Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Education Argument Against Brexit

 

By Caroline Cox, a German-American transatlantic transplant in her second year of International Relations at King’s College London.

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For the past few months, the possible UK exit from the European Union has been a hotly debated topic. Speculation on the consequences of a possible Brexit include its effect on human rights, women’s rights, food growth and distribution, and continued peace in Northern Ireland, but what would a Brexit mean for students? Considering that those aged 18-24 have the lowest voter turnout in the UK, the student population is not the first affected area that comes to mind when discussing the upcoming EU referendum. However, the effect on students would be much more far-reaching than just EU students seeking a UK university education, and would extend to home students as well as the universities themselves.

The UK Home Office has been cracking down on international students for some time now. For example, non-EU students used to have a post-study work period of two years after graduation included on their Tier 4 student visas, specifically to be able to work in the UK before either applying for a Tier 5 work visa or returning home. However, this period was shortened to four months in 2012, so international students are more likely not to work in the UK after graduation. Home Secretary, Theresa May, has continually made new proposals to further restrict foreign students from entering and staying in the UK, including the proposal to set the financial backing threshold for international students seeking a visa even higher than it is now. EU students typically have an easier time as EU member countries have a free flow of human capital for both university education and work. A Brexit would mean an end to protection against such restrictions for EU students and the UK would see less EU traffic in the higher education system.

Non-EU international students pay more tuition than EU and home students, so only students from a certain background can actually come to the UK. EU students are not necessarily constrained by this and therefore contribute greatly to on-campus diversity. Not only would EU students have a more difficult time getting a UK university education as a result of the Brexit, but home students would have even less diversity on campus which would further contribute to the UK’s isolationist tendencies. UK universities rely on the EU for both students and funding, so a Brexit would mean fewer students, less money, and a less competitive, stimulating atmosphere in higher education. It also means that foreign students who do study in the UK are less likely to get a job in the UK afterwards, which means the UK has invested time and education in these students without the benefit of having them in the workforce after graduation. Decreasing opportunities for international students working in the UK also impacts UK towns and local business by removing talented, educated, and qualified people from the employable pool thus limiting employer resources.

Systematically excluding international students from studying in the UK is damaging to the UK in the long run as it encourages problematic nationalism and isolationism, and a Brexit would only expedite the process. The UK is already geographically isolated from the rest of Europe and has a history of stressing its separateness from “the Continent,” so a Brexit would serve to deepen the real or perceived difference felt by many. A Brexit would mean a damper on the cultural diversity seen on UK campuses, which would contribute further to the already elitist air around higher education that is present and also would contribute to the vicious cycle of isolationist nationalism.

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Zionism is not detached from the suppression of Palestinian Nationhood

By Abdullah Qaiser, a first year History student

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Within the recent weeks, there has been much debate on the ambiguous line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Much of the discussion was fuelled by the election of Malia Bouattia as the new NUS President. Her comments on Birmingham University as a ‘Zionist outpost’ has left much to the imagination to whether she was referring to ‘Zionists’ or Jewish students themselves. Some would go as far to say that a stance of ‘anti-Zionism’ is inherently anti-Semitic. A Varsity article claims that ‘to be an anti-Zionist is to deny the existence of the state of Israel, and to deny the Jewish national race their right to self-determination.’ There is an element of truth in this account as anti-Zionism does have the potential to be vehicle for anti-Semitism. Indeed, the outrage over Israel’s excess action upon the Palestinians during the summer of 2014 did spill over on to British Jews, showing that anti-Zionism can turn into anti-Semitism. But it is not inherently so. Because many who oppose Zionism, such as Malia in this case, are not against the idea of Jewish nationhood. Rather, they are against the creation of a Jewish nation at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population, who hold as much claim to the land as its Israeli residents.

