Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

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“Untied Kingdom”

October 5, 2010

By Patrick Hanley

England sent a soccer team to the World Cup; Scotland did not. England sent a Conservative government into 10 Downing Street; Scotland did not. An English Prime Minister pledged participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq; Scotland did not.

The fact of the matter remains that Scotland is a nation. It is an ancient colony of the United Kingdom, dominated by the heavyweight England. Colonial occupation has lasted for so long that many in England have forgotten about it entirely; Scotland has not.

Our American revolution took place over the course of 13 years; theirs is pushing 303. Under the leadership of Alexander Salmond, the head of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish government is seeking to pose a question to the Scots, the Brits, and the World: Is now, at last, the time for independence?

Generally, the regions of the UK operate similarly to the states in the U.S.   Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England all participate in the British Parliament, which serves at the pleasure of the English Queen Elizabeth II.

Since before the days of the American Revolution, Scotland has suffered “unity” with her southern neighbor. The two centuries since have witnessed futile bloodshed and failed lunges toward freedom. The past century has balked at the near extinction of Scotch dialects, and the crippling domestication of the once proudly independent highlanders.

Then suddenly, everything changed. In 1997, with the forced blessing of the British government, the Scots established a parliament of their own, with powers ranging from health policy to police services. Politicians and personalities from Gordon Brown to Sean Connery came out in favor of freedom. In 2007, the independence-seeking SNP won control of this parliament.

Now an independence referendum is on its way to the Scottish polls. At long last, Scottish statehood has left the land of traditional toasts or radical rants and entered the realm of pundits and politics.

Not all Scots are behind the independence movement. Many arguments stem from a fear of leaving the status quo, leaving the Union, and losing the diplomatic umbrella of Great Britain. Some argue that Scotland will lose prized special diplomatic relationships enjoyed by the United Kingdom. Others fear the loss of key businesses wary of revolutionary politics, or the instability that could follow.

But if the status quo is hurting the Scottish economy, blocking Scots’ right to a legitimate Scottish government, and forcing Scottish troops to obey the British crown, perhaps breaking from the norm isn’t such a terrible idea.

In fact, breaking from an overweight, bureaucratic, and ultimately imperial state structure, like the U.K., would free Scotland to capitalize on a potentially dynamic economy. Independence would grant Scotland its own seat at the European table and in the international forum. A sovereign Scotland would have the power to defend herself, in her own way; Scots overwhelmingly support the eradication of nuclear weapons.

Under independence, the Scottish government will have complete control over fiscal and economic policy. The SNP hopes to attract business investment by cutting corporate taxes, a move London is unwilling to make. An independent Scotland will capitalize on huge oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea, the largest in Europe. A smaller Scottish economy will have ample room to grow without the red tape of the unwieldy UK bureaucracy.

Independence for Scotland means complete control over the powers to tax, broadcast, educate, and negotiate – powers that are necessary for any fully functioning democracy to operate efficiently and effectively.

As a member of the EU, Scotland will have a say in the direction of the continent and be able to broker deals with countries the UK neglects. English wars will no longer cost Scottish lives, and English market practices will no longer lose Scottish jobs.

It is nearly impossible to gauge a people’s views on independence. Five polls conducted over the last two years among the Scots predict wildly different results. Scots are understandably anxious; it is not every day that a trip to the ballot box can close three centuries of occupation.

Like marching with Washington to face the King, or facing King at the march in Washington, history rests with those marching in Scotland; saying ‘no’ to a Kingdom, voting ‘yes’ to be free.

Patrick is an alumni and current student of the Elliott School of International Affairs.  Having earned his B.A. in International Affairs, he is now a graduate student in the M.A. Global Communication program.   Patrick was also a member of the inaugural Elliott School Undergraduate Scholars, for which he completed a project titled: “Winds of Change: A Study of Contemporary Nationalism and European Politics.”

