Category Archives: Assignment 7

Assignment 7

In Emergency Sex, Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson share their unique experiences that reveal the actual image behind working for the United Nations. Started with extraordinary passions to change the world, three main characters face the real circumstances that they weren’t expecting. The UN’s inefficient bureaucracy, corrupted officers, and unpragmatic policies and actions have affected the legitimacy of Kofi Annan and the existence of the United Nations in the 21st century negatively. In spite of a lot of criticism on corruption, mismanagement, and a broken institution, most of the UN peacekeepers like Cain, Heidi, and Thomson probably had good intentions to make a world a better place when they first joined the UN.

The three main characters had tried to keep their principles clean as their environments and experiences were getting worse and unhopeful. Their beginner’s mindsets and compassionate hearts had been affected and damaged, questioning the humanity and even the existence of their God. My favorite part of the book is that the fact that this book was published. As the United Nations peacekeepers, they can make two different choices. First, like most of the peacekeepers, they won’t say nor do anything about the corruption of the UN. The other option is that they can sacrifice themselves to let people know what’s going on in the United Nations. Knowing that they can’t change the UN, they can inform the public and potential peacemakers-for better generations than the previous one. Kofi Annan tried to ban this book when the book was first published. Because of these courage actions of three peacekeepers, Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson, we have better ideas on the truth behind the United Nations.

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right."W.Clement Stone

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right.”
W.Clement Stone

The United Nations has four main purposes: 1) To keep peace throughout the world 2) To develop friendly relations among nations 3) To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms 4) To be a Centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals (The UN). Ironically, “In a report on the rapid growth of sex-trafficking and forced prostitution rackets since Nato troops and UN administrators took over the Balkan province in 1999, Amnesty said Nato soldiers, UN police, and western aid workers operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers” (Traynor). Sex-trafficking is a serious violation of human right and ‘the peacemakers’ who are supposed to help them are actually helping sex-trafficking in the end.

What are YOU doing for peace?

What are YOU doing for peace?

Another irony case of the UN can be explained in a quote by Thomson, “If blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers show up in your town or village and offer to protect you, run. Or else get weapons. Your lives are worth so much less than theirs” (cain et al. 252). Intended or not, their presences and misled policies will harm the people more. No one is expecting for the UN to save the world and help everyone in need. The expectation is not high and yet they have failed continuously. If they can’t uphold their own principles and even keep losing their credibility with corrupted and hypercritical actions by them, how are they going to keep their legitimacy as The World Peacekeeper?

References

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Gardiner, Nile. “Kofi Annan’s Legacy of Failure.” Heritage Foundation. (2006):<http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/12/kofi-annans-legacy-of-failure>.

“The United Nations at a Glance.” . The United Nations. Web. <http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/index.shtml>.

Traynor, Ian. “Nato force ‘feeds Kosovo sex trade’.”Guardian. (2004): n. page. Web. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/may/07/balkans>.

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Kenneth Cain’s Journey

“The problem is that no matter how good your intentions, eventually you want to kill someone yourself.” (Cain 193).

In “Emergency Sex”, all three of the characters presented experience substantial development over the course of their journeys. Of the three, the character I believed experienced the most significant growth was Kenneth Cain. Partly because of this, Cain is also my favorite character of the three. In the beginning he is easily the most relatable. He has huge aspirations for his studies concerning his thesis paper, as well as his future; “the truth is that this is the first time in my life I have been implicated in anything bigger than myself. I want to go” (Cain 10).

Right away, Cain comes off as a very likeable character; he’s about to start his studies concerning his thesis which he is extremely passionate about, albeit very dangerous as well. In the very first chapter he is trying his best to stay professional but can’t stop thinking about how attracted he is to the woman he is staying with in Israel. After sealing themselves off in a room and putting on gas masks to stay protected from the missiles being dropped he eventually makes his move. This scene is great because depicts the harsh inhuman realties of war outside the US contrasted with the unintended all-too-human feelings of attraction towards the people around us.

“I just watched a missile land, and people died. They’re bleeding and burning right now. That Scud hit and killed people. I keep repeating it all in my mind to keep it all real […] This is ridiculous. I’m in a sealed room with the door open and my gas mask half off thinking of adolescent sex.” (Cain 16-17).

While in Cambodia, Cain seems to be having the time of his life. He’s staying in a house filled with humanitarian workers from all over the world, meeting new and interesting people left and right. One scene when he’s having a party at his house helps to show his general disbelief at how much fun he’s having. “This is the best party I’ve ever been to, and it’s my house. I never dreamed I’d attend a party like this, never mind host it” (Cain 65). Cain has the time of his life in Cambodia, but moods quickly change when he begins working in Somalia.

Cain’s outlook on his journey immediately transforms after an ambush on a courthouse in Mogadishu during a ceremony he attends. This is the first time Cain is experiencing the violence that always been present in the regions around him. What was first fear turns into anger. There are many different ways that fear manifests itself in the human mind; with Cain, his fear has become so extreme that he expresses his longing for violence during the ambush. “I want to kill the boss. I want to drag him out into the line of fire headfirst and watch his body buckle and jerk as the bullets hit him. I want to watch him bleed to death.” (Cain 150). For a number of days after the attack he feels numb, in a total state of disbelief. When Cain finally goes to Rwanda and later Liberia, he conveys this feeling of hopelessness. After everything he’s witnessed combined with everything he’s tried to contribute, he’s seen more bad than good.

