How should we respond to stalled efforts to stem global drug trafficking?
Prisons in the U.S. are filling with non-violent drug offenders, costing tax payers extraordinary amounts of money, and pressing concerns of racial inequality to the forefront (CBS News: 22 Apr 2012); the global availability and consumption of narcotics have not substantively diminished; drug-related violence remains rampant in some parts of the world; and in calling the international “war” on drugs a failure, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has recently declared that governments should explore alternative policy approaches—including legalizing certain controlled substances and reducing or eliminating punitive legal actions against non-violent drug offenses (MSNBC: 2 Jun 2011).
Do you agree with this recommendation? Why or why not? In your answer, you must thoroughly explain at least one potential drawback to this policy alternative.
What are the virtues and drawbacks of trade liberalization?
Scholars and political commentators are divided about the effects of trade liberalization—that is, the globalization of free market principles, or the elimination of barriers to free trade. Some have charged, e.g., that trade liberalization causes a race to the bottom. Whereby, in adopting free market principles, developing countries open their borders to foreign investors and multinational corporations to establish manufacturing facilities within their countries; but in doing so, developing countries must compete with each other to attract this investment and business, which gives them strong incentives to keep their environmental, labor, and human rights standards weak, and to refrain from effectively enforcing these standards. This is because the absence of strong regulations makes it cheaper for foreign companies to produce goods in these developing countries.
Such considerations should lead us to ask: are the benefits of trade liberalization (or economic globalization more generally) outweighed by its costs? In answering this question, choose one historical or contemporary example in which a developing country seems to have been harmed by liberalizing its trade policies, and argue what you believe the actual causes of these negative effects are. Is trade liberalization to blame? Why or why not? Have other potential causes been overlooked—such as war, environmental catastrophes, corrupt politicians, etc.?
Should countries like the United States rethink the “war on terror?”
For more than a decade, the United States has made the elimination of terrorist organizations that pose a threat to national security one of its central foreign policy objectives. This “war on terror” has cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers, has entailed extensive collateral damage to innocent civilian populations in countries that harbor terrorist groups that the U.S. has targeted, and is costing taxpayers trillions of dollars (Reuters: 14 Mar 2013). And given the continued turmoil in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Pakistan, for instance, in which terrorist organizations are known to exist and are said to continue to pose significant risks to the U.S. and Europe (New York Times: 25 Mar 2014), it is unclear whether efforts to eliminate the threat of future terrorist attacks have been successful. It is unclear, in other words, that the “war on terror” has made us any safer.
Is it time that countries like the United States reevaluate their approach toward global terrorism? Why or why not? Would a different foreign policy strategy to eliminate the threat of terrorist violence be any more effective? Are there more important foreign policy goals we should be pursuing?
When is humanitarian intervention justified?
Consider the United States’ recent record of military intervention: Beirut in 1982, Grenada in 1983, Somalia in 1992, Haiti in 1994, failing to intervene in Rwanda in 1994, Kosovo in 1999, failing to intervene in Darfur in 2003, Libya in 2011, failing to intervene in Syria in 2012. If countries like the U.S. do recognize some obligation to protect innocent victims of genocidal and non-genocidal violence, then why do we commonly witness such discrepancies with the allocation of humanitarian aid? Conflicts continue in South Sudan, Syria, the DRC, Venezuela, Ukraine, and so forth, and yet in many such instances assistance from the international community is not forthcoming.
Given what you have read about the U.N. R2P initiative and the various possible consequences of intervention (see, e.g., Kuperman 2008 and Cunningham 2010), when is implementing the Responsibility to Protect morally and/or politically justified? Choose one contemporary conflict—whether it has recently ended or is still on-going—and explain why you believe that the international community is right or is wrong in intervening. This will require you to give some background about the possible causes of violence that raise humanitarian concerns, and also to explain which form(s) of intervention (political, economic, military), if any, are justified in the case you choose.
Whose human rights deserve to be safeguarded?
Consider recent reports that inmates have been suffering “heat-related” deaths and severe illnesses in America’s crowded prisons. Or recall the continued controversial detention of suspected and known terrorists at Guantanamo Bay (see, e.g., this 2006 or 2007 NPR news broadcast). Lastly, consider the treatment of child migrants who have unlawfully entered the United States (New York Times article available here). Do these examples raise concerns about human rights violations?
In other words, do members of such groups—here, for example, criminals, individuals with suspected ties to terrorist organizations, and illegal immigrants—whether in the United States or abroad, deserve greater protection of their human rights? If so, then why? And what would some of the foreseeable consequences be of implementing policies that would improve the treatment of such groups? If not, then what justifies treating these groups differently? And to what extent is it justifiable to relax (if not suspend) the safeguard of their human rights?