The Plight of the Pangolin

Staff writer Hunter Savery ’20 explores how changing environmental factors have affected the survival of many mammal species, including the most endangered one: the pangolin.

There are countless species across the globe at risk from illegal poaching: the elephant, the rhinoceros, the lion, and the list goes on. However, most people are completely unaware of the plight of the pangolin, the most trafficked mammal on the planet. The pangolin is an adorable combination of an armadillo and a pineapple.

According to the website of Save Pangolins, pangolins are burrowing creatures that use long sticky tongues to eat ants and termites. These creatures are shy, harmless and mostly nocturnal. One of the pangolin’s notable features is that when threatened, it rolls into a tight ball. Unfortunately for the pangolin, rolling into a ball does not exactly stop poachers.

So how did the pangolin become the most trafficked mammal on earth? Pangolins have long been hunted as bushmeat, but that hardly accounts for the sharp decline in pangolin populations across the globe. New money in China and Vietnam has dramatically increased demand for exotic animals. According to National Geographic, pangolin meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are used as a part of traditional medicine. CNN reports that their blood is used as a healing tonic in Chinese medicine, and strangest of all, a pangolin fetus soup is eaten to enhance male virility.

Just how much is a pangolin worth? At a restaurant in Vietnam, a pangolin can garner $350 per kilogram. In Southeast Asia, pangolins are a delicacy, a status symbol, and believed to have medicinal properties. The role of pangolins as a status symbol is especially important in the new economies of the region.

There are eight distinct species of pangolin in Asia and Africa. While poachers initially focused on the Asian species, as pangolin populations declined, African pangolins became the next targets. The number of pangolins remaining in the wild is unknown, though populations are clearly being depleted. According to CNN, conservative estimates show 10,000 are illegally trafficked every year. Inconveniently, most poachers are not reporting their activities to the press. Annamiticus, an advocacy group, reports that the actual number trafficked over a two-year period was between 116, 990 and 233,980.

FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT PANGOLINS

  1. Baby pangolins ride around on their mother’s tails.

  2. Pangolin tongues are over a foot long and start at the pelvis.

  3. Chinese pangolins have humanlike ears.

  4. The pangolin swings from trees by its tail.

  5. Pangolins when frightened roll up into scaly balls, baffling even lions and tigers, who can merely swat at them.

The good news is that at a recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, a ban was approved on trade of seven pangolin species. The LA Times reports that the agreement was reached by consensus, with only Indonesia opposing the measures. The new agreement will effectively ban all commercial pangolin trade. The tiger and rhino can step aside, it is finally time to save the artichoke with legs.

By: Hunter Savery ’20

Post-Apartheid Reality: Can South Africa Live Up to Mandela’s Vision?

Staff writer Nico Nagle ’17 examines South Africa’s Reconstruction and Development Programme and analyzes just how well it lives up to the egalitarian vision of Nelson Mandela. 

In 1994, at the end of Apartheid, South Africa was a place of idealism. Men who had once been held as political prisoners on Robben Island moved into the highest reaches of national government and began to implement one of the most progressive national constitutions the world had ever seen. One of the most notable governance programs based on that constitution was the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), which held a focus on providing the infrastructure that second-class citizens had never had. These 40 square meter houses became synonymous with the legacy of Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress. Black ownership was recognized and legitimized by a black government, which looked out for black interests and well being. In Cape Town, RDP housing applications came in by the thousands, and communities of color saw their houses, and the property rights that they represented, begin to go up.

Twenty years later, however, the sense of confidence and hope that people once had has begun to fade. Among a number of reasons, two stand out as incredibly important. The first is that it does not actually serve to break down the segregation implemented by Apartheid. In Cape Town, as in many other cities in South Africa, these RDP houses are placed in townships, some as far as an hour and a half drive outside the city proper. The logic behind this was that black and colored populations, who were the target for the program, would not have to move, and could maintain the integrity of their communities. While this is an incredibly important consideration, the proximity of townships was an intentional construct of the Apartheid regime intended to ensure that black people could not access white held amenities and services, like health care or schools. In failing to break down the lack of access to services, the RDP program failed to dismantle the essential component of Apartheid.

