International Relations Blog | An Elon University Academic Blog

May 10 2011

Osama raid breach of Pakistani Sovereignty?

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Last Sunday a team of US navy Seals, one of America’s premier fighting forces. stormed a secured house in Abottobad, Pakistan, an hour north of the capital. The team killed Osama bin Laden in the raid along with two other Pakistani males protecting him, and in doing so the major question has to be inquired, did they violate the national sovereignty of Pakistan? Obviously they did, having knowingly crossed into another country’s borders without prior consent with a fighting force intended on a kill mission. The relations with US-Pakistani diplomats has been strained recently, especially amidst the increased drone attacks along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. President Obama specifically ordered that the assault force choppering in be large enough to combat any Pakistani forces that may have attempted to intervene.

Mr. Obama’s decision to increase the size of the force sent into Pakistan shows that he was willing to risk a military confrontation with a close ally in order to capture or kill the leader of Al-Qaeda.

The assault force was a blatant and aggressive action in a country that is supposed to be our ally. Are they not wrong to be angered? Because the US has the military and technological capabilities to avoid detection is it acceptable to invade another country? In this instance I would argue yes because of the kill order on the high valued target, Osama bin Laden. If the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, knew of the mission it would have been highly probable that Osama might have evaded the kill mission. But in the future, we will need Pakistan on our side as much as possible with the war in Afghanistan still raging on with a continued unstable government and military.

May 10 2011

Japan to Shut Down Nuclear Power Plant Due to Safety Concerns

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Japan intends to go a different course then the one it is currently on regarding its nuclear program. It had the future goal of obtaining half of its electricity from nuclear power, but the Japanese now think that it wouldn’t be prudent in the light of the recent problems concerning the reactor damaged in the wake of the tsunami. The overarching goal was to increase the nuclear dependency for electricity from 30 percent to 50. Now, renewable energy like solar power and conservation are being more seriously looked into. Naoto Kan, the Japanese Prime Minister, said that “Japan needs to ‘start from scratch’ on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami and began leaking radiation”. One of Japans major energy companies Chubu also made the decision to shut down one of its major plants until the decision could be made whether or not it was safe enough to continue operations. This was especially sensitive because of the plants proximity to Tokyo, 120 miles. With fears still about, the Japanese government didn’t want anything close to the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl to be perpetuated.

Experts questioned whether the Hamaoka closure marked a turning point in Japan’s nuclear power policy following the March 11 disasters, which left nearly 26,000 people dead or unaccounted for and triggered the world’s biggest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. The plant is still leaking radiation.

Now the only question that remains is will the Japanese close more plants after the first closure of the Hamaoka plant. With the realization that a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the next 30 years hitting again is 87 percent, it is certainly a good idea to be cautious.

May 10 2011

Schools or Dropout Programs?

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Youth in the United States are become dumber and dumber. American children are struggling to keep up with the rest of the world in math, science, and reading.  One scholar says, “American 15-year-olds ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math in a study of students in 34 nations and nonnational regions”.  This fact alone raises the question why are we giving our youth the summer off from school. As other countries begin to surpass American children in education many are worried about the future.

“As it stands, only eight of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries that took part in the study in 2009 have a lower high school graduation rate than we do. It’s so bad in some schools, educators have a nickname for them: dropout factories.”

The current condition of American schools could have severe economic impact in the future.  If in the next 20 years Americans boost their math and science scores by 25 points the US will receive 41 trillion dollars over their lifetime.  Though the United States is a very rich country we cannot afford to leave all of this money behind.  That brings the question that if the US was to have school in the summer will the advantage outweigh the disadvantage?  If you have heard somewhere that China will surpass the US economy by 2016 and are surprised you should be considering that Shanghai is currently number 1 in education.

The United States needs to address this problem in some way in the near future.  The US has one of the shortest school years at 180 days.  South Korea has 220 days school year and is number 2 in reading and science.  Finland has a 190 day year and is 1st in math and science.  Looking at these two programs America has something two aspire to.  If the US does not step up their education program we will be surpassed in the near future and leave our seat as a world power.

May 10 2011

Mississippi River Flooding Headed Towards Memphis

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The Mississippi River continues to rise to record high levels since the 1930s. The flooding has reached Memphis, TN and is swamping homes and forcing hundreds of people out of their homes. Officials are confident that the levees will protect Memphis from the serious flooding. Memphis is home to some of the world’s most famous musical landmarks. Graceland and Beale Street are both located in Memphis, however they are not in areas that will be affected to the water.

Over 1,300 houses have been informed about the damages the flood may cause and to be prepared. Proper clean up plans have been established, however officials believe the worst is over.

“Where the water is today, is where the water is going to be,” according to chief of geotechnical engineering for the Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis, Cory Williams.

Bob Nations, director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, ensure that the river levels are “going to recede slowly, it’s going to be rather putrid, it’s going to be expensive to clean up, it’s going to be labor intensive.”

