Power & Technology – A Bromance?


technology-and-politics.jpg

The relationship between technology and power is rather complex. There are numerous theories that technological advancement is the key to strength and prosperity – in parts of the world where such evolution did not occur, political institutions and therefore economies developed less (Diamond 1999). Technological evolution has especially revolutionized America’s modern military, as well as the military capabilities of other nations. Since today’s world no longer exhibits a Soviet Union, newer threats have emerged, particularly in the form of radical terrorism, but also by the assertiveness of China, Russia and India, who possess technologically advanced weaponry too.

World War II marked the beginning of a new age, with the creation of the nuclear bomb, as well as revolutions in aviation, mechanization and information (Krepinevitch 2006). There are various instances in history of major shifts in technology which almost coincide with changes in the nature of warfare. Perhaps America’s military and technological superiority have created the current scenario in which the only global hegemony, the US lacks a coherent “enemy” or “threat” in the form of a state. Rather, this modern counterforce is splintered into terrorist networks across the globe.

The modern technological shift has taken the form of unmanned drones, as well as long-distance warheads. Drones have enabled policymakers in the US to conduct military operations without employing any troops. A prime and often cited example of this is the use of US drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan both for surveillance and to eliminate targets – but this tactic has arguably not changed the trajectory of US policy. Rather, it has refined it by further exploiting the technological primitiveness of the opposition. Two other factors limit the vast influence which the Revolution in Miliary Affairs could affect policy – the accountability of American democracy & perhaps more ambiguously America’s moral idealism. Together, these two traditions have arguably helped to limit indiscriminate use of modern military means. Furthermore, the War in Iraq demonstrates how nation-states are willing to employ troops on the ground despite technology superiority over their enemies. Perhaps this implies that policy is less motivated by technological advancement and more by the threat of attack as well as economic interest.

Jared Diamond. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. WW Norton & Company (1999).

Andrew F. Krepinevich, “Cavalry to Computer: The Pattern of Military Revolutions,”The National Interest (Fall 1994), 37: 30-42. http://wwe.jstor.org/stable/42896863

WATCH: KRIKOS – Haturrr Boy (Official Video)


KRIKOS’ has been heavy at work this year. In March, he released his second album, Checks & Balances, the sequel to Rise of the Eastern Son, his debut album. KRIKOS has made his mark as a producer for musical collective Colours of the Culture, but he continues to make a name for himself as a self-produced artist. Today, he offers the new video for his loose single #HaturrrBoy. He plans on releasing more new music and visuals throughout the year, with his third full album lined up to drop late this Summer 2016! That being said, we would love to have this video premiered or featured on your feed. If you are interested, we’ve provided the video link below as well as the single artwork, which is attached.

KRIKOS – Haturrr Boy (Trailer)


 

The full video for KRIKOS’ single “Haturrr Boy” drops on 5.25.16. Visit http://www.DannyKrikorian.com for updates & more music.

Filmed by Tray Zarc
Presented by Colours of the Culture
Hosted by Henao Contemporary Center
Produced by KRIKOS

What Is Terrorism?


teheran_us_embassy_propaganda_statue_of_liberty.jpg

It has been difficult to form a concise definition of terrorism due to the emotions and political weight carried by the term. But since September 11th, 2001, the term has been used more frequently than before, both inside and outside political science, though sometimes perhaps incorrectly. Lumping tactics, attackers and fear together to define terrorism has been a disservice to the field of political science (Tilly 2004).

It is precisely this which causes bias in the literature and in society when assessing terrorism. Defining terrorism as a tactic reveals that it can and often is practiced by states and insurgents equally.

The more descriptive features, its psychological effect, organizational structure and ideological motive are not as distinct because other military tactics are arguably similar in this regard. The most distinct feature appears to be thetarget of terrorism. That civilian, or non-military (often political figures) populations are targeted, and not military units, is what makes this distinct in nature (Kydd & Walter 2006). This challenges the common perception of terrorism as a new phenomenon as well as one that is practiced only by random and scattered networks with unachievable objectives (Chaliand & Blin 2007). Furthermore, it allows analysts to place terror incidents within the contexts of international politics, instead of isolating them. More recently, the literature has focused heavily on the connection between Islamic radicalism and terrorism, but this ignores the vast instances of terrorism conducted by non-state actors as well as attacks motivated by irreligious purposes, in history and today.

States themselves against their own people or foreign civilians. Focusing on Islamic radicalism ignores the white supremacist network of terrorism, the nationalist spectrum of terrorism, and so forth. It also ignores the countless times in history that the Islamic World has suffered from the specter of terrorism. It could be argued that the US bomb on Japan in 1945 was a form of state terrorism, or that Israel’s disproportionate attack on Gaza in 2014 was a form of state terrorism. Furthermore, early attacks on Palestinians by Jewish militias were forms of terror, such as the Deir Yassin Massacre. This bias normalizes the perspective that Islam is inherently barbaric; and furthermore distracts from the more significant variables that cause violence in the Islamic world; foreign interventionism – which often manifests as state terror.