The second reason for a sense of failure on the part of the government is that production of RDP houses has failed to keep up with the rate necessary to house all citizens. After 20 years, those left waiting for their RDP house, many of who have taken residence in informal settlements or backyard dwellings, have lost faith in the government to provide on their promise. Some believe that this is a facile argument due to the fact that the percentage of the population now living in formal settlements has risen from 76 percent to 80 percent between 2002 and 2016, based on data reported by Stats SA in their April 20th, 2016 report: Housing from a human settlement perspective. Nationally, there is debate about this as a success, because the absolute number of RDP applications stuck in backlog has risen from 1.5 million in 1994 to 2.1 million in 2013, which shows that recent increases in efficiency are still not adequate enough to delivery in full, as reported by news24 in 2013.

Several organizations, both inside and outside of the government, have taken on projects that challenge the government’s RDP tenets. One of the most popular and controversial ideas put forward was the idea of a Wescape development. As described by FUTURE CAPE TOWN in a series of reports about the establishment from 2016, Wescape is a development plan that featured a plot of land 20 kilometers from the city meant to accommodate 800,000 citizens in 200,000 new homes. Ostensibly, this plan was highly attractive. If it were to come together, more than 300,000 new jobs would be created, which would primarily benefit the lower-middle class, a priority of new developments. There was so much initial support that the city even voted to move the urban edge to accommodate the land. This is also indicative of another important aspect of the project. It would be very cheap to buy the land, because it was far from the city center, and would therefore be a net gain economically. In this vein, it matched Cape Town’s “Built Environment Performance Plan 2014/2015,” which emphasized buying parcels of land in “growth corridors,” which are seen as the easiest way to develop residential sites.

After some analysis, however, a large backlash came from a coalition, which emphasized the belief that this ostensibly avante garde design, rooted in walkability, government subsidy, and a small environmental footprint, would actually solve the primary problems faced by the city of Cape Town. The strongest critiques were those that drew effective parallels between Wescape’s design and the RDP housing structure, such as those from Professor Vanessa Watson in FUTURE CAPE TOWN’s piece, 10 reasons Cape Town’s new city “Wescape” would be a disaster.” As the reader may recall, even a fully productive RDP program held a fundamental flaw in that it did not actually create equity in terms of access to services and amenities due to a failure to break down Apartheid boundaries.

The ground appears to be almost literally shifting out from under the Wescape idea, however, as Cape Town is now in the midst of a fundamental shift of housing policy theory that focuses much more on “densification.” This term generally describes the idea of highly efficient land use, and is practiced in terms of “building up.” It is a response to the critiques of both the RDP and Wescape-style programs, and it, in theory, solves all of those problems. By reducing the special footprint of the city, there is the idea that energy can be used much more efficiently, and more people may have access to the anchor institutions of the city, most notably the public hospitals, which all exist near to the city center due to Apartheid planning. In theory, it is a fantastic example of policy that actually breaks apart the Apartheid regime in a tangible manner, while also using public funds efficiently.

In reality, however, there are some rather alarming aspects in the adoption of this policy. Chief among them is that the government’s role in facilitating housing is severely decreased. Where the RDP system allowed the government to fully subsidize and ensure housing, they have resigned themselves to hoping public-private partnerships with real estate developers and landlords, as actors in the free market, will accommodate the entire population of the city, 60 percent of which do not participate in the formal economy. They are also planning to encourage the specific practice of renting “microflats,” which is essentially subletting of sections of apartments. For many, this brings a concern about health in tight spaces. Can the city of Cape Town provide a quality of health care and active, enforceable regulation of rental practice to ensure this is a success? That is an essential question moving forward, and one that is sure to answer itself in the coming years.

For now, Cape Town is engaged in a debate between “densification” and sprawl that must take into account the constitutional charge of service provision for all people in an egalitarian manner.

By: Nico Nagle ’17

ISIS’s Attempt to Erase History

Staff writer Max Fertik ’19 explores ISIS’s tactics by targeting cultural and historical sites in the Middle East. 

In 2016, the U.S. continues to wage its war against ISIS, an effort that still struggles to be solved with concrete foreign policies. Our Presidential candidates throw around the terrorist organization’s name like pizza dough, assuming that ISIS’s fate and its actions can be easily molded by the U.S.

Despite this naïveté, Associated Press says that the ISIS’s social media output, an integral component of their strategy, has significantly gone down from 700 items in August 2015 to 200 this past August. This is its lowest point yet. Meanwhile, ISIS has also been driven out of nearly half of the Iraqi territory that it once occupied. Associated Press even state sthat recently ISIS has “started to look less like a religious state with a future and more like an eroding terrorist army .”

