The 2016 Presidential Election featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will end on November 8th with the victory of one controversial candidate or another. Where a President Donald Trump would have struggled to garner support from both sides of the aisle, a President Hillary Clinton would have faced staunch Republican obstructionism and potential impeachment proceedings over legal questions surrounding her tenure as Secretary of State. To say the least, the Forty-Fifth President of the United States will be one of the most divisive. The 2016 Election has certainly proven to be an example of what politics should not be about.
Politics has become little more than gossip focusing on those in government. Instead of solutions for the issues the People face, the character and personal flaws of political leadership thoroughly saturates political coverage. Politics is the interactions between government and the governed. The study of politics is, therefore, valuable when it helps improve how political leadership interacts with the People in order to foster better governance. Unfortunately, politics is feeding government dysfunction by rewarding political leaders, who embrace controversy and discord, will attention. To give politics value and reverse the destruction it has caused, the focus of politics must change.
Nuclear weapons have become a growing issue in recent years. Not since the end of the Cold War has the Peoples of the world had to face the daily prospects of a nuclear holocaust. Where the rogue pursuit of nuclear weapons by countries like Iran and North Korea had been the top nuclear threat for years, actual nuclear wars between the US and Russia or Pakistan and India represent credible threats of global annihilation. In response to growing fears, a majority of nations have raised the threat of nuclear war at the United Nations and voted to eventually outlaw nuclear weapons.
Not surprisingly, nuclear powers, such as the US, Russia, and China, along with their allies, voted against the UN resolution. Outside of a presumed nuclear deterrent, nuclear weapons have little to no defensive or offensive value in a war against other nations. For non-nuclear nations, nuclear weapons are simply a threat. Unless the Earth faces some sort of extraterrestrial threat, the truth is that nuclear weapons provide no real benefit to the human race, especially when compared to the threat they present. The sole reason nuclear weapons continue to exist is because nuclear powers must balance the nuclear power of their rivals.
The United Nations has undertaken its annual vote to condemn the US embargo of Cuba. In an unusual move, the United States abstained from the vote, instead of outright condemning or sidelining the resolution. Although international law and acts of the UN General Assembly are already unenforceable, unless a world power like the United States acts on it, the nonbinding UN resolution condemning the Cuban Embargo is thoroughly symbolic in nature. As the world’s only superpower, the US response to such efforts actually matters far more.
The Obama Administration has sought to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, but the restart is a political sore spot inside the US. In fact, the debate over whether or not the Cuban Embargo should be lifted has yet to truly begin. Although it is controversial for the Obama Administration to abstain from a UN resolution that condemns US policy in itself, abstaining from the Cuban Embargo vote reflects the internal political strife found within the US government. Outside of the US, the symbolism is far different. Instead of being seen as an effort to undermine US foreign policy, such actions actually help strengthen US foreign policy positions.
The California National Guard has drawn the ire of the American public for a massive effort to reclaim reenlistment bonuses handed out a decade ago at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. On the one hand, military spending and political interference in reform efforts epitomizes the lack of accountability in government. On the other hand, the targeting of troops, who happened to have benefited from the misappropriation of funds by superiors seeking to maintain a professional fighting force under the stress of two causality-intense wars, and the crushing burden of tens of thousands of dollars imposed by the government on them represents everything people fear and resent about government.
In the wake of the 2008-2009 Great Recession, Americans were outraged to learn Wall Street executives, whose firms received billions in taxpayer dollars, continued to “earn” multi-million dollar performance bonuses due to contractual obligations. Where bankers made fortunes from the government and enjoyed impunity from legal repercussions, US troops agreed to continue to risk their lives and well-being over the period of years for a few thousand dollars in bonuses. Not only do these National Guard claw backs stink of economic and social injustice, the crushing burden being forced onto thousands of US troops demonstrates how frightening the ill-will of government can be.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a strongman who likes to dispense with civility, defy policy norms, and act on impulse. He has infamously likened himself to Adolf Hitler, waged a drug war, which has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 civilians in months, and publically called US President Barack Obama “a son of a bitch.” He has also threatened to cut ties with long-time ally the United States in favor of closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties with China. It appears his goal is to use the rivalry between China and the US to strengthen his regional influence and derive greater benefits from the two world powers for the Philippines.
Although the US and China are at odds with each other over multiple issues, US posturing against China is done in defense of countries like the Philippines. Clearly, Duterte’s anti-American sentiments undermine US influence against China and in Asia, but weakened US support does a great deal more to undermine the position of the Philippines against China. Duterte’s self-sabotaging approach to foreign policy does, however, emphasize a widespread issue that the United States faces. US power is seen as a threat, which raises the important question: how can the world hold the Superpower and other world powers accountable.
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