How are Democracy and Gender Equality Related?

Check out this chart from The Economist:

Women enjoy the most rights in the strongest democracies and the least in the weakest, but it is also important to note the regional divisions on this chart. There is a concentration of Asian, Oceanic, Latin American and African countries that are both highly democratic and gender unequal. The Arab World and Western Europe lie roughly on opposing ends of the spectrum. This suggests that social and cultural attitudes are just as if not more important a factor in determining gender equality. So does this mean that the democratic system cannot be used to advance women’s rights? History seems to have proven to opposite. But clearly, there are more powerful forces at play.

Egypt and the Impact of Protest Photojournalism

A striking photo of the recent protests in Egypt has been going around the internet lately. According to The Atlantic’s Alex Mardigal, its power is in league with a “pantheon of iconic protest images” such as the famous “Tank Man” of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Whether the image evokes a response as great as that of “Tank Man” is questionable. But the need for journalists to make such a comparison and to create a hall of fame for protest images is highly revealing about the unique identity that protest photojournalism has taken on.

From the London Poll Tax Riots to the Green Revolution in Iran to Protests in Athens, protest images worldwide have similar characteristics that convey a spirit of glorious and chaotic rebellion: dense crowds waving signs with provocative slogans, shielded riot police halting the mob (and often clashing with them), cars set ablaze, buildings looted, facial expressions of lone protestors, and demonstrators either injured or martyred by police. Protest photojournalism captures the drama of revolution to incite us through the electronic screen.

For many, these pictures go beyond incitement and serve as a call to action. The recent anti-government protests in Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan became intensified immediately after the worldwide coverage of the successful Tunisian demonstrations. The images in the news inspired activists. Furthermore,  social media contributed to rapidly widening the spread and the accessibility of protest imagery.

This is why it is not surprising to see nervous regimes banning websites that they see as a threat. Protest photojournalism is not merely imagery to make us aware, but imagery that takes us to the streets. As the cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But each protest photo is worth thousands of revolutionaries and grave danger to an unpopular leader’s administration.

Veterans Day as a Reflection of Peace Culture or Warrior Culture

This past week,  my Intro to Peace and Justice Studies professor gave us an extra credit assignment in which we were to evaluate whether Veterans Day was a reflection of peace culture or warrior culture in the United States. Here’s my response. What do you guys believe, and what does that mean for the United States and the international community? Is it of any significance?

The United States is composed of elements that define both peace and warrior cultures. While peace cultures strive for tolerance and positive peace, warrior cultures focus on aggression and domination. Veterans Day demonstrates how both cultures are engrained in American society. Initially, this national holiday marked the consummation of World War I and brought the hope of international peace. However, violence is still prominent, and Veterans Day now focuses on celebrating the lives and sacrifices of United States veterans.

It is necessary to understand the composition of peace culture in order to evaluate how Veterans Day is a reflection of such values. Peace culture is one that promotes peaceable diversity and value systems that promote individual caring and well being (Boulding 10/28). Veterans day was initially implemented to honor World War I veterans, as well as mark the commencement of international peace. This holiday ensures societal bonding as individuals remember past sacrifices and contemplate the importance of unity. The consequences of violence and the significance of peace can be seen through insightful analysis. An act approved on May 13, 1938, officially made November 11 a legal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’, “ (History of Veterans Day). Although this holiday was founded on the basis of warfare, it demonstrates society’s underlying desire for peace and international unity.

Veterans Day is also a reflection of warrior culture in the United States. Warrior culture is marked by power struggles, patterns of domination, frequent physical violence, constant competition, and attempted dominance over nature (Boulding 10/28).  Although this holiday was based on the concept of future peace, it was a direct result of brutal warfare. November 11 was initially believed to be the day that marked the consummation of “the war to end all wars”. However, because violence and warfare are still prominent in modern times, Veterans Day is now primarily associated with honoring American veterans of all wars. This national holiday is a time for “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good,” (History of Veterans Day). This statement implies that the United States undoubtedly knows what actions are necessary for the “common good”. This is a reflection of warrior culture as it assumes that American ideals are superior to others, and violence defending such ideals is to be celebrated. Although Veterans Day acknowledges the cost of warfare, it also glorifies warrior culture, as commitment and suffering are valued and respected. This is a direct reflection of the United States’ societal values.  Veterans Day further engrains warrior culture into society, even though it was initially founded on the hope of international peace.

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was initially founded after World War I to honor the sacrifices of veterans as well as to mark the beginning of international peace. This national holiday is a reflection of both peace culture and warrior culture in the United States. Veterans Day demonstrates the desire and need for peace by highlighting the sacrifices made in war. However, this holiday is a reflection of warrior culture, as it is based on US superiority and glorifies the military.

Want a Permanent Seat at the UNSC? Just get nukes.

Recently, President Obama openly supported India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Though there is much backing for the idea, as it somewhat updates the world order to take into account the large population and economic ability of India, there are numerous ramifications emerging out of President Obama’s endorsement. This year, thanks to EPIIC, nuclear issues take considerable focus for me, and this announcement is rife with nuclear consequences.

Not only is this, again, a movement against our cooperative actions with India’s nuclear neighbor, Pakistan, but I posit that it gives a message to the world. What is that message? Nuclear weapons give you power. Though this may seem like a given, it actually is an idea that the world has been steadily moving away from. Experts state that in today’s globalized world, deterrent capabilities against other states is diminishing, and the destructive force that nuclear weapons yield makes them obsolete. The Cold War is over, there’s no need for an arms race. Furthermore, key events like the failed Soviet invasion of Afghanistan signal to the world that a non-nuclear weapons state could defeat a nuclear weapons state. Bonnie Jenkins calls this the reduction of the nuclear mystique. Basically, because nuclear weapons are shown to not be related to the amount of power and security a nation accrues, there is a much lesser chance that a non-nuclear weapons state will proliferate.

Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, agrees, stating that there are five main factors that affect a state’s decision to proliferate: prestige, security, domestic politics, technology, and the economy. By endorsing India, the sixth nation to proliferate (the first five being the P5), Obama signals to the world that these reasons, in particular prestige, have not gone away. It may seem to some that nations are being given their permanent seats at the UNSC in correlation to the power they receive from nuclear weapons. Perhaps, given (much, much) time, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea would be given permanent seats. Or perhaps not. Regardless, the international community received the message loud and clear: nuclear India receives the prestige of a permanent seat on the UNSC, proliferation might do the same for us. Especially for nations on the edge of proliferation, such as Iran (who is constantly seeking recognition as a world power), the nuclear mystique must be addressed. Obama made a rather large mistake, and may have unravelled a lot of the work the nuclear proliferation regime has put forth. He says he’s working towards global nuclear zero, but don’t actions speak louder than words?

–Avantha Arachchi is a sophomore, majoring in International Relations (International Security) and French.