Nonetheless, beginning in late 2014, ISIS sparked a rampant campaign against not only non-Muslims and non-extremists but against their own heritage. In their burning desire to rid the world of anything less than radical, the group enacted an operation known as “Kata’ib Kaswiyya” (or the settlement battalion) to essentially delete any history of these non-fundamentalist groups by demolishing any artifacts or ruins Pagan, Jewish, Christian and even Muslim. It appears that their logic here in carrying out this operation, aside from attention-grabbing propaganda, is to essentially wipe history clean of cultures that were less agreeable with ISIS ideals in order initiate their own place in history. They will also plan to sell many of these artifacts on underground markets to fund other activities.

The most notable victim of this campaign was Temple of Baalshamin located in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Once a magnificent symbol of growth and prosperity and one of the region’s best preserved ruins, the city now lies a pile of dust, seized by ISIS only a week earlier. The Islamic State also took it upon themselves to sledge hammer half a dozen ancient statues and destroy two priceless, historic tombs in Palmyra. These members felt that these artifacts represented a Pagan time before Islam and must be demolished in order to further their plan to diminish ethnic diversity.

In addition to Palmyra, the Islamic State has destroyed several Shiite mosques and shrines in the Iraqi towns of Mosul and Tal Afar and as many as six mosques in the Northern city of Nineveh. Also in Mosul, the group destroyed an enormous collection of artifacts, books and incinerated the Sunni Muslim library itself at the University of Mosul. They also felled countless Assyrian gypsum statues at the Mosul Museum (famously released on video) and almost fully destroyed every single church in the Iraqi city. These are not nearly all of the temples, mosques, artifacts, and monuments demolished in the name of ISIS but merely the most jarring and massive in effect.

It is a big undertaking to try to keep track of the enormous amount of religious items and structures that have been destroyed by this fundamentalist group in the past few years. The Monuments Men, a film that was released coincidentally the same year that Palmyra was ravaged, does a good job encapsulating this mentality possessed by ISIS. While the film is actually about Nazis,  it allows one to draw parallels between ISIS’s current actions and those of the Nazi. Both groups south to destroy history in order to rewrite it and make profit off the artifacts it confiscated. One quote during the movie delivered George Clooney particularly frames this logic: “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed.”

The quote has the ability to reveal what ISIS may have originally thought when they created Kata’ib Kaswiyya. However, the sentiments of the last part of the quote may not be true the way ISIS hoped for it to be. History cannot be erased, though its artifacts can be destroyed. Despite the fact that it is truly heartbreaking to lose such items so rich in culture that help us envision a time before, the history and culture of a people cannot die. Without the literal and tangible artifacts, people can bring their histories and cultures back to life through oral and written tradition.

In retrospect, UNESCO must continue their collaboration with the Syrian government to keep these cultural sites more protected and free from the debauchery of such extremists . We must consider that though these acts of terrorism are not violent in the way that killings and bombings are, the destruction of cultural sites is detrimental. However, we cannot allow history to be erased that easily, especially at the hands of a dangerous group like ISIS.

By: Max Fertik ’19

An International Proxy War: The Civil War Rages On in Syria

Staff writer Parker Brown ’19 unpacks the complex war that rages on in Syria and identifies all the international powers trying to get their interests and goals accomplished through the proxy war.

The civil war embroiling Syria is a topic of which most Americans are at least generally aware. Aleppo is the most populous city in the country, and thus has emerged as the epicenter of the humanitarian crisis that the war has caused. While it is largely the consensus amongst the western world that Bashar al-Assad’s rule is dictatorial and inhumane, the list of claims against him includes typical autocratic action, such as oppression of political opponents as well as the use of chemical weapons and bombs on his own civilians, this Syrian civil war lacks a clear ‘good’ side.

As the regime of Assad fights to maintain its role governing Syria that it has had since coming into power in 2000, a myriad of rebel groups, many backed by foreign powers, and some terrorist associations are fighting to claim control of the city of Aleppo and the country of Syria. Included in these rebel groups are a slew of US-backed ‘moderate’ forces, although that determination of ‘moderate’ is up for debate and is mired in a moral gray area.

According to an Arab Chronicle report, the United States funded and armed – chiefly by way of the largely unrestricted CIA – the rebel group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki as a part of the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council. In early July, a video was released of members of that group beheading a young, captured Syrian boy. While, per the Daily Beast, the US has ceased funding the group, it is far from guaranteed that the rebels whom the US is supporting and facilitating are shining lights of positive influence in the region. Further enforcing this is an Amnesty International report analyzing the actions of US-backed Syrian rebel groups that found “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” including public executions, torture and abductions while enforcing strict Shari’a law. On the other side, that of the Syrian government and its allies, the morality of the situation is no better.

