Students walking between Collegetown and the Engineering Quad in recent weeks have seen the pro-Hong Kong slogans on the footbridge over Cascadilla Gorge. The Sun has featured several articles this semester about the protests rocking the semi-autonomous region, including a recent story on vandalism of the bridge stickers and other pro-Hong Kong posters on campus. Not a single article, however, mentions the deadly anti-government protests less than 700 miles from Miami that have thrown impoverished Haiti to a political standstill for most of 2019. But The Sun is not alone: The corporate media in the Global North have tacitly concluded that Haiti, unlike Hong Kong, is undeserving of our attention and sympathies. It is natural then to ask why Hong Kong gets so much attention from American politicians across the spectrum and every major news outlet despite much less violence against protestors.
There is hardly an accusation more damning in American political discourse than to be declared a “sponsor of terrorism.” We are used to certain countries, primarily Iran, being labeled by government officials and media outlets as state sponsors of terrorism. In the case of Iran, this claim is certainly true. But Sun columnist Michael Johns ’20, echoing a statement by former President George W. Bush, takes this accusation to the extreme by claiming that Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The recent historical record, however, shows that this is far from true: It is the United States that routinely tops the list of rogue states with little regard for international law and diplomatic norms.
To make such an accusation against a country merits an investigation into its veracity. Johns references Iranian support for violent non-governmental actors such as the Lebanese militant-political party Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias in Iraq, as well as its ties to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as proof that Iran reigns world champion of terrorism.
The violence and protests in Hong Kong to free the city from China’s grasp escalated to a new point this weekend. Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam invoked a British colonial-era emergency law that banned masks at public gatherings with a maximum penalty of one year in prison for wearing one. Masks have been frequently worn by protestors to hide their identities, and banning them is the first step in an increasingly heavy-handed government response. The situation has become unavoidable for citizens of Hong Kong, and many Cornellians have families involved or affected by the protests. The efficient subway shut down as an emergency measure to disrupt protests over the mask ban.
In recent years, Venezuela has become a favorite talking point for socialism’s detractors, who typically invoke the nation when they find themselves without a more substantive defense of their views. “But what about Venezuela?” they ask in comment sections everywhere. The question is rhetorical. Venezuela is just their trump card — present-day proof of the failed socialist experiment. But what if we truly wanted to know the answer to “what about Venezuela?” If the question was asked in good faith, what would the answer be?
Most trade decisions have hidden or understated effects, especially in the short-term. The litany of free trade agreements signed beginning in the 1970s meant very little to voters until recently, when the failure of free trade deals to re-distribute the wealth from international trade flows came to a tipping point. The dual economic threats of offshoring manufacturing jobs to countries with cheaper labor and lack of trade adjustment policies that compensate the losers of free trade resulted in voters’ willingness to support economic nationalism and protectionism. All of this, combined with high executive power over import restrictions and international trade, more generally have allowed President Trump to do what he does best: upset the international order while vaguely fulfilling promises to his base. Tariffs can essentially be viewed as an import tax.
Like it or not, the president of the U.S. is effectively the president of the world, and the government’s decisions, ranging from economic to foreign policy, tremendously affect a multitude of other countries. I do not mean to deny the agency of other leaders around the world nor the power of people’s voices. However, it is true that the American presidency affects most people around the world almost as much as it affects Americans — the only difference is we don’t get to vote. With this great impact comes responsibility, not only for leaders making crucial decisions, but also for the general populace, who must consider critically the actions of their country and the politicians they are electing. The ramifications of the U.S. elections on the rest of the world are large.
Last week, I heard a couple of news items that caught my ears. First was the announcement by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that the United States would not “hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL.” Besides sending the pitch of Lindsay Graham’s voice above the human aural register, Secretary Carter’s statement was interesting for its word choice. Specifically, ‘opportunistic’ struck me as a rather poor selection. Defined as “exploiting chances offered by immediate circumstances without reference to a general plan or moral principle,” ‘opportunistic’ embodies precisely the opposite of what most would argue a military intervention requires. Considering Secretary Carter uttered it in the same breath as he promised American boots on the ground, one has to question how such disastrous diction came to pass.