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The Taliban: Not the only threat to Pakistan

November 30, 2009

By Hussain Nadim

Contrary to the common perception of people, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is not the biggest threat to Pakistan; neither is it powerful enough to take over the government. The real threat to Pakistan’s stability and the future comes from the rich aristocratic class of the country. In almost all the political discourses both in Pakistan and abroad, containing TTP is seen as the end to the crisis that the country currently faces. It should be noted that the TTP has not led Pakistan into the crisis that it faces today; rather it is the crisis that the elite class of Pakistan brought about in the past sixty-two years that has unleashed a force like TTP. While this offshoot of the original Taliban is no doubt a threat that needs to be contained, the aristocracy in Pakistan escapes its responsibility for bringing the country to the brink of collapse.

A country’s success is dependant on the nature of its elite class. An elite class is responsible for the well-being of the people from low socioeconomic groups. A country that has an elite class which is responsive to the needs of its people and those living in the community is guaranteed stability and acceptance from its citizens. However, the elite class of Pakistan has operated with extreme short-sightedness by exploiting its own people and ignoring their needs. Elites have not been hit by the suicide attacks and have yet to suffer the devastation of war. People belonging to the elite class are among the first to criticize politicians, the army and the United States for the crisis the country faces, but when it comes to contribution they have not moved an inch to contribute positively towards the country.

It is politically incorrect for the people who have not contributed anything for their country to point fingers or blame the government for the crisis. In the morning they sympathize with the victims of suicide attacks and afterwards line up outside posh café’s and restaurants to spend a couple of thousand rupees on their entertainment. The closure of educational institutions due to security concerns has been a blessing; an early winter break for many of them.

The youth that belong to this class are often more western than people in the West, while  at the same time they hate everything about the West – a sign of sheer ignorance. These are also the same youth that get an opportunity to study at the top universities in Pakistan and abroad. Education in Pakistan, however, teaches them all about the art of making money; little focus is given to the improvement of society and giving back to the community. Most of those who are educated abroad live their four years in a fantasy world, developing foreign accents and styles of living. They return home as modern colonizers.

Revolution is a word at the tip of tongue of all youth, not for the improvement of society but rather to be an important figure of the history. For many the Palestinian struggle is a fashion symbol, and the Kashmir struggle is not! Speaking English is modern; Urdu is not! Alcohol is sign of liberalization, women right’s are not! Sadly, this is the future generation of Pakistan that is equally radical and probably much more ignorant than Taliban. Wrapped in conspiracy theories, following the directions of extremist radicals like Zaid Hamid, this youth has lost its way. There is still no realization by the rich and aristocratic class of their involvement in bringing Pakistan to the current crisis.

The people of Pakistan need to develop long term planning and approach. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is only a seasonal force that will not survive a couple years longer, but as long as the elite class of Pakistan and the future generations do not change their ways and mentality, forces like TTP will continue to re-surface. For past six decades people belonging to the elite class have marginalized people from other provinces and lower socioeconomic classes. They have been ignorant to the needs of their own people. There is no concept of giving back to the community or improvement of the society. There is no activity on the individual level from the elite and pampered class youth to contribute positively towards the society. Their sympathies and dinner table activism has not changed the situation on ground.

The least they can do as the ‘blessed’ ones is to learn from their education, and detach themselves from the older custom, views and beliefs of the society that segregates and creates power disparity amongst the people. TTP consists of only few thousand hardcore militants who have international aspirations. Seventy-five percent of the militants are those who have been marginalized by the elite class and not provided education, food and opportunity by the government of Pakistan. There is little point in blaming the government as power in Pakistan bounces between the different elites.

Containing the Pakistani Taliban is a necessity to clear out the mess created by the elite class in past sixty two year. As the army struggles to weed out the militants, there is an equal need to bring the aristocracy of Pakistan under the rule of law. As long as the people with luxury cars and money continue to ignore and mould the law to their interests, the situation in Pakistan will not change an inch even without the threat of Pakistani Taliban.

