How Should America Respond to Terror?


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The invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003 produced a new dilemma for Iraq – a vacuum of power. For almost 4 decades, the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein centralized power, and despite its brutality, stabilized the country politically. But many critics of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East blamed the vacuum of power on the brutality of the dictator himself. The rise of ISIS, and other terrorist organizations, are the products of the stubborn grasp on power held by dictators like Saddam. In Syria, the situation proved to be more difficult. What was initially a similar plan as Iraq broke down into an international competition for spheres of influence, particularly between Russia and America. The crises in the Arab world, spread like a domino effect. It seems that, since the 2003 invasion, toppling leaders was the agenda, but instead of resulting in progressive governance, it has produced a security disaster with an unprecedented rise in terrorism. Libya looks a lot like Iraq, but perhaps worse. It is in shambles – which is a hotbed for terrorists. Since Islamic radicalism appears to be the global menace to security, figuring out how to address these crises are crucial to America’s interests. How should the US respond? Well, the US has already chosen a trajectory of intervention. Based on the literature, I will argue that a reversal of US tradition of interventionism will reduce terror and the threat of insecurity caused by it (Kleveman 2006).

Terrorism rose sharply after 2003. This is supported by the global terrorism database. I argue this directly correlates with the highest period of foreign interventionism in the Middle East, from which terrorism is exported. Central Asia too is equally important as it exports much of the Islamic radicalism we see today (Rashid 2006). In Central Asia, terrorism rose sharply after 2004 – around the same time that the US administration began coordinating cooperative efforts with Central Asia’s most authoritarian dictator, Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, in efforts to suppress Islamic movements, radical and non (Olcott 2007).

Complete disengagement from the internal political affairs of sovereign states both in the Middle East and Central Asia will allow the natural course of events to unfold – whether that means conflict or not is uncertain. Citizens may choose to overthrow or support their leaders. But involvement by the US has complicated and enflamed tensions. It has blindsided progression in many of these underdeveloped parts of the world, resulting in higher terror recruitment, which ultimately affects the US.

Contrarily, it could be argued that the US ought to engage with rebel groups fighting against both extremists and authoritarians who together, are thwarting any progress and thus further inciting terrorism. In the case of Syria, it appears to be more complex, with the government cooperating against terrorism, unlike for example, the Mubarak, Gaddafi or Hussein regimes. Perhaps, a transitional process in phases could emerge here in which disenfranchised Sunnis can be reintegrated into the political process. But the intransigence of the leadership could prove to be detrimental to this cause. Perhaps this is precisely why the US has been unresolved in its Syrian-policy.

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Orientalism in America – My experiences with American Academia


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My experiences with American academia have coalesced into quite a journey, full of both order & tumult.

But the point of me writing this entry is to focus on what I have come to discover as an unrelenting, institutionalized dogma which pervades the American academic culture, and discourages intellectualism, non-conformity and originality.

This is because academics seem to fear student freedom.

I’ve had my ideas shot down by esteemed professors, albeit in the South good professors are scarce – simply because they did not sit well with the perspective of the professor.

Other professors would commend and encourage the same exact research project shunned by others.

Furthermore I discovered how even American capitalism has infiltrated the academic system which is supposed to be public – with emphasis not on quality education, but rather, on profit motive.

But this culture is America’s and the West’s. Call it “Capitalism, Democracy, Liberalism, Protestantism, Christianity,” whatever

The political culture is backwards here, with many elements of morality being only nominal, applied to the privileged, mainly white, few.

I reject this phenomenon both as an Arab & English speaking, Syrian-Armenian immigrant and as a first-generation American.

In every sense, both academic, musical, in both my individual and collective spheres, morality, free will, and the anomaly that is human nature will triumph over any rationalized, dogmatic system that reduces universal principles to devious political schemes.

I am grateful that I have been able to, by some miracle, attend an institute of higher education, considering that I am still, after 20 years of residence in the state of Florida, still considered a temporary alien, without any permanent status in the US. Never mind the indignation, political, economic and social hardship this has created for me and my family – and millions upon millions of others who are in worse shape – the problem of “nominal justice” or “privileged justice” exists as much in third world countries, authoritarian regimes, as it does in America, where only 40 years ago, African-Americans could not vote.

Let us be frank with ourselves. Before we point our fingers elsewhere, let us look at ourselves in the mirror. Let us lead by example, if indeed, we wish to remain leaders of the world.

 

Is a Balance of Power Emerging?