As previously mentioned, the Assad regime has been accused of using chemical weapons on its citizens as a part of the effort to silence the rebellion against it. United Nations reports have found that Assad has used chlorine-based chemical weapons, which is in direct violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention agreement which he joined. Furthermore, the polar effects of the civil war on different regions of Aleppo itself indicate further that Assad’s forces have played a malignant role with regards to the lives of his civilians.

While it is typically reported that Aleppo as a whole is mired in destruction, this ignores the subtlety of the real effects of the war on the city. According to The Guardian, UN satellite and drone images have shown completely polar situations in the eastern and western portions of Aleppo. The eastern region of the city has been reduced to rubble, including hospitals, schools and other civilian targets, by way of carpet bombing. The western side, however, remains largely unscathed by the conflict. The latter region is under government control, while the former has been bombed by the Assad regime and its allies in attempts to destroy the rebellion with little to no regard for the civilians living there. With regards to the allies of the Assad regime, chief amongst them stands Russia.

Russian involvement in Syria has perhaps been the most controversial foreign involvement in the embattled nation – at least in the opinion of the western world – and has been marked by support of Assad’s dictatorial actions, increasing aggression and, on September 19th, accusations of airstrikes on a UN supply convoy headed for a town just west of the city of Aleppo.

While Vladimir Putin and Russia have denied involvement in the incident – which, according to Al Arabiya, destroyed 18 Red Crescent and UN trucks, damaged a warehouse and resulted in 18 deaths, including local Red Crescent leader Omar Barakat – there is evidence suggesting that it was carried out by either Russia or Moscow-backed Syrian forces. Stephen O’Brien, the UN aid chief, has warned that, if it is found that the attackers were aware of the convoy’s status as an aid convoy, the attack amounts to a war crime.

Thus, both the US and Russian backed forces have committed war crimes, and there is yet still another group doing the same; the self-named Islamic State which is also pejoratively called Daesh. Accounts of their violent actions, both in the Middle East and in the western world, are numerous and include executing hostages by way of beheading them or burning them alive and the 2015 attacks on civilians in Paris.

So, whilst the Russian-backed Syrian government fights for control of its country against independent and US-backed rebels, the Islamic State fights them both. Taking also into consideration the various factions supported by Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other nations, a full blown proxy war is emerging in the Middle East. This proxy war is amongst groups who are committing acts that are, from a humanitarian standpoint, nothing short of atrocious. This leads to an awfully fragile and precarious position for the over two million Syrian civilians who are, quite literally, caught in the crossfire in Aleppo.

By: Parker Brown ’19

The French Exchange: Liberties for Security

As terrorist attacks shake France, the government decides to extend its state of emergency and continues the suspension of civil liberties. 

This past year was undoubtedly difficult for France. First, the Charlie Hebdo shootings took place on Jan. 7, 2015, followed by the horrific Paris attacks that occurred in November. However, the greatest threat to the French people might now come from their own government. Invoking a law created during the 1955 Algerian Revolution, the French government imposed a state of emergency on November 14, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, which is still in effect. According to Al Jazeera America, it is in fact the longest state of emergency imposed since World War II. Against popular opinion, France’s parliament recently voted to extend the emergency state until May 26.

The pretense of the French state of emergency is that the nation is so insecure that liberties must be suspended until order is restored. However, it is up to the government to decide when order is restored. The flexibility of such conditions has human rights groups, like the Human Rights League and Amnesty International, concerned. According to the International Business Times, dozens of environmentalists belonging to the group Europe Ecologie Les Verts were placed under house arrest prior to the climate talks held in Paris from November 30 through Dec. 12, 2015. This clearly demonstrates that the French government will not be so cautious to the extent in which it exercises its use of emergency powers. It gives credence to concerns that the state of emergency will be used to silence any dissenting voice, innocent or otherwise.

In addition to being a completely arbitrary abuse of power, the emergency powers have been enforced unequally because of bias. Several of the Islamic jihadists in the Paris attacks were French nationals, and this automatically makes the already marginalized Muslim community in France suspect to law enforcement. One of the most controversial moves by the government was to propose an amendment to strip dual nationals of their French citizenship if they were found guilty of any crimes linked to terrorism. The implications of this proposed amendment would specifically target the Algerian-French Muslim population and other similar immigrants who have become French citizens, while maintaining their roots to their Islamic origins.  According to an article written in the Telegraph, France’s justice minister, Christine Taubira, resigned in protest of this proposed amendment and its assumed prejudices.