The people and government of Pakistan have to understand that the foremost reason Pakistan faces the crisis today is because of the exploitation of the poor people of Pakistan at the hands of a rich aristocratic class that is not tamed by any law. If the poor are deprived of pens, bread and justice they will naturally resort to violence and terrorism for survival. The idea is not to abolish the elite class of Pakistan but to make it realize its responsibilities and make it more responsive to the needs of poor people in the society. That is the only answer to the question asked by people in the elite class, ‘What is wrong with Pakistan?’

Hussain is an international student from Pakistan majoring in International Affairs at the Elliott School. He is concentrating in the Middle East and South Asia regions. He is currently spending a Junior Year Abroad (JYA) at Pembroke College, Oxford. Hussain is also the student liaison to the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, D.C. He plans to pursue graduate study at Oxford University after graduation and work in the government of Pakistan.

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Interning at the State Department

October 9, 2009

By Thao Anh Tran

Meeting with Hillary Clinton while interning at the State Department.  Photo: Thao Anh Tran

Meeting with Hillary Clinton while interning at the State Department. Photo: Thao Anh Tran

As a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow, an honor that I received with assistance from the staff of the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research, I had the privilege of interning at the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs (more commonly referred to as the China Desk) at the State Department this past summer.

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Living Under Conspiracies

September 22, 2009

By Hussain Nadim

I must confess that up until 2008, I was one of those people living in Pakistan who thought 9/11 was an inside job and that the War on Terror was actually a War on Islam. I have lived 18 years of my life in a country that has been overwhelmed by conspiracies. Whether it is a suicide attack on a five star hotel or economic turmoil, our government has comfortably blamed the Indians and the United States for every flaw of our society. During the time I spent in Pakistan I pondered why every other country conspired against us? The only answer I got from the people was that they (the United States and India) hate us because we are Muslims and we are a nuclear power. Reluctant and unsatisfied, I would accept these answers. However, this was soon to change.

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Human Potential in Beijing

August 4, 2009

By Bobak Tavangar

“The endowments which distinguish the human race from all other forms of life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit; the mind is its essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build civilizations and to prosper materially. But such accomplishments alone have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it towards transcendence…”

–The Promise of World Peace, Universal House of Justice, The Baha’i Faith

Walking the streets of Beijing, China.  Photo: Bobak Tavangar

Walking the streets of Beijing, China. Photo: Bobak Tavangar

I’ve been thinking a lot about human potential. Who? How much? How do we know? Where does it come from? How can it be unlocked?

Here in Beijing I see so much potential inherent not just in the individual but in Chinese society as a whole. History has shown us how capable the Chinese are with significant contributions to science, governance, commerce, and social theory and it is proving no different now. This country is rediscovering what it means to harness the world around them for the sake of progress.

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A Global Re-Wiring

July 15, 2009

By Bobak Tavangar

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”
–Baha’u’llah, Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í­ Faith

Dinner in Beijing, China  Photo: Bobak Tavangar

Dinner in Beijing, China Photo: Bobak Tavangar

This is only my first post as a writer for the E Street Beat but I feel obligated to cut through the fluff and get right to what I think we should be talking about. We live in a new world, one inextricably connected not just along external political and economic lines but internally enmeshed along social and spiritual undercurrents as well. It’s too easy to highlight what is being destroyed all around us but it’s when we dig through the ashes and find beauty reborn that we can begin to understand the reality of the words above: “the earth is but one country…”

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Dispatch From Abroad: Cape Town, South Africa

May 8, 2009

By Alison Chatfield

As Americans witness the close of the first 100 days of President Obama’s term in office, I’ve been busy watching a very different system of politics morph before my very eyes.  Or at least, I’ve seen a lot of political posters.  Posters making dramatic proclamations in multiple languages, posters with posed national leaders in crisp business suits and even crisper smiles, posters with some very controversial color choices.  Basically, there were a lot of posters in Cape Town this April.

Being in South Africa for the re-election of the African National Congress (ANC) Party was not as exciting as it seems.  Read the rest of this entry ?