AFGHANISTAN
— WAZHMA SADAT —
I come from Kabul, a city of endless war. Walking down the city’s streets, I can’t help but notice the ever-expanding cemeteries, the way that death and loss looms above everything. The presence of war––conflicts that first started more than three decades ago–– has become so numbing over time that people sometimes fail to notice the tombstones that are everywhere. Like so many others, I no longer remember whom to blame, or what books to read to educate myself on the details of how it all started. When thinking about Afghanistan, despair is the reflex all too often. The news is so unremittingly bad––the Taliban gaining strength, a weak, corrupt government in Kabul, the American withdrawal possibly leaving behind a vacuum, and potential civil war––that the easiest course would, indeed, be despair. But that is not all I hear about when I talk to ordinary people — friends, family, neighbors, even strangers — who instead, somehow, live with the hope and determination to improve the situation in Afghanistan. *** At 4:16 in the morning comes the sound of the muezzin, the call to prayer: “As-salaat u Khairu Minannaum.” Maliha, a fifteen-year-old and the oldest of six daughters, wakes up to offer the first of five daily prayers. She believes in these words: “Prayer is better than sleep.” Her favorite part of the prayer is the very end, when she sits down and asks God for whatever she wants, certain that He hears her, certain that today will be better than yesterday. In pitch dark, on a winter morning, she begins to make breakfast for her parents. She loves doing this because she remembers that her father thinks of her as “the strong pillar of the house that everyone can lean on.” She smiles when she thinks of the first time she brought groceries to her sickly parents. She not only carried the bags of flour and rice, but also paid for them with the money she had earned by selling the first dozen of her magazines. Pouring boiling water into the thermos, she recalls the time her mother praised her in front of her cousins for being “capable of doing
everything so well.” The steam also makes a difference when it’s only 20 degrees outside her tent. She should have thickened the “walls” by hanging more layers of blankets, but, as a street vendor, she never had the time. She had to wait an extra hour to try to sell at least one more magazine before returning home. Maliha’s smile fades as she recalls the reason she didn’t sell the magazine the day before. “Why would you recommend this magazine?” the pedestrian had asked her, and she, the daughter of a pious father who had cautioned her against being dishonest, confessed shamefully that she did not know how to read, and, thus, could not recommend anything specific. The magazine never sold, and, as the day grew darker and colder, she headed home, trying to forget her embarrassment and focus instead on the numbers she had just learned to count, recalling how her friend spent an hour of his time teaching her the numbers before she started selling magazines. One, two, three, she counted, and wondered how fortunate she would be if only she knew how to read. She was certain that one day, she would read because, as her mother had told her, “it was always about persistence.” If she continued to look for words and ask her friends about them, she would eventually be able to understand what she sells to people. Smiling, she remembers that she already knows how to read the word “tawwaquf,” which means “to stop.” It was written on the back of a military convoy. Her friend, who dropped out of school after second grade to sell gum and candy in downtown Kabul, told her that if she wanted to live, she had to know that word, for “going close to those convoys meant death.” She has heard stories of military forces indiscriminately shooting anyone who came close to their convoys. This brought her to the only reality she knew of, the reality of war––the condition in which she was born and raised. She remembers the day her father lost his leg by stepping on a mine, but she tries to put that out of her mind. Instead, she focuses on her numbers. One, two, three. Every small step that Maliha takes to make her day better reminds me of the state and the spirit in which
I see Afghanistan. Uncertain, damaged, poor, yet courageous, hopeful, and persistent people make Afghanistan the country it really is. And this is contrary to so many images in the media. At Yale, when I read about war, I feel alienated by the language of power, strategic gain, and military clichés. There is no question that these reports are of enormous importance, that they reveal the political and military realities that undergird life in my country, but they do not even begin to take into account the emotional dimension of the war and the way most people endure it. Only rarely do news reports mention the people who are most involved – those ordinary Afghans, unarmed and defenseless, risking their lives simply by going about their daily activities as students, farmers, children, parents. Yet they persist, regardless of the deprivation and suffering unimaginable to so much of the rest of the world, because they believe – they have to believe – that a better life awaits. T he hardships of war are not exclusive to a particular sect, class, or age group in Afghanistan. And decency and hope can come from anyone. Fifty miles away from Maliha’s tent lives Hamid, a 28-year-old man in a village who has endured repeated, intense scrutiny because of his stereotypical Pashtun looks and his active role in the nearby mosque. But he is a man who should draw admiration instead of suspicion. In addition to his efforts to collect donations to build a well near a mosque and buy prayer rugs, the bulk of his time goes towards his work as a teacher in an elementary school. Hamid is often mistaken for a Talib. On the contrary, he actively works against the fundamentalism of the Taliban. His “jihad,” he says, is his struggle against ignorance and war. Sipping tea with Hamid after his class, I saw a noticeable similarity among the three of us – Hamid, Maliha, and myself. We all hadn’t known who and what the Taliban were until two or three weeks before they took over Afghanistan, in 1996. I can still remember, during the weeks leading up to the Taliban takeover, waking up at 3 in the morning and running to the basement to avoid the harsh sound of 21
rockets and bombs from the jets flying above our city. My parents would tell us to close our eyes and ears and recite whatever Quranic verses we knew. After weeks of this routine, we woke up to a different world. “The Taliban have taken over,” a neighbor told my mom. We learned what that meant only after the first month of living under the Taliban. By now, these details have become sadly routine. But they were a shock to us then: schools for girls were closed, men were forced to grow their beards, and draconian laws were disseminated, only to be replaced with ones that were even stricter and less sensible.