Zionism, since its inception, has always been in tension with the presence of Arabs within the Holy Land. A delegation was sent to Palestine in 1897 to find a suitable Jewish homeland for the First Zionist Conference in the same year. However, its report failed to notice the large presence of Arabs within the territory and their ties to the land. A perceived lack of Palestinian identity was one reason, among many others, why it was seen as the site for a Jewish Homeland.  It was for this reason that one of the slogans for Zionists during the 19th and 20th century was ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’. The latter end of the phrase embodied the perception that local Arabs had no entitlement. But beyond semantics, there was a forceful cleansing of Arab areas to annex more land for Israel. The Israeli army attacked towns, such as Lydda in 1948. The President, Ben-Gurion, gave orders to evict the Arabs within these villages. There were schemes that lawfully sought to buy land from the Arabs by large fund such as the Jewish National Fund. This saw the percentage of land owned by the Jews in 1922, which was 3%, grow to 7% by 1947. However, this was still miniscule compared to land that was attained through conquest. From 1949 to 1956 there were tens of thousands of Palestinians that were forced to leave within Ashkelon and Bedouin. Furthermore, the land purchase was not entirely problem-free as it did create a barrier for Palestinian Arabs and did leave a number of Arabs landless.

Even today, this attitude of territorial exclusivity still persists among Zionists. The military occupation of the West Bank and the frequent bombardment of Gaza are both driven by the desire to contain Arab presence within the area. Of course, some might argue that these are the actions of the state of Israel which should not be confused with Zionism. Hence, it has been suggested that the phrase anti-Israeli be used instead of anti-Zionism. However, these acts of seclusion are not just privy to the state of Israel. The pursuit of illegal settlements is such an example of Zionism carried out by non-state ideologies. Israeli civilian settlements were built illegally past Israel’s borders, onto areas such as in the West Bank and in the Gaza strip. Additionally, not all of these settlements aim to displace Palestinian outside of Israel: some do it within it. Although the construction of these settlements was state-backed, the civilians who took residence in these areas were very much invested in the Zionist project. They have acted as vigilantes in destroying Palestinian symbols, such as the Olive tree, in these areas. Even with East Jerusalem, Palestinian residents are being removed to make way for new Jewish residents. Around a half of million Jewish Israelis live in more than 150 Jewish-only settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They were aware that these settlements contravened international law. They were also involved alongside the state of Israel in the construction of the Jewish nation.

It would be false to label Zionism as de-facto anti-Palestinian. Zionism is an ideology and all ideologies have their spectrum.  But in light of events referred to above, it would also be false to label Zionism as completely detached from the suppression of Palestinian nationhood. Ari Shavit, a ‘liberal Zionist’ and author of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, would admit that ‘The partial dispossession of another people is at the core of the Zionist enterprise.’ It was an intellectual product that originated from the Eastern European and German lands, in which nations were going through their own exclusivist form of nationalism. It is not that surprising that within Israel there is ethnic discrimination. What is surprising is that it extends beyond the Arab residents, who make up more than 20% of Israel’s population. Ethiopian Jews are twice as likely to get arrested by the Israeli police and have had to prove their Jewish origins many times. But it also extends to the Middle-Eastern Jews who have been forced to assimilate into the cultural norms of Ashkenazi Jewish culture. In this sense, Zionism has aimed for the physical and cultural displacement of all that came before it.

Being against Zionism does not inherently mean being against the idea of Jewish nationhood, in the same sense that being against Islam, or against the creation of an Islamic Caliphate, does not mean being inherently Islamophobic. The opposition to Zionism is based more on political realities than on racist conceptions of Jews. But once anti-Zionism is equated with anti-Semitism, it threatens to censor the debate on the Israel-Palestine crisis. It omits the political cost at which Zionism was pursued and Israel was created. But more importantly, it erases the origin of the Palestinian struggle. Palestinian nationhood has been shaped by the forceful rejection of Arabs from the Zionist project. Thus, to legitimize Zionism without scrutiny is to leave a gaping hole within the history of a very complex and sensitive crisis.

