Day: September 8, 2011

How the Media Responded When the World Changed

  In the 1973, as U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended and the truth behind the Watergate scandal unfolded, journalists in America had a revelation; relentlessly questioning the actions of government leaders was an essential part of their role, as was preserving the integrity of the political environment. In the years following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, a similar revelation occurred. The event no doubt caused the nation deep grief, fear, confusion and a greater sense of nationalism, among other compelling emotions. These emotions, however, contributed to a long-term failure of The Fourth Estate. Reporting the aftermath of September 11 must have been unimaginably difficult, and on the day and the days that followed, it was an exemplary display of noncommercial observing, truth-seeking and communal grieving. Many journalists even risked their lives to fulfill their duty of reporting this event to the nation and the world. But the fear and emotion that overcame the nation hindered the ability of journalists to serve as a watchdog of government decisions. In 2003, the media failed to adequately investigate claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, leading to a war that eight years later is now nearly ubiquitous in its unpopularity among the public. As the war went on, we all saw the errors of their ways, as well as of the ways of our political leaders. The journalism of 2011...

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Lessons from the Past

  The tragic attack against the United States killed thousands. The protection granted by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans no longer mattered. On that day, everything changed. The world power base began to shift and the world order would begin a drastic change unlike anything in decades. The President declared that it was a date “which will live in infamy.” The date: December 7, 1941. The place: Pearl Harbor. Yet, how many of us think of Pearl Harbor as the major event of the 20th century? How many of us recalled the date before reading it here? I cannot recall December 7, 1941. To me, that day is part of a history which I struggle to understand through books, movies and documentaries. I appreciate its significance in 1941, but it does not play a great part in my interpretation of the world in 2011. I understand that it provided the United States the opportunity to declare war on Japan without being the aggressor and it drew the United States into a war in which it was desperately needed. Yet, if someone asked me today to identify the 10 most important events of the 20th century, it would not be on my list. It would probably not make my top 20, either. So what is the fate of the “new Pearl Harbor”? There can be no doubt that the September...

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Blind Consumption: Realizing the Full Costs of Oil

  On January 2, 2002, less than four months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. I did so in part to serve my nation and in part to earn money for college. In the summer of 2006, while serving my second tour in Iraq, I was on the fence about re-enlisting in the Marine Corps or pursuing my university aspirations. Ultimately, my experiences, and my desire to better understand them, compelled me to pursue higher education. My studies over the past five years have lead me to believe that national and international concerns for energy security have had a significant influence on American foreign policy, at least since the administration of Jimmy Carter — though arguably since Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. This circumstance implies that American tax dollars — through the Department of Defense — are, in effect, subsidies on the low cost of fuel in America. These subsidies provide a disincentive for Americans to conserve energy, particularly gasoline. The power and salience of this disincentive are born out in the fact that the U.S currently houses about 5 percent of the world’s population and only 2 percent of its oil reserves, yet we consume roughly 22 percent of globally produced oil. It doesn’t take much to imagine that a Defense Department subsidy underwriting the cost of oil is significant in its...

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Our National Security Lens is Out of Focus on Immigration

  “When the United States sneezes, Mexico catches a cold” is the oft-cited phrase to capture the relationship of economic interdependence between the two countries. When the United States and its people are profoundly shaken by an unprecedented terrorist attack, there is perhaps no phrase to adequately capture the magnitude by which global policy trends are subsequently affected. With regard to our Southern neighbors and immigration policy over the past 10 years, it has been politicians’ ubiquitous use of a national security lens that has had the most far-reaching and contagious effects within the region. Unfortunately, the implications and replications of this lens by policy-makers in the United States and Mexico have led to failed policy at home and a humanitarian crisis abroad. Most U.S. citizens would be surprised to know that crossing our border with Mexico – guarded by a technologically powerful border fence, unmanned drones and increased Border Patrol “boots on the ground” since 2001 – is practically a walk in the park for undocumented migrants after they traverse the myriad obstacles awaiting them in Mexico. Facing the same “undocumented” status and even harsher interior controls than those in the United States, Central American migrants entering Mexico become vulnerable to the whims of organized crime as well as local and national Mexican authorities. A laundry list of abuses, including assault, rape, extortion, kidnapping and death, are the trial by fire for...

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Redefining Stability in Light of 9/11 and the Arab Spring

  Reflecting on September 11 has become a sort of tradition over the past 10 years, an opportunity to consider how American policy and society has transformed since this shocking event which has become a sort of landmark in U.S. history.  I suggest that, on this 10-year anniversary and in light of the so-called Arab Spring, we shift the prevailing understanding of the nature of the threat to U.S. security represented by September 11 and examine how our poor understanding of this threat encouraged problematic foreign policy. September 11 was, both according to common perception and the paradigm adopted by the Bush administration, the mark of a new threat and enemy for America. It was supposedly evidence of a non-state, religious/ideological enemy that is amorphous and irrational. And so it ushered in the “War on Terror.” To many, September 11 was this generation’s Pearl Harbor and thus required the power and priority of a wartime response.  The problem is that September 11 was not the coordinated, powerful attack of a sustained war. It was a single act by a small, disparate group that took advantage of a weakness in U.S. security. In addition, the idea of a war on ”terror” is inherently problematic and dangerous because we lack an unambiguous, widely accepted definition of this term in the first place, making our enemy doubly unidentifiable. Given this interpretation of the threat posed by September 11,...

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