References:

Andrew Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism,” International Security, Summer 2006.

Charles Tilly. Terror, Terrorism, Terrorists. Sociological Theory, 2004. 22(1), 5-13.

Gerrard Chaliand & Arnaud Blin. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to al Qaeda. University of California Press. 2007.

Is the U.S. in Decline?


America-Flag-e1457016691767.png

The U.S. is arguably in a position it hasn’t been in before. This all happened after WWII. While American isolationism officially ended during the Spanish-American War, WWII marked a new era in American foreign policy – interventionism. After the Civil War, the US faced little domestic threats, and foreign threats were all but inexistent prior to the twentieth century. Somehow strangely, as the US became more entangled in foreign affairs, contrary to the warnings of its founders, so too, did America’s national security come more into question. The end of the Cold War, and the demise of the Soviet bloc, produced a new world order marked by US hegemony – a unipolar world. Up until this point, the US was largely focused on containing the USSR – this was largely an external threat. But the emergence of Islamic terrorism transformed an international issue into a national security dilemma for the US. But the US never went directly to war with the USSR, whereas it has embarked on military campaigns against Islamic radicals. On the contrary, the US hoped for the USSR to collapse from within, without direct confrontation. Perhaps this is why it dissolved. But the new security threat of Islamic terrorism has been approached directly, as with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and now Syria. The US’ national security is more than ever threatened today. Do America’s post-WWII policy of interventionism and the emerging threat to its national security, evidenced by the rise of Islamic terror groups, coincide?

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the emergence of BRICS, Russia’s assertiveness in the Ukraine and Georgia, the economic crisis and the US’ increased military campaigns are arguably signs of a change in the “world order” (Schweller et al 2011). Perhaps it is too early to suggest that the US is in decline, considering its immense military might and wealth, but there is reason to believe that, since WWII, it has grown increasingly insecure. The military and economic growth of countries like Japan and China as well as the EU are further signs of relative decline (Huntington 1988). It isn’t absolute because the US remains the world’s super power by a long margin – but the growth rate of its competitors has surpassed its own. Based on its history, could it be argued that the US was militarily and economically most secure when its foreign policy was less characterized by interventionism?

 

Huntington, S. P. 1988. The US—Decline or Renewal?. Foreign affairs, 67(2): 76-96.

Schweller, Randall L., and Xiaoyu Pu. “After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of US Decline.” International Security 36(1): 41-72.

Mearsheimer’s Legacy: The Future of International Relations & Political Theory


International relations theory generally breaks up into three focuses – individual, state and international.

The prevailing schools focus on the state level, arguing that, based on the evolution of history, this is the unit of analysis in international politics.

John Mearsheimer whom perhaps is referenced less nowadays since his controversial piece on Israeli foreign politics argued from the realist perspective that US hegemony would be challenged due to “imperial overreach”.

The emergence of new powers (BRICS) and the souring of relations between western allies is further evidence of a new impasse in international politics. Are we facing a challenge to the unipolar order which has seen US domination for a half century?

Earlier this year Scotland debated exiting the UK. This failed. Now the UK is considering exiting the EU. Could this be affirming the predictions of Mearsheimer?

But are we committing the same fallacy done by political theorists in early history who analyzed from the perspective of empires? Is America not behaving as an ambitious empire? Could the world ever revert to an international system of empires, or are states the permanent fate of international political theory?

America’s internal politics largely contributes to its foreign policy, and vice versa, contrary to claims of isolationism, disentanglements and illusory self-dependence. Currently, America is witnessing an internal challenge to its tradition of ideological exclusivism which has prevented social, economic and political inclusion for all people, particularly minorities – individuals who might possess the capacity to influence US policy away from exclusivism both domestically and internationally. This change is the only chance America has at containing its imperial tendency – because that tendency has only been able to exist due to its domestic tradition of social inequality for minorities.

In political theory, there are assumptions nowadays that a “free market” only exists within capitalist ideology. The reality isn’t so simple – states form because cultures exist and need protection and preservation. Sometimes in history, I argue, one culture becomes domineering and expansive beyond sustainability, such as with the Romans, Greeks, Persians…even the English, French, the USSR and now America. The ideologies and cultures were distinct, but shared a common feature – political hubris – expanding beyond boundaries.

Ideologies are meant to distract from the international political reality which is less simplistic. Assuming the state is the prevailing political agent, I argue that cultural fanaticism, be it populistic or elitist, results in domestic and international imbalance of power. This causes instability and violence. Historically such endeavors were justified through ideologies promising various rewards or statuses – today that “religion” is accepting subservience to imperialism – the desire to disrupt the state system through imperial ambitions. The tactics are mischievous.

The idea that capitalism is responsible for American prosperity is ignorant of the involvement of the collectivist policies of the US government over time. Further it assumes that markets cannot exist smoothly without corporate lawlessness. In fact, true markets can only exist in healthy fashion when a given stage is culturally united and conscientious of its citizens needs. Because contrary to the naive wisdom of modern capitalist theorists, markets are influenced by more than just supply and demand but a range of social and political factors.

