Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Global Issues
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Unit 1: Global Population and Resources
Issue: Is Global Aging a Major Problem?
Yes: Neil Howe and Richard Jackson, from "Global Aging and the Crisis of the 2020s," Current History (2011)
No: The Economist, from "Age Invaders," The Economist (2014)
Neil Howe and Richard Jackson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argue that global population aging is likely to have a profound and negative effect on global economic growth, living standards and conditions, and “the shape of the world order,” particularly affecting China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, and countries of the West. The Economist article argues that today’s elderly are a much better-educated class than past generations of elderly. Consequently, they will work longer and will represent a higher level of productivity than previous generations. Add to this, because of the cutting of pensions by governments around the world, an unexpected degree of economic thrift might emerge, particularly in the developed world.
Issue: Will the World Be Able to Feed Itself in the Foreseeable Future?
Yes: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, from "The State of Food Insecurity in the World," United Nations Publications (2015)
No: The British Government Office for Science, from "The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and Choices for Global Sustainability," Foresight (2011)
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that the number of undernourished around the globe has declined by 167 million over the past decade. The British government’s report concludes that the world’s existing food system is failing half of the world’s population, with a billion people hungry and another billion suffering from “hidden hunger.”
Issue: Can the Global Community Successfully Confront the Global Water Shortage?
Yes: UNICEF and World Health Organization, from "Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment," United Nations Publications (2015)
No: World Water Assessment Programme, from "Water for a Sustainable World," The United Nations World Development Report 2015, UNESCO (2015)
The report by UNICEF and WHO details how far the global community has come in the past 15 years in providing safe drinking water for its citizens, suggesting that over 90 percent of the world’s population now has access to improved sources of drinking water. The WWAP report predicts, however, that by 2025, the global demand for water is projected to increase by 55 percent, which will tax the planet’s ability to meet that increased demand.
Issue: Is the Global Oil Crisis of the Last Half-Century Over?
Yes: Marc Lallanilla, from "Peak Oil: Theory or Myth?" Livescience.com (2015)
No: Michael T. Klare, from "Peak Oil Is Dead. Long Live Peak Oil!" TomDispatch.com (2014)
In this Internet post, Marc Lallanilla suggests that oil production will not reach a peak but rather a plateau, which will continue for some time before slowly declining. In this Internet post, Michael T. Klare argues that taking into account both political and physical constraints, peak oil “remains in our future,” although there will be a “gradual disappearance” of what the author calls “easy” oil.
Issue: Is the Paris Climate Change Agreement a Good Deal?
Yes: European Commission, from "The Road from Paris," Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council (2016)
No: Rupert Darwall, from "Paris: The Treaty That Dare Not Speak Its Name," National Review (2015)
The Communication from the European Commission of the European Union spells out the major details of the climate change agreement, emphasizing the positive aspects of the accord and discusses the implementation of the agreement. The National Review’s Rupert Darwall lays out several arguments against the treaty, such as the commitment of the West to paying billions of dollars to the developing world and to other binding obligations.
Unit 2: Expanding Global Forces and Movements
Issue: Will the International Community be Able to Successfully Address the ZIKA Virus Pandemic?
Yes: World Health Organization, from "Zika: Strategic Response Framework & Joint Operations Plan," United Nations Publications (2016)
No: Matthew Weaver and Sally Desmond, from "Zika Virus Spreading Explosively, Says World Health Organization," The Guardian (2016)
The WHO report lays out a comprehensive global plan to address the pandemic threat posed by the Zika virus. The WHO-led effort is designed to provide help to affected countries, to build the capacity to stop new outbreaks and to address them successfully when they do occur, and to engage in research to address all aspects of the pandemic. Matthew Weaver and Sally Desmond report that the Director General of the WHO, in calling an emergency meeting, stated that the “level of alarm (about Zika) is extremely high.”
Issue: Is the International Community Making Effective Progress in Securing Global Human Rights?
Yes: The Council on Foreign Relations, from "The Global Human Rights Regime," Council on Foreign Relations (2012)
No: Amnesty International, from "Amnesty International Report 2014/15: The State of the World’s Human Rights," Amnesty International, London (2015)
The Council on Foreign Relations, an independent nonpartisan and essentially American think tank, in an Issue Brief summarizes the development of an elaborate global system of governmental and nongovernmental organizations developed primarily over the past few decades to promote human rights throughout the world, while recognizing that the task is still far from complete. Amnesty International’s annual report on the state of human rights around the world suggests major failures in all regions, with suffering by many from conflict, displacement, discrimination, and/or repression.
Issue: Do Adequate Strategies Exist to Combat Human Trafficking?
Yes: Tierney Sneed, from "How Big Data Battles Human Trafficking," U.S. News & World Report (2015)
No: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, from "Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014," United Nations Publications (2014)
Tierney Sneed’s article details how new technologies are being used to address the problem of human trafficking. The 2014 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report spells out the magnitude of the problem with the compilation of major data collected about human trafficking.
Issue: Should the United States and the West Address the Syrian Refugee Crisis by Allowing Them to Migrate to the West?
Yes: Michael Ignatieff, from "The United States and the Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Plan of Action," White Paper, Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy (2016)
No: Andrew C. McCarthy, from "The Controversy Over Syrian Refugees Misses the Question We Should Be Asking," National Review (2015)
Michael Ignatieff, Edward R. Murrow Professor of Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, argues that the United States should help its major European allies by offering generosity, vision, and optimism to assist them in the resettlement of refugees. Andrew C. McCarthy suggests that even if the vetting process is perfect, there are two reasons why allowing a massive influx of refugees into the United States is “a calamity.” The first is the vetting for terrorism ignores the real challenge, that of Islamic supremacism, of which violent terrorism is only a subset. The second is that the United States ignores the dynamics of jihadism, which suggests that there are individuals being admitted who are “apt to become violent jihadists.”
