Archive for Christian Perspective

We are the Stars of a Brave, New Digital World

(C) Kapok Tree Diplomacy. Mar 2012. All rights reserved. Jeff Dwiggins. Free Content

forget-generation-y-18-to-34-year-olds-are-now-generation-c--b32ec78adcLike the morning fog that settles across San Francisco Bay, the technological haze that permeates our society is clearly palpable during my morning commute to the Pentagon. About 50 human ‘techno drones’ stare into their smart phones and various personal technology devices for nearly the entire 75 minute bus commute, relationally disconnected and seemingly oblivious to their fellow travelers or anything else for that matter. And who can blame them? They have a job to do. And so do I. We are stars of our own personal Truman Show, watching a version of real life unfold before our very eyes while thousands of online marketers, friends, employers, government agencies and total strangers curiously watch our every move.

            Of course, each individual Truman Show is just a little bit different. Exactly how are all of us spending our time online?  Simon Kemp of Social Media Today notes that the global online population of over two billion users spends 22% of their time social networking, 21% doing searches, 20% reading content, 19% reading emails or communication, 13% on multi-media sites, and 5% doing online shopping.[1]  Kemp says the average person in the U.S. spends 32 hours per month online including eight hours per month on Facebook alone.[2] Based on what I see every day, I think those numbers are extraordinarily low. Read more

Ecuador and China: BFFs and Champions of the 21st Century Socialist Agenda

© Kapok Tree Diplomacy. Feb 2013. All rights reserved. Jeff Dwiggins.   FREE CONTENT

Ecuador and China: BFFs and Champions of the 21st Century Socialist Agenda

Ecuador ChinaEcuador is a beautiful country with a rich and diverse culture, geography and history. My wife is from Ecuador, and I can’t say enough about the friendliness and generosity of her family and many others that I’ve met from Ecuador.  My hope is to someday visit the country, God willing, and take in all the sights, sounds, smells and experiences that up until now, I have only experienced through the anecdotal, photographic and video evidence.

However, I feel that my timetable and window for visiting the country is rapidly closing. If things continue in their current economic and political direction under President Correa, there may not be any socio-political stability left, not to mention the inevitable deterioration of the economy that always accompanies centrally-managed socialist states. See Cuba and Russia for good examples.  Moreover, I may have to learn Chinese in addition to Spanish to get around the country. So what exactly is going on in Ecuador? Didn’t Rafael Correa make everything better?

President Correa’s Vision

Leftist President Rafael Correa of Ecuador easily won a second term as president of Ecuador on February 16th with 56% of the vote compared to the 23% of his closest competitor, Guillermo Lasso, a banker from Guayaquil.[1]  Now President Correa will be able to continue his radical socialist agenda for another four years in Ecuador, especially if his party strengthens their hold on the Assembly. Not everyone in Ecuador is happy about that.

“There is a lot of apprehension that if he wins the Assembly, there will be a greater concentration of power,” said José Hernández, an editor of Hoy, a Quito daily newspaper. “He will try to flatten everyone who is in his way. He will try to dominate more because that’s his personality, and that’s what he wants to do.”[2] So just who is Rafael Correa? Read more

Why the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine Is Incompatible with the Principles of National Sovereignty and Domestic Jurisdiction Found in International Law

“Why the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine is Incompatible with the Legal Principles of National Sovereignty and Domestic Jurisdiction” by Kapok Tree Diplomacy

(C) Kapok Tree Diplomacy. April 2011. All rights reserved.  PREVIEW

Section One – Origins and Core Principles of R2P

Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) (2001)

State sovereignty has been defined as, “the rightful entitlement to exclusive, unqualified, and supreme rule within a delimited territory” (Smith, Baylis & Owens 25). But when, where and how may that legitimate and authoritative ‘rightful entitlement’ be challenged? UNSG Annan noted in a 1999 Press Release (SG/SM/7136, GA 9596), “State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined by the forces of globalization and international cooperation” (qtd. in Dunoff, Ratner & Wippman 954). It is against this backdrop of rapidly changing international legal perspectives on state sovereignty that the ICISS makes its case. Read more

Is International Relations a Science?

(C) Kapok Tree Diplomacy. 2010. All rights reserved. Jeff Dwiggins, author

Is international relations (IR) a science? Well, I guess it depends on what science we’re talking about – physical, biological, social, economic, political?  When I hear the term “science” I still tend to think of what I’m most familiar with, and that is the scientific method used by the natural sciences. Russett and Starr attempt to modify the social science of IR to follow the scientific method using some general general steps  (2004). I would tweak those steps as follows along the natural science format: pose the question, observe, research and analyze, form hypothesis, experiment, gather more data, analyze results, interpret results, form conclusion, retest (“Steps of the Scientific Method”, n.d.).

Can we apply this same scientific method to international relations? Yes, but obtaining the level of accuracy in international relations typically required in biology or physics is not really possible. Human behavior is not as predictable as universal laws and the uniformity of nature. The current rend in IR is to try and make it as predictable as possible by crunching numbers and trying to explain every outcome through quantitative analysis. But state and non-state actors do not always act rationally, nor do they always operate with perfect information and single-minded purpose. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

Russett and Starr talk about science being about “comparison, contingency and probability” (p.19) in order to “define, label and classify” (p. 19). They point out that the analysis should be done in a systematic way in order to make theoretical “generalizations” (p. 20). They do admit the role that assumptions (p. 22), values (p. 26) and uncertainty (p. 19) can play in the overall scientific process as it relates to international relations. That’s good. Here’s a few reasons why.

The facts do not always speak for themselves. In tackling the controversy and diverse theories over the assassination of JFK, the late Christian theologian Greg Bahnsen brilliantly points out that, “What a person will take to be a “fact” and how that fact is interpreted and related to other beliefs is not determined alone by the perceptions or observations (or observation-reports) which a person has. His thinking will be guided by various assumptions or controlling presuppositions” (1992).

What one takes to be factual, as well as the interpretation of accepted facts, will be governed by his underlying philosophy of fact – that is by his “pervasive, basic, value-oriented, possibility determining, probability-rating, sometimes religiously motivated presuppositions” (Bahnsen).

The science of international relations is viewed through the value-oriented assumptions of the person doing the analysis. That frame of reference or lens may be realist, liberal, Marxist, constructionist or some combination thereof. It doesn’t mean the conclusions aren’t scientific to some extent, but we do have to be realistic about their precision and highly scrutinize the underlying values and assumptions that went into the observation and research of pertinent facts in the first place.

If our standard is that international relations (IR) must be able to be categorized, defined, labeled and classified, and that the scientific method may be usefully applied to it, then I would agree that it may share some qualities with the scientific method, though not on the same level as the natural sciences.  Thus, IR is not an exact science despite the claims of many social scientists and academics who try to convince us otherwise.