Sep 11, 2014

After the September 11th attacks: A Short Guide and Timeline of the Foreign Policy Actions Taken post 9/11

While most adult Americans remember vividly where they were on the day of the attacks, feeling those same emotions and fears 13 years later, many are a bit uncertain about the events that came afterward.  This is especially so for those that have only recently entered adulthood.  As a Political Science Professor, I find that a high percentage of my students are confused about which country was invaded as a direct result of the attacks and which came later, but was indirectly related to this horrific slaughter of 3,000 Americans. Knowing where these countries are on a map is a whole other challenge.  Here are the facts:

Who attacked us?

Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden, organized and carried out the attacks from their base in Afghanistan.  The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to hunt down al-Qaeda and its leader bin Laden, but also to overthrow the Taliban, the group brutally ruling the country.  The Taliban, are an extremist Islamic group, like al-Qaeda, that took control of Afghanistan by force in the 1990s.  While both are violent and extremist, the Taliban and al-Qaeda have different reasons for existing.  Al-Qaeda is an organization bent on terrorizing the U.S. and our supporters in an effort to change policy in Arab countries and the U.S.  The Taliban are isolated to Afghanistan and operated as a ruling regime.  The Taliban are a local group that overthrew the government in Afghanistan in order to install a theocracy.  The Taliban's efforts do not extend beyond Afghanistan's borders, unlike the efforts of al-Qaeda.  This is why the U.S. deals with the two groups differently.  Because the Taliban and al-Qaeda share a vision, the Taliban gave refuge and support to al-Qaeda beginning in the late 1990s, allowing them to train and hideout in the country.  The U.S.'s secondary goal to hunting al-Qaeda was to overthrow the brutal Taliban regime and support the creation of a democratically elected government.  The U.S., and now the democratically elected Afghan government, continues to this day to fight remnants of the Taliban who are attempting to reassert control over the country.  Under the Obama administration in 2011, bin Laden was found and killed while hiding out in neighboring Pakistan.  The fight against al-Qaeda continues, but unlike with the Taliban, it is a global fight as this group and its members can relocate just about anywhere.

Sep 9, 2014

Stop Playing Their Game

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What game?

The game I am speaking of is the partisan and divisive game used by many politicians, candidates, and polarizing news radio or television pundits.  It is the game of manipulation.  The game of manipulation is designed to gain your attention and to then gain influence over your opinion.  I am talking about the politicians in your party, especially the "celebrity" types, as well as the television and radio news hosts you listen to, all of whom find a way to be the loudest mouth in the national conversation.  DO NOT assume that I am only talking about the other party, the other shows, or the other politicians.  I am talking about the politicians in your party, especially the "celebrity" types, as well as the television and radio news hosts you listen to, all of whom find a way to be the loudest mouth in the national conversation. 

What are the methods of play?

These divisive and polarizing figures take the path of least resistance.  On one hand, this entails "dumbing us down" with overly simplified, overly broad, misleading and sometimes downright untruthful statements.  These characters do not get your vote or attention unless you are filled with rage or passion; but more importantly, they do not get your attention unless they reduce complex arguments down to a "bumper sticker sized"statement.  Bumper sticker sized statements, sometimes referred to as "sound bites" are better tools of manipulation than complex discussions or nuanced statements.  Bumper sticker statements and sound bites convey a minimal amount of information that is devoid of context.  To include context in a statement, would lead to facts that do not support the statement or opinion, and would also lead you to believe that the world is a bit more complex than the speaker would like you to believe.  Context and fact may also lead you to put yourself in the shoes of someone else.  For some politicians, partisans and ideologically extreme media characters, educating you in historical fact, statistics and context would be counter-productive to their effort to hold your attention and counter-productive to their policy goals.  

The second method of play is distraction.  The game's objective is not to have analytically and substantive discussions or statements about meaningful action and policy, but to prevent us by distraction from coming to our own conclusions using critical thinking skills.  One such "shiny object" used for the sake of distraction every summer is the vacation taken by the President.    Another such shiny object is the attendance at a fundraising event by the President.  Most of these shiny objects are brought to us by a steady barrage of pictures and video clips of Presidential activities.

Example...don't's non-partisan ;)

Every president, Republican or Democrat, goes on vacations, some extended  and some short; and every president, Republican or Democrat attends fundraising events all over the country.  Much of the time, these trips occur shortly before, during, or after a major news event.  For President Obama it has been the recent August vacation and golf outing in the midst of the growing ISIS threat and beheading of journalist James Foley.  President Obama also received some flack for neglecting to visit Ferguson, Missouri during the civil disorder related to the police shooting of Michael Brown.  For President Bush, the most resilient memory Americans have of a bad photo op is his 2005 fly over of the damage in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.  Another memory of the Bush administration is the great deal of