The article entitled “the New Realism” discussed two main problems that the United States’ current policies are failing to address effectively, Jihadism/terrorism and environment deterioration. The cause, effect and response relationships between these two issues and the United States’ policies are failing because we have apparently responded to these threats with outdated methodologies and/or because we have not taken a firm enough stand. (Richardson, 2007). As a result of these faulty responses, the U.S. has weakened both its credibility as a world leader and its old alliances.
The first problem that I would like to look at from this article is environmental deterioration. Environmental deterioration includes a long list of problems that have developed over the last century including: global warming, air pollution, water pollution, habitat loss, deforestation, and specie endangerment and extinction, just to name a few. The causes of these problems are complex and can be viewed as both intentional and unintentional. On one side of the environmental debate are proponents that blame the global warming phenomenon on natural causes and fluctuations in global temperature, thereby assigning an unintentional, accidental cause. (Stone, 2002, pg. 191). However, on the other side of this debate are people that say that global warming, as well as the majority of the other environmental problems that we face, are caused by manmade factors.
I think that the cause debate for environmental problems is very interesting, especially if you look at the potential cause types perpetuated by humans. If environmental problems are indeed manmade, which is highly probable, then the manmade causes can be classified as mechanical, accidental, intentional and inadvertent. (Stone, 2002, pg. 191). Mechanical causes include things like cars that emit greenhouse gases, accidental causes include things like accidental oil spills, intentional causes include setting fire to oil wells, and inadvertent causes include things like soil contamination caused by improperly contained toxic waste. The complexity and diversity of causal factors that can lead to environmental contamination makes it difficult to place the blame on a single action or actor. This is because there are multiple actions and actors, some manmade and some natural, that are leading to environmental deterioration. Unfortunately, this makes the politics behind addressing the identified problems more difficult to do because more than one solution needs to be identified. This means that there are a lot of opportunities for debates, arguments and lobbying to interfere with the development of possible solutions and even more opportunities for obstacles to be placed in the path of implementing solutions.
The second issue that was addressed in this article was terrorism, specifically the terrorism committed by Jihadists. The article suggested that the United States, as well as other countries in the world, have failed to respond appropriately the threat of terrorism. The U.S. in particular has constructed a response to international terrorism that is faulty, mainly because we are using outdated methodologies. (Richardson, 2007). For example, the U.S. has used 20th century warfare and military strikes directed at states, as opposed to devising a new defensive strategy that is aimed at the “stateless enemy.” (2007).
Another mistake that the article states that the U.S. has made in regards to its response to terrorism is that we have failed to address the cause of Jihadist terrorism. (Richardson, 2007). It is this failure that I would like to take a closer look at. I agree that the most effective way to defend ourselves against Jihadist terrorism is to treat the cause of the terrorism instead of merely responding to the consequences of it. The root causes of Jihadist terrorism can be classified as both intentional and unintentional. Under the category of unintended causes, the U.S. has inadvertently created situations where Jihadists have felt victimized and threatened. For example, our commitment to spreading Western doctrines and ideologies to the world, namely capitalism, democracy and a separation of church and state, has attacked the core values of people of this terrorism group and the people in the Middle East. While well intended, our lack of cultural understanding of Middle Eastern societies, has created a dissonance that is threatening to collapse cultural infrastructures and social infrastructures. This is an “unforeseen side effect” that we simply did not think about, and it has led to the development of a deep seated animosity against the U.S.
While many of the causes of Jihadist terrorism can be classified as unintended, there are also intended causes that we need to look at and address. One intentional cause (Stone, 2002, pg. 191) that has led to terrorism perpetrated by Jihadist is the Food for Oil program. This program, while designed to offer food and income in exchange for access to oil supplies, has created a social system that perpetuates social inequalities. The powerful take the lion’s share of the rewards from this program while the poor receive very little. This leads the middle and lower classes of people in the Middle East who feel that they have been victimized and oppressed by the United States’ greed for oil, to resent the United States’ presence in the Middle East.
The United States is indeed facing a lot of challenges in the 21st century. However, merely trying to neutralize the consequences of these problems is not a good way to develop long term stability. In order to stabilize our international relationships, economies and environments, we need to take the lead and clearly identify and respond actively to the root causes of these problems.
Richardson, Bill. (2007, Summer). “The New Realism.” Harvard International Review, 29(2): 26-30.
Stone, Deborah. (2002). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making, Revised Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.