Oxford University International Relations journal part 2
July 17th- July 21, 2014
Thursday through Monday was spent in the beautiful city of Barcelona. It was nice to experience another country and see how different the culture is compared to that of American and even the UK. Although at lot of people fell victim to theft (myself included) it was a fun experience that I'm glad I went through (seeing the city not being robbed). Everything from the beach to the Carmel Bunkers to Sagrada Familia was awesome to see. We got to balance fun nights out with some sightseeing during the day making the experience awesome. A friend of some of us from San Diego State is living in Barcelona this summer so she was able to help us get around and show us some awesome places. Aside from what we did, the culture of the city and even the country is vastly different than anything I'd ever experienced. The fact that I know of five people that had their phone stolen is somewhat surprising. I had heard statistics that 50% of people get pickpocketed and we went through that firsthand. It is more than just about the material possession but the art and thrill of pulling it off. It is almost as if it is a game to them and they compete to be the best at it. Another difference in the culture is the language barrier. Luckily I have taken a couple of years of Spanish so I was able to get by a little bit. One of the other students I was with speaks fluently so getting around with him made it a lot easier. The thing about language that surprised me is that nearly everyone speaks more than one language and almost always English if they do. I can say I only know a few people that speak more than one language let alone three of four like some of the locals we came across. It would be really cool to speak another language and I wish as a child I exposed to that type of schooling because it would be so beneficial to my life now. One last thing that came to mind that was different is the time. We ate dinner at 7 one night and that was considered weird, where they are eating at 10 every night. I don't know how people go out until it's light out the next morning and wake up to go to work a couple hours later, I guess that is why naps or siestas are utilized so often. We even made it to breakfast every morning before we slept, along with some of the Professors. Overall Spain was awesome to see and I would love to visit another city like Madrid and compare how different they are. Traveling after the Oxford course will be interesting just to see all the different people, languages and places and compare them afterwards.
July 22nd 2014
To start Tuesday morning, we had a map test of Europe and the Middle East with their capitals as well as knowing what countries are in the EU and NATO. I feel like I did fairly well, only thing that tripped me up with a couple of the EU and NATO questions. After the map test, Dr. Dowling gave us a lecture on dealing with autocracies when it comes to foreign policy. It is easy to compare two different nations from one another but when they have two different backgrounds and states of mind, it is not that simple. Dr. Dowling pointed out in his lecture that with autocracies, specifically China and Russia they think differently. How the human mind works it is hard to step down from power, so naturally most nations want an autocratic government where one person is in total control. When comparing the languages of the Chinese and United States, the alphabetical language is much simpler compared to Chinese characters. That makes it easier for people in western cultures to become educated and more difficult for people from China to do the same. This culture of few educated people sets them up to be the ones to be heavily involved in political issues and make decisions for the rest of the uneducated citizens. It is harder to revolt against the government if you have no knowledge on what the solutions are and have always lived in a world where few people make all the decisions. China for so long has been a strong power and has been able to do so with so many citizens so it is almost as if they feel superior to us. When it comes to trade, China has always kept to themselves and I think that this is due to the strictness of their government. They, along with the Russians, have little freedom and usually just listen to what the government says: in fear. Both countries have different mentalities and back home we usually have this mirror image rule where if it's different than what we do than it is wrong. Really if we were to just look at things from both sides it would be easier to not be so judgmental and force people into thinking our way. I'm against communism just as much as most other Americans but at the same time those people have always done it that specific way so that do not know any better. I can compare it to the Middle East when we go in there and try to change their government. To us, we look like heroes but in the past it has done more bad than good. America does have good intentions when going into these places but imagine if another country was showing up and building bases in our homeland, we would want to retaliate and we would. It seems that sometimes Americans know how powerful we are and can overuse that in order to get what we want.
July 23rd, 2014
The test this morning did not start out so great. Due to the fact that my phone got stolen in Barcelona I had no alarm clock to wake me up. My roommates apparently forgot to wake Wiston (who also lost his phone) and I up and we ran to Said to make up time. Fortunately we made it with a little time left and were able to get down as much information as possible to ensure we didn't fail it. Hopefully they go easy on us since it was such an unfortunate event. After, we had a lecture from Theodore Roosevelt Malloch a very successful businessman that talked about good versus bad capitalism, which I found to be very interesting. The wealth of the world is growing significantly yet at the same time the wealth between countries and even people is widening. He mentioned that although most people think of capitalism when they think of economics there are actually a bunch of different types of capitalism, all differing with different countries. When it comes to these different types of capitalism, each one has businesses that are virtuous yet others that are not. With a lot of these businesses the question is: well if everyone is doing it why can't I? In order to increase the wealth of the world we need good capitalism because being immoral only lasts so long before the criminals are caught. The problem is that these companies are being pressured to do bad things to get rich quick. In order to change this we must instill personal character, change corporate culture, and have regulatory framework. It's interesting to think that some of the biggest companies in the world will do anything to get rich. People hear about it all the time but still buy their products cause it is cheaper than the alternative. It's almost engraved into consumer's brains that if everyone is buying from that business, what more does it hurt if they do also. I compare these companies to the book, which was recently made into a movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. At first the main character Belfort was a nobody and worked his way to the top by screwing people over and making as much money as humanly possibly. Once people get to that level of having that much money, they are inherently greedy and don't stop until they are caught. People are selfish and never think about others especially if they benefit from hurting other people. Not everyone realizes that eventually their luck screwing people over will eventually run out and that they should just do things morally for the betterment of everyone. There are a lot of problems and very few solutions so it will take a lot of time and effort to fix the predicament we are in.