In Louisiana, officials have begun evacuating prisoners in the states harshest penitentiary. They also opened floodgates that will “relieve pressure on the levees outside New Orleans.”

It worries me how confident officials are that the flood won’t have a huge affect on Memphis. I hope they are correct, however I believe it is better to be safe than sorry. We have had several natural disasters within the past five years and we need to be prepared as much as possible for another one. I am glad to see proper steps have been taken to ensure an effective cleanup system, however I hope they are evacuating enough people.

May 10 2011

Pakistan Intelligence Failure

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Since Osama Bin Laden’s death on May 1st, speculation has spread that Pakistan’s intelligence was aware of bin Laden’s whereabouts. On Monday, May 9th, suspicion augmented “Pakistan’s intelligence service leaked the name of the CIA chief in Islamabad to local media in anger over the raid” that occurred outside of Islamabad last week. The U.S. has said tension between the two countries has grown because of the reveal. Despite the CIA chief being exposed, he will not be pulled from his position.

In Pakistan, the intelligence services and military have suffered scornful disparagement from its people for not stopping the U.S. operation. Even if Pakistanis were pleased about the death of bin Laden, they do believe the raid was a violation of their sovereignty.

In response to Pakistan’s disapproval to the raid, U.S. officials have admitted they didn’t inform Pakistanis because they were concerned personnel may tip off bin Laden. Not only did the United State’s Navy SEALs raid bin Laden’s compound without telling Pakistan official first, they also used helicopters with radar-evading technology to prevent the military from tracking them.

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was sure to defend his intelligence services and military.
“[It was] disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or for being in cahoots with al-Qaida.” He continued to state, “Yes, there has been an intelligence failure. It is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world.” Gilani believed the assassination of bin Laden as “indeed justice done,” but he warned the United States not to try another covert raid ever again.

Even though the Pakistani Prime Minister admits to a failure in the intelligence servies, it is difficult for me to believe that the government did not know bin Laden was hiding out inside their borders. I am also surprised with the response from the Pakistani people. I can understand the feeling of a lack of soveriegnty. But can they really blame us? The most wanted man in the world was living within their community, how would we not take action?

May 10 2011

US and China- Human Rights

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The United States pushed China for economic reforms in a two-day annual dialogue that opened on Monday. The differences of the US and China were extremely obvious, however, it looks like both countries want cooperation from one another. The US feels as though the human rights violations are an ongoing problem, but China disagrees in saying that human rights is getting better and better and that the US should get to know the “real” China.

Vice President Joe Biden, was extremely open about his views and concerns on human rights. He said hat protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms in China’s constitution is the best way to have long-term stability in any society. Obama and Hilary Clinton expressed similar views to Biden.

Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo, however, disagrees with the US and believes that China is making great strides, especially regarding human rights.

Clinton said:

“Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both of those views. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. The fact is that a thriving United States is good for China and a thriving China is good for America.”

It will be interesting to see how the relationship between US and China will go in the future…will this problem be resolved or will it end in unwanted conflict?

May 10 2011

Japanese reactors being shut down

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Japan may be shutting down a nuclear reactor after its prime minister, Naoto Kan, announced a warning saying that a nuclear reactor located on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki in Japan is vulnerable to natural disasters.

“In a statement, the company said, ‘At the May 9, 2011 meeting of the Board of Directors, Chubu Electric Power Company, Inc., has decided to suspend operations of Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant until further measures to prevent tsunami (damage) are completed, as requested by the prime minister.’”

After the damage done to Japan already, it is important to take every precaution to fix the situation at hand and make strides of prevention in the future. Kan said this nuclear reactor nearby Tokyo could damage Japan greatly, and he wanted natural disaster protections put in place- a smart move for Japan. However, this could take years unfortunately…which could mean even more bad news for this country.

The Japanese government is under pressure to review its energy policy, and nuclear energy would be the center of that conversation. After the March 11 quake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power plant, making cautious steps will be a good thing.

Nearly 26,000 people were killed after the natural disaster which triggered the world’s biggest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. The plant is still leaking radiation.

It was also really interesting to find that there are locations in Japan with nuclear reactors, and some of these locations have a high chance of a high magnitude earthquakes hitting them, for example in Hamaoka- there is a chance of a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the in the next 30 years at 87 percent. This raises lots of questions, including why nuclear reactors were built there to begin with.

May 10 2011

Japans Energy Crisis leaves future in question.

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In recent months since the devastating earthquake Japan has been struggling to make up for their lost nuclear reactors.  Japan had an ambitious goal of having over 78 reactors by 2030 at the latest.  If Japan were able to complete all of these reactors nuclear energy would be supplying 50% of the countries energy.  Clearly these plans have been halted due to the recent earthquakes and Japan needs to find a clear solution to make up for this loss.