Uncertain, damaged, poor, yet courageous, hopeful, and persistent people make Afghanistan the country it really is. The situation only worsened after the terror attacks of September 11. I told Hamid and Maliha how watching the 9/11 events on TV in Pakistan brought such distress to my family that my parents had to turn off the set and “pray for the souls of the innocent people to rest in peace,” as my father had said. Hamid had been shocked as well by the brutality and horror of the strikes. Like many people I know, the images from abroad stunned him. And soon, after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the images at home were distressing, as well. Every building seemed to bear bullet holes, he said, “reshaping the architecture of the city and the country with the scars of war.” The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan brought drastic changes to the country, but whether or not these changes served American or Afghan interests is an unanswered — and perhaps unanswerable — question. Humanitarian aid reports and websites routinely publish photographs of Afghan girls smiling in their school uniforms and of women without burqas, all in an effort to show a positive outcome of the war. I notice these changes every time I return to Kabul. More schools and universities are opening, businesses are springing up where once the 22
doors were shuttered close, banks and TV stations are dotting the Afghan horizon – all of which gives me hope that Afghanistan is inching toward a more normal, productive future. The process moves forward in fits and starts, and there is ample evidence of skyrocketing corruption and a lag in building a working structure that will ensure, or at least signal the slightest sign of, a sustainable Afghanistan. My friends and I often joke about how having connections in the government would serve us much better than pulling all nighters to do well in school in order to get a good job when we return to Afghanistan. I continue to go home to Afghanistan every summer and winter in hopes of learning as much as I can. The situation there is so volatile, however, that I struggle when trying to convey a sense of home to my friends at school. Mixed images of hope and distress go through my mind as I attempt to portray the realities of Kabul––-realities that go deeper than the war stories on CNN and in the papers. When someone asks me an understandable question, like what I think of the American invasion in 2001, I cannot provide a simple, political answer. While I understand intellectually how politics shape and distort life in Afghanistan, I personally tend to remember the people who have made me learn, appreciate, love, and hate this war all at the same time. Ordinary Afghans like me want to survive and have very little understanding concerning the details and nuances of the politics of the war. Whether Afghanistan will come to some sort of reconciliation or face another civil war will depend on these very ordinary Afghan people who risk their lives to make a difference, something that can never be achieved by someone sitting in a barbed-wire compound, guarded by layers of concrete blocks and armed soldiers. For these people, to survive the Afghanistan that has been brutalized by the Taliban and invaded by coalition military forces, they must focus not on war, but on life – the dayto-day life where a father defies the traditions of his country to make sure his daughter goes to school; where a young girl sells water in the morning,
goes to classes in the afternoon, and does her spelling practice on the edges of newspapers because she can’t afford to buy notebooks; where a young teacher spends his own meager earnings to provide supplies for his needy students, and where hope pushes back against the pressures of politics and war. Afghanistan, to me, is a mixture of these images that are more powerful than all of the weapons, hatred, and manipulations combined. These images inspire me every morning as I wake up, hoping for a better day. Like Maliha, I too take baby steps every day. One, two, three in the morning. Then I recall that it has, indeed, always been about persistence.
