The Outsiders

The two most obvious cases of outsiders in the International system are Iran and North Korea. This is because these countries have been known to be rogue states. The cooperation with these states is not normalized by the international system as evident through sanctions and embargoes placed on both countries.

I originally thought Iran and North Korea had been ostracized due to their human rights record, however, there are examples of other countries like Saudi Arabia and China who have maintained their status as “insiders” while still engaging in oppression of women and ethnic groups. (World Report 2024: Saudi Arabia | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)) I found that Iran and North Korea have ostracized themselves by breaking one of the most important international norms which is engaging in nuclear proliferation.

IAEA chief: Iran, North Korea and Syria not cooperating – Ya Libnan

France is an easy contradiction to this theory. France was not ostracized from the international system while seeking nuclear proliferation. France, similar to North Korea and Iran, sought to create a nuclear program to ensure it wasn’t dependent on any other countries for security. Iran and North Korea like France have both stated their nuclear weapons are for defense and to promote independence and sovereignty (North Korea and Iran on JSTOR). 

Unlike North Korea and Iran, France has been willing to sign agreements like the NPT (NPT Treaty (un.org)). France is also much more open and willing to participate in diplomacy with other “insider states”. This openness and willingness to cooperate with other states have allowed France to overcome the view that its nuclear weapon pursuit is “rogue”. Dialogue and diplomacy has prevented France and other states from becoming stuck in a security dilemma and prevented France from being viewed as a nuclear threat (Law and Peaceful Change in a Subsystem: “Withdrawal” of France from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on JSTOR).

Another nuisance to this theory I have is that Russia has remained an “insider” in the international system even though it has violated the sovereignty of Ukraine, has committed human rights violations, and has been viewed as a nuclear threat. I think that Russia has not been cast out of the International System due to many states viewing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine as understandable. States view this invasion as a means of Russian diplomacy. Russia is a historically insecure country that relies not on economic strength but rather on nationalism to forge state identity (The Sources of Soviet Conduct on JSTOR). With the rise of China and the U.S.’ continuing status as a global hegemon, Russia must continually prove itself on the world stage. 

Putin and Xi are using the coronavirus crisis to extend their control. Across the world, Trump struggles to keep up | CNN

Since 2008 Russia has sought small territorial and status gains by intervening in Syria due to Western inaction and invading Crimea, Georgia and Ukraine. These actions have coincided with Obama’s shift in policy to focus on Asia and China specifically. In my opinion, Russia is trying to prove that they are an area that must be focused on, not just China. Furthermore, the world has a strong understanding of Russia due to the various reports and diplomacy that took place throughout the Cold War. Russia has also kept its status as an insider by engaging in treaties like the NPT and holding a seat on the UN Security Council (NPT Treaty (un.org)).

China has similar questions. China has a questionable human rights track record which has recently raised international questions regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims (World Report 2024: China | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)). China possesses nuclear weapons and poses threats to state sovereignty. Similar to Russia, China is a member of NPT and holds a seat on the UN Security Council (NPT Treaty (un.org)). Furthermore, China has an extensive history and has been mainly domestically focused allowing it to appear as predictable.

Overall, the extensive knowledge of the nature of France, China, and Russia has allowed other “insider states” to view their nuclear proliferation as non-threatening. On the contrary, North Korea and Iran’s views as rogue regimes and our lack of knowledge of their internal affairs have made their pursuit of nuclear weapons much more alarming to insider states. 

While these weapons may purely be defensive, unfortunately, Iran and North Korea’s unwillingness to provide transparency and work with other countries has led them to become outsiders in the international system. This combined with the lack of extensive diplomacy between the insider state and North Korea and Iran has contributed to the view of these countries as being “rogue states” and outsiders. If both of these countries do choose to engage in greater dialogue and diplomacy with other states, as well as show they are willing to make concessions and work to limit their nuclear programs, they may be able to become “insiders”.

 

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The Syrian Debacle

Gutman, in his speech, discussed his theory that Asad promoted the growth of ISIS to prevent the successful overthrow of his regime. Asad did this by allowing ISIS to grow so the U.S. would be forced to turn efforts from aiding revolutionaries in the fight against Asad to suppressing ISIS. Asad first sought to create the illusion that terrorists were prevalent in Syria. 

Asad did this by working with intelligence officials to mount attacks on other intelligence officials and government employees. Asad provided military support for ISIS through aerial aid as ISIS took over cities in Syria and fought revolutionaries. Asad handed over towns to ISIS and pretended like there had been great resistance by the Syrian government which he did by using intelligence officials to bomb these towns. Asad authorized the Syrian central bank to transfer funds to these towns before they were overthrown. This allowed for ISIS to have access to funds to promote their growth. ISIS also served Asad by going after other potential voices of dissent as evident through ISIS’ attacks on media centers and journalists.