“I think I’m actually starting to understand. I was hell-bent on being an effective humanitarian in Cambodia and Somalia. But a naïve fog is finally lifting. Revealed is a train wreck of illusions, the depravity of someone else’s war, the futility of a competence stillborn there. To understand this you have to become this.” (Cain 219).

Kenneth Cain started humanitarian work in a number of different countries, leaving most of them with a feeling of hopelessness, almost depression. He tried to do good, but after witnessing events like the ambush in Somalia and the genocide in Rwanda, his faith in humanity was weakened. At the end of his moral career, Cain decided to reflect on his experiences by writing about them. “I am a witness. I have a voice. I have to write it down.” (Cain 290). Cain is able to look back on the past decade he experienced and acknowledge where there was success and failure. Cain stays working at the UN and is hopeful for what the future holds and the role he will play in it.

 

Arcaro, Tom. “Moral Career.” 2013. Audio.

Cain, Kenneth. “How Many More Must Die before Kofi Quits?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 03 Apr. 2005. Web.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures.” London. 2004. Print.

 

 

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My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

– Psalm 77:7-9

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How does God let bad things happen to innocent people? This is a question that I, as a person of faith have to ask myself every time I open a newspaper and read about the newest and most horrifying human event to present itself in the news. Andrew Thomson, the United Nations peacekeeper who identifies most strongly with faith in the book, Emergency Sex, is forced to consider this question time and time again as he encounters atrocities in such places as Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Haiti.

Andrew was born and raised in New Zealand and his parents had worked as Christian missionaries in the Solomon Islands and Fiji. He was raised in a Christian household and over the course of his life had developed what could be described as a strong Christian faith. He chronicles his father teaching him how to pray and affirming to him that the God they prayed to was a just and merciful God, saying, “My father taught me [sic] when I was a boy…he would kneel beside the wooden bed, showing me how to pray to a good God” (108). Many years after learning how to pray from his father in August of 1993, he writes, “It’s been over twenty years since I prayed besides my bed with my father. But as I take my first steps on Haitian soil, I’m still answerable to those beliefs…” (108).

Then, in 1995, he was sent to Kibuye, Rwanda. Rwanda was the site of the massive genocide of the Tutsi’s by Hutu militias, who were then given refuge by the United Nations. It was Andrew’s task to exhume bodies that were in mass graves in Kibuye. His “…team had been digging for weeks… pulling out corpses under a screaming sun” (234). The area he was tasked to unearth was the site of a massacre ordered by the Hutu governor after ensuring innocent Tutsi civilians refuge, only to then call for their death by his Hutu forces. The dead that Andrew was encountering were “…unarmed civilians, mostly women and children, almost all of whom died of blunt or sharp-force trauma” (235). The irony of the situation, despite the appalling circumstances surrounding the massacre was that the killings had all occurred in a church and it was here that he truly began questioning the presence of God. Still in Rwanda in February of 1996, Andrew reflects on the killings, writing, “This is one church where a lot of prayers went unanswered” (243). At one point, he climbed up the three-story bell tower of the church, perhaps to shorten the distance between himself and a seemingly uninterested God, and reflected. “Above is God, below are hundreds of cadavers stacked like cordwood between the pews and the altar… After many hours I decide God was here, maybe not far above where I’m sitting now, watching and listening. He heard all the desperate prayers, from the kids and the half-dead women, from the believers, the doubters, and the nonbelievers… And God just pissed all those prayers back down to earth, leaving everyone to die” (243). It is at this point that Andrew comes to the same question I voice at the beginning of this essay. “This can’t be the same God I prayed to as a missionary kid or at the communion rail as a medical student. This is a pitiless stranger and to pray to him up here in this bell tower would be absurd” (243). He later on comes to the conclusion that it is people who commit the wrongdoings against their fellow man and that God is not responsible for stopping genocides like the one he witnesses the aftermath of, reassuring himself of the conviction that the God he worships is a God that is Good. It is only people who can put a stop to the darkness penetrating the earth. Coming to this understanding, Andrew climbs down the bell tower, and puts his work gloves back on. In what could only be described as a devastatingly raw act of worship, once again undertakes the task of pulling cadavers from the dirt. Of this, he says, “…not the body and blood of Christ for my sins but ten more cadavers. It’s salvation through exhumation, a new creed” (244).

Andrew is not alone in experiencing a crisis of faith after exposure to some of the greater cruelties present on this earth. Mother Teresa, often hailed as one of the greatest women of faith in history, found herself struggling as she came to terms with what she perceived as an unfeeling and silent God as she began working with the poor and sick in Calcutta, India. Letters written from the year 1949, when she began working in Calcutta, until her death, were made public in 2007 in which she describes an incredible darkness and an unutterable feeling of being “unwanted” and unloved” by God. She says in one letter, “I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of the darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” Mother Teresa witnessed some of the most destitute populations present at the time and as a response, came to question the goodness and presence of God. And yet, in the face of all of this, she and Andrew both fought on and continued to tend to those, both dead and alive, who it seemed God had abandoned. Despite their crises of faith, he and Mother Teresa took on the responsibility of being those who would seek to put an end to the darkness they witnessed on earth in an answer to a silent God.

 

Works Cited:

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

“Episode 4: Andrew Thomson.” ENOUGH ROPE with Andrew Denton. ABC Australia, 2011. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s1336474.htm>.

Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

Moore, Malcolm. “Mother Teresa’s 40-year Faith Crisis'” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 24 Aug. 2007. Web. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1561247/Mother-Teresas-40-year-faith-crisis.html>.

 

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The Blurred Line Between Good and Evil

The question “are people essentially good or evil” has been one that has existed for ages, influencing religions, beliefs, and entire cultures. Yet, there seems to be no definitive answer. Religious text often grapple with concept of good versus evil. In the book of Isaiah, the Bible states “woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (The Holy Bible). Physiologists have also tried to explain “good” and “evil” in humans. On the website Psychology Today, Paul Zak tries to explain why humans act essentially good or evil. Zak explains that “when in a stable and safe environment with enough food in our bellies, having a biology of morality sustains our place in the community of humans who help ensure our biological imperatives. In highly stressful, resource poor environments, we’ll step on whoever is in front of us if it helps us survive” (Zak). But how do these ideas really represent themselves in real life situations? In situations of humanitarian aid, where victims basic needs are not being met, but western aid workers have access to luxuries even in areas of crisis, can we really judge who is “good” and who is “evil”? In the book Emergency Sex authors Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson discuss there personal experiences working in war zones that help to give insight as to the “good” and “evil” in situations of crisis.

In the beginning of the book, Andrew recalls an experience in Cambodia in which he has to amputate the leg off a landmine victim. Because infection has set in, Andrew is forced to take the victims entire leg below the knee. After the procedure, Andrew comments that he has “saved his life, but ruined his future” (7).  Later, Andrew remembers an experience in Haiti in which he is supposed to see a beating victim. After arriving at the hospital, the beating victim is no where to be found. Andrew demands to see the overseeing physician. The physician tells Andrew that once the men that beat the victim found out he was in the hospital, they “came in here last night and dragged him away again” (107). The physician goes on to say that “one of them stuck a gun in my face and told me he’d turn me into a patient if I didn’t back off” (107). At the end of the story, the physician comments that they “should have just finished him off the first time, it would have been more humane” (108).  Was the physician “evil” for letting the victim be killed? Was Andrew “good” for saving a man he knows will now live a life of extreme poverty and suffering? The complexity of these situations make it impossible to decide what is exactly good and what is exactly evil. Depending on the perspective, each action could be viewed as both good or evil. The other authors also struggle with this complicated situation.

A man needing his leg amputated like the man in Andrew’s story.

Ken deals with this personally when watching Dee Dee Myers on CNN. Myers is discussing the change in US foreign policy to longer try and capture, Aidid, but to negotiate with him. Ken is infuriated that this man, who was once considered a war criminal that cost many American lives, is now being treated like a “popular alderman from the south side of Chicago” (174). Ken wonders what the message of such action is. Where the lives of peacekeepers and soldiers wasted? Is it “evil” for America to make such a decision? Or Is it “good” that this decision will result in a ceasefire that might save many lives? Heidi also encounters the same moral struggle. During her time in Monbasa, Kenya Heidi develops a relationship with a native male. After staying with him for a couple of days, Heidi wonders if she had sex with a male prostitute. She wonders “a what point is one considered  a prostitute?” (100). It is clear when a women is a prostitute, but for men it is much more complicated. After debating, she gives the man $200. Later, he writes to her asking for $700. Is Heidi “evil” for assuming this man is a prostitute? Is it fair to believe that if people are essentially evil, this man was likely a prostitute? Or was Heidi essentially “good” for giving the man money? It seems that it is almost impossible to decide. There is no definitive line between “good” and “evil” in any of these situations. Not western culture or the cultures of developing nations seem more “good” or “evil”. If this is so, how should we deal with this situations of moral conflict?

I believe each individual situation will need different action. As Linda Polman points out in her book, War Games, as long as the need of victims are made the priority, humanitarian aid will be effective. After his situation in the Haiti hospital, Andrew states that “maybe there are no rules here” (108). I agree that there seem to be no definite rules in these situations. Instead, the safety, health, and needs of both victims and aid workers must be fulfilled. This takes precedent over the idea of “good” versus “evil”.

Sources:

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments. New York: American Bible Society, 1962. Print.

Zak, Paul. “Are Humans Good or Evil.” Psychology Today. 10 Feb. 2011. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule/201102/are-humans-good-or-evil>.

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The Makings of a Tell All Book

Everyone loves controversy. It’s engrained in many of us from a young age. From teenage drama all the way up to TMZ or insider news stories as adults, we gather to watch the latest scandal unfold. It’s almost natural to get caught up in the hype and controversy and tell all books are no different. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures gives us an inside, no holds barred, look into the life of three humanitarians on their journey through humanitarian aid work with the UN.

Emergency Sex serves the purpose of opening the eyes of outsiders to the “ugly truth” involved in working in the humanitarian aid industry. Cain, Postlewait, and Thomson collaborated to provide three different and unique perspectives that allow the reader the opportunity to reflect on their experiences while in the field. Unlike many main stream tell all stories, Emergency Sex shows the brutal truth behind humanitarian aid work for the benefit of the reader. They are removing the cloak that main stream media uses to cover this truth and show what actually goes on in the field. Many media outlets choose to only to show the needy, malnourished children in need of help and the positive, feel good stories that happen once aid gets there. Little reporting is done about what really goes on in between and Emergency Sex provides real experiences to fill that void.