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Bulldogs in Uniform ROTC RETURNS TO YALE
— DAVID LAWRENCE & RACHEL O’CONNELL —
His grey-blue eyes peering over a desk of intricately organized military paraphernalia and family photos, Colonel Scott Manning lightheartedly works to convince us to join Yale’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). A career fighter pilot with two master’s degrees and a combat veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Manning has chosen to be at Yale, on the frontline of military education. As the commander of the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 009, his goal is to expand the program from its current enrollment of eight students to 100, although he tells us with grave sincerity that the U.S. military would be strengthened immeasurably by the addition of 1,000 bright Yalies. AFROTC has a complex history at Yale. It began when the National Security Act of 1947 established the U.S. Department of the Air Force, which created over 200 AFROTC units across the nation’s college campuses in less than a decade. The 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite marked a turning point for the Air Force. Eager to maintain dominance in the sciences, the Air Force decided to focus more on developing new technology than on building the conventional military might that dominated the battlefields of World War II. Within a year, the Air Force pulled out of campuses less focused on technology and engineering, such as Yale. Yale’s Naval Reserve Officers’ 24
Training Corps (NROTC), one of the U.S.’s first six units created in 1926, remained longer. Only after anti-Vietnam War protests erupted was NROTC forced off campus in 1972. When the military repealed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2010, the Yale administration worked hard to coordinate the return of both AFROTC and NROTC. The programs resumed operations on campus in the fall of 2012. “Yale’s commitment to public service is a huge part of what brought ROTC back,” said Josh Clapper ’16, noting that the missions of ROTC and Yale dovetail. Both strive to equip students with the skills necessary to lead purposeful lives and contribute to the good of society, whether in an academic, professional, or military setting. “ROTC helps Yale stay true to her traditions by giving the opportunity to students to serve God, Country, and Yale,” Michael Herbert ’16 asserts. Beau Birdsall ’16 agreed, noting that Yale students lacked this opportunity for several decades. “It is important that those who are interested in serving their country through service in the military have an equal opportunity to obtain a Yale education,” he added. The presence of ROTC on campus broadens Yalies’ perspectives, say University officials, ROTC staff, and students. It enhances the diversity of opinions on which Yale prides itself and grounds students in reality beyond the “Yale bubble.” On the day when Yale’s ROTC
students began their fall semester classes this August, five soldiers in the United States-led coalition in Afghanistan were ambushed and killed. It was a stark reminder to the young officers in training that military service today is not an abstract notion. The men and women in Yale’s ROTC program had done more than begin the school year with a new extracurricular—they had committed to engage in military conflicts around the globe when their country called. Sam Cohen ’15, a midshipman in NROTC hailing from Maryland, embraces the program for exposing Yale students to the real world. He said, “ROTC on campus is a visible reminder that we are still at war, something that can be easy to forget when we get all caught up in our papers and exams and projects.” Before ROTC left campus, it enjoyed a close-knit relationship with Yale. “Service to our nation, and more particularly the military, has been a great tradition at Yale since her founding,” noted Drew Denno ’16. The ROTC’s office at 55 Whitney Avenue is decorated with pictures that document the history of ROTC at Yale: planes stored in Coxe Cage during World War II, young men engaged in earlymorning calisthenics on Old Campus during World War I, and students learning mechanics by assembling and disassembling a B-26 aircraft. The rift between Ivy League institutions and ROTC over the last several decades 25
left a large gap in that history — one that has impacted both Yale and the military. As Warner Overhauser ’16 asked, “How many enlisted privates or seamen are from Ivy League universities or upper-class families? The answer goes without saying. And that hurts both the military as well as an institution such as Yale.” He elaborated, explaining that Yale suffers from a lack of informed on-campus debates on military issues while the armed forces suffer from a lack of well-educated recruits. The reestablished ROTC programs seek to correct for this. Ten Yale students have enrolled in the University’s NROTC program, in addition to the eight in AFROTC. Each of the students interviewed explained that the opportunity to serve the U.S. is the primary reason for his or her enrollment. From there, the motives for participation differ. Several students, including Eric Abney ’16, joined because of family histories of service. A half-hour after receiving an interview request from The Politic, the gentlemanly Texan arrived, eager to begin telling of his father’s experiences and his own. Seated in a plastic chair a bit too small for his large frame, he mentioned his grandfather who served in World War II, and his father, who, Abney said, “sent my grandma voice tapes while serving in Vietnam.” Abney’s father is writing down his memories of war to pass down to his son. He also intends to pass down a medallion of St. Christopher, known as the saint of travelers, that he wore in Vietnam—but only when Abney enters the fleet. Others joined because of the opportunity to engage with accomplished mentors. Overhauser recalled a conversation he had with General Stanley McChrystal, who was teaching a course at Yale. The general asked him why he chose Yale and NROTC. “Well, sir,” Overhauser responded, “without both Yale and NROTC, I wouldn’t be here talking with you.” In addition to interacting with mentors through the program, participants must exercise their own leadership skills. Andrew Hendricks ’14, the cadet wing commander of AFROTC, fulfills objectives laid out in his program’s “ginormous” handbook
by delegating tasks to about 35 cadets from the regional AFROTC consortium hosted at Yale. Hendricks has focused on preparing younger AFROTC cadets for summer field training by reviewing marching formations and helping with instruction. “It’s a great feeling to see something that you have spent a lot of time planning come to life,” he explained, “especially if it influences the development of those around you.” A desire for a “disciplined, organized, regulated lifestyle” attracts students like Beau Birdsall. Cadets at Yale live and breathe orderliness. When James Baker, Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, gave a guest lecture at the NROTC leadership lab, one cadet held a notebook and pen and the rest sat silently, hands folded and white hats removed.