Issue: Is Global Income Inequality on the Rise in the International Community?
Yes: Oxfam Report, from "An Economy for the 1%," Oxfam (2016)
No: Max Roser, from "Income Inequality: Poverty Falling Faster Than Ever but the 1% Are Racing Ahead," The Guardian (2015)
The Oxfam report issued this year provides data to characterize global inequality as a crisis where the wealthiest 62 people have amassed great wealth at the expense of billions of poor people. Roser argues that while a few have amassed great wealth, poverty as a whole is declining and tens of millions are moving into working and middle class positions.
Issue: Is Social Media Becoming the Most Powerful Force in International Politics?
Yes: Ritu Sharma, from "Social Media as a Formidable Force for Change," The Huffington Post (2015)
No: Kathy Gilsinan, from "Is ISIS’s Social-Media Power Exaggerated?" The Atlantic (2015)
Ritu Sharma sees social media as a powerful mobilizing force and uses many examples to illustrate that point. Kathy Gilsinan looks at ISIS’s use of social media and questions its power and influence, questioning the real reach of social media.
Issue: Are Cyber-groups Terrorists or a Potential Force for Good?
Yes: David Auerbach, from "The Sony Hackers Are Terrorists," BITWISE (2014)
No: Evan Schuman, from "Anonymous Just Might Make All the Difference in Attacking ISIS," ComputerWorld (2015)
Auerbach views hackers like the recent Sony hack as terrorism because of the economic and social impact. Schuman points out that hacker groups like Anonymous may indeed be forces for good in terms of combating real terrorists like ISIS.
Unit 3: The New Global Security Dilemma
Issue: Is Cyber Warfare the Future of War?
Yes: David Gewirtz, from "Why the Next World War will be a Cyberwar First, and a Shooting War Second," ZDNet (2015)
No: Thomas Rid, from "Cyberwar and Peace: Hacking Can Reduce Real-World Violence," Foreign Affairs (2013)
Gewirtz articulates the view that cyber warfare will be a crucial and important element of the next and perhaps all future wars. Rid, however, is skeptical of the notion that cyberwar is the wave of the future and in fact may act as an effective deterrent to real violence.
Issue: Are Russia and the United States in a New Cold War?
Yes: Andrej Krickovic and Yuval Weber, from "Why a New Cold War with Russia Is Inevitable," The Brookings Institution (2015)
No: Matthew Rojansky and Rachel S. Salzman, from "Debunked: Why There Won’t Be Another Cold War," The National Interest (2015)
Krickovic and Weber argue that substantive differences between the United States and Russia on NATO membership, the status of Ukraine, among others will lead to further deterioration in the relationship. Rojansky and Salzman, however, see the social, economic, and political interconnections as too deep for another true cold war to develop.
Issue: Can ISIS Be Defeated in the Near Future?
Yes: Max Boot, from "How ISIS can be Defeated," Newsweek (2015)
No: Aaron David Miller, from "5 Reasons the U.S. Cannot Defeat ISIS," RealClear World (2015)
Boot lays out a strong military strategy for the defeat of ISIS that relies on a coalition of ground forces. Miller lays out the currently existing factors that will prevent the defeat of ISIS.
Issue: Is the Iran Nuclear Program Agreement Good for America and for the World?
Yes: John Kerry, from "Remarks on Nuclear Agreement With Iran," U.S. Department of State (2015)
No: David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon, from "Future Risks of an Iran Nuclear Deal," The New York Times (2015)
John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, whose team negotiated the Iran nuclear program agreement, lays out the rationale behind the support of the deal by many top nuclear scientists and other experts, and the reasons why he believes the world in general and the most relevant countries within that world will be safer as a consequence of the deal. David Sanger and Michael Gordon of The New York Times criticize the deal, focusing on the fact that in 15 years Iran will be free to produce massive quantities of uranium and thus be in a position to produce nuclear bombs quickly.
Issue: Is the European Union in Danger of Disintegrating?
Yes: John Feffer, from "The European Union May Be on the Verge of Collapse," The Nation (2015)
No: Kalin Anev Janse, from "How the Financial Crisis Made Europe Stronger," World Economic Forum (2016)
Feffer points out that the latest crises facing Europe have caused some to question its viability. He sees an EU that may be one more challenge away from splintering. Janse argues that the economic crisis has brought the EU together, recognizing the shared benefits of unity.
Issue: Is China the Next Superpower?
Yes: Jonathan Watts, from "China: Witnessing the Birth of a Superpower," The Guardian (2012)
No: Jonathan Adelman, from "China’s Long Road to Superpower Status," U.S. News & World Report (2014)
Watts articulates the view that China is showing all the signs of emerging superpower status economically and militarily. Adelman details the areas where China lags far beyond the United States and other countries and shows no signs of solving.
Issue: Should the International Community Preempt Against North Korea?
Yes: Patrick M. Cronin, from "Time to Actively Deter North Korea," The Diplomat (2014)
No: Jeong Lee, from "North Korea: Don’t Pick a Fight We Can’t Win," Small Wars Journal (2015)
Patrick M. Conin believes that the West must be more aggressive in its approach to North Korea and raise the threat of preemption against their nuclear forces. Jeong Lee argues that the nature of the North Korean regime means diplomacy and calm pressure will work best at changing behavior.