Archive for the International Relations Category

East Timor Menu? None Interested.

Posted in International Relations on 22 February 2008 by hanafirais28

Please read this commentary by clicking here. When it comes to paragraph 3, Indonesia is said to be “brutal”, “struggle against Indonesia”, what do you feel and think?

From that commentary, since getting its independence from Indonesia, East Timor has been only progressing from a trouble to another problem, from a failure to another crisis. Too many players (the UN, Portugal, Australia, domestic factions) betting their interests to rule East Timor. In the end, none would be interested in East Timor.


Posted in International Relations on 21 February 2008 by hanafirais28

“I don’t see any reason why the pattern developed in Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin – of Obama being able to cut into the base of Hillary Clinton’s vote – will stop when you get to Ohio,” says Professor John Kessel, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University. In his view, Barack Obama will “do very well” in the state on 4 March.

I quoted that line above from the BBC online news just now – we should see if Prof Kessel is right in two weeks time. I listened to a lecture by Thomas Mann yesterday at the School about the US election. One thing I remember in mind from his lecture is that since the Potomac primaries two weeks ago, Obama has started to build an expanding different social bases for his voters. Those who have been traditionally supporting Clinton e.g. the Latinos, white women and men, and lower income and low educated voters are now turning to vote for Obama. These voters have tended to “go where the wind blows” and that means the role of public opinion plays a crucial role. In every election, in any democratic country, it is key to take into account social bases which comprises the voter behaviors.

Though polls like Rasmussen, USASurvey, and others are now indicating that Clinton is leading over Obama, the US media coverage seems to set its agenda by favoring to have all possibilities open – something which the media in Indonesia must learn very hard. This benefits Obama now that these two weeks left heading for Ohio and Texas primaries could be changing the polls.

Given all the hypes on Obama nowadays, and if he really then became the President, we perhaps must also bear in mind if the Democrat’s US foreign policy would really change from its traditional values. I am afraid that, like Clinton when faced with Rwanda genocide, only things mattered most to the US interest would the President take action.

Undemocratic Democrat convention

Posted in International Relations on 15 February 2008 by hanafirais28

I remember few days ago when Obama won all the Potomac primaries, CNN’s John King and Andersen Cooper made an analysis of the election process happening in the Democrat rivalry. Assuming that Obama’s winning trend is rolling on and on, it was found out that neither candidate would get the required condition of 2,025 delegate nomination. Obama would lead the delegates with some margin ahead of Clinton, but it still did not make Obama clinch the nomination.

Following the election process in the Democrat side has been interesting since the rivalry between the two senators, their speeches, their followers, their political ads, and their issues have been up to “the market to decide.” Meaning, the process has been democratic in essence and no intervention from any parties.

But with the trend seems to take place as simulated by King and Cooper above, it is not possible that Clinton would try to get the upper hand by beating Obama with any means to justify the ends. I see there might be two crucial loopholes that might happen. First, the “empty” primaries in Florida and Michigan might be taken into account so that these two states Clinton has won would be adding the number of delegates she gained. Second, the use of superdelegates – the party elite i.e. the Congressman, party structures – would be executed while Clinton now is leading the number of superdelegates. Third, which is sometimes normal, Clinton would have to win the next primaries especially the one in March 4 of Ohio and Texas with big delegates at stake to re-lead the rivalry. The pressure is there and since her Potomac primary loss Clinton campaign has been like an attack machine by starting negative ads against Obama.

Any of these bad scenarios, especially the first two, happening might tarnish the democratic process which has been progressing – as well as entertaining, at least to me – in the US. “What the world would say?” (Apa kata dunia?), remarked the popular Indonesia’s movie Naga Bonar. If that happened, then Democracy is people’s Frankenstein: it swallows its own creator.

Obama Fever

Posted in International Relations on 13 February 2008 by hanafirais28

I did not really pay attention to the US election before. I thought that the US politics would not change much after election by election: WASP rules in the US – that is what political science textbook would always tell. I assume it is something similar like the old concept of “politik aliran” in Indonesia as once termed by Clifford Geertz.

But watching Obama’s speech in his campaigns once in CNN, this January, changed my perception. It was impressive showing intellectual weight of himself. Though “inexperienced” and “too young” to be the US President – as his rival Hillary often termed -, from communication perspective Obama has been outperforming the former first lady. Listening to her speech has been boring and mundane without appealing communication energy.

I once deliberately closed my eyes “watching” both the senators’ speeches to get some objective perception only by listening. Not judging by their performances, gestures, dresses, and what not.  Result, Obama spoke more convincingly, more energetic, and more on moral politics with sometimes strong emphases on his rivals, Clinton and McCain as well as on policy terms. Hillary, I think, has been too much making low-politics statements regarding her funding, calculation of her delegates, more on division rather than unity though been always clear in addressing policy issues such as healthcare.

Ceteris paribus (meaning no maneuvering by superdelegates to impose their 13,000 vote privilege) I may now change my perception that the US politics especially the US voters would make – borrowing Obama’s term –  a “new chapter” in their history for themselves and consequently for the world.