“Service to our nation, and more particularly the military, has been a great tradition at Yale since her founding” The program is also intellectually rigorous. On top of completing their Yale majors and distribution requirements, students in both ROTC programs enroll in specific Yale courses designated by the military. They must complete five to seven hours of coursework per week for the program, including seminars, leadership labs, and physical training. Usually a class fulfills a requirement for either Yale or ROTC; Paul Kennedy’s “Military History of the West” is the first class in the country to count towards both ROTC and general academic requirements. For those in ROTC, hard work pays off. Students emerge from ROTC at Yale as broadly educated and capable military officers. Lieutenant Daniel Kohnen, nuclear power officer in the U.S. Navy and a naval science instructor at Yale, elaborates on the benefits of a Yale education with so much gusto that his smile is detectable even over the phone. He explains, “We’re able to take some concepts that we teach to the next level with the caliber of students
we teach here. When they become officers, ROTC participants will come prepared with both a liberal arts education and practical skills.” Upon graduation, Yale’s AFROTC students become second lieutenants, according to Colonel Manning. In addition to guaranteed employment after graduation, the program’s substantial scholarships make ROTC appealing to potential participants. Moreover, students benefit from the military’s guidance when assuming their first leadership positions: “There will be training, a career path will be laid out, there will be supervisors.” NROTC students, meanwhile, are commissioned as ensigns. Cohen appreciates how the program thrusts students into the practical world immediately after they leave college. “I can’t think of any other job where right out of college you have responsibility for 20-plus other people,” he said. “That seems to me like the best leadership training.” Interaction with civilians is vital to cadets’ leadership training. Captain Christopher Reinke of the U.S. Marine Corps, program adviser of naval science at Yale, observes that Yale students in ROTC who “wish to pursue a career in the military can more easily interact with their civilian counterparts.” He continued, “This interaction will lead to a more informed and educated student body as a whole so that when a midshipman or cadet enters the military, he will have a better understanding of what his nonmilitary college peers expect out of them. Conversely, the Yale grads that go off into the business world or private sector know a little bit more about the military and those that wear the uniform.” Gabrielle Fong ’16 says that many of her classmates have asked her about the Navy and the military in general. “Because of that, I’ve been able to share my motivations for joining the military and the positive things it has to offer,” she explains. Students often see their peers in ROTC in a completely new light when they don military uniforms. Abney recounted entering a classroom without receiving a single glance of recognition from fellow students because his white cap was covering his distinctive strawberry-blond hair.
“ROTC helps Yale stay true to her traditions by giving the opportunity to students to serve God, Country, and Yale.” Though ROTC students enjoy the nascent program, they admit it faces significant challenges. First of all, they lack guidance from experienced older participants in ROTC. Reinke laments, “One thing that’s been hard for our students is the lack of upperclassmen that have gone through [the program] who can help steer them in the right direction, particularly with regards to Yale-specific issues. It will be great a few years from now when we have Yale upperclass midshipmen that can
really speak to incoming freshmen about the issues they faced when they arrived at Yale. Then we can better support our students and ensure they have the best resources to succeed.” Moving forward, Manning says ROTC will rebuild its presence at Yale by constructing a community of supporters and crafting new traditions. Clapper looks forward to “solidifying our ideas for the unit’s structure and tradition before the arrival of the new freshmen in the fall,” while Fong is eager to “reestablish some of the traditions that used to take place at Yale when ROTC was here.” Manning details an additional struggle. “One of our biggest challenges has been the associated crosstown schools [and] bringing everyone together.” Yale’s AFROTC program
welcomes students from regional universities for classes once a week. After taking a long trip, these students stay for an entire day before returning to their campuses. Yale and ROTC have tried to create a comfortable environment for commuters, adding a lounge with a big-screen television and couches where ROTC participants can relax and study. Students, however, express dissatisfaction that ROTC classes do not award Yale course credits. As Overhauser explains, “The Navy requires us to take both special Navy classes as well as a much more specific version of Yale’s distributional requirements.” Manning explains that AFROTC at Yale has attempted to mitigate this issue by exempting Yale athletes from physical training courses, which take
up two hours a week. In spite of challenges, ROTC students and administrators have high hopes for the program’s future. Abney looks forward to the day when the military becomes “a more vital part of campus life, where seeing students in uniform is common.” As ROTC grows, Fong wishes for greater female participation in the predominantly male program. Reinke aims not only to recruit new students, but also to engage with veterans who attended Yale in order to “further rebuild the history of Yale NROTC and bridge the gap from the past to today.” For cadets, these connections are important. As Matt Smith ’16 observed, “We are midshipmenYalies, not Yale midshipmen.” More than anything else, Yale must reacquaint itself with “a type of student
that literally has already committed himself to be a future soldier and officer,” says Clapper. He adds proudly, “This hasn’t really existed at Yale for a long time.”
