Dippin' Around: Combating Transnational Threats

Dippin' Around: Combating Transnational Threats

I can't believe the Giants won the Super Bowl. To be honest, I still haven't really accepted that they won. I mean, did they really win? This whole week has been characterized by a depressing daily ritual where I google "Super Bowl 2012", see the score, swear, and then threaten to throw myself into a volcano. And you know what really sucks?

 

Having a roommate who's a Giants fan.

 

In fact, Diego was so sure of his victory that he began singing "We Can Still Be Friends" to every Pats fan in the room at half time. I guess the joke is on him though; I'm almost positive he had no idea he was singing the wrong lyrics. Thankfully I'm not in New England though! I heard Boston was deserted the next day on account of the emotional hangover, but luckily no one cares down here enough to tease me about having the best team in the league whose favorite pastime is choking in the playoffs...

 

Except for Diego, that is.

 

But hey, if the price you pay for having amazing roommates is one Super Bowl loss, I guess I can deal with that. Honestly though, other than the Pats losing (wait... did they lose?), this week has definitely been the most eventful yet in the city. On Saturday the gang and I went out for a night on the town, the boys and I decided to throw a little party for the Super Bowl (which was super fun and equally destructive), and we completed our first seminar at NESA!

 

Combating Transnational Threats

So like I said in my last post, the title of this seminar was "Combating Transnational Threats" and encompasses much more than just terrorism. It's really interesting to see the growing threats that all nations are experiencing these days and how these threats are really undermining both state sovereignty and the Westphalian notion of statehood in general. Many of the sessions in the seminar, of which there are about three a day, focused on international crime networks and how they, using the Zetas in Mexico as a case study, are really causing trouble not only with their illicit trade economy, but also with corruption within state. One of our NESA professors was highlighting the difference in motive between terrorism and international crime, which is really important to identify when trying to adopt preventative policies, because obviously criminals are driven by profit and not political ideology like most terrorist groups. The trouble is that combating these threats really requires a lot of international bilateral and multilateral agreements, which, oddly enough, are kind of difficult to secure.

 

 

Sitting in on one of these seminars is really awesome because our participants are from all over the NESA region and they always ask realllly tough questions about US foreign policy. The best part, however, is probably being able to hear a candid response from one of the session leaders who usually tend to be retired ambassadors, military officials, foreign service officers, etc. Because of Chatham House rules I can't attribute the things people say during seminar to their countries, but it's really refreshing to actually hear members of academia admit that US foreign policy can be, and often is,  antithetical to the values and principles the US purports to support. What's more refreshing is the fact that the whole seminar is basically diplomacy in action, as we have small group sessions that can get pretty heated, but really get to the crux of the issues.

 

It's not all serious discussions though, as a lot of the participants' time there is spent getting to know their fellow seminar participants. The NESA Center puts a lot of stress on forming relationships with officials from other countries, as oftentimes the relationships developed at these seminars can lead to a kind of informal diplomacy in the future all based on personal relationships. One of the best times for this bonding was when we had a potluck dinner where all the participants dressed in their native garb and brought in food from their respective countries. There was a lot of good food there, but since I have a wicked sweet tooth, I'd have to say my favorite were these Turkish delights (to be honest, I don't actually remember what they were called) but they were essentially little balls of dough that were saturated in syrup and were absolutely delectable.

The boys after a few good meals

It's really tough to sum up the whole seminar in a few paragraphs, so I'm not going to even try because I know I won't be able to do it justice, but, while the seminar sessions were great, having real conversations with these people was amazing. One time at lunch, Clint and I sat down with a diplomat from Tunisia who could not have been more hopeful about the ousting of Ben Ali and the success of the revolution in Tunisia. Even though he knows they have a tough road ahead of them, he has faith in the democratic system and regardless of the outcome of the elections (the Islamist party won the plurality of the votes in Tunisia) the country's citizens know that they have to stand together and abide by the results of the election, regardless of their personal sentiments because it's imperative for the vitality and stability of the state. What they are experiencing in places like Tunisa, Egypt, and (hopefully) Libya is the chance for a new beginning devoid of despotism and tyranny. Knowing that they are experiencing  feelings of freedom from oppression similar to the ones felt by a young Colonial America some 225 years ago really gives me hope for the people of the Middle East. It's no secret that they have a tough road ahead, as political life has been suppressed for decades, but they believed in democracy enough to take to the streets and risk their lives. They are hoping, as am I, that their resolve will be strong enough to keep the new government intact, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Anyway, here are some more pictures from real life and the CTT seminar.

The boys at Vapiano's happy hour on M Street

 

Shout out to the boys back home!

 

The reflecting pool is under construction... what a shame

Eric being a typical crazy guy on the Metro. If there's one thing you have to worry about in DC, it's typical crazy guys on the Metro.

So at the end of the seminar, many of the participants gave out gifts to people, and I was lucky enough to recieve one of these from one of the Turkish gentlemen who were in my breakout group. It's a letter opener with a hand carved sculpture of man with traditional Turkish head garb carved out of wood, which pretty much makes it my most prized possession now. And it also really makes me want to visit Turkey; the people are extremely nice, they have delicious sweets, and, as strange as it sounds, are really sharp dressers!

 

Anway, I hope I didn't bore anyone with how long this post was... I really need to start cutting these things down. Thanks for reading, until next time!

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