Many comparisons can be drawn from Cain, Postlewait, and Thomson’s tell all book to those of other authors of tell all books. For example, Juiced is book by Jose Canseco that depicts the truth behind America’s favorite pastime, baseball, and steroids. Both books bring readers behind the scenes and provide them with the opportunity to experience life through the eyes of someone else. It opens the readers’ eyes to the corrupt nature of the industry and provides the unique perspective from the viewpoint of people actually involved in the inner workings of these industries.

While many tell all books seem focused on adding “gas to the fire”, I believe these two tell all books simply provided readers with the knowledge of what really goes on behind the scenes. They provide readers with the opportunity to fill in the gaps that the protagonists and antagonists leave out and allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. They are more focused on providing the facts, from their viewpoints, without a filter and no outside influence on what gets reported.
There is a very fine line when it comes to the true motive behind tell all books. Is it to gain fame, discredit someone else, simply to entertain, profit financially, or is it to just open the eyes of the reader to fill in the gaps left by others? As with anything in this world, it is the responsibility of the user, not writer, to utilize all information available and formulate their own opinion.

Mark-McGwire_display_image080904emergency173

Works Cited:

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Canseco, Jose. Juiced, Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, And How Baseball Got Big. 1. 1. New York: It Books, 2005. Print.

N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 18 Jun 2013. <http://christophkoch.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/080904emergency173.jpg>.

N.d. Photograph. n.p. Web. 18 Jun 2013. <https://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/001/095/942/Mark-McGwire_display_image.jpg?1310664828>.

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A Pattern of Inactivity

In October of 1993 in Somalia, eighteen US lives were lost in what is now called the Battle of Mogadishu.  The aftermath of this event influenced humanitarian aid and UN and US involvement, or lack thereof, in other foreign conflicts and humanitarian territories, including Haiti and Rwanda.   After these lives were lost in the two-day firefight, the US decided to pull its troops out of the conflict because it was deemed too dangerous.  Because of this withdrawal, many critics said, “the U.S. military intervention in Somalia was, at best, a setback in America’s efforts to define its role in a new world order at a time of growing regional conflicts.” (Mark Fineman, LA Times).

Merely a week after these events in Mogadishu had occurred, their ripples were being felt throughout the world.  In 1990, the first democratic presidential elections were held in Haiti, and President Aristide was elected.  However, in 1991, General Cédras took power in a successful coup carried out by the Haitian military.  They began torturing and executing pro-Aristide citizens.  The UN went into Haiti with the goal of providing witness to these violent acts.  On October 11, the USS Harlan County was supposed to dock in Haiti, bringing American soldiers to help the efforts there to return Aristide to rightful power.  A mob of macoutes, those who opposed Aristide, gathered on the dock, yelling, “Haiti, Somalia!  Haiti, Somalia!”  President Clinton took this as a credible threat to American lives and ordered the USS Harlan County to turn around.  “The problem is not military; it’s psychological.  Fear ripples from Somalia through Washington to Haiti.  A few punks with small guns and big mouths and the world’s only superpower is in retreat.” (Thomson, Cain et al 171).   What does this say about the value of American lives as compared to the lives of other counties’ citizens?  Thomson has something to say to this as well: “We just showed Haitians that our lives are more valuable than theirs.  The logic of the mission was ours, not theirs, and so is that logic of our retreat.  ‘Tell us the truth and we will seek justice’ was our idea.  ‘It’s too dangerous and we must evacuate’ is our privilege.  Neither applies to the Haitians.  A ship with soldiers arrives at the dock and exits the dock.  Haitians have no exit… harm is exactly what we’ve done, identifying the next victims for the assassins running Haiti.”  (Thomson, Cain et al 174).  The UN and US abandonment of Somalia was a precursor to Haiti, and that pattern continued into Rwanda.

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 8.49.04 PM

Rwanda, 1994.  3 months.  800,000 people killed.  From April 6 to July 4, the world stood by while nearly a million Tutsi rebelling against the Hutu government were brutally murdered.  Why was no action taken to stop this atrocity?  The UN and US cannot feign ignorance on this count.  On April 29, 1994, two months before outside forces were deployed in Rwanda to stop the genocide, the US Department of State wrote an Intelligence Assessment stating, “The plan appears to have been to wipe out any RPF [Tutsi] ally or potential ally, and thus raise the costs and limit the possibility of an RPF/Tutsi takeover… No end to the unprecedented bloodshed is yet in sight.”  If we knew what was happening in Rwanda, why was nothing done?  US troops were already on the ground!  No time was wasted in safely evacuating US soldiers from the danger.  Ken Cain sums up what happened in Rwanda and why so many people are upset with how the situation was handled:

“The UN was here when the massacres started, twenty-five hundred troops.  UN Headquarters in New York knew it was being planned, they had filed and faxes and informants and they sat in their offices, consulted each other, and ate long lunches.  Most UN forces ran to the airport, they couldn’t get out fast enough.  This is not a case in which the UN failed to send troops to stop genocide.  An armed, predeployed UN force evacuated as soon as it started…Tanks and supply planes and helicopters and soldiers sat useless and stationary for six months in Somalia, two hours away by C-130, and then drunk peasants armed with machetes and lists of names killed 800,000 civilians in Rwanda.  And we evacuated.” (Cain, Cain et al 209)

Looking at how the UN and US responded to situations in Somalia and Haiti in the years preceding the Rwanda genocide can give us some insight into why such inaction was ordered.  In present day, how can these events from nearly twenty years ago help the US decide its involvement in the Syrian conflict?