(Image) Planes stored in Coxe Cage during World War II
The Pot Spills Over MALI’S REGIONAL DISASTER
— DHRUV AGGARWAL —
Last year’s coup against the Mali government has left the northwest African nation crippled by chaos. Mali, home to more than 1.2 million people, rarely attracts headlines in the international press. Located on a continent ravaged by AIDS and border disputes, the Malian government’s longstanding, low-intensity civil war with the Tuareg has mostly gone unnoticed. But with the alarming infusion of Islamist radicalism into the opposition movement, the West could no longer overlook the region. As extremist control grew increasingly unnerving with the takeover of the quiet northern town of Timbuktu, French President Francois Hollande decided in early 2013 to intervene. The French forces dealt the militants a devastating blow, destroying their armory and reclaiming territory. The insurrection began in March of 2012 with a mutiny of Malian soldiers. Exasperated by the government’s response to a rebellion by the Tuareg nomads in the north, soldiers swarmed the capital city of Bamako. The unrest — which drove the president into hiding and ultimately suspended the constitution — intensified when Islamic extremists, including al-Qaida, joined the conflict to aid the Tuaregs. Today, the drama continues: Tuareg forces remain in control of much of northern Mali, which they declared to be a separate state in April of last year. 30
The recapture of Timbuktu in late January marked the culmination of the unexpected French military incursion in its former imperial domain. Jonathan Wyrtzen, an assistant professor of sociology and international affairs at Yale University, said he was “surprised” that France sent troops into Mali to stabilize the region. Clearly, the French felt that they had license to police their former West African empire, though their action in Mali was not as quick or decisive as their strikes on Libya. Indeed, Hollande has announced that French troops will remain in Mali as long as they are needed. “But holding cities over time will be harder,” noted Wyrtzen, expressing reservations about France’s engagement in the region. “Insurgents can change tactics and stay less visible by operating from the countryside.” Wyrtzen predicted that prolonged warfare would erode the military and make it more difficult to justify keeping troops in the country for an extended period of time. French intervention could peter out, leaving Mali as vulnerable to tribal warfare as it was before the French presence began. The fragility currently characterizing Mali is due in part to how little the 2012 coup managed to actually change the ways of Mali’s government. Joseph Cumming, director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith and Culture called it “a stunningly failed coup.”
Frank Griffel, chair of Yale University’s Council on Middle East Studies and professor of Islamic studie, said that the conflict has been slow to resolve because of events in neighboring states. Griffel argued that many of the problems in Mali can be explained by looking north to Algeria, which has played a role in Mali’s internal strife. “Algeria’s relationship with al-Qaida in the Maghreb [a region of northwest Africa] is hard for outsiders to understand,” he said. “They have connections with the Algerian army, which had an insidious role in the takeover of northern Mali.” Indeed, Mali has a checkered relationship with Algeria, thanks in part to illegal cross-border trade. In 2011, the per capita GDP of Algeria was $7,400, compared to Mali’s paltry $1,100. This difference in living standards, coupled with a porous 870 mile border, encourages both human and capital flight from Mali to its richer northern counterpart. Yet, as people flee from Mali to Algeria, precious commodities traverse the opposite path. Oil, which is extremely cheap in Algeria, is smuggled across the border to Mali in tankers, unchecked and untaxed. More worrisome is how this exchange enables the northern militants to buy weapons and ammunition. Mali serves as a transit route for the narcotics produced in southern Africa headed for European markets. By acting as a middleman in this transcontinental 31
drug deal, the northern militants accumulate massive sums of money, which they then use to purchase arms. Cumming recounted that when Timbuktu first fell to the militants, he was stunned to see them rolling through the city in tanks. “We think the scary al-Qaida are in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen,” he said. “But these guys had tanks.” The worst conflict may be yet to occur. Just as Algeria has largely determined the recent events in Mali, experts said that Mali will likely influence the future of its neighboring countries. Cumming expects Malian insurgents to flee into other countries like Mauritania, potentially sparking fundamentalist Islamic strife there. This prospect does not bode well for Mauritania, a large, loosely governed state.
Until now, Griffel noted, Mauritania has been growing slowly but steadily, moving from a “godforsaken place” to a state in the early stages of development. But Islamic fundamentalism has been strong in the dense network of Mauritanian “madrasas,” seminaries common in the country. Historically, Griffel said, these institutions have been a radicalizing force. These schools may similarly galvanize Mauritanian students to incite unrest in the region. As militants continue to flee northern Mali, fears grow in Mauritania of a potential crisis there. The worst outcome of the conflict in Mali could be the destabilization of yet another country, a major blow to Western interests in the region. A key to fixing this problem is redressing the grievances of impov-
erished Arab Moors like the Tuaregs, who have been treated as second-class citizens for decades. The low-level insurgency simmering in the north may be attributable to a lack of serious engagement with Tuaregs, who are seen as a military rather than a political issue. Getting the politicians — and more importantly, the military honchos they court — to grant more autonomy and power to the north of their country may be the ultimate solution to the problems ailing Mali. But, as Griffel and Cummins acknowledged, whether this goal proves attainable remains to be seen.