July 24th, 2014
Today Corey gave us some Winston Churchill fun facts before beginning a lecture on China's future. It is safe to say that Churchill is a witty guy. It can be argued that China is the most important relationship that the United States has had in the 21st century. We trade 500 billion dollars with them every year and they own over a trillion dollars of our debt. In addition to that, they are a rising economic and military power that is going up fast. Historically China has always been a strong power so they are more reemerging than anything else. If China rises to our level they might become a threat to the United States, due to the competitive nature of people. Compared to us we only have two neighbors while China has over 10 neighbors that are not the friendliest to each other. You can see this when you look at the huge military buildup in Southeast Asia. There are five factors that will contribute to cooperation: economic interdependence, China evolving into Democracy, integration into international organizations, common threats, and nuclear weapons. All of these things are necessary to ensure that we keep peace with our friends across the globe. Yet on the other hand there are 3 factors that may lead us to competition: strategic distress, ideological divide, and cyber 'cold' war. If one of the five factors to cooperate falls through, one of these reasons could potentially make us enemies. Chinese regime is based on prosperity not consent. If the Chinese economy were to fail so would their government that is not the case for us. They do not care about the betterment of their citizens but just that their economy is doing the best it possibly can. This is due to the fact that our government is not forced while theirs is a dictatorship. When looking at the history of the world and what we have learned about power, I think that the more that China rises, the more they become our enemy and not our friend. The US does not like communism for obvious reasons and if they become the number one power, our heads will butt. Although it is in our best interest to be friends with the Chinese, I'm not sure that will be the case. China has historically wanted more and more power just like every nation, and strong economic and militarian power is not going to stop them from doing bad things. Power is good in the hands of certain people and as long as we have that power, the world will be a better place. There are reasons that China will be friendly and I think they will be just as long as we pose a threat to them. Once we no longer threaten them and they surpass us, I think that they will change the world in a negative way.
The next lecture from Professor Schuettinger was about Ronald Reagan's foreign policy. The United States wanted to co-exist, encourage detente and eventually win the war, at least that was the goal. The Soviet Union was spending 30% of their GDP on defense spending while we were only spending 5%. It was Reagan's idea to outspend them until they have no more money for defense, a risky but powerful move to make. The Cold War ended but it can be argued that nobody won. I think it's easy to see that we won but some people still debate it. This excessive spending was definitely a risk and put us into a huge amount of debt but at the same time it may have just been the difference between just a Cold War and another World War. I think that Reagan would not be considered one of the greatest presidents in history if it had not gone according to plan. Of course now it looks as if this was the smartest decision but at the time I'm sure it was a very hard one to make. Again, it seems as if in the toughest of times we always have a very powerful leader who is able to get us through a very stressful situation. I've always regarded Reagan as one of my favorite presidents because he got us out of the cold war and his fiscal policies so I'm always interested to hear inside information from Professor Schuettinger who knows him personally. He, Doc and Don always had great things to say about him, which makes me even more interested to learn more about his life and presidency.
The last lecture from Don Jr. was about counterinsurgency and combating terrorism. The United States have always done a good job at fighting war asymmetrically meaning that we need to fight a non traditional war in order to win and always have dating back to the Revolutionary War. Sometimes being bigger does not give you an overwhelming advantage and you must do something unexpected. Fighting in the Middle East or the jungles of Asia gives the people a home field advantage that is difficult to counter. When it comes to these wars and counterinsurgency we must make sure the people we are protecting have a voice, and that we are being fair or else we may lose our legitimacy and may be fighting a battle that nobody wants to be involved in. We have been okay at insurgency but the UK has been the best. In my opinion, most of the time when we go into these rural places we end up making the situation worse. Of course there are times when it is necessary but we cannot be quick to judge. We must use good judgment and fully assess the situation before sending thousands of men to fight. When Ron Paul ran for present a couple years ago, he had more campaign donations than all other candidates combined from Iraq war veterans. This is interesting because he is a non-interventionist and believes that the Iraq War was a waste of time, people and money. It goes to show that after 9-11 we may have put ourselves in that situation and were quick to start a war. It would be in everyone's best interest if we were to look deeper than just our emotions and assess just our necessary insurgency and fighting small battles may sometimes be the wrong decision.