When all nations learn to contain their imperial ambitions and return to a state of international balance, there will be less ideological mania and political instability. What we need is a sort of global treaty of Westphalia that recognizes sovereignty an a moderate economic system that is decent.

While these complex assertions are difficult to digest or perhaps even to suggest, they certainly highlight The plight of a mixed economist and social constructivist seeking to make sense of an ideological, polarized and dogmatic world.

The World to Come


A young immigrant child in Orlando,
I came to the Far West from the Persian Gulf,,
To the Gulf from the Levant,
and to the Levant from the highlands of Armenia.
Now, here I am,
In the strong hold of modern imperium, America,
Seeking my own freedom,
from the dual extremes of ignorance,
and the societal pressure against solitude.
Music, art and philosophy are my realms of expression,
and sustenance.
I offer excellence to you,
and pray for justice.

Kleptocracy on Capitol Hill?


jump-you-fuckers.jpg

How could America be expected to promote democracy abroad while not practicing it for its own people?

Sure, there are principles of democracy here and there, perhaps most importantly in executive limits and free elections – but modern oligarchies have corrupted these institutions through socio-economic paralysis of the middle and lower class.

Particularly in the case of minority rights, the U.S. has exhibited non-democratic tendencies. This is more than problematic, considering the majority of the U.S. will be of minority background by 2050.

America is struggling to make a balance between capitalism on one hand and democracy on the other. Democratic movements are bending towards re-enfranchisement of minorities and the middle and lower classes. Can the US’ policies in other parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East but also in Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, be expected to align with democratic movements?

Remember that Karl Marx said he was not a marxist. He saw it as a perversion of his intent. What if so-called capitalist oligarchs in the West are cooperating with authoritarians in other parts of the world to suppress all genuinely democratic movements?

The lack of economic opportunity is related to the absence of equal representation in government in the US and in the Middle East. Immigrants and minorities, religious groups, women and the LBGT community, face discrimination and are underrepresented. Furthermore, they do not receive the same economic welfare from the US government provided to others, particularly minorities and immigrants. To blame this on anything but political underrepresentation is illusory.

The U.S. enables political mobilization – but decades of stagnation has halted progress. Whether or not America is a true democracy is being tested right now. And whether or not other parts of the world can understand the distinction between true democracy and populism, will determine their ability to overcome tyranny.

Is Saudi Arabia Next?


Smoke_rising_from_the_Grand_Mosque,_Mecca,_1979.JPG

The Gulf countries, to some extent, initiated quick reforms to avoid the domino effect of the Arab Spring.

Reminiscent of the Age of Metternich in Europe, when serious efforts to revolutionize the continent were being suppressed.

Revolution often has little idea of the future, but this weakness is exploited by existing orders to maintain the “status quo”. The divisions between revolutionaries, usually ideologically, lead to fragmentation. Sometimes, revolutions become themselves suppressive, as with far left or far right ideologies in Europe, the Far East and Latin America.

Ironically, the Arab Spring affected only the nations with little economic influence in the region. If the Arab World has a list of grievances, it would be safe to assume that economic misery is atop the list, along with cultural and political factors. Involvement by foreign countries further complicates the dynamic.

How could the Arab Spring miss the Gulf countries? Why did it not sweep Lebanon? Why were the results overturned quickly in Egypt?

All of these are important questions. Many of the leaders that were overthrown in the Arab World over the last two decades, including Saddam, Gaddafi, Mubarak and Morsi deserved their fate, perhaps. But two forces plague the Middle East – robust capitalism in the Gulf and authoritarianism and sectarianism in the Levant and North Africa. This dynamic of persistent monarchism and militarized statism have together, produced disaster. But how can such polarized forces, like the two aforementioned, which are ideologically diametrically opposed, share the feature of tyranny? This forces analysis to focus on external factors.

The most crucial piece of the Arab political puzzle is the Gulf region, because economically, it preserves the economic capacity necessary for sustaining and developing the entire Middle East. Patronage and nepotism have disenfranchised the average person from the political and thus, economic processes. Religious and family bonds infiltrate policy, and result in corruption and economic misery.

The Gulf is aptly supported by America. Israel too.

Is it possible that both economic, social and political development are lagging then not only as a result of Arab tyranny, but the American involvement which secures it?

Placing the blame on external forces is an easy and common trend, particularly in the Middle East where a factual history of foreign conspiracies confirmed societal paranoias towards the US and Europe.

Both the conflicts in Iraq and Syria were US-led initiatives, really. But genuine reform in the Middle East cannot take place without reform in the crux of the puzzle – the Gulf. If violent insurgencies persist, will they eventually realize their greatest obstacle is not the enemy of the US, Assad and Iran, but rather, the enemy of the Arab World, which is the greediness which permeates the Gulf?