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Dear Hillary

by Jackson Webster, a Los Angeles native, currently in his final year of International Relations in the King’s College London Department of War Studies.

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Dear Hillary,

 

Congratulations. The Democratic nomination is all but yours, and the GOP faces an existential crisis which has caused its voters to choose a loud-mouthed human toupee as their nominee. You’re likely to take the reigns of power next January, and then it’ll be out with the campaigning and in with the governing. Here’s a few humble observations from yours truly about our broken yet salvageable national security strategy and how best to fix it. Let’s get down to business.

 

  1. Ok, so here’s what you have to do:
    1. maintain American pre-eminence through cooperation with new mid-level allies,
    2. establish connectivity with the global economy as our top national security priority,
    3. use of American military power to back the norms of the liberal world order when institutions fail to do so.
  2. And here’s why:
    1. unquestioned US dominance is fading, and this power is transferring to mid-level states,
    2. the global economy is increasingly interconnected,
    3. hundreds of thousands have died in Syria and territory has been annexed by force in Ukraine, and the UN Security Council has done essentially nothing about it.

 

OUR NEW PARTNERS

 

The unipolar global system created at the end of the Cold War, where the US’ power stood unchallenged, is no longer a realistic worldview upon which to base our strategy in the 21st century. Equally, American strategy has been bastardized over the past two decades into dealing with old rivals and old allies. We’d best heed Washington’s warnings against unconditional alliances, and revaluate the costs and benefits of our partnerships. Moreover, we have become distracted by threats which do not pose serious existential danger to the US or its interests, such as locally-focused religious extremism in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq. We have dangerously overplayed the importance of combating terrorism. This calculus must change to recognize the dynamic nature of power distribution in the 21st century.

 

American power projection is based in strong alliances backed up by material assistance. The US can be a regional kingmaker. This power is unique in political history. This ability of US patronage was used to create the regional powers of West Germany, Japan, and Israel during the Cold War. The US must be prepared once again to double-down on mid-level allies in this century, though the allies we must court differ from those of the last century. Such states include Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Argentina. Each of these states faces serious internal issues which would be best combatted with our assistance. Patronage for Poland can be used as leverage over the current government, which has spent its time in office thus far flouting the rule-of-law. Turkey faces a serious separatist and terrorist threat in its Kurdish southeast. Malaysia faces slow growth from falling oil prices and multiple regional refugee crises. Mexico is fighting well-armed and well-financed drug cartels. Nigeria faces an Islamist insurgency in its northern provinces, with spillover effects into the territories of other US partners like Mali and Chad. Argentina continues to face serious national debt problems. All these countries need assistance, and with our patronage comes an integration of American interests with these states’ interests. Through our aid, and through closer cooperation and inclusion in the liberal international order, we can ensure these states’ partnership for decades to come, just as Marshall reconstruction at the end of the Second World War solidified US partnerships with West Germany and with our East Asian allies.

 

While Russia has previously presented a geopolitical challenge to the US, and Moscow has successfully countered our interests in Syria and Ukraine, Russia does not present a serious long-term threat to American pre-eminence due to Russia’s own internal weaknesses. A kleptocratic political system centred around President Putin himself, combined with a gas-dependent and sluggish economy, do not provide strong nor stable bases for Russian power. In the short-term, Russian power can be best countered through existing alliances, namely with increased NATO armoured deployments in the Baltic States. A return to conventional deterrence is prudent in this instance. Indecisive acquiescence to Moscow is not. A strengthened American commitment to our allies in Eastern Europe will amply halt Russian ambitions in that region. Russia today is not what the Soviet Union once was: it is not a great power competitor on-par with the depth or breath of American power, despite Mr. Putin’s ego often arguing the opposite.