The State of the Unions LABOR FOSTERS BETTER TOWN-GOWN RELATIONS
— BENJAMIN WEINER & JOSHUA FABER —
It’s a sunny time for labor relations at Yale. The University signed four-year contracts with its unions this summer, coming to an agreement six months earlier than expected. The contract gives workers a 15 percent raise and continues their full health care coverage through the Yale Health Plan. It also includes provisions to strengthen internal promotion, as well as a “jobs pipeline” to connect unemployed people in the city to jobs on campus. As Yale President Richard Levin put it in the Yale Daily News, “These agreements recognize the outstanding contribution to Yale’s mission provided by the 4,700 members of Locals 34 and 35 throughout the University.” In such a cooperative atmosphere, it’s easy to forget the periodic strikes and heated exchanges that racked Yale’s labor relations from the late 1960s through 2003. Today, union membership continues to decline nationwide. What, then, sets Yale’s unions apart from not only other unions in the nation, but also their former selves? *** The majority of workers at Yale belong to one of two unions, Local 34 and Local 35, with the former representing office workers and the latter representing technical staff, custodians, and dining hall staff. Although they have separate organizational structures, both are chapters of the national labor coalition UNITE HERE. As students, we often take it for
granted that someone will cook our food, clean our classrooms, and file our paperwork. In 2003, however, a strike of more than 4,000 employees over proposed pension plans paralyzed the University’s day-to-day operations. This episode catapulted Yale into the national spotlight, provoking a response from John Sweeney, president of the United States’ largest trade union, AFL-CIO. He attacked the University for being “a symbol of greed and oppression” in The New York Times. His comments exacerbated a decades-long labor conflict that prompted the Times in 2003 to accuse Yale of “having by far the worst record of labor tension of any university in the nation.” In fact, labor relations at the University have a long, complex history. As Joanne Young, a Local 34 member and University employee of 45 years, told The Politic, “1984 was the beginning of change. Little by little, we got more and more.” In the pivotal year of 1984, John Wihelm ’67 organized workers of HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees) to strike at Yale for a devastating 10 weeks. Young explained that prior to the union era, raises and discipline were handled directly by supervisors inclined towards favoritism, and workers had no opportunity to have their voices heard. Moreover, they lacked basic benefits such as dental care and a pension that would allow them to retire at a decent age. A cursory glance at the organiza-
tional structure of UNITE HERE and its local representatives reveals that some of the University’s most vocal detractors are organized by its own graduates. While this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has read student op-eds about the University, it casts a different light on the nature of the tensions. Yale’s massive endowment and elite reputation make it tempting to caricature the labor disputes as a conflict between the working class and a monolithic, elitist institution. However, the prominence of Yale graduates in representing the interests of labor, along with the strength of undergraduate support for unions over the years, challenges and complicates this perception. This complex intermingling of students and labor, which lacks a strong parallel in typical labormanagement relations, has created opportunities for meaningful dialogue about the proper relationship between the University and its community. The result, indeed, is a mutually beneficial relationship, in which workers have the room to negotiate for fair wages and the University can improve both its public image and its relationship with New Haven. *** Labor unions, however, must reach out to more that just the University to ensure fundamental, long-term change. In a conversation with The Politic, Tyisha Walker, secretary-trea33
new aldermen, many of whom displaced experienced incumbents. The public’s satisfaction with these representatives will go a long way towards establishing the long-term legitimacy of UNITE HERE in local politics. The election of New Haven’s first new mayor in 20 years also presents an opportunity to gain political leverage. ***
Unions members march down Elm Street in a 2012 “Lets Get to Work” rally
surer of Local 35 and Ward 23 alderwoman, identified a profound shift in labor relations at Yale during the strike of 2003. “UNITE HERE reached out to neighborhood people because they needed help, but the neighborhood wanted a more sustainable relationship,” she said. Even more than that, “The union realized that their fight isn’t just the contract. Together you win, and divided you don’t.” Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison told The Politic, “The thing that I like about the union and the board is that our goals are what the community wants. Our goals were set by knocking on thousands and thousands of doors citywide and looking at all the issues that everyone at the doors said mean something to them.” For them, this 34
relationship isn’t a potential conflict so much as the inevitable result of individuals taking a multifaceted interest in the communities they love. The goals of Local 34 and Local 35 manifest themselves in a variety of political operations. Apart from the five aldermen who are active union members, many current aldermen were supported in some capacity by UNITE HERE at Yale. Morrison, a member of the public services union AFSCME, went through an extensive interview process before Local 35 agreed to back her in the last election. Their involvement, moreover, didn’t end just there. “The union didn’t just help us get into office. They also organized us with regards to community outreach,” she told The Politic. “Politicians have various entities who get them into
office. With President Obama, there were all these organizations involved during the campaign. After he was elected, they felt that their job was finished. The union remains a helping hand. It keeps me abreast of what is going on in the community. As an alderperson, I spend a lot of time in the boardroom and work full time. They tell me X is going on and Y is going on. The union helps me stay in touch with the needs of the people.” According to Walker, after “knocking on doors and hearing the same message over and over again,” these needs coalesced into a threepronged focus on youth services, violence, and jobs. The connection between the union and jobs is clear enough, but all three issues have become priorities of UNITE HERE.