Despite the nationwide dissent on the government’s recent actions after the November attacks, the French government does not seem to be listening to the public. According to The New York Times, countrywide protests occurred over the decision of the three-month extension of the imposed state of emergency. France is a major European country, and its stability is crucial. However, the state of emergency can only end when France’s leaders decide it is no longer necessary. Until then, the rights of French citizens will be at risk of indefinite suspension.

By: Matthew Boyle ’19 

The Unexpected Side Effects of the Zika Virus

While the mosquito-borne virus continues to threaten Latin American populations, in its wake, Zika has also revealed tensions between religious beliefs and healthcare. 

“To doctors in Recife, whatever was striking the babies seemed to have fallen like a bolt from the blue,” wrote Donald Mcneil, a columnist from The New York Times, with regards to the epidemic of the Zika virus in Latin America.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that has been said to resemble other illnesses such as Dengue Fever and Chikungunya. However, Zika seems to have blindsided doctors of Central America. Before the epidemic spread to many countries, not much was known about this sneaky virus. But, as more and more cases began to pop up in countries such as Brazil, it has severely alarmed doctors, particularly OB/GYN professionals.

Patients who have been diagnosed with Zika have shown symptoms of a flat, pinkish rash, in addition to having bloodshot eyes, a fever, joint pain and headaches – none of which seem particularly life threatening. So why does this virus have doctors worrying? The unsettling coincidence that has occurred, especially within Brazil, is that an alarming number of newborn babies whose mothers have Zika have shown signs of microcephaly, an infantile condition leading to an abnormally small head associated with incomplete brain development.

When increasing number of microcephalic babies began to stream into hospitals in major cities in Brazil, researchers and physicians were led to believe that there was a clear link between Zika and birth defects. In the panic, Brazil’s official medical suggestion to all women has been: do not get pregnant.

What may seem like a benign advisory actually unveils some controversial issues within Latin American countries. A number of countries in Central America are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and the Zika virus could shine a spotlight on Brazil and other countrieslack of education and resources for contraception due to their deeply convicted religious foundations.

John Paris, a bioethicist and Catholic Priest at Boston College, claimed that people are going to have to really thread a fine theological needle,if they continue to advise women not to get pregnant. Although recent remarks by Pope Francis allude to an evolving stance on contraception, the Catholic Church is officially opposed to artificially preventing unwanted pregnancy. As Latin American countries warn women to not get pregnant for the next two years due to the scares of the Zika virus, the Catholic Church has kept completely silent. This lack of an opinion on a crucial matter creates quite the stalemate, particularly in a region where Catholicism yields such an authority.

The tensions between the Zika virus and religious beliefs lead into another controversy over advising against pregnancy in the near future: not all women have access to reproductive healthcare. Due to the religious affiliations many Latin American countries still have, abortions are very tightly restricted. This makes it much more difficult to get an abortion, rendering it even more difficult for poor women who have little or no access to reproductive healthcare. Not to mention, in Brazil, it is even illegal for a woman to abort a fetus that will most likely be microcephalic.

To make matters worse, the majority of women who have contracted Zika live in low-income neighborhoods in mosquito-ridden areas, with crowded housing and minimal health care. Essentially, these women (and their potential offspring) dont stand a chance.

Clearly, an element of institutional sexism in Latin American countries has been brought to public attention. Since it is extremely difficult for women to get an abortion in certain countries in Central America, they will seek ways to illegally abort a fetus, due to the dangerous risks of the Zika virus, and thus, ultimately put themselves at greater risk for these illegal methods.

How can the government advise against pregnancy and not grant adequate reproductive healthcare to all women? There is no doubt that people will be asking this question if the Zika virus continues to spread, and the link between the virus and birth defects grows more evidentiary-backed. Needless to say, the spotlight has definitely turned to the Brazilian government to take action with the social inequality that manifests itself through the Zika virus.

By: Mandi Paine ’18 

The New Battlefield: The World of Cyberspace

The emergence of cyber warfare has changed the way countries think about security and defense in order to be safe from hackers. 

World War I saw the emergence of tanks and machine guns. World War II saw the prominent use of flamethrowers and the introduction of long range-guided ballistic missiles. The Cold War was a standoff centered on nuclear bombs. The Persian Gulf War was won through extensive bombing via stealth fighter-bombers and Tomahawk cruise missiles. So what is the world’s newest way to wage war?

The internet.