 

China, however, provides a direct revisionist threat to the liberal world order. The strength and diversity of the Chinese economy, combined with a decade of robust Chinese diplomacy in their near abroad and in Africa, have lead to extensive gains in Chinese economic and diplomatic influence. This influence is shown in the popularity of the Chinese-lead Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. However China, too, is best contained through existing institutions. China’s willingness to work within the international system allows its rise to be less conflictual than historical revisionist powers. China is not a rogue state. It seeks legitimacy as a member of the international community. The US must continue to place resources and faith into our alliances with Japan, Australia, and South Korea as the best regional counterbalances to Chinese ambitions, and must work to increase cooperation with and amongst these allies. Equally, the maritime stability provided by the US Navy will remain crucial to all East Asian export-based economies well into this century, including China’s.

 

IT’S THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, STUPID

 

At the creation of the American Republic, the only permanently standing element of the Federal military was the Navy. The Department of the Navy was created to maintain daily connectivity to the global economy, a lifeline the new Republic desperately needed. The US needs this lifeline today more than ever. Freedom of navigation maintains both current global order and US primacy, which are synonymous. The American Navy’s unquestioned dominance underwrites American hard power more than any other branch of the military. Equally, it ensures that American power can be projected anywhere in the globe within hours of a crisis.

 

Bill was right, when we’re talking about the bedrock of global order, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  The world’s economy is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s only getting more so thanks to the Internet. Global free trade remains the central priority of US national security strategy. For this reason, the US Navy will be the key branch of the armed forces into the 21st century in terms of power projection. Whereas investment in land-based counterinsurgency techniques and equipment has characterized the last decade, investment in naval technology, basing, and logistics must be the central priority of the national security budget in the coming decades. The American population no longer has the political will to launch large land-based occupations, and these kinds of actions can often be a poor long-term investment with very little stability produced in return. Investment in our Navy will ensure American dominance of the seas into the next half-century, will counterbalance China’s new blue-water navy, and will guarantee that global chokepoints of trade remain open to our nation’s imports and exports.

 

UNDERWRITING THE LIBERAL ORDER

 

America is not as all-powerful as she was when your husband took office, however the depth and breadth of US power still must not be underestimated. The American military outclasses all our competitors and our allies combined in every measure of strength, the American economy is still the largest in the world despite our relatively small population, and the US possesses a geographically advantageous location: we are literal oceans away from threats to the homeland.

 

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The US must use its power projection to be the guarantor of the liberal world order. This rules-based order is beneficial to the US economy, to our allies, to our continued primacy, and to our values. Supporting norms, weapons prohibitions, international treaties, free trade, and institutions of due-process upholds the liberal world order. As the US is the creator and natural leader of the liberal world order, the maintenance of this system is of paramount interest to the US. Even if this support comes at a cost and forces restraint on American actions abroad, the long-term benefits outweigh the short term shortcomings.

 

As was done in the Persian Gulf in 1991, the US must use our power to punish states who do not play by the rules. We must continue to use our overseas military deployments as guarantees to our allies, who must have no doubt we will defend their sovereignty. When states break international norms or violate the sovereignty of our allies, the US must have a credible threat of the use of force against these rogue actors. While not every violation of the system alone constitutes a direct threat to US national security, the maintenance of the global system of norms and institutions is a central priority of US national security. Therefore, a violation of these norms or a defiance of these institutions constitutes a credible threat to US national security and thus warrants decisive action.

 

Mrs. President, I wish you the best of luck in the next four (let’s be honest, with the current state of the GOP, probably eight) years. Here’s to hoping for an easy end to what was an excruciatingly long —though certainly unique— election cycle. I hope Bill doesn’t get into too much trouble as our nation’s first First Dude.

 

Respectfully yours,

 

Jackson Webster

Proud member of the California Democratic Party

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Who does the NUS represent? – Not me.

By Sam Wyatt, a 2nd year International Relations student at King’s College London.