The illusion of Syria being under threat of ISIS and al Qaeda allowed Asad to grow international sympathy, aid, and support. The lack of U.S. presence in the region was in my opinion due to a desire to de-entrench from the region and pivot its focus over to Asia. The lack of intelligence present in the region was evident through top U.S. intelligence officials telling Gutman that the rise of ISIS was a complete shock. Gutman also discussed how Syrian officials who were suspicious about Asad were ignored by both the Obama administration and the intelligence community due to a desire by the U.S. to stay out of the conflict. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/world/middleeast/syria-civil-war-bashar-al-assad-refugees-islamic-state.html

Syria has been destroyed by the Asad regime.

Unfortunately, through the Syrian debacle, the U.S. learned it was unable to stay neutral. The United States was forced to intervene to prevent the rise of ISIS. This phenomenon shows the danger of the United States removing its influence in the region. This also shows a continuing theme in U.S.-Middle East relations of tails-wagging dogs, due to Asad’s manipulating the United States into promoting the security of his oppressive regime. The Syrian case is one of the few examples of the United States’ failure to address foreign policy issues due to underreach.

 While many people both at home and abroad criticize excessive U.S. intervention in international affairs, the United States must continue to provide aid and accountability to prevent crises like in Syria. The U.S. must embrace its role as an international arbiter and protector as well, otherwise, countries like Iran, China, and Russia will fill the vacuum, as evident through Russia’s support of Asad. Overall, if the United States wants to truly act morally in the international system, it must not fear intervention, especially in its efforts to support human rights.

 The United States by refusing to intervene created more problems for itself. Asad was able to provide resources and notoriety to ISIS, allowing them to gain recruits, and weapons and spread their messages. By the time the United States intervened it was already too late. Russia had pushed its influence in Syria, Asad had solidified his power and ISIS had risen. Had the U.S. intervened and helped the pro-democracy revolutionaries, the U.S. may have been able to successfully overthrow Asad. As a result, Syria would not be stuck in the stalemated conflict, and pro-democracy revolutionaries may have taken over Syria. This would have given the United States another democratic ally against Iran, and Russia would not have gained more international influence and prestige. Instead, the U.S. feared repeating the same mistakes it did in Iraq and was unable to capitalize on potential security gains, while eventually still being forced to bear the costs of intervention to contest the rise of ISIS.

Straightforward Answers to Basic Questions About Syria’s War – The New York Times (nytimes.com)(Image link)

 

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Evan Connery Discussion Question Further Research

I decided to do some further research into the question of why France and England did not struggle with debt as they modernized, while the Ottomans did. I found that through lending from other powers and managing deficits through mercantilism and colonization, Britain and to a lesser degree France were able to maintain financial stability.
In this period France and Britain often looked to Amsterdam to loan money due to its financial strength. This strength came as a result of the centralized and reliable banking system present in the Netherlands (Kennedy, 78). Furthermore, the Netherlands had a lot of available capital because it did not engage in military buildup or colonization and was willing to lend due to its neutrality (Kennedy, 103).
One may be asking themselves “If the Netherlands was the primary lender for the great powers at this time, why did it not also rise to power”. Unfortunately, the Netherlands was surrounded by powerful countries leading them to take the strategy of neutrality to maintain security (Kennedy, 122). As a result, they lacked the military means to collect debts from states that did not pay back their loans (Kennedy, 123). Overall,

Naval power was key to the rise of Britian and France. Power on the seas is what led the British to dominate the world in the late 1700s.

this illustrates that wealth doesn’t equal power in the international system, this was also illustrated by the rise of Russia in this period. Russia was very weak economically, but due to its size and geopolitical position, it was able to emerge as a world power (Kennedy, 86).
At this time, there were no means for measuring credit, however, countries provided much higher interest rates for France as compared to Britain. This was because they were unsure if France would pay back their loans. This uncertainty came due to domestic issues as a result of the lack of centralization of French finances (Kennedy, 85). France also had high taxes which angered citizens and led to the early beginnings of the French Revolution, and foreign powers began doubting the stability of the French government (Kennedy 120). Lastly, French tax and debt collectors were tasked with extracting money from citizens, and they often took a large percentage of this money before they gave the revenue to the French government (Kennedy, 83).
On the other hand, Britain had lower taxes which allowed citizens to be more willing to finance the government in uncertain times, especially during the Seven Years’ War. At this time wars were often about who could finance the effort. longest. Due to Britain’s strong financial system, it was able to win the 7 World Wars, removing French and Spanish influence from the majority of North America. This area will soon prove to be key to Britain’s rise to power and its colonial system. Next, Britain had a strong central bank and was able to better regulate its finances, leading to further confidence in Britain’s ability to pay back loans (Kennedy, 84). The low interest rates allowed Britain to loan more money and therefore led to their rise as a global hegemon. This in turn allowed them to continue to finance military buildup and the beginnings of colonization. As a result, this created a cycle of British financial gain and growth (Kennedy, 84).

