Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Look at the Foreign Policies of the 2016 Presidential Election: RNC

By Ryan Guerra, UNANCA Staff

A Look at the Foreign Policies of the 2016 Presidential Election is a three-part series covering the major party platforms. Check back in next week for a post on the DNC, covering the Democratic ticket and how candidates on that side of the aisle view the UN and international community. 

Presidential hopefuls’ opinions on the United Nations are very important to investigate during a major Presidential election. Their foreign policy dictates how the United States interacts with the international community for the next four to eight years. Although the United Nations often takes a back seat to general American foreign policy, I believe that it is important to analyze foreign policy through the eyes of the United Nations.

Sharp political tactics with poignant political quips started this election cycle off like no other. It surprised some people when the Republican Primary was filled to the brim with candidates, and even more when real estate mogul Donald Trump emerged as the front-runner. This week, Donald Trump accepted the nomination at the Republican National Convention and has launched his campaign with Governor Mike Pence of Indiana as his running mate. While Trump brings up many issues worth discussing, one that is rarely explored is his isolationist approach to foreign policy and the United Nations.

Trump has shown in many cases that he would move the United States towards a policy that would pull it off the global stage. He has called for an exit from NATO and during a speech in April, Trump made similar comments about the United Nations.

“It’s just like a political game. The United Nations – I mean the money we spend on the United Nations.”

As President, Trump would lead the country into an era of isolationism that would move us in a new direction; away from the United Nations. Trump has condemned the United Nations, calling it “not a friend of democracy” and “not a friend to freedom.” Although he has also previously made an offer to save the UN “1 billion dollars” by renovating the UN Headquarters in New York City, even going so far as to propose his help to then Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he has also been enormously critical of the UN for what he feels is its ineffectual efforts to help change the world.

On the other half of the ticket, Mike Pence has voted three times to withhold funding from the United Nations unless certain reforms were made in favor of the United States. This has helped to foster the idea that the Trump-Pence ticket is one of America First and the international community second.  

It is also worth mentioning that the new Republican Party platform makes a statement regarding the United Nations saying that Republicans believe our continued participation in the UN should be contingent on changes in the way the institution works. However, this platform suggests that while the Trump-Pence position has some sort of backing from the Republican Party as a whole, they clearly suggest that they are more open to working with the UN than is necessarily vocalized by the Trump campaign.

The United Nations was formed to promote peace and fight for Human Rights around the world. The UN Human Rights Council has passed many resolutions protecting the human rights of everyone and working towards a greater equality. While it absolutely requires reforms, especially within the Security Council, the United Nations has made large strides toward helping millions of people around the world, and U.S. funding is essential to implementing successful UN peacekeeping operations and other global missions. This is a reciprocal relationship, and the United States is better off in the United Nations working toward the greater good of society. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Turkey after the Coup

By: Tara O'Herlihy, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

This past Friday, the world watched as the military coup in Turkey unfolded. Although the government regained control the next day, the coup attempt drew onto the global stage problems in Turkey and the Middle East and has implications for global relations. In light of this, on July 20, the Brookings Institution held a discussion titled Turkey after the Coup Attempt:Implications for Turkish Democracy, Foreign Policy, and the Future of theSyrian War. The panel, composed of Brookings Foreign Policy Senior Fellows Fiona Hill, Kemal Kirişci, Ömer Taşpinar, Shadi Hamid, and Michael O’Hanlon, took turns detailing their own perspectives on the recent events, from the background of political struggles to military implications.

Turkey is no stranger to coups, with the most recent “e-coup” occurring in 2007. Almost every decade since the 1960s has seen some sort of coup, yet this latest coup was still shocking. The notion of a military coup is unexpected today, and there was a surprising level of immediate violence, with 290 people killed over the course of the weekend. Hamid remarked that the Turkish people have quickly adapted to a coup-free narrative, which explains why the Turkish people quickly rallied behind President Erdoğan. However, there is another narrative also lingering in the Turkish coup; that an Islamic government cannot stay in power through democracy. Groups such as ISIL use this narrative to support their physical caliphate, and undermine democratic governments in the Middle East.

While the coup may support this ISIL narrative, the motives and reasoning behind the coup are still unclear. Currently, the Turkish government is placing the blame on Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Turk living in Pennsylvania. The government claims that he and his Gülen school graduates masterminded the coup and that Gülen used his spiritual influence in Turkey. In this vein, Turkey is calling for the U.S. to extradite Gülen to Turkey, where he will face charges of treason. However, at this time, there is no agreed upon leader behind the coup.

After the coup was put down and President Erdoğan returned, the previous institutional failures and partisan divides became evident. Since 2013, there have been signs of institutional failure from the handling of the corruption allegations. There was a lack of professionalism then among the various institutions in the government, and this now has played out through Erdoğan’s massive purge. While the numbers are continuously changing, already there are about 50,000 government employees and officials who have been arrested or detained in connection to the coup. Many of these have been detained due to their connection with Gülen schools, which has led to a purge of over one third of the government’s institutions.

