Month: November 2007

Topic Brief: Nuclear Armament

By Michael Garson

Common political theory suggests that countries only act to enhance national power. Economic revitalization, political mobilization, and diplomatic posturing all move towards improving a state, domestically and internationally. However, the advent of the nuclear weapon has completely changed the concept of power. Power was distributed among cavemen based on strength and aggression. During early civilization, power was distributed based purely on numbers of men in an army. The past few centuries evolved power to encompass economics, politics, technology, and knowledge. Though different, all of these systems are egalitarian in nature. They all offer equal footing. However, nuclear weapons allow disproportionate amounts of power. Economic powerhouses like Germany or Japan would not stand a chance against Israel or Pakistan in a full-scale military exchange. The ability to accelerate one’s place in the global pecking order has proven extremely attractive. It is because of the immense power of nuclear weapons to obliterate life as we know it AND to change the distribution of global power, nuclear armament certainly has deserved its own brief.

Topic Brief: Myanmar

By Logan Scisco

Over the last two months the nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been in the news as its people fight for democratic representation from a military junta known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) who have ruled the country for the last forty-five years.  In their forty-five year governance of the country the SPDC, which has gone through a large litany of name changes since it took power in 1962, has weakened the country’s economy to the point where the heroin trade thrives along the Thai and Chinese borders and the black market is one of the only ways people can secure commercial items.  To add to these problems, the SPDC still has tensions with the various ethnic groups in Myanmar such as the Karen and the Wa which have led to human rights violations and military conflicts in the country’s frontier areas.

The SPDC maintains its position in the country through an intricate network of repression and fear.  This network of military intelligence has been strengthened since 1990 when the military’s party received a drubbing by the National League for Democracy (NLD) in parliamentary elections, the first held in Myanmar since 1960.  After losing this election, the military annulled the results and jailed opposition leaders.

However, there have been times when the international community has hoped to see change in Myanmar.  One such incident occurred two months ago in September when protests emerged in the country after petrol prices were increased.  The military junta quickly put down these protests but in the course of doing so several Buddhist monks, arguably the most influential people in Myanmar aside from the SPDC, were beaten.  In response, the monks refused to accept alms from members of the SPDC thereby damaging their prospects of being reborn in a good position in the next life according to Buddhist doctrine.  As the international community watched on CNN and other media outlets, the SPDC quickly struck back at protesters, killing and injuring media journalists, students, regular civilians, and Buddhist monks effectively crippling the movement for change.  During their crippling of this movement the junta prevented people from having access to the Internet and silenced telecommunications throughout the country showing the variety of tools at the junta’s disposal to silence opposition movements in the country.

This topic brief will provide extempers with a brief overview of the history of Myanmar, an overview of the human rights abuses said to be occurring in the country, Myanmar’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the mechanisms utilized by the junta to hold on to power.

Topic Brief: International Economics

By Michael Garson

At most major national tournaments, there is an international economics round that challenge the knowledge and economic understanding of extempers. These rounds often are placed in earlier outrounds as a means of sifting out those who rely solely on delivery. Equally dangerous is smaller tournaments that sprinkle in economics-related questions throughout all rounds. Fear of “complex” economic theory has caused otherwise easy questions to be immediately thrust back into the envelope. An understanding of economics helps not just economics questions, but also creates an opportunity for increased depth in nearly all questions. Money is one of the powerful forces in the world, and people of all faiths, races, and nationalities worship the almighty dollar/yuan/yen/euro etc.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén