Foreign Policy

After looking at the global issue of immigration, it was definitely appropriate to turn towards the means of which we deal with global issues – foreign policy. Especially with the case of the US, I noticed from the beginning that a large portion of foreign policy orients around intervention in countries where something is happening – whether it is a conflict, revolution or something else. I also noticed that because of this there is a negative perception of the US being someone “who messes with others’ business and enforces their will upon them”. I was confronted with this view in the classroom here, in the US, but also during my time back in Slovakia, where some media and people have the same opinion.

Learning more about this, I found that interventionism in the case of the US can be divided into two parts – one driven by humanitarian/social issues, and the other driven by self-interests. To answer the question of whether US interventionism is rightfully viewed as bad, one should probably come up with a ratio of how many social and how many self-interested interventions were carried out and whether they were truly what authorities said they were.

If we look at the world wars, we could make a solid case for the US involvement as a humanitarian/social mission. What was essentially at stake in the conflict were democratic values and a concept of universal human rights – both things which the US stood for as an emerging democratic superpower. Many would because of that agree that both engagements shortened the conflicts. But then again, couldn’t the US have intervened in these conflicts just to establish itself as a democratic superpower? Wouldn’t this be beneficial to the US? Wouldn’t it show the rest of the world how a democracy (a revolutionary concept) can put up a fight? It definitely would, and some might say that it did. As a response to this though, I’d say that it would be more so with WW1, not WW2 where social issues were to some extent more significant.

The Cold War era interventionism leans more towards being guided by self-interest. In both major Cold War conflicts – Korea and Vietnam – the US wanted to deter Soviet expansion and the spreading of communism. Granted, communist regimes oppressed human rights quite often, but most statements from those times mostly mentioned getting rid of competitive influence, not about positive social change the US could have brought. The US also used its influence in international organisations like the UN to get its way, where once again, the question of whether it was legitimate has to be posed.

Because of the relative failures of US interventions in the Cold War conflicts the US had slightly halted its international commitments. Failing to complete a peace enforcement mission in Somalia in the first Battle of Mogadishu only strengthened this shift in policy making, consequently resulting in reluctance to act in conflicts where genuinely humanitarian/social issues were the basis for all atrocities that occurred. Why did the US not intervene sooner or not at all? Well, public support was an issue, but that wasn’t an issue with conflicts like Iraq. What made Iraq different from places like Rwanda or Bosnia? The latter conflicts had an absence of the possibility of gaining influence in an oil rich region.

It seems like the pattern with US interventions has quite the changing nature. But the deciding factor for whether an intervention will happen are possibilities of gaining some advantage that would benefit the US, not necessarily the international community. Is this why the US is viewed negatively domestically and in the world? And if it is so, should it change this approach by ignoring self-interest completely? Wouldn’t that make US voters even angrier? It might be very hard to answer these questions, especially now and that is a problem because how else should we know what foreign policy is good or bad?

 

Immigration Follow up

In my previous blog post, I explained why I personally don’t have many unanswered questions that concern immigration. However, that fact has changed once I explored the historic problematic of immigration in the U.S. in class. I was mostly intrigued – of course – by the question of whether immigration helps economic development. This is because my previous knowledge of how standard economic models apply to structural economic changes that happen during waves of immigration was challenged.

To further explain what exact part of what I knew was challenged, there are a few terms we need to make sure everyone understands. First, financial incentive. Now, we are all familiar with the definition of an incentive. It is something that gives a person motivation to act. A financial incentive is more or less the same, except it only concerns acts of financial nature and includes not only individuals as actors, but also larger institutional structures, like governments. The second important term to define is the multiplier effect. This economic phenomenon basically describes an increase in profit from new government spending. The final effects of this process are what I was familiar with before discussing the unit in depth.

In context, when a large immigration wave occurs in a nation state there is a rise of demand in the job market. In accordance with the ‘Supply and demand’ model, a rise of demand results in a shortage – in this case, the shortage of job places. When there is such a shortage in a country, the government of that country has financial incentive to support its industries to create space in the job market, because otherwise many unproductive inhabitants create economic stagnation. This financial incentive usually materialized into the multiplier effect. Injections of spending into a country’s companies to create more incentive for those companies to scale up, maximizing their profit, as they could produce and sell more product. By scaling up, companies create a bigger supply of job places for incoming flows of immigrants to fill up, without jeopardizing the native population’s need to be employed. This scenario creates a win-win situation for the state, which prevents economic stagnation and creates growth in the long run, since the economic equilibrium is moved upward, as demonstrated in the image below.

(The image provides the example of energy supplies, instead of job places)

shift_in_demand

That means the nation can profit off of a bigger number of collected company income taxes, effectively paying back the amount it gave to the industries to scale up.

The way this was challenged by looking into the information about US immigration is when I read an article in our primary sources assignment that said that economic growth from immigration is virtually non-existent. The only visible differences in growth were 0.1% increases. Why? Well, I don’t know. It may be because the US has a larger job market that not even government spending injections can widen it. It may be because of the sheer mass of the population, which just too big in comparison with countries like Germany, who can experience growth of up to around 4-5% because of immigration. Because of that, there may be a lack of financial incentive in the government so the multiplier effect can’t even occur.

Without looking even more into the specific macroeconomic policies of the US government, there is only so much we can do – speculate.

Immigration

Immigration hasn’t always been something that I thought about. I think that is the case for most people, as most of us have grown up in only one country. However, the recent migrant crisis in Europe, and the political importance of the issue made me realise that I ought to follow it. Other than that, I have an immigrant father and a multicultural family background with many members of my family living outside of their native country. Furthermore, I would like to study abroad and my ability to do that, does concern immigration policies around the world.

I knew quite a lot about immigration in general going into this particular unit, yet I still don’t have a completely set global opinion about it, especially regarding refugees and how we should deal with them. I also didn’t concentrate much on immigration in our history, and immigration in the US. Now, I can’t necessarily say that learning more about it changed my overall view on immigration, since most of what I know is quite similar to the historical aspects of this topic set in the States, but it has definitely deepened my understanding. Learning about the same issues which occur in different parts of the world only broadens your general knowledge and perspective, which I think is beneficial for me, as a person who is engaged in following global news and events.

A parallel between Europe and the US I have noticed is that border control always hasn’t been that much of a an issue, in fact the creation of the European Union was the result of people wanting to come together. However, it has gained political ground just lately, because different demographics of citizens are concerned with lack of sovereignty, loss of their workplaces to immigrants, and income inequality. The main difference is that in Europe, this is happening because of the free movement privilege granted by the EU, not because of illegal immigration as it is in the US. That doesn’t mean though, that I am for deporting undocumented immigrants. In fact, I think that even they bring benefits to a country and that stance was strengthened by learning about immigration in the US.

Especially exploring the regional job polarisation – how many people occupy different positions in the job market – in the US largely affects whether immigration is beneficial, since immigrants who come to the US have a bigger variety of previous occupation, which qualifies them to work different jobs once they immigrate. Undocumented immigrants are mostly qualified to do blue collar jobs, things that require manual work. That means that regions where these workplaces aren’t filled benefit from an influx of people who can fill them quite easily and quickly. This has happened in the past and it largely makes the case for admitting refugees in Europe as well because many European countries, like Germany, are experiencing job polarisation. Of course, sometimes immigrants may be overqualified, yet they are still able to contribute by having to work jobs which aren’t occupied by natives.

Immigration in the US is a topic that deepened my understanding of immigration as a whole and made me realise that there is a slightly different side of the highly discussed issue as well, along with discovering facts I hadn’t known before even about my own home continent.