As the world becomes more reliant on technological capabilities, those tasked with waging war dedicate an increasing amount of resources toward the defense of cyber-attacks and, too, the ability to conduct their own.

For instance, the U.S. Tenth Fleet, a Navy cyber unit, exists with a mission statement, “to conduct operations in and through cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum, and space to ensure [the] Navy and Joint/Coalition freedom of action and decision superiority while denying the same to our adversaries,” and to dominate cyberspace, which they define as the, “5th Operational Domain,” of warfare. Cyber security and cyber warfare are transitioning into being treated similarly to traditional defense and military measures, with a militant emphasis on logistics in cyberspace paralleling militant resource and weapons acquisitions and manufacture. However, there are limitations to the extent of this comparison, and those limitations arise due to an aspect of cyber warfare that is largely not shared with physical, more traditional forms of warfare: accessibility.

Cyber warfare presents the world with a remarkably accessible way to fight. In a conventional war, proximity, weaponry and training are essential for engagement and involvement in the battle. Due to this, states that are in locations physically removed from wars—such as the United States—are not often directly involved in waging war. States that have untrained militaries or outdated, inefficient equipment and weaponry do not often involve themselves in wars in which they have no fighting chance. Conventional war also assumes that the actors in war are either states or, more recently, terrorist groups. However, the accessibility introduced by new developments in cyber warfare is transforming the nature of the battlefield.

As fronts of war in cyberspace do not require a physical presence where the ‘enemy’ is located, states are not deterred by the traditional proximity hurdle, and thus, can become more directly involved in war. For instance, the hacktivist group “Anonymous” is able to wage war on the Islamic State despite a lack of formal physical presence in the Middle East. The capability of a civilian body, rather than a state, achieving direct influence on warfare in cyberspace is without clear parallel in traditional warfare. Furthermore, cyber warfare decreases the importance of traditional training and resources.

The hardware needed for direct involvement in cyber warfare stands as a fairly insignificant barrier in developed nations, as most civilians in developed nations have the computer and internet access necessary. Likewise, the training needed to execute some degree of cyber warfare is minimal, or at the very least, training is easy to access on the Internet. For instance, the aforementioned civilian group Anonymous has published a “NoobGuide” for hacking the Islamic State, with a goal of increasing the civilian involvement in their war on the Islamic State. However, just as cyber warfare opens the door for civilians to be involved, it also allows for civilians to be vulnerable to new types of attacks.

In nations such as the U.S., where wars are not often physically fought, the growing presence of cyber warfare brings the effects of war much closer to civilians than traditional war does. The life of a civilian in the U.S. is typically not in danger, even with wars being fought overseas. However, as a result of modern, cyber warfare, that same civilian’s cyber security and safety certainly are at risk.  

This is the result of a noticeable power distribution shift that war in cyberspace brings about. In preparing for traditional warfare, immense resources are dedicated to the acquisition and development of physical weapons and defense mechanisms—the U.S. Department of Defense is requesting a budget of over $500 billion dollars for the 2016 fiscal year alone. This burden can be shouldered by large, rich nations such as the United States, but cannot be absorbed so easily by smaller and less wealthy groups such as the Islamic State. However, the same disproportionately large resource allocations are not as essential within the sphere of cyberspace, which decreases the advantageous results of a massive budget and resource pool.  

Furthermore, cyber warfare brings about a greater national security risk for powerful nations such as the United States. An article from The New Yorker goes as far as to compare the rash implementation and potentially devastating global response to cyber warfare, particularly Stuxnet, to the Cold War nuclear arms race. However, this comparison falls short for one key, aforementioned reason accessibility. Civilians or small militant groups cannot often afford to develop or procure nuclear weapons, thus the risk for large and developed nations that can afford those technologies is relatively low, compared to a high risk for those who cannot afford the technologies. However, those same civilians and small groups can utilize much of the same technology that larger nations can with regards to conducting cyber warfare, thus reducing the risk for themselves and maximizing the risk for the large nations with everything to lose.

In addition, the nature surrounding the feasibility of cyber-attacks and counter-measures favors smaller groups with less on the line. In short, it is generally less challenging to find a weakness in cyber-security measures than to defend against all possible intrusions. It is for this reason that the group responsible for analyzing the effectiveness of military equipment, known as the DOT&E (Director, Operational Test and Evaluation), found in early February a recurring issue with U.S. Army communications equipment: vulnerability to cyber-attack. The group stated that even the newest and most improved version of the Army’s battlefield gear, “continues to demonstrate cybersecurity vulnerabilities.” It is for this reason that cyber-attacks, indiscriminately on critical infrastructure, government and civilian targets alike, serve as the most threatening avenue of conflict development, in a world growing more dependent on technology on a daily basis.

