Category Archives: International Relations

>What does playground bullying teach us about the causes of conflict?

>The following section is quoted from an article by Joan Raymond: “High school can be hell, filled with cruel cliques bent on tormenting their peers. But the queen bees at top of their social heap aren’t the most abusive against their classmates, according to a study published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review. The most popular kids in school — the top 2 percent of a school’s social hierarchy — are actually the least aggressive, along with those at the bottom. It’s the teens just slightly down from the pinnacle of popularity that give their peers a hard time. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, found that adolescents in the top 98th percentile of the school’s social pecking order have an average aggression rate that is 40 percent greater than kids at the top. They also have an aggression rate that is about 30 percent greater than kids at the bottom of the popularity pack. “The more kids crave popularity, the more aggressive they are,” says co-author of the study, Robert Faris, assistant professor of sociology at UC Davis.”

I have often thought that there is an underplayed link between aggression between individual people, and aggression between groups, of whatever size. And if you’re going to look at the causes of aggression and conflict then playground bullying is as good a place as any to start.

The question of what playground bullying can teach us about the causes of conflict is a big one. But the above quote, if applied to wider scale conflicts, would also be very suggestive. Do you think we can extrapolate from such ideas and draw parrallels with inter and intra state conflicts?

>To what extent should places like China have the freedom to handle human rights issues as they want?

>Western democracies are liberal democracies. We believe in upholding basic human rights, and ensuring the freedom of the individual insofar as they doesn’t enfringe upon the freedoms of others. But would freeing people like Liu Xiaobo enfringe upon the liberties of others? Do we have a right to say our way is undeniably better, and that there are no disadvantages with ordering his release? Or is China right to suspect that violence and unrest might walk hand in hand with greater freedom to protest? After all China learnt a lesson from Gorbachev; and much of the reason why they keep such a tight reign on the country is because of the perceived lessons from that period of Soviet history.

>Is globalisation a replacement for imperialism?

>I’ve deliberately made this question open to interpretation so make of it what you will. But to start the discussion, global capital flows were larger as a percentage of GDP at the end of the nineteenth century (i.e. when the European Empires covered about 3/4 of the globe) than today, and some critics talk of “Americanisation” as synonomous with globalisation.

>Does democracy encourage violence?

>I’m sure you’ve all heard the idea that democratic nations are less likely to go to war with each other, but what about how long they’re likely to stay in a war? Think about Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and you will probably think democracy encourages the troops to come home. But what about war that’s a little closer to home such as total war? In the limited wars of the seventeenth century countries would sue for peace if casualties looked too bad, or victory seemed too difficult to achieve. So what changed between then and the two world wars? At the time of the First World War all European state leaders feared their people and what they would do. I have recently heard it voiced by top Professors that it was democracy and nationalism that made it so difficult to accept peace talks during WW1. Do you agree?

>Must David always become Goliath? Must the hero become the villain?


In 1947 Israel was seen as David, a small power facing huge Arab Goliaths, and worthy of pity because of it. Yet now Israel is seen as a clumsy bully, and sometimes even stupid in its stubborn persistance with its ‘Iron Wall’ philosophies. The ‘Iron Wall’ philosophy was developed in the 20s, so before Israel even existed. It says any sign of non-compliance with Israel must be met with over-whelming force. And there is little doubt that from then till now that philosophy has created a bully. So was the process inevitable?

Have you ever heard the phrase “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”? I’m afraid it doesn’t have a great intellectual source. It’s from the new Batman film (unless it was said elsewhere before). Do you think it’s true? Do good guys, heros, liberators and such forth always become the bad guys of the future?

P.S. I apologize for putting something else into biblical terms Sean. It just seems appropriate with Israel.

>What role should the International Criminal Court play?


The ICC is a permanent tribunal set up to prosecute individuals for: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. It was created by the Rome Statute only 8 years ago. Yet despite the opposition of big powers like the US and China, it’s commonly seen as having been succesful to date. It has indicted people, inlcuding a serving President, in Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Central African Republic and Kenya.

However, throughout its existence it has not had the power to excercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, and it is now being debated as to whether we should give the ICC that power. What do you think? Is it practical? Is it desirable? And should we be discussing giving or taking away even more power than just this?

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