https://www.britishlibrary.cn/en/articles/the-rise-of-cities-in-the-18th-century/

British port city in the 1800s.

Next, mercantilism allowed both France and Britain to reduce their deficits. Mercantilism is not free trade because it seeks to limit trade deficits. This allowed both Britain and France to ensure they did not fall too deep into debt and could maintain relatively low-interest rates (Kennedy, 97) It is key to note that the French would eventually fall from power due to their inability to manage their debt, leading to a lack of ability to provide for their citizens, in turn leading to the French Revolution (Kennedy, 121). Unfortunately, the Ottomans took a different strategy, engaging in free trade. This led them to run deficits at times leading to greater debt. Furthermore, the government slowed the trade of certain goods. This government intervention slowed Ottoman economic growth (Pamuk, 238)
The growth of colonization led to the rise of mercantilism. Colonization was promoted through the desire to extract raw materials and gain access to new colonies (Kennedy, 96). This allowed the French and British to gain wealth through trade and greater access to raw materials needed for production. While I originally thought cross-sea trade would be expensive and inefficient, a large emphasis was put on naval growth and shipbuilding in this period (Kennedy, 97). This allowed for more efficient trade. The majority of raw materials needed to build these ships were cheaply imported from colonies, once again creating a cycle of cheap materials leading to production and production leading to wealth allowing for more colonization and raw materials (Kennedy, 96-97). Unfortunately, the Ottomans failed to capitalize on potential gains that they could have made through colonization due to not creating permanent settlements in areas they had influence (Pamuk, 235).

Pamuk, Şevket. “Institutional Change and the Longevity of the Ottoman Empire, 1500-1800.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35, no. 2 (2004): 225–47. 

Kennedy, Paul M. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. New York, NY: Random House, 1988.

 

Images

The influence of sea power upon history, 1660-1783. by Alfred Thayer Mahan | Open Library

The rise of cities in the 18th century | The British Library

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Dr. Najat Aoun Saliba Presentation

Throughout her presentation, Dr. Najat Aoun Saliba used a variety of French sayings and cultural references demonstrating the large French influence in the region. The idea of the affairs of countries outside Lebanon influencing domestic politics came up multiple times throughout her presentation. This influence comes from both the past colonial history of the region as well as the variety of cross-border identity groups and domestic conflict present in the region. Due to the natural isolation and stability of the US and our friendly neighbors, this idea is foreign to me. 

Dr. Saliba brought up this concept again in her explanation of why government corruption is so common in Lebanon. She explained that Lebanon has received financial aid in exchange for politicians allowing refugees of conflicts in both Palestine and Syria to enter the country. Leaders then often pocket these funds while refugees are stuck living in camps. The camps lack proper waste disposal systems and other necessities needed to provide proper living conditions.

  Corruption has led to a lack of trust of the Lebanese government. Since COVID Dr. Saliba explained that citizens of Lebanon, especially the youth, feel as though their vote doesn’t matter. This leads the citizens of Lebanon to not participate in elections. Furthermore, constituents often disagree with their local leaders’ politics, also preventing them from engaging with local leaders. I found this greatly problematic because the lack of willingness to engage with institutions will create a never-ending cycle of lack of accountability. The lack of accountability will allow leaders to not have to worry about providing for their citizens. Leaders are emboldened to engage in corruption due to the fact that they will not be voted out of office.

Next, she brought up the fact that corruption has led to ignorance of science. This was evident in the unwillingness to abide by laws regarding smoking indoors. While there were laws present prohibiting smoking indoors, the money possessed by lobbying groups of restaurants and other venues outweighed government enforcement of these regulations. Another example of this ignorance was the 2020 Beirut explosion. This tragedy occurred due to unsafe storage of chemicals. This explosion could have been easily avoided by simply consulting experts.

These two issues illustrate how the health and safety of the people of Lebanon have been put aside due to the desire to gain money. The events demonstrate the lack of fear of political leaders being removed from office if they do not advocate and provide for their people. 