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Once emancipatory, now tyrannical. Once representative, now elitist. Once a union, now a joke. To all intents and purposes the National Union of Students (NUS) has lost touch with the students it is supposed to represent. Though their motives are often honourable, too often the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the many NUS delegates have shown a serious lack of judgement allowing personal beliefs to get in the way of their job. Indeed, by condemning UKIP without any qualms and yet hesitating to condemn the Islamic State* they have laid bare their moral bankruptcy. Do they honestly believe that a bunch of old Eurosceptic fruitcakes are more worthy of condemnation than a murderous death cult who savagely butcher innocent children? They must remember that they are supposed to represent us and if these are the views of my generation I would be fearful for the future. They claim on their official website to “represent the interests of more than seven million students” but would seven million students ever hesitate to condemn IS? I think not. The reply to this observations is that the motion to condemn IS may have unintentionally isolated Muslim students, but what of the Israeli or UKIP supporting students who are isolated by NUS condemnation? Are their views so abhorrent that they forego their right to representation? Are they not worthy of protection from their Union? The NUS strives to “fight discrimination, isolation and injustice” and yet often their actions perpetuate hierarchies that provides more protection for certain groups than for others. This is not to say these groups don’t deserve to be liberated, but that liberation should be for all and not for those the NUS politically agree with. Take the recent call to abolish gay men’s reps because “they don’t face oppression”. This represents a common flaw in NUS thinking, rather than focussing on real liberation, it becomes a game of oppression top-trumps where different minorities are scrambling to see who is most oppressed. Are gay men, a group who have been persecuted throughout history, suddenly emancipated? Of course not, they still face numerous obstacles to liberation and though the vast majority of the student population accept this, it seems the NUS don’t.

Herein lies the problem: the NUS does not actually represent the student body as turnout has always been shockingly low in elections for NUS delegates. Take Manchester Metropolitan University for example where 831 people voted out of a student population exceeding 32000 giving a whopping mandate of less than 2.5% of the student population. Alternatively, take my own university King’s College London whose alumnus, Ivison Macadam, was the founder and first president of the NUS. In our NUS delegate election in 2015, we were blessed enough to achieve a ‘phenomenal’ turnout of 3.8%**, an enthusiastic show of support for an institution we created. The NUS can hardly claim to represent the views of the student body when it struggles to garner support from more 5% of the student population.

 Instead, the delegates represent the hyper-politicised, small minority of students whose insular bubble leaves them detached from the mainstream of student opinion. Attempts could be made to increase turnout and accountability, but in reality the NUS cares little for participation and democracy. Though they may protest, the rejection of an OMOV voting method is proof of this. Who wants to create a representative system when you can instead lobby the UNSC. Who knows the needs of a student more than that student themselves and yet these pseudo-politicians with their delusions of grandeur and self-importance do not want to give their members a say. Not only is it patronizing to deny a student a vote but it also highlights that the problematic democratic deficit within the union.

Furthermore, the student population would not elect somebody who has called for violent, armed resistance or anyone who wanted to abolish the police force and yet that is exactly what the union has done. The divisive nature of the NUS does not stop there with the incoming president declaring that because Birmingham University had the “largest JSoc in the country” it was a “Zionist Outpost”. I do not wish to make this too much about Malia, because I think it is true that she has faced more scrutiny than any other previous president and she may well be a lovely person. Nonetheless, these comments would have not been tolerated had it been aimed at any other minority group and the approval of these comments by the delegates, by voting for her, shows that the NUS is not the bastion of emancipation and equality that it claims to be.

Unfortunately it seems that the NUS is out of touch with the views of ordinary students and has failed to deliver on its promise of representation for all. As this is the point of a Union, unless there is drastic reform I no longer believe that King’s membership of the NUS can be justified and can see no other course of action but disaffiliation. Though I will miss the free McFlurrys and half price Spotify, I believe we cannot accept an institution that systematically demonizes aspects of the very community they supposedly represent.

*They have now condemned the actions of Islamic State

** This figure may even be less, because if memory serves correctly we were given three votes at the election

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