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At first glance, it would seem that the world we live in is starkly unipolar – defined by US hegemony in a post-soviet world. While US hegemony is unquestionable, the notion of an emerging balance of power is still possible. Waltz definition for BOP theory includes a bipolar world. For this reason, the USSR-US dichotomy provided a staple framework for the theory. But the end of the Cold War introduced an era of seemingly unprecedented unipolarity characterized by US hegemony over global politics. Neoliberal institutionalism and democratic peace theorists have long argued that the balance of power theory is defunct and irrelevant in a post-Cold War era. BOP theory suggests that countries around the world would exhibit balancing in order to counter US hegemony, but democratic peace theorists argue that, democracies are less aggressive, and thus elicit less defensive responses. In other words, the US isn’t the same at the Roman Empire because the former is democratic, which permits free trade and self-interest. If this were the case, it could challenge the very nature of BOP theory in that, nations may not perceive hegemonies as threatening but rather, non-democracy as threatening. Is that perhaps why alliances between democratic hegemonies and democracies in the periphery have persisted, such as NATO & the EU? However neorealists like Kenneth Waltz and Mearsheimer might argue that the world is currently in a transitional phase, in which balancing will eventually occur. Evidence of that is China’s rise as an industrial power; Russia’s annexation of Crimea & South Ossetia; the emergence of BRICS; heightened conflicts in the Middle East; and the rise of violent, anarchical militias largely in response to US “hegemony”. All of these are reasons to believe that, balance of power theory was merely “warming up” after the Cold War.

But since the end of the Cold War, American hegemony has remained uncontested, at least, wholly. Neorealists have argued the end of the Cold War would result in a break up of the EU and a rebalancing of powers to counter US domination (Mearsheimer). In the 1990s, this may have seemed almost impossible – considering the allure of democracy, and the collapse of the USSR. Even in today’s world, the possibility of a US-European detente seems improbable, especially with a rising threat of terrorism; and the rise of the Far East (Russia & China). But since the attacks of September 11th, the US has plunged itself into a series of endeavors which have earned it both the lauding and criticism of its allies. The conflict in Syria, and Eastern Europe, with regards to Russian interference, is a sign of a resurgence of the East, possibly as a response to US expansiveness over the last decade. It could be argued, perhaps in Mearsheimer’s favor, that a balance of power is in fact emerging, led mainly by Russia & China. The question is how enduring it will be; and whether European nations will follow. Seeing that neoliberal institutionalists see democracy as an exception to the “realist paradigm”, they might argue that Russian & Chinese led power-balancing is the result of their desperate attempt to resist democracy. In this scenario, neoliberal institutionalists might argue that balancing occurs to resist authoritarianism; not necessarily to resist hegemony. For this reason, the characteristic of benign hegemony has been attributed to the US (Axelrod).

From the perspective of the neoliberal institutionalist, international institutions have served to mitigate the threat of hegemony, primarily as a result of the triumph of democracy which is rooted in self-interest. Peace is the nature of democracy; and therefore is usually only interrupted when authoritarian regimes become threatening. The relationship between democracies is rationally cooperative here, a sort of complex interdependence (Keohane).

Waltz & Mearsheimer would argue against this notion. Whether or not a country is democratic, in their view, does not affect its instinct to seek relative gains. The unit of focus is the state and system, versus the individual (Waltz).

Unconventional to all of these approaches is the constructivist claim, which essentially argues that cultural norms, beliefs or constructs, have produced scenarios in which balancing occurs in the past, and seek to explain perhaps why or why not balancing may occur in the future (Wendt). This school which is almost sociological in nature, challenges the very theories which realism and even neoliberal institutionalism rest upon, specifically the assumptions of static cultural and political norms. Motives such as security, survival, power and relative or absolute gains are social constructs; even states, war, and the balance of power. In today’s world, constructivists would likely argue that the balance of power paradigm is outdated and that other motives such as cultural preservation and sovereignty take equal if not more precedence among states and individuals. Therefore, the struggle in today’s world can be seen as a pursuit of these ends both by hegemonies and by countries in the periphery.

The aforementioned approaches each tackle the notion of the balance of power in their own right. While there is a clear distinction between them, it appears, they share some similarities too, especially between the neorealist and the neoliberal. However in sum, it would appear almost negligent to reduce the global political paradigm, and the state of the balance of power today, to one particular approach. Instead, I argue that a careful balance, no pun intended, of all the claims could help us to better understand the direction in which international relations, both the reality and the field, is headed.