By: Parker Brown ’19 

For Sale: The World, Custom-Made

As a “global citizen,” are there any limits to where we can go and what we can do?

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Editor-in-Chief: Alicia Abbaspour ’18

In the time it takes me to make a cup of coffee in the morning, I’ve already strolled down the streets of France at midnight, spoken with some refugees in Jordan, watched the sunset off the coast of Australia, hiked through Macchu Pichu in Peru and eaten lunch with some school girls in Indonesia. Time and space were limitations of the twentieth century – today, I can tour the globe in under three minutes, as I scroll through my social media feeds and absorb bits of information flooding through the 24-hour news cycle.
What was once unknowable, ungraspable, exotic, distant and far-off is now easily attainable – a sampling of the world beyond the U.S. can be packaged up and ready to ship with free two-day delivery, albeit with just a simple $80 membership fee. Want to live like a European? Spend a semester in Paris. Want to be adventurous? Go on a safari tour through Tanzania. Want to be charitable? Spend your spring break building houses in Bali. Want to be both? Now, you can be a “voluntourist” – a vast amount of programs exists to allow young people like you to embody Mother Teresa for several hours a day and then to relax from all that hard work. You can take a couple pictures with the village children whose names you do not learn or watch a cultural dance, specifically choreographed to fulfill your preconceived notions.

When the world comes knocking at your door, who can blame you for not saying no? Or, rather, who can blame you – because you cannot say no. Because the world is too loud and permeable, and it comes barging in anyway.

You could ignore the war in Syria, the increasingly expansion-like policies of Russia, the economy in China, the Zika virus in Latin America and other parts of the world for only so long until these topics continue to pop up on every outlet you use to connect with everyone else. We are constantly plugged in – to our phones, to our friends and family, to our nation and its discourse, and unavoidably then, yes, to the world.

Now, more than ever before, accessibility is abundant – but accessibility to what exactly?

More than 200,000 Americans study abroad every year. A 2008 study by Tourism Research and Marketing, an international consultancy group, found that about 1.6 million people volunteer internationally, with the United States sending more volunteers than any other country. Hundreds of programs have been constructed to secure students educational placements or internship opportunities overseas. A quick Google search will supply you with numerous sources for international internships, from idealist.org, to gooverseas.com, to goabroad.com, to transitionsabroad.com to programs with CISAbroad, UNICEF, and CIEE. The NGO sector and the increasingly loud and powerful human rights movement continue to depend on young American liberals, wide-eyed with idealized perspectives to carry on their momentum.

What does it mean when the land of opportunity has seemingly expanded past the coasts of the U.S.?

Just because we can book a flight to Indonesia or spend a semester in Morocco, can we also fix the human trafficking problem in Thailand or teach students in failing school structures in Ghana?

More accessibility to travel and information does not necessarily mean more understanding about the world. We construct our image of the globe through a dizzying kaleidoscope of vacations photos from our friends, news footage, readings in our classes, and testimonies by immigrants. At times it feels as though the world must be so simple and so knowable now – or if it isn’t, then it can be! Through a couple of months overseas or a quick service trip. Maybe a cruise around the Caribbean, or a week at a European resort.

You might learn how to say hello in Arabic (marhaba) or that it’s considered impolite to reach out with your left hand in Ghanaian culture. You might learn that Iranians greet each others with three kisses, and in Italy, with only two. But when you start an NGO in Nigeria to help street children, how would you know the societal reasons for their marginalization stem from beliefs in witchcraft? Did you think about how providing contraception to Brazilian women might not help anything, if they perceive such resources as sacrilegious?

What can we do when it feels like we know so much, but reality tells us we know so little? How do we engage in a world we are told is ours for exploring and understanding? How do we participate in the human rights and nonprofit craze – genuinely, and not cause more harm, than good? How do we shake off the histories of colonialism and imperialism that continue to haunt any American abroad? Those are not rhetorical questions, but I don’t have any answers.

To be honest, I volunteered for a month in Ghana with a local nonprofit last summer. I’m planning a semester abroad for my junior year. I’ve considered joining the PeaceCorps once I graduate – and time and time again, I’ve had to step back and evaluate what exactly I’m engaging in. Are my decisions helpful, in the way I want them to be? Are they harmful, in ways I never could have imagined? Am I being understanding, before assuming? Am I exploiting my passport and my privilege, instead of considering my own, individual, limited role, even as a “global citizen?”