Some feel that this loss gives the country the opportunity to become a world leader in clean energy sources.  Japan has the chance to increase their dependence on geothermal, wind, and solar energy.  Masayoshi Son, president and founder of Softbank and Japans riches man said he would give 12 million dollars to research foundations to explore these opportunities.  He said continued reliance on nuclear energy would, “be a sin against out children, grandchildren, and future generations” Though many are for the development of nuclear energy some feel that is will be way to expensive in the tight economic times.  Clean energy would cost up to 30.5 Yen per kilowatt as opposed to fossil fuels, which are closer to 9 Yen.

Japans dependence on nuclear power comes from its energy insecurity it has been experiencing for years.  They produce little to no fossil fuels, which leads them to pursue other energy sources to compensate.  Japan is extra sensitive to disruptions in the Middle East because of their dependence on consistent oil prices.  In the wake of such an awful disaster Japan needs to get back on its feet and excel in clean energy use.  They have the opportunity to innovate and change the clear energy industry if they have the support of the citizens.  Last year Japan was the leading installer of solar panels in front of Germany and Spain.  If Japan continues along this path they will be able to be confident on their reliance on clean energy.

May 10 2011

Osama Bin Laden Mission Agreed to in 2001

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While browsing the internet today, I found an extremely interesting article, and although I could find few corroborating articles, I still find it intriguing enough to deserve a post on the blog, as I feel it explains a lot regarding the confusion over Pakistan’s involvement with Bin Laden.

Apparently, in 2001, Musharraf and Bush made an agreement that should the United States be able to confirm the location of Osama Bin Laden within Pakistan, they would be able to raid and kill him unilaterally and Pakistan would not stop them. This agreement appears to have come into effect shortly after Bin Laden nearly escaped the United States in 2001 in Tora Bora.

Forbes analyzes this post by The Guardian and agrees that it makes sense. The United States is claiming Pakistan had no prior knowledge of the attack, and Pakistan is raising a huge fuss about how the U.S. shouldn’t have invaded their country, and are threatening that any future raids may result in full force retaliation. However, they are not actually doing anything at the moment, nor did they necessarily try aggressively to stop the United States’ mission.

Although this story does not have nearly the coverage to support the claim, and the Guardian is the only website that is publishing the story as a true fact, it does make very much sense. In this way, Pakistan would not necessarily feel obligated to disclose Bin Laden’s whereabouts, which it seems likely they knew about. It also explains their behavior- by claiming they had no prior knowledge and that they disagree with the U.S. actions, they gain support from the people by letting them think that they were harboring the criminal, who has a large fan base in the middle East, and they did not give him up. It also allowed the United States to take action when they DID locate him, without necessarily having a huge disagreement with Pakistan regarding whether or not they were allowed to attack him. The story makes sense- granted, if it is an imagined news report that someone came up with, it would obviously be doctored to fit the circumstances very well. Regardless, if the United States does not begin to crack down on Pakistan for potentially harboring this criminal among others without revealing their location to us, this agreement could explain our government’s actions.

May 10 2011

Syrian Unrest Continues to Grow

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The situation in Syria continues to spiral out of control, and the international community is growing concerned. As reports trickle out of the conflict riddled country through the regime that is cracking down hard on any kind of opposition, humanitarian groups have not been allowed access to the city of Deraa, where security forces are believed to have been especially brutal in the past few days. Deraa has not been accessible for two weeks since military forces were sent in to regain control of the city. The EU has issued an arms embargo on Syria and is severely restricting 13 high ranking members of the Syrian government, limiting their bank accounts and preventing travel.

It appears as if the Syrian government has been using soccer stadiums as makeshift prisons, as their military and security forces tear through cities arresting families en masse. The families are reportedly locked inside of soccer stadiums under extremely heavy security. Hundreds are reported to have been killed in demonstrations, which security forces are breaking up violently. The dead are not permitted to have funerals, as Syrian officials fear the funerals may turn into protests and demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Government is releasing claims that it has gained the upper hand. Apparently the government is accepting the deaths as necessary in quelling the rebellion, and believe that opposition is beginning to falter through fear and force. A spokeswoman claims that Syria is used to adapting to crises, and is prepared to deal with the international backlash as it believes what it has done is right.

Many believe that the United States should intervene in Syria- I disagree, and I accept that my reasons for disagreeing are extremely controversial. However, regardless of how totalitarian and unjust the Syrian government is being in this situation, at least they are demonstrating control, something that is very rare in the Middle East at this point in time. Countless governments have been facing extreme criticism, and I believe part of Syria’s criticisms may be coming from people who are seeing the success in other countries and believe that they can make a positive change in Syria as well. I think that a revolution in Syria would only lead to further violence as various factions struggle to gain control of the country following any kind of revolution. Additionally, from a very greedy, American perspective, we shouldn’t be trying to get ourselves involved in any more Middle Eastern disputes. Let them work it out on their own.