Weekly Roundup: Past, Present, and Future

Qatar. Ebola. Unions. Global warming. Putin. Separatism. These words have graced front pages and the six o’clock news more than once over the past few months and you certainly don’t have to be a politician or international relations major to come across them on a daily basis. In addressing these topics, once again, the MIR writers explore issues both close to home and across the world. From harsh sanctions to amiable peacemaking, diplomatic strategies are both commended and criticized. With the past, present, and future in mind, the writers assess how the world has faltered and what is in store for the future.

Sarah Pettem questions whether sanctioning Russia is really worth it, succinctly analyzing the risks and benefits. Pettem discusses how although Russia could be driven into a recession if the sanctions continue at their current rate, they do not seem to be scaring Putin out of his expansionist goals. While the sanctions appear to be having the desired economic effect, Pettem explains that besides their questionable success as a deterrent, they also come with a risk for the West. Russia’s counter-sanctions have had significant impact, including loss of exports and decreased gas supplies for European countries. Pettem ends her argument by stressing that sanctions against Russia can aid in managing the Russian threat to Ukraine, but in order to be an effective deterrent, they must be enforced on a mass, coordinated scale.m news

Shifting gears from the East, Kevin Sang Nam argues for the necessity of an increased inheritance tax in Canada. Noting the growing income inequality, Nam argues that bolstering the inheritance tax may potentially reduce this gap, as the wealthy are forced to pay more for money that they haven’t worked hard to earn. He ties this into the a fundamental ideal of capitalism: earning one’s wealth through hard work. Nam also highlights the potential negative implications of instituting a large inheritance tax, yet he still concedes that a tax on at least half the inherited wealth will provide a stable source of revenue that could lower other forms of taxation. While those expecting to inherit a multi-million dollar cottage in the Muskokas might scoff at Nam’s proposition, those working two jobs, struggling to make ends meet, will stand behind it 100%.

Max Blaisdell’s article brings to the forefront the ever-constant struggle for small states to gain and sustain individual statehood. He highlights the specific case of Qatar, a small nation that has only recently gained international attention. He explains how Qatar has been able to successfully brand itself as a peacemaker and promoter of diplomacy, especially in the Middle East. Blaisdell makes an important point saying that the small country must be weary and pick its battles wisely, finding a balance between its Islamic identity and the need for perceived neutrality as a global mediator. He adds if they can successfully find that balance, in the long run, Qatar’s further efforts via non-intrusive mediation will only strengthen its identity and vitality as an independent state.

The world has been questioning why it took over seven months for the World Health Organization (WHO) to respond to the devastating Ebola outbreaks. Such a large and powerful organization was put to the test when it was faced with combatting this disease first in Africa, and then in the Western world. French-language contributor Iris Boisseau argues that the delay in response was due to several compounding factors. After becoming aware of the first pockets of the outbreak in West Africa, WHO drastically underestimated the rate that the disease would spread. Boisseau notes that the budget cuts to the organization were of no help either. Thus, the long-term research and short-term first-response aid seriously lagged. However, Boisseau explains that these are not adequate excuses and that WHO should have been better prepared. She questions whether the WHO’s response would have been so painfully slow had the outbreak originated in the Western world. The transmission rate has quelled in some parts of Africa, yet continues to climb in other countries. The WHO will, no doubt, be better prepared for a “next time”, but unfortunately at the cost of thousands of lives. Additionally there will be devastating long-term effects on the economies and socio-political infrastructures of the affected states, some of which were only just emerging from long civil wars.

Bringing the focus back home, Irene Chok draws attention to the Harper government’s anti-union sentiment, highlighting Bill C-377’s negative impact on union workers. She rightly argues that instead of increasing transparency, the bill ultimately gives unions less bargaining power. It puts all of a union’s cards on the table, allowing the government to see if and when it can strike, an affordance that unions, and only unions, should be aware of. Worst of all, the bill poses potential violations to constitutional and human rights, compromising the very nature of democracy that Canada is built upon.

While thinking about what lies ahead, we must bear in mind how much time the future holds. Five thousand years or five hundred? We can thank fossil fuels for that gut-wrenching uncertainty. Michelle Yang highlights the risks involved when governments provide huge sums of money to fund preliminary research of new energy technologies. She adds that the risk is especially high when a government puts all its eggs in one basket, giving a large portion of taxpayers’ money to only one company, as did the United States when they signed an agreement to fund a solar panel company. Just as there is no diet pill that will shrink a waist three sizes, solar panels, nor electric cars will serve as the fix-all for global warming. Following, Yang stresses that money should first be put into improving a country’s infrastructure so that the new technologies may be efficiently implemented to serve their purposes; otherwise, they become money-wasters, not energy-savers.

Castro. Vietnam. Eichmann. Independence. Missiles. Communism. These words that made headlines over fifty years ago serve as proof that in some cases, the international community has learned from the past to improve the future. Qatar. Ebola. Unions. Global warming. Putin. Separatism. Yet, history has a funny way of repeating itself.

Images obtained from Flickr Creative Commons Non-commerical use library.