The effects of this coup and the government’s reaction may spread around the world. First, due to Erdoğan’s detainment of around 14,000 military officers and almost a third of the generals, the Turkish military is at its weakest point in recent history. This has grave implications for current fighting against Kurdish insurgency in the South and ISIL cells. Turkey has also been one of the strongest NATO military powers, but not after these detentions. Currently, Turkey is seeking EU membership, but the coup is enough to create a pause in the process. If they reinstate the death penalty in order to punish the participants, then Turkey’s hope of joining the EU will be lost. Additionally, the extradition battle over Gülen may severely hurt relations with the U.S. The U.S. has so far been working with Turkey, but they are demanding that laws be followed, and are asking for some proof of Gülen’s guilt. Additionally, treason is not listed as one of the cases in which the U.S. is required to extradite to Turkey. If the U.S. does not agree to send Gülen to Turkey, Erdoğan will most likely react strongly, which may ruin the U.S.-Turkey relationship.

It has not even been a week since the coup started, and its effects will continue to roll out over the next couple weeks and months. Taşpinar believes that some detainees will be released, as Erdoğan overreacted once he reclaimed power. He will say that now is the time for a strong leader, and rely on the Presidential system and his support from the public to retain his power. While Erdoğan does have strong support in the country and from the international community after the coup, there is a solid group within Turkey that wanted the coup to succeed. The lack of unity within the coup led to its failure, but the large number of top military officials that were involved demonstrate that there is tension in the country. It did not stem from the Islamist vs secular tensions, yet the coup has and will most likely continue to aggravate these tensions.

The future of Turkey and its role in the Middle East and the rest of the world is evolving now, and it will be up to Erdoğan, his government, and the Turkish citizens to decide if the non-coup narrative can continue and if the country will stabilize. 

Whose lives matter?

By Heather Hill, Co-Chair: Human Rights Committee, UNA-NCA. In collaboration with Jenn Chow, Member: Human Rights Committee, UNA-NCA.

It rises slowly, fiercely; the din of chaotic words and cries after the gunfire, falling on our ears like the thundering rain of a hot summer storm. So much noise, the chanting on the streets, the shouting at protests and in riots, the explosions of expression on social media feeds. Everyone vying to be louder, needing to be heard; crying at the side of a grave that swallowed its dead far too soon.

I think about the debate flaring up across this country, centered on the concern of whose lives matter. I hear the questions being fired out; what is happening, and what are we doing about it?

What I see and hear makes me stop. It makes me look out into the night and try to find the flicker of a firefly in the deepening twilight.

This is the United States of America, a country whose strength lies not only in its separate states working together nationally, but in the integrity of its many faceted people living in unity; in peace and equality.

My own ideas of what it means to be a people, which I want you to read from now on with the definition of "united diversity, living in peace and equality," comes largely from growing up outside of such a reality and not being a part. I have lived the entirety of my life as an outsider, having been born and matured, and now also lived and worked across four continents. It stems from being deprived of the same legal rights as those around me.

My idea of what it is to be a people stems from being called into the interrogation room at night to be questioned by military police about why I live there or why something might be wrong with my paperwork. It comes from having no vote; from carrying paperwork on my person at all times as proof of residency; from having a slight accent, from being shorter and plumper, from being too different. It comes from being denied, from having to leave the country I called home, and from always being relegated to the other even when at times and in certain places, that otherness afforded its own set of privilege.

It comes from being perceived and acted towards as the embodiment of what those around me, those with security and status, associate with me when we interact. While sometimes those associations and perceptions are pleasant, other times they result in people acting out of fear and anger over a broken trust, forcing a growing divide between us.

As a child, I always looked to the United Nations as this space that allowed me to be myself. It was the place where, for all of the oddness of my multi-cultural being, I could feel at home and safe, recognized as part of instead of as other.

Today, I still find myself looking to the UN for answers and aid—but I also see myself as part of the provision of those answers and that aid. "Be the change," Gandhi said.

Since moving to the States, I have noticed a perception that the work of the UN is really for the rest of the world. That here in this country, we don't have the same sort of needs. It certainly is true that as a country, the United States provides an enormous bulk of funding for humanitarian programs and supports the many efforts of the UN in the rest of the world. There really are areas where we can collaborate with the UN to better this country, too.  

This question we are facing in the United States today is a human rights question. Whose lives matter? And the resounding answer is that yes, in fact, all lives matter. All of them. All of us. We are all human, we are all people, and each and every one of us matter, end of story.

The problem with this wonderful statement, however, is not that any of us think not all lives matter, but rather, that not all lives seem to matter. That not all voices get heard, that not all treatment is equal; that there are those amongst us in this country whose lives seem to matter less. 

Robert F Kennedy once said,
"Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice."