There was another question that I thought related well to the study of international relations. Dr. Saliba was asked if she thought the UN or other countries should be able to force the government of Lebanon to adhere to laws regarding waste management and environmental degradation. Dr. Saliba stated that unfortunately there was no way for the UN or other powers to intervene without violating Lebanon’s sovereignty. This allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of why the issue of climate change is so hard for countries to collaborate on. It is easy for countries to set goals and recognize problems but it is tough to force states to stick to guidelines set. Unfortunately, violating the sovereignty of countries would break international norms. No government is willing to ostracize itself from other countries in the international system to ensure states are protecting the environment. 

Relating to the first idea I discussed regarding the interconnectedness of regional politics of Middle Eastern countries, I was wondering if the lack of accountability for politicians has been normalized in Lebanon. I think the past instability in both Lebanon and other surrounding countries may have led other politicians and the public to be hesitant to hold leaders accountable. Lebanese citizens may be happy with having a stable government ruled by the people of Lebanon. This leads the people and leaders of Lebanon to not want to risk instability by pushing for more accountability and stricter adherence to the constitution. They may fear that instability could leave them vulnerable to outside influence as well as violence within the country. This combined with the pandemic and destruction of Beirut due to the explosion could be why the public is much less motivated to push for change. Lastly, lack of accountability could be a social norm as Lebanon has seen strict regimes in the region and is satisfied with having a parliament and constitution, even if they have flaws. They may believe that engaging in a revolution would lead a strong and oppressive leader to emerge.

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Blog Post 1`

A common theme that arose in both breakout rooms was the theme of travel. When sharing our objects I discussed how I chose headphones signifying the use of music for background noise. I explained that this background noise was often used as I drove or flew from different destinations and my love for travel. Similarly, a student from the United Arab Emirates shared a painting of Venice to also represent their love of travel.
When sharing experiences regarding travel our breakout group found that the reason for travel in both the UAE and the US was similar. We first talked about the use of travel as a means to get away from where we were living to find “peace in chaos” as stated by one of the participants. Often college students feel stressed in both the UAE and the US and both cultures use travel as a way of breaking our routine through seeing new sights, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures. This escaping from routine allows for stress to momentarily be escaped.
Escape from the seasons was also a common theme. Students in the UAE discussed that travel was common in the summer due to the extreme heat in the region. The opposite is true in the US as many people will go to Florida and the Caribbean to escape the winters.
I asked students from Sharjah if travel was restricted to the upper classes in the UAE. They stated no and explained how the majority of the UAE is well off financially and can afford the costs as well as time off from work to travel. This contradicted my generalization that much of the Middle East does not have the resources to travel.
While unrelated, another interesting point came up in our second breakout room. A student from Sharjah was explaining why they chose to place a pin in olive tree fields in Jordan. They explained this choice came because their grandfather owned land with olive trees. They frequently traveled back to see both their grandparents and the beautiful land. Another student from the US responded that it’s interesting that they chose to place a pin in the olive tree field because their mother does work in promoting Jordan-Palestine relations through olive oil production. This then created a dialogue about how the US often thinks of countries in the Middle East in a geopolitical sense. This narrow way of looking at these different countries fails to take into account the deeper meaning of these countries. Furthermore, it ignores the ties people have to the countries and different cultures and customs in the region.
When she thinks of Jordan, she thinks of olive trees not its conflict with Palestine. This combined with my generalization of the role of travel in the Middle East illustrated to me the need to not Orientalize the Middle East and the danger of looking at the region purely through a Western lens.
We also discussed how students in both the UAE and the US often return to their home countries while traveling. This illustrated to me that both the US and the UAE are a melting pot of different cultures. This theme came up when we discussed food as well, as both the US and the UAE have a variety of restaurants with different types of food from across the world. This also challenged my view of the Middle East. I often think of people living in the Middle East as having strict state or religious identities. This was proven wrong by the fact that many of the students at Sharjah had to travel from other countries to attend the University combined with the fact that the Emirates is very diverse.
Overall, I felt we found more similarities than differences in our worldviews, especially evident in our reasons for travel. These conversations on things as basic as travel showed me that I have so many biases in looking at the region. I now understand that these biases will likely be proven wrong. This zoom call illustrated the dangers of looking through the Middle East through a purely Western lens. I am excited to keep learning more about the cultures of the region and feel that the best way to expand my knowledge of the Middle East is to continue to challenge my preconceived notions of the region by looking deeper into the cultures and norms of different groups in the region.

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