These are questions to meditate on, to keep revisiting as we uncover more about history through our studies, as we continue to live in the interconnected present world and as we look forward into the alluring future. They are questions to consider, as we plan our vacations and book our flights, as we snap pictures of cathedrals and walk past the slums, as we donate to some global foundation and purchase goods shipped out of sweatshops overseas.

Because if there is opportunity, shouldn’t we take it? Shouldn’t we engage, rather than take a safari and peer at others through our binoculars and the safe distance of the cruiser? Shouldn’t we engage, instead of stepping onto shore only to explore the beach and then get right back on the boat before someone speaks to us in a different tongue?

How do we construct our role in a world that seems increasingly close to us, yet remains profoundly unknowable?

By: Alicia Abbaspour ’18

Striking a Balance: Fear, Compassion and the Refugee Crisis

Russ Pierson ’17 evaluates the refugee crisis and emphasizes the need for the West to not only accept refugees, but to assimilate them into their populations.  

The homegrown terrorist attacks of the past year, such as those in Paris and the San Bernardino, highlight the need to identify and address the root causes of homegrown terrorism, both in Europe and here in the United States. There are large Muslim populations, especially in France and Belgium, who live in communities that have been subjected to economic, social and physical isolation. Homegrown terrorist activities, specifically the attacks of the last year, are a shocking demonstration of the extent to which we have failed to integrate refugees. Recognizing that we have failed in the past should not be an excuse to reject refugees; we have decided as a society that it is our moral and legal imperative to give shelter to innocent civilians who face persecution at home. In order to fulfill our moral and legal obligations while avoiding the violence of the past year, we must take the necessary steps to economically and socially integrate those displaced by conflict.

To achieve this goal, policy makers must allow migrants to work upon arrival and integrate migrant children into existing schools. This will be a difficult task because most newcomers will not speak the native languages of the countries to which they are fleeing. Immigrants should be provided housing in existing communities, language lessons and job training to facilitate integration. Doing this will be expensive but necessary, because migrants are more likely to become isolated and violent when they are sequestered into camps or slums for extended periods of time.

Many fear that migrants will drag down economies and school standards but their relatively high level of education indicates their impact will be positive. Another fear is that migrants will not observe some cultural norms, especially free speech and sexual liberalism. The sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany over the new year have been used to portray migrants as criminals and sexual predators. It must be mentioned that migrants are no more disposed to commit crimes than natives.

Allowing refugees to work upon arrival and putting in the effort to integrate them is worthwhile because it diffuses the jihadist portrayal of the West as anti-Islam. The European-born jihadists who carried out the Charlie Hebdo and November Paris attacks lived in, and based their attacks from, poor, isolated migrant communities within France and Belgium. It has been widely reported that these communities are subjected to racism, poor public services and economic discrimination. Jihadist propaganda seeks to convince Muslims that they are not welcome in a Western society that is hostile to Islam. This criticism resonates with Muslim expatriates experiencing alienation in European and U.S. communities, particularly among young men. Forcing new refugees into economic and social isolation plays into this narrative that European and American populations consider them second-class citizens or likely terrorists. Embracing refugees as equal members in a civil society is the best way to combat homegrown terrorism.

Governments and societies in the EU and the U.S. stand to benefit if newcomers find education, employment and friendship upon arrival. The ongoing nature of regional conflict, the saturation of many regional refugee-accepting countries and the magnetism of prosperity mean that Europe and the U.S. must prepare to accept and integrate refugees at an unprecedented rate in the near future. Europe and the U.S. are in desperate need of young workers to stave off population decline and the effects of a slowdown in productivity growth. An influx of educated hardworking migrants will revitalize stagnant Western economies if they are successfully integrated.

At the end of the day, it is a moral imperative for the West to accept refugees. Europe and the U.S. are still haunted by the memory of their inaction in the face of the holocaust, and the genocide in Rwanda, the last humanitarian crises of this scale. The West must address the threat that jihadism poses without allowing fear to overcome compassion. The best way to address the threat of jihadism is to treat newcomers in a way that effectively neutralizes the jihadist worldview. This will require hard work, open minds and a lot of money, but it is worth the investment. If the West embraces migrants with open arms it will reap the economic and cultural rewards. If the West chooses the path of racism and rejection, the jihadist narrative of cultural conflict will be affirmed at terrible cost.

By: Russ Pierson ’17

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