Many people here in the United States have some degree of awareness of the Holocaust, which is forever engrained in the walls of the Smithsonian Holocaust Museum as a perpetual reminder that such a tragedy should never happen again. Having spent my teenage years in Eastern and Western Europe, I heard Holocaust stories from neighbors and strangers nearly every day - stories entrenched in their memories - reminding me, never again.

I went off to Rwanda to study genocide and reconciliation, to try and wrap my own mind a little more around the questions of why we can come both to define and to diminish humanity; of what identity and fear of the other can do; and of how in the world we can ever hope for peace when it takes so little to shatter humanity.

It hurt my ears at times, the refrain of "Never Happen Again" which floated up from the memorials and the museums and mouths of victims and victimizers alike, because I kept looking back at the history of the world and looking around at the events only beginning to unfurl then and thinking to myself, "But doesn't it always happen again?"

Whose lives matter?

When answered in a way that is not inclusive; that does not work hard to build in equality where there is none; that fears the other around it; this is the question that breaks a country into all hell and a people into person vs. person.

I think about that "Never Happen Again" slogan from Rwanda that I wrestled so much with. Over time, I have come to a new appreciation for it. In saying "Never Happen Again," it at once both acknowledges that something terrible happened, and that something must be done.

No hurt can be healed without acknowledging its existence.
No inequality can be fixed without first being pointed out by someone and then also acknowledged by everyone—after which comes the work of doing something about it.

We have come to a point in time when the inequality and injustices in our country have come boiling up to the surface and what happens now will define us far into the future and in ways we can only begin to imagine. But although we are heartbroken, shaken, and hurt—even scared—this is the time to act, to begin to effect change, and utilize the globally-inclusive UN to feel the positive impact of it at home.

Among the United Nations’ treaties, bodies, and plans there are a number of key pieces we can use in our own country to address becoming a peaceful and inclusive country, one that protects all of its people as a people and ensure that dignity is afforded to every one of us.

On behalf of the Human Rights Committee, I invite you to join us as, over the next few months, we explore in dialogue, events and activities, and this blog the connection between what is happening in our locality today, how the UN can help us achieve what we want, and the actions we need to take, including:

·       The Human Rights Council
·       Global Goal 16

Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as a representative to the UN as well as a diligent leader of the United Nations Association in its founding days, once said,

" Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

Today, let’s look for a firefly or light a candle for those who are gone, and then carry those we remember with us as we work towards answers and change.

If we do not recognize the patterns at work and stop to say "never again!," then we continue to be complicit in deepening our own wound instead of beginning the long road to healing and working together to create the sustainable beauty of a people, equal, peaceful, and united.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Shibley Telhami Speaks on Orlando, the Middle East, and the U.S. Election

By: Tara O'Herlihy, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On July 11, 2016, Shibley Telhami, the Anwat Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Nonresident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, presented his research on Orlando, the Middle East, and the U.S. election. Telhami examined the intersection of these topics through a series of polls conducted through the University of Maryland in November 2015, May 2016, and June 2016. These last two polls were done two weeks before the Orlando shooting and two weeks after the shooting.

The first part of the presentation was a summary of public opinion on Muslims and Islam. Favorability of Muslims has increased from 53% in November 2015 to 62% after the Orlando shooting. While the favorability of Islam is lower overall, it has increased from 37% to 44% over the same time period. However, when Telhami entered party affiliation, the numbers were very different between Republicans and Democrats. Most recently, favorability of Muslims was 42% and 79% among Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Similar partisan polarization occurred for favorability of Islam.

Telhami offered potential explanations for the increasing favorability of Muslims and Islam, which may be surprising to some in light of recent public rhetoric. The first possible reason is the more nuanced thinking that is evident in polling regarding the Orlando shooting. The most popularly perceived factors behind this and other shootings were  militant Islamic ideology and mental illness, while the least popular opinion - with only 2% support - was feeling rejected as a Muslim in America. Additionally, when asked about the  best way to prevent further attacks, people chose banning the sale of any weapons to people on terrorist and criminal watch lists, better security, and fighting ISIS abroad over monitoring Muslim communities in the U.S. These answers demonstrate a shift from associating all Muslims with terrorism to a nuanced perspective on the nature of terrorism in the U.S. Also, President Obama has been working to differentiate between the religion of militant extremist groups and Islam, which appears to be successful given this recent data.

After focusing on American views of U.S. issues, Telhami explored foreign policy issues in the Middle East in his November 2015 and May 2016 polls.  One of these areas was how the U.S. should respond to a UN Security Council proposal supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state. From November to May, support for abstaining from voting decreased while support for voting against the proposal increased. As of May, 27% were in favor of voting for, 35% supported voting against, and 35% wanted the U.S. to abstain from voting on the matter. This, similar to other issues, was split by party, with more Republicans supporting voting against the establishment and more Democrats supporting voting for the proposal.

We would like to thank Shibley Telhami and the University of Maryland for their research and presentation, and the sponsorship of The Brookings Institution, particularly Tamara Cofman Wittes for moderating the event and William Galston for participating in discussion after the presentation.