Bashar Al-Assad is the current president of the totalitarian Syrian government.   Beginning in March 2011, Syrian protestors were brutally attacked by their own Syrian military, starting with batons and ranging up to tanks.  In December 2011, the UN High Commission for Human Rights put the death toll at 5,000.  What was the UN’s response to this political murder spree?  A UN Press Release in June of 2011 stated, “We are particularly alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks” and, “We remind the Government of Syria of its ongoing responsibility to protect its population.”  The extent of a threat against Syria and Assad in the press release was a warning, saying, “The Special Advisers urge the Government of Syria… to refrain from further attacks against the civilian population.  If it is found that human rights violations or crimes have been committed, those responsible must be held accountable.” (Smette, UN Press Release).  None of these statements have the teeth necessary to evoke a response from Syria.  This lack of action in a state where the government is attacking its own people can be seen as a continuation of the United States’ initial inactivity in foreign crises in Somalia, Haiti, and Rwanda.

"Dropped a strongly-worded resolution.  With any luck, Al-Assad will get a nasty papercut."

“Dropped a strongly-worded resolution. With any luck, Al-Assad will get a nasty papercut.”

Although this pattern is understandable, I do not think it is commendable.  Through the UN Responsibility to Protect initiative, I believe it is the duty of the international community to do more than throw meaningless pieces of paper at the Syrian government, asking them to stop and reminding them of their responsibility to their citizens.  I have not been in the room where these decisions are made, and, most likely, there are other factors to consider.  However, loss of life trumps economic concerns and ally ties in my book.

Aaron David Miller argues that US intervention in Syria is not feasible at this time.  “But right now, the political, practical, and psychological obstacles standing in the way of effective unilateral or collective military interventions are just too great. Additional sanctions, clandestine military and intelligence support for the opposition; and a contact group on Syria to orchestrate political and economic pressure will have to do.”  To be frank, I think he’s suggesting that we run scared and take the easy way out through weak condemnation tactics.  Looking at our experiences in Somalia, Haiti, and Rwanda, you can see that if a military power had intervened, mass crimes against humanity could have been prevented or at least cut down.

Looking at these conflicts in this light, how long do we wait before we intervene?  Do we intervene?  Where is the line between letting a country settle their own disputes and intervening because the wrong things are being done?  Recently in Turkey, thousands of citizens have been assaulted with teargas and water cannons and arrested for protesting against Prime Minister Tayyip Ergodan.  Turks are protesting many things, among them the authoritarian nature of the Turkish government and their desire for free speech and right to assembly.  Already six people have died as a result of these protests, over seven thousand have been injured, and over three thousand are in jail.

Again, where is the line between staying out of it and intervening?  What should the response to these protests be?  Is it America’s responsibility to intercede in every conflict?  There is a line, somewhere between The World’s Constable and complete neutrality.   I just don’t think anyone really knows where that line is.

 

Works Cited

 

Butler, Daren, and Parisa Hafezi. “Dozens Held in Turkey, Silent Protester Goes Viral.” Reuters. Reuters, 18 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/18/us-turkey-protests-idUSBRE9590QA20130618>.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures). New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

“Crisis in Syria.” International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/crises/crisis-in-syria>.

Dalrymple, Louis. “The World’s Constable.” Cartoon. The Granger Collection. The Granger Collection, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.granger.com/results.asp?image=0008303&screenwidth=1279>.

Fineman, Mark. “It’s Nervous Time as U.S. Troops Pull Out of Somalia : Africa: Most of the Ground Force Will Be Gone by Week’s End. They Leave behind Escalating Chaos and Fear.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 07 Mar. 1994. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://articles.latimes.com/1994-03-07/news/mn-31134_1_ground-force>.

Miller, Aaron David. “Too Many Obstacles Stand in the Way of a Syrian Intervention.” US News. U.S. News & World Report, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-us-intervene-in-syria-with-military-action/too-many-obstacles-stand-in-the-way-of-a-syrian-intervention>.

Robbins, James. “Intervening in Syria Is Tough, but the Civilian Victims Deserve It.” US News. U.S. News & World Report, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-us-intervene-in-syria-with-military-action/intervening-in-syria-is-tough-but-the-civilian-victims-deserve-it>.

Sheneman, Drew. Cartoon. Middle East Protest Cartoons. U.S. News & World Report, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.usnews.com/opinion/photos/egypt-protest-cartoons/122>.

“The Genocide in Rwanda.” United Human Rights Council. United Human Rights Council, 26 May 2009. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/2009/05/the-genocide-in-rwanda>.

“The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994: Evidence of Inaction.” The National Security Archive. Ed. William Ferroggiaro. George Washington University, 20 Aug. 2001. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB53/>.

United Nations. Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide. Special Advisers of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Francis Deng, and on the Responsibility to Protect, Edward Luck, on the Situation in Syria. United Nations, 2 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/pdf/OSAPG%20statement%20Syria%202%20June%202011%20FINAL%20ENGLISH.pdf>.

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Somalia, the New Syria?

I think that the events of Somalia definitely had an impact on the lack of appropriate response in Rwanda.  Beyond that, I think it is important to start in Cambodia, where the UN first took this kind of action.  In Cambodia, the UN was setting up elections in a quasi failed state while a semi organized group of fighters attacked their people in border regions.  A major problem, as detailed by Andrew’s conflict with the prison warden, was breaking the corrupt and cruel system that had been in place for years.  They succeeded and the elections took place.

So when Somalia rolled around, I’m sure the UN felt even more confident, especially considering they were accompanied by US army Rangers and Delta Force.  What I think they failed to understand was that they were now going against a well armed and effectively organized militia whose leader was simply out to preserve the chaos that he thrived in.  The entrenched nature of the opposition made the fighting incredibly tough, and I think that the incident that inspired Black Hawk Down seriously scared a lot of people in US.  What really gets me is that they “dragged one of the bodies out of the bird and paraded it around town.  Brought it into a house and charged money for people to see the charred, burned-up body of an American soldier up close.” (Cain, Postlewait, Thompson 137)  This gruesome incident killed all political will to engage in further conflict.

When the genocide in Rwanda occurred it seems only natural that the US and UN would balk at a quick intervention.  The west relied on claims of “unclear intelligence” and the trivial definition of genocide to stall any kind of involvement in the conflict.  The reality was they feared the kind of prolonged conflict where they were to establish a state where one had just failed.  And when the killers were on the run, they swept in to help them, trying to save face.  What I think they failed to understand is that the Hutus were both less organized and worse equipped.  A majority of orders and information was relayed to the genocidaires via radio, and there was minimal command structure (Chalk).  This is the main reason why the RPF had such an easy time of taking the country back.  Regardless, the American war machine is fueled by public opinion, and nobody wanted another Somalia.

I think that the events of Somalia and Rwanda both have affected the US’s responses to the ongoing crisis in Syria.  Perhaps more than these two, I feel our recent invasion and occupation of Iraq impacted our reaction.  Support for Iraq seriously declined in its later years with many unhappy with our prolonged stay.  I think that the Obama administration is in the difficult position of not wanting to allow another Rwanda, while also not having the PR nightmare of an Iraq or Somalia.  I think his red line policy was done to try and prevent the use of the chemical weapons but even more so to keep the US uninvolved.  Even now that there has been evidence of chemical weapons, we have only begun giving the rebels military aid, a clear sign that we don’t want to be involved in another prolonged occupation.

Something I found while doing some research is that while we fear that Syria could the a new PR nightmare, others are concerned that it may splinter up and become a regional Somalia, a splintered and lawless nation.  Tim Lister of CNN writes that the now primarily sectarian violence, as well as ongoing proxy wars in the region could result in total anarchy.  Yet “ Somalia never had chemical weapons, nor the missiles and modern armor that make Syria one of the most crowded arsenals in the world.” (Lister)  I think this is a very valid concern, I personally cannot get behind more direct military intervention.  While this is may make me a terrible global citizen, I watched the Iraq war leave my generation trillions in debt and the current job market is not looking great.  I firmly believe that before a country can go fixing others it must fix itself.

Works Cited

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Chalk, Frank. “MIGS: Occasional Paper Series: RADIO PROPAGANDA AND GENOCIDE.” MIGS: Occasional Paper Series: RADIO PROPAGANDA AND GENOCIDE. MIGS, Nov. 1999. Web. 18 June 2013.

Lister, Tim. “5 Reasons Syria’s War Suddenly Looks More Dangerous.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 18 June 201

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Is the United Nations Inherently Good or Bad?

Whether or not the U.N. as an organization is “good” or “bad,” is a question far too simple to address all of the complex issues at play. A more accurate one would be to ask whether or not the work that the U.N. is able to accomplish is worth the damage the organization sometimes inadvertently causes.

The U.N. is, for the most part, a group of well-intentioned people who often find that their good deeds are unable to outweigh the fallout caused by their superiors’ frustrating approach of remaining inactive in situations that need intervention the most. This inaction, coupled with a reputation that is quickly being diminished by a handful of aid workers who take advantage of their positions of power to exploit the vulnerable populous that they are supposed to be protecting and serving, have made the U.N. fall short of its full potential, and in some cases even exacerbated the problems in the disaster areas in which it operates.

In 2008 it was revealed to the media that children as young as 6 had been forced to have sex with aid workers in exchange for food and money. Jasmine Whitbread of Save the Children UK has said of the incidents, “It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children’s rights.” (Busari)

The title of the study produced by the U.N. which showed widespread accounts of abuse, particularly towards children, at the hands of U.N. aid workers.

The title of the study produced by the U.N. which showed widespread accounts of abuse, particularly towards children, at the hands of U.N. aid workers.

Incidents like these lose the U.N. all credibility as a group whose intentions are supposed to be to help victims not to create more of them, and it also shows the massive lack of accountability both on the part of the workers themselves, and on the organization as a whole.

U.N. peacekeepers do not have a much better reputation than their aid worker counterparts. The U.N. peacekeeper force is comprised of soldiers from over 116 countries and, as the United Nations website states, since the U.N. “does not have its own military force; it depends on contributions from its member states.” (U.N.)

The U.N. peacekeepers must follow strict rules of engagement, and are rarely if ever allowed to return fire even in cases where lives are actively being threatened, for fear of creating an international incident, or doing anything that could be seen as an act of war.

These limitations prevent the peacekeepers from doing much of anything to prevent murder even in their so-called “safe zones.” The U.N. therefore merely is able to provide the illusion of security, but when it comes down to it, “they do not have a military force,” and therefore they do not have the capability to adequately defend the people of the country they are operating in.