“Thanks” to the 911 tragedy that has subsequently opened the Americans’ eyes about what is actually happening outside their country. Most of them were stunned by then that they just realised that the world does not only “belong” to themselves and later on also realised that Bush regime has been hijacking America for his own purposes of building America’s Empire. Before the tragedy and its consequences, I think Americans in general have been too busy looking at themselves.

Well, not their faults. They are made to be so by Bush regime, by the Big Five media moguls, by the big corporations which have been hegemonizing the people. But now that election comes, the people are going to “punish” the regime and its failure policy by voting for Obama. Let’s see if finally America managed to have a “political revolution” this November.

Bathtub in Climate Change

Posted in International Relations on 12 February 2008 by hanafirais28

Today’s class of Global Issues and Institutions was about the science of climate change. The discussion was, well, very warm too when touching on global warming’s reality or myth. It started by each of us having read the Forth Assessment Report of IPCC called the Synthesis Report and also calculated our carbon footprint. (Calculate yours here or another here). Then when it came to the discussion some were concerned with the issue but some were skeptical about it.

Prof Ann Florini debriefed the class after the two hour and half discussion by making a bathtub analogy in understanding climate change. Nice analogy, I think. Bathtub is the earth we are living. It is filled with “water” i.e. the stock of greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as CO2, which now already reaches our necks. But then we keep on putting more flows of these GHGs into the bathtub.

Thanks God, the bathtub has its drain to outflow the water. The drain here means the sea and also the forests as the channels to absorb the GHGs. The more we can expand the sea and do reforestation, climate change could at least be slowed down. Such things are called ‘mitigation’, efforts to reduce global warming by reengineering the Mother Nature.

Another thing we can do is ‘adaptation’. It is effort to survive from the increasing threat of climate change. When students were asked “what you would do if some people would certainly be drowned in their countries because of the rising sea level?”, we unconsciously answered “building seawalls, migrating to other countries”.

That was normal and very humane. But that is the problem: we tend to see things human-centric-ly. Do those adaptations solve the real problem? Does climate change only about human beings? No. It turns out to be bigger than only about human beings. It is about the ecosystem in where we are living now. It is about the plantation, forests, paddy fields, and animals (from cows to mosquitos).

I had never paid attention to such things though. But I am considering about it now. Things like global virus, avian flu, and other diseases are results of how climate has changed the ecosystem. It is shaken: more extinction of the animals which are supposedly balancing the ecosystem chain due to the increasingly heated habitats, more proliferation of viral spread ‘taking advantage’ of the imbalanced ecosystem.

Seen from International Relations perspective, I guess constructivists still have a long way to convince the global community that climate change is so real and so closed to their lives. Prof Ann mentioned that the way IPCC laid out the explanation about the danger of climate change was so far from being easily understood by lay people. Sad but true.

Why International Organization (IO) fails

Posted in International Relations on 29 January 2008 by hanafirais28

We have witnessed many failures of IOs in achieving their own missions and goals. United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Funds have been criticized for their self-defeating missions. The UN most of the time failed to maintain peace in conflicting areas (Bosnia, Yugoslavia are some examples).

World Bank has been consistently facing challenges -yet often not managed to succeed- in development fields. Deforestation in Indonesia during Suharto’s era -who just passed away yesterday- was part of World Bank’s policy recommendation to achieve the country’s growth. IMF was always the “perfect example” of “one-size-fits-all” concept which is proven to be a failure, especially during the 1997 Asian crisis.

Why those IOs fail to deliver?

Finnemore and Barnett’s The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations (International Organization, Vol. 53, No. 4. (Autumn, 1999) pp. 699-732)), the former name is my Professor’s -Ann Florini- constructivism guru in the George Washington University, state that the failure is because of the bureaucratic culture in the IOs which leads to their pathologies.

The culture consists of 5 things. One, the irrationality of rationality. It is the tendency of organization to be reversing the means as its ends. For example, to bring stability in Bosnia, the UN promoted democracy by having elections. It turned out that elections only served to be a vehicle for ethnic cleansing.

Two, bureaucratic universalism. It is about organization’s behavior of foregoing local context to achieve its always universal claim. For instance, IMF’s fiscal and monetary policy in handling the crisis in Latin America has been used elsewhere in Asia and Africa. Results: Failure and worsening the crisis.

Three, normalization of deviance. It “transformed” exception in organization to become the rules. Example, UNHCR lowered voluntary repatriation principle to achieve nation building in war-torn areas.

Four, insulation. It is about an organization’s worldview which is in contrast with the its surrounding environment. Take a look at how World Bank always has imposed concept of development regardless of the countries it is handling.

Last, cultural contestation. It is the inherent pathology within bureaucracy in almost every organization whereby the division of labor only makes the organization as a whole collapse because of the “fighting” among the divisions. I guess this one we can take any example in the organization we have ever joined 🙂