“Unions build relationships when they have the same interests. They unite over issues that affect them and their environment – everyone is tied to the same interests. A lot of members live in New Haven, so everything that affects communities around Yale affects them. They are fighting for what their employees, New Haven residents, want.” The union has come out in support of increased community policing, investment in new local schools, and New Haven Works, a jobs pipeline designed to connect people with potential employers like the University. There is no sign that Local 34 and Local 35 intend to step back any time soon. On the contrary, they have even more at stake in the next election cycle. In 2011, the unions backed a slew of
Even in this new paradigm, the union is dependent on the University’s good graces. Fortunately for UNITE HERE, its new focus on the community is mirrored by a transformation in the way the Yale Corporation views its relationship with New Haven: President Levin’s administration has a long-standing commitment to improving town-gown relations. Drew Morrison ’14 (no relation to Alderwoman Morrison) has worked extensively with the unions through the advocacy group New Haven Action. He told The Politic in an interview, “Strikes were not just an employer-employee issue, but a New Haven community issue.” 2003 was a year of strained relationships, when labor strikes drew the ire of the working class. Aggressive land-buying and collection policies at Yale-New Haven Hospital, meanwhile, left many residents less than enamored with Yale. In this context, it would only be natural that a better relationship with the community would involve a better relationship with the unions on campus. When the conversation was reframed in terms of the New Haven community, both parties could move from a stubborn exchange of diatribes to dialogue about the best way to help this community. It became clear that Yale’s new, broader commitment requires better treatment of the workers within. For their part, the unions have recognized Yale’s legitimate place in the community. As Jeanette Morrison put it, “Now with the unions involved, it’s not just politics or their union members’ lives; it’s their neighbors’ lives. They work to make sure that everyone has equal jobs, pay, and benefits. Permanent residents and Yale students are no longer as divided.” This is a win-win situation: The workers gain substantive improve-
ments in their quality of life, and Yale earns a major public relations victory. As goes the relationship between Yale and its unions, so goes the relationship between Yale and New Haven. Where does this leave Yale-union relations going forward? Much of UNITE HERE’s local influence depends on public satisfaction with unionbacked candidates in the next election cycle. But so long as their interests remain aligned with the community’s and Yale maintains town-gown relations as a priority, their influence remains assured. The relationship between the unions and local government may be perceived as a little incestuous, but so does the proliferation of Yale graduates as union organizers. Those involved in both claim that nothing more sinister is at work than the desire to do greater good for their constituents. The Yale-union model may be an antidote to the decline of unions in this country. There is no parallel to the relationship between students, University administrators, and unions in the traditional corporate environment. But both unions and their communities have much to gain from the former recognizing their responsibilities to the latter. It has long been acknowledged that unions drive up wages and benefits for nonmembers in the industry, and it may be time for unions to focus on more than self-interested contract negotiations. Meanwhile, corporations have just as much to gain from investing in the communities that provide them with both employees and customers. Only by looking beyond themselves can labor and management resolve their fundamental oppositions. The multifaceted relationship between Yale, its unions, and its community can serve as an example for this process. It’s a radical way of doing business, but between the devastating economic realities and the hackneyed P
cigarettes to underage youth, part of our responsibility is to make sure that retailers understand that they should not be selling to young people, and to enforce the law when retailers continue to sell to them.
Regulating the Jungle
TP How big of a role does politics play in the work that you do?
AN INTERVIEW WITH FDA COMMISSIONER MARGARET HAMBURG
— GENG NGARMBOONANANT —
Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg has served as the 21st commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since May 2009. She graduated from Harvard Medical School and previously worked as the assistant secretary for policy and evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
TP Why did you decide to go into health care, or rather, the intersection between health care and public policy?
and I have been engaged in some aspect or another of public health and health policy ever since.
MH I hadn’t really contemplated a career in public service until medical school, when I was very much influenced by the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. When I started medical school, nobody was aware of this new disease. In fact, when I was a freshman, I was taught that the era of infectious disease threats was over with the advent of antibiotics and vaccines and good sanitation practices — and that the future of medicine was chronic disease — and then watched this initially mysterious and devastating disease emerge, with no one knowing the cause, what to call it or how to treat it. As I went on to do internal medicine training in NYC, I saw a lot of AIDS patients but I wasn’t able to offer them anything. I also saw how this medical disease was causing so much disruption in a variety of social, legal, and political issues. That’s when I decided I wanted to work at the intersection of medicine and social and public policy. I decided to go down to Washington and learn about health policy,
TP Where do you think lies the line between the FDA doing its job to regulate and the FDA overstepping its boundaries?
