International Affairs from a Variety of Online Articles
By: Evan Pye
This week I read and took notes on several online articles that I have been bookmarking over the past few weeks. The topics covered in the articles range from elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo to American foreign policy to innovative solutions in global health and education.
Governance in Africa (Link) – There are signs that President Joseph Kabila from the Democratic Republic of Congo may violate the country’s constitution by running for a third term this December. Kabila took over power in the DRC after his father’s assassination in 2001. Since the DRC achieved independence in the 1960s, it has never enjoyed a democratic transfer of executive power, which is why the United Nations and Secretary of State John Kerry from the United States is strongly urging Kabila’s government to step down in December.
These events echo what has transpired recently in Burundi. There, President Nkurunziza ran for an unconstitutional third term in July of 2015 and won with 70% of a farce election. Protests and violence erupted in Burundi last year, so fear of even more instability in the DRC are well-warranted with its decades-long track record of violence.
American Foreign Policy (Link) – In this article critiquing America’s foreign policy strategy, Jeffrey Sachs lays out a comprehensive overview of the United States’ failed meddling in other countries’ affairs over the past 60 years. Since the creation of the CIA in 1947 with the National Security Act, the covert agency has led coups, assassinations, or general destabilization in 20 different countries. Sachs ties this interventionist approach to the fall of four major empires after World War I – the Prussian, Russian, Hapsburg, and Ottoman Empires. Britain and France quickly filled the gaps that these empires left and misguidedly divided up the Middle East between themselves with the Sykes-Picot agreement. After World War II, the United States took Britain’s place as the world’s superpower and used the CIA to influence international events. Sachs argues that the US viewed every country in the world as a potential “first domino” that could fall to the Soviet Union and start a dangerous chain reaction. Yet, even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States strengthened NATO and tried to extend its reach to post-Soviet countries all the way up to the Russian border. The US invited Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO in 2008. Subsequently, Russia invaded Georgia, annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and destabilized much of eastern Ukraine. Russia has acted similarly when the United States has shown signs of dismantling the Soviet-friendly dictators of Syria and Iran. Sachs also goes into the CIA involvement with Osama bin Laden and the Saudi Arabian-backed mujahideen, which mobilized jihadist Sunni Muslims in Afghanistan after the failed Soviet invasion in 1979.
Education in Developing Countries (Link) This article on education by Bjorn Lomborg lists some common-sense ideas for education interventions in developing countries that actually haven’t been shown to work: smaller class sizes, extending the school day, adding computers to the classroom, and providing textbooks to students. On the other hand, two less conventional interventions have proven to be quite beneficial to educational outcomes: providing two years of weekly home visits to teach parenting techniques to families with stunted children, and streaming students into low-performing and high-performing classes so that teachers can more easily tailor lessons to certain groups of students.
Global Health – I also read two global health articles on tuberculosis and antibiotic resistance. The tuberculosis article listed five steps that should be taken in order to eliminate all tuberculosis deaths around the world. They include ramping up data collection efforts, preventing new infections, controlling the sources of the disease, developing a better vaccine, and tackling the social determinants of the disease. The antibiotic resistance article provides ideas for two innovative financing mechanisms for pharmaceutical research and development, which is vital to staying ahead of the antibiotic resistance threat. The first is a billion dollar reward scheme for companies that develop new versions of the most-needed antibiotics, while the second is an access-to-market fee that pharmaceutical industry regulators would impose upon the industry to raise money to support R&D.