It seems that the idea of a balance between the static nature of states and individuals and the socially constructed assumptions of the behavior of states and individuals — that is, a combination of the realist, liberal and the constructivist are not mutually exclusive. Alluding to Samuel Huntington, I believe that while states, or civilizations, do share many characteristics such as the need for survival and security – the means by which they are achieved are very different and are often drastically dependent upon the cultural norms of that given state’s society. But while cultural norms shift across different regions, some remain static – and these, I argue, help us to understand the international political reality of today. Within that context, it seems that a balance of power is in fact emerging in response to US hegemony, but that this balance has taken a new form largely due to the emergence of democracy and the dissolution of the USSR. Therefore the claim that a balance of power must emerge as the result of bipolarity, seems insufficient. Two possibilities seem most probable; a more coherent anti-US coalition could form  in the international political arena in the case of increasing US war campaigns; or cooperation among these states due to an alleviation of US aggression, both of which reflect a sort of “balancing” that ought to occur.

Bibliography

Huntington, Samuel P. “The clash of civilizations?.” Foreign affairs (1993): 22-49.

John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19: 3 (1994).

Keohane, Robert, After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy, 1984.

Robert Axelrod, “The Emergence of Cooperation Among Egoists,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 75, No. 2. (1981).

Waltz, Kenneth, Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis, 1959.

Wendt, Alexander, Social Theory of International Politics, 1999.

P.L.O. Style – [Political Undertones in Pop-Culture continued…]


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Hip-Hop is always vilified. Guns, crime, jewelry, flamboyance, extreme rhetoric, vulgarity.

Malcolm X once said that governments often oppress people and then chastise them when they express their discontent or attempt a revolution.

It is always easy to rationalize hate of the oppressed, especially for the privileged classes who don’t understand what it means to have nothing, to be hated, and to have their voice suppressed.

The culture of the caucasian community likes to apply harsh & strict values on society, meanwhile, their societal representatives are often caught in scandals in which they are indulging in hypocritical activities.

These ‘strict values’ emanate from a sort of, Disney-esque fairy tale conceptualization of reality, in which man is an innocent child being ‘corrupted’ by cultures like hip-hop. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Lion King. My point is not to criticize Disney, but on the contrary, the misconstruing of such fairy-tale enterprises which often establish, engrain & enforce social constructs.

The irony is that the reality is quite the opposite.

Hip-Hop was born out of the corruption of social representatives, from politics to big business. Drawing influence from the ideologies of fanaticism, white supremacy & the Jim Crow culture became a form of institutionalized disenfranchisement which perpetuates almost permanently a state of destitute poverty.

Meanwhile the “white man”, the “Donald Sterlings” of America do whatever it takes behind closed doors to secure their fortunes, which are ironically usually made off the backs of non-whites.

The system of disenfranchisement and racism in America is closely linked to its view of the rest of the world. The late Edward Said, a prominent Palestinian intellectual, labeled this self-righteous dogma of the ‘white man’ as Orientalism, which he argued, revealed a long-standing tradition of Western Civilization’s oversimplification of Eastern (or non-Western) culture.  its tools of invasion and oppression abroad, from the Middle East, to Africa, to South America, to the Far East. This ideological bigotry formed much of the cultural foundations of the Occident, or the West, which was essentially used as a justification of the enslavement and exploitation of the Orient. It was responsible for the trans-atlantic slave trade, and the modern system of disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the US.

That is why perhaps the majority of the anti-supremacist collective uprisings which arose in the 19th and 20th centuries occurred in South America, Asia, the Middle East & Africa. And all the while the propaganda and military systems have been at work in the West. Fox News is our Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi’s propaganda artist.

In their collaborative album, Distant Relatives, legendary MC Nas & Reggae godson Damien Marley express these grievances thoroughly. The following is one of the tracks off the album, “Road to Zion”, with undertones that capture the the trials of modern man, the modern Black man, in a turbulent world.

Let it also be known that just like any genre of music or medium of art can be exploited for the sake of political interests, so too can hip-hop. Since the deaths of giants B.I.G. & Pac, hip-hop’s mainstream has been left largely devoid of even the most remote references to oppression & black consciousness. Among the leaders of movement in today’s America are Kanye West & Jay-Z, whose albums never fall short of addressing personal & social grievances.

As an Arab-American, I would like to express that the modern struggle for freedom is shared by most minorities. I once heard a prominent figure within the African-American community suggest, “the Muslim is the new (black man)”. With Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment at its peak, not to mention the deprivation of the Palestinians at its worst condition, it is more than necessary for me to underline the importance of the role played by the cultures of the Middle East in contributing to hip-hop & the initiative for genuine art & freedom. Thanks to OkayPlayer, I came across Here is a track by another legendary MC, none other than Method Man of the Wu, titled P.L.O. Style, which surfaced at a time when the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict reached heights of unprecedented contention.

academic chaos


those sketch days in college when i didn’t want to believe my professors because they had crazy ideologies.

Sovereignty


America should respect the sovereignty of other nations, despite its history of not doing so.

Democracy and the Middle East: the deluge


If you give #democracy to a handful of criminals, is it still democracy?