MH If you step back and look at the vital and unique work of the FDA — at all of the many important products we regulate, and how much they matter to people — I think that there is a necessary and appropriate level of government regulation. There is an unmistakable benefit that comes from our responsibility to ensure critical aspects of safety, efficacy, and quality of important products that people use and count on. Regardless of your political stripe, you want a certain level of oversight and certainty that you’re getting what you think you’re getting, and that it will help you and not hurt you. There are different ways to approach our tasks under different circumstances. Oftentimes [the FDA] works with industry to encourage them to move in important directions, to identify the important goals that
we can move toward, and to identify things they should do. But in some instances, it is important for us to assert our regulatory authority and simply take action. TP A lot of people have said that you’ve focused on tobacco products more than anything — you’ve sent over 1000 warning letters to tobacco product makers in 2011 alone. Why this focus on tobacco? MH Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in this country and around the world, so it has a very serious medical and public health toll. It’s a product that, through routine use, not only harms the individual who chooses to smoke, but potentially harms others as well. It’s an issue we have to take seriously from a public health perspective, and Congress passed legislation that the president signed into law in June 2009, which gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. One of the clear areas of responsibility was to address the problems of marketing — since it is against the law to sell
MH I am very committed to running an agency where science and data drive our decision-making. But we are, of course, operating in a world where there are many issues and concerns swirling around us, and where the decisions we make have very significant ramifications. We work closely with many stakeholders, including Congress. It is always a challenge to make sure that the best possible science is the one guiding our work — but that is a challenge we must meet. Policymaking is a complex process, and a lot of what we do involves addressing all kinds of issues that come into play. But at the end of the day, our regulatory decisions have to meet a certain scientific standard — that’s a great challenge, but it’s also the fundamental principle driving what we do. TP What’s your proudest achievement as FDA commissioner? MH I came on board at a very interesting and important time for the FDA. I came at a time when there had been a lot of transition and turnovers, which created a certain amount of instability at the agency. It’s an agency that, for many years, has been underresourced for the tasks that it is asked to do, as well as an agency that has both been buffeted about in the media and been target of criticism on the Hill and elsewhere. I came on board when there was a need to address morale issues and reaffirm the FDA in its unique and essential role. I also came on at a time when there had been an explosion of science and technological advances that very much affected the work that we did and the products that we regulate, a time when there was a need to ensure that the FDA was scientifically positioned for the 21st century. I also came on at a time when the world had really
transformed, requiring the FDA to become a global agency in both focus and in action, [since] a growing percentage of the products we regulate come — in whole or in part — from outside our borders. So the answer to your question, albeit a long answer is: My greatest accomplishment has really been to reposition the FDA for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. TP What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sodas in sizes bigger than 16 ounces? MH I always get asked that question! You know, I think it was a very interesting position to take, and it triggered an important national conversation about food choices and the problem of obesity and nutrition-related illnesses. Do I think [the ban] will dramatically change the landscape of public health? I don’t, but I think that it’s one of many actions that speak to the fact that as a nation, we’ve kind of lost sight of moderation in what we eat and how we live. In the end, it certainly did trigger a conversation that’s helpful to have. TP What are you looking to regulate or focus on next? MH I am very eager to see legislation concerning the compounding pharmacy issues. I also really do think that this is an important moment for us to think and act in new ways around our global responsibilities. As I mentioned, we can no longer behave as a domestic agency, yet many of our laws were initially defined in the context of an agency that was regulating products made and used in the United States. In this transforming world, where we have seen the volume of imported products quadruple over the past decade, where 40 percent of finished drugs and 80 percent of pharmaceutical ingredients used in drugs come from other countries, where 50 percent of fresh produce and over 80 percent of seafood eaten in the U.S. comes from other countries, we have to start really having a global presence. We have to now oversee some 300,000 facilities in 150-plus countries bringing goods in through over 300 ports of
entry. It’s a whole new landscape, and we have to rethink how we work from a legal regulatory perspective — with other countries and foreign regulatory authorities and industries — along with how we can stretch our already limited work force to create this global footprint. That’s an area where we need new thinking, new laws, and new partnerships to enable us to have this global safety net. This net will ultimately be vital in protecting the wellbeing of our citizens, and it will also benefit people around the world. P
For the full text of this interview, visit The Politic’s website at www.thepolitic.org 37
GUN VIOLENCE BY THE the US has and
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NUMBERS of the world’s population of the guns
1 out of every 3 americans knows someone who has been shot mass shootings in US from 1982-2012
Was the killer’s weapon obtained legally? 50
in america every day
in america, there are
268 people are shot
~270,000,000 firearms possessed by civilians and only 897,000 carried by police
For every intruder stopped by a homeowner with a firearm, there are 4 gun-related accidents within the home
assault deaths in us by region (2010) northeast
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