At best U.N. peacekeepers seem ineffective at intervening in massacres and genocides, and at worse, they are seen as contributing factors to them.  In Srebrenica, Bosnia, U.N. peacekeepers assured Muslims that their established safe-zone would keep them out of harms way, and yet 8,000 men were slaughtered after being drawn to the alleged safe haven. The U.N. contingent of just 400 soldiers found themselves quickly overrun by the Army of Republika Srpska, and the U.N. could do nothing to significantly impede what would later be ruled by The Hague, genocide. (Cain)

In a press release distributed on the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote, “The ‘responsibility to protect’ must be given tangible meaning, not just rhetorical support.” (Annan)

As it stands today, the U.N. is just that – a symbol of rhetorical support, not a force that can truly intervene in a conflict and fulfill their responsibility to protect.

Dr. Andrew Thomson puts it quite simply, “If blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers show up in your town or village and offer to protect you, run. Or else get weapons. Your lives are worth so much less than theirs.” (Thomson)

Despite all of the problems associated with the U.N., just by virtue of their effort, they do not deserve to be condemned entirely. The United Nations as a concept is something extremely powerful, beautiful even – nations coming together, putting aside cultural and political differences to stand up for basic human rights, and most importantly to take care of one another.

In practice however, the U.N. struggles to realize its potential, and if it hopes to become a more viable means of aid distribution and peacekeeping in the world, it must somehow perform the very difficult task of extending its protective reach further, while at the same time increasing internal scrutiny to ensure that none of its workers contribute to the issues in their countries of operation.

This task will be difficult, and like all things worth pursuing, it will not come without its own set of obstacles to overcome and challenges to confront. Nowhere else however, is there an achievement more worthy of pursuit, than the goal of being able to effectively come to another’s aid in their greatest moment of crisis.

 

Works Cited:

Annan, Kofi. November, 7, 2007. June 18, 2013.  “May We All Learn and Act on the Lessons of Srebrenica.” http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2005/sgsm9993.doc.htm

 

Cain, Kenneth. April 3, 2005. June 18, 2013. “How Many More Must Die Before Kofi Quits?”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/03/theobserver1

 

Busari, Stephanie. May 27, 2008. June 18, 2013. “Charity: Aid Workers Raping, Abusing Children” http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/05/27/charity.aidworkers/

 

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures. London. 2004. Print.

 

The United Nations Peacekeepers. 2013. June 18, 2013. http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/

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Emergency Sex

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is a powerful book that explores many uncomfortable situations around the globe.  It follows Andrew Thomson, Kenneth Cain and Heidi Postlewait, all whom joined the UN and saw how their perception didn’t accurately reflect reality.  I’m going to discuss why, and to whom, I’d recommend this book.

 

The group of people I wouldn’t recommend this book to is anyone younger than a high school sophomore.  I think people this age and a little younger can handle the mature content, but this is the type of book that, to be truly effective, needs some contemplation and deeper understanding.  Younger kids can read the words on the pages, but they might not comprehend the message the authors want to convey. For example, Kenneth Cain writes “I’m not ready to let the youthful part of myself go yet. If maturity means becoming a cynic, if you have to kill the part of yourself that is naive and romantic and idealistic – the part of you that you treasure most – to claim maturity, is it not better to die young but with your humanity intact?” (Emergency Sex) I wouldn’t expect myself as a high school freshman to actually comprehend this passage.  However, I think that high school aged kids, and some adults, would benefit from having someone with world experience give their perspective.

un_africa 

Emergency Sex covers such a wide range of topics pertaining to the good and bad of international humanitarian work that I think a set of thoughtful questions could really help the authors’ message get through to readers.  I think it would help to have questions about the reader’s perception of the UN, handling conflict and what it means to mature into a global citizen before reading the book.  Emergency Sex, with no prior learning of the basics of the topics it spans, might not mean as much. The fact that we have written about many of these topics already certainly helped me gain a better perspective of the situation.  Completing these questions beforehand would encourage the reader to think critically about topics they may not have previously pondered.  The reader could reference these questions throughout reading, which may help them notice messages or themes they may have otherwise glossed over.  In addition, questions after reading would serve as a nice bookend to the entire process.  The reader would be able to put down what they have learned and how their perspectives have changed (or haven’t changed).

 

Encouraging the reader to complete questions and have someone with relevant experience guide them through the topics is all to foster learning.  What do I hope readers learn from this experience?  Take this passage from Cain as an example: “I was hell-bent on being an effective humanitarian in Cambodia and Somalia. But a naïve fog is finally lifting. Revealed is a train wreck of illusions, the depravity of someone else’s war, the futility of a competence stillborn there. To understand this you have to become this” (Emergency Sex). I want the readers to understand how something you believed to be one way may actually be closer to the opposite; how being thrust into an unfamiliar situation can broaden your world views and change you as a person.  Emergency Sex is a great tell-all read that explores the shortcomings of the UN and humanitarian aid, but it is also deeply personal.  These two combined make for a compelling, eye-opening read I don’t want others to miss.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures. London. 2004. Print.

 

Cain, Kenneth. How Many Must Die Before Kofi Quits? The Guardian. April 3, 2005. Web. June 18, 2013.

 

Shanzer, Jonathan. It’s Time to Add Syria to Kofi Annan’s Long List of Failures. New Republic. April 5 2012. Web. June 18, 2013.

 

 

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A. Nicot – Assignment 7: Good and Bad

Yeah so I’ve been having more problems. Repeated apologies.

Given everything you have read in this book both about the protagonists and the people in the countries where they worked, what is your answer to the question “are people basically good or evil”?  Given all we know about how we are all products of our cultural upbringing, can we meaningfully ask if some cultures are basically “good or bad” as well?

The question of whether or not humans are innately good or bad is a question that seems unanswerable. It has been debated for as long as there is philosophy, and I’m unlikely to provide a good answer in this short essay.

St. Augustine of Hippo

First, let us examine the nature of thought versus action. Often intent is cited in defense of actions deemed “bad” in order to make their perpetrator appear “good.” Let us create an example: Jack shoots a baby. This, to the eyes of most, is a bad thing to do. Jack however only shot the baby because he thought killing it would create world peace (how is unimportant). Does Jack’s noble intent make his act any less terrible? Is Jack less of an evil man because he thought he was doing good? Let’s also think of the concept that one could believe one is doing good when one is doing bad, or that one could know one is doing bad but wants to, through the bad, do good (ends justify the means).

These are a few extremely basic scenarios, but we can already see the problem with trying to use human actions in and of themselves in order to judge whether humans are fundamentally good or evil. We always want to factor in intent, and rightly so. But if good intent or ignorance does not make any act less evil, does it make the perpetrator less so? That’s the issue. I could cite the Rwandan genocide as an example of terrifying human cruelty and human evil, and then I could pull the Christmas Truce of 1914 out as well to demonstrate the fundamental goodness of man.

We should probably take a less specific approach to the question in order to make light of it. Instead of talking about what humans have and could do, let’s talk about what humans are, philosophically speaking. The views I am most familiar with evolve from the perception of Christian cosmology and require a certain interpretation of the story of the Fall of Man from Christian scripture, but the concept is philosophically developed enough to not require direct references (though it is important to know whence these ideas are extracted). Essentially the question relies on the notion that humans are a Fallen race. In other terms, we are inherently corrupt. In Christian cosmology, this corruption was originally absent, and humans were mirrors of the divine nature of God – the act of original sin resulted in the creation of the state of original sin: humans are no longer reflections but distortions of this nature.

The Christian thinker Pelagius (whose mode of thought is known as Pelagianism or the Pelagian Heresy) supposed that humans are capable of both good and bad, but neither is inherent to man. As our eyes are capable of seeing but are not by nature used for good or evil, so he saw humans. Free will alone is enough reason to say that humans aren’t capable of perfection, as the possibility itself exists that human actions and intentions can be evil. So humans are fundamentally capable of being and doing both good and evil. Augustine of Hippo, challenged this view by arguing for the inherent corruptibility of man – original sin. The argument’s crux is dependent on whether human action or human will is what makes us evil, Pelgius favoring action, Augustine favoring will. It is also important to understand that in the Catholic tradition which grew out of Augustine’s thinking, the goal of human life is to repair the corruptibility to become reflections of divine nature once again, using our free will to overcome our inherent wrongness.

Now this deals with matters spiritual primarily, but that is the most basic level at which we analyse our own morality. Later on in history, at the dawn of the Modern era, philosophers became more interested in the secular explanations of morality and how it relates not necessarily to the individual but to society as a whole.

Thomas Hobbes – John Locke

We can therefore examine how cultures are affected by the debate on human nature by using examples from this period, the foremost of which (in the English world) are Hobbes and Locke’s respective views on human nature. The two were not contemporaries but are often presented in a dichotomy due to their starkly contrasted takes on who we are as humans. Are any particular cultures good or bad? Certainly it can be easily determined that some cultures are in fact superior to others. But are they necessarily morally superior? If one takes the concept of tabula rasa developed by Locke, wherein all humans are born blank slates and are imprinted upon by the cultures they live in and the circumstance of their life, then cultures which produce evil people must be evil cultures, and conversely. But we see quite clearly that in this mode of thought most people, not being evil (or at least not noticeably so)  would mean that no culture is fundamentally evil, but some individuals within cultures lead lives that lead them to becoming evil within that culture. So clearly evil is then not a trait of cultures. If cultures were evil, continuing on this side of the debate, then they would produce exclusively evil people. So it must be the people themselves that decided to be evil, or are fundamentally evil by nature. This latter one however challenges the blank slate hypothesis. Therefore evil is the product of free will. If one uses this logic, one falls back again on Pelagianism, which I mentioned earlier.

Hobbes however viewed human nature as a fixed entity that is molded by the world we live in. He argues in Leviathan that humans, without authority to keep them in place, would revert to barbarism and be evil towards their fellow men. So he clearly sees culture as being a positive force to control humans so that their evil instincts are suppressed. Humans can therefore only do good collectively, by pooling their skills and interests to work for the benefit of all. So Hobbes argues that we are fundamentally flawed and will tend to do evil naturally without controlling mechanisms. He was not well received by Christina authorities in his time as his argument relied a bit on determinism with regard to the idea that humans will do evil, but his premise, that humans are flawed intrinsically, was not that far removed from Christian positions. When we’re looking at Emergency Sex, we can plug in these two anthropological views of human nature, leaving aside the more individual and philosophical nature of the spiritual approach I covered earlier. Emergency Sex seems to support a more Hobbesian view of human nature, wherein humans, when not rigidly enforced, revert to a state of barbarism.

Cain, Kenneth. “How Many More Must Die before Kofi Quits?” Editorial. The Observer. The Guardian, 03 Apr. 2005. Web. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/03/theobserver1>.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Hobbes, Thomas, and Richard Tuck. Leviathan. Cambridge [England: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.

Locke, John, and P. H. Nidditch. An Essay concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Clarendon, 1975. Print.
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