September 30, 2009


In my International Politics class, we spend some time reading about... international politics. We read about important things like the balance of power and just how much power individual countries have. These are things that are good to know.

And while I was reading a chapter in my textbook today, Russett's "World Politics: the Menu for Choice," I came across an interesting chart. It was meant to demonstrate the different ways of evaluating power. There was "Geography and Demography" (this great nation third in both area and population), "Economic and Military Strength" (first, of course), and finally "Human Resources" (first in "Scientific Articles," and... somewhere out of the top ten in "Human Development"). This last category gave me pause. Human development is a measurement of "longevity, education, and wealth." And we're not in the top ten?

Call me a self-centered American but I'd always thought we'd be first in that category, too. I guess we've been eating too many cheeseburgers and skipping out on school a little much. Incidentally, some of the countries that are beating us? Iceland, Norway, and Australia.

Of course, we could think of this in nicer terms instead of making it a competition. But, let's face it. We're talking about power. And as much as I'd like everyone to just get along and be equal, that doesn't happen. And I'm very interested in just how much power my government- my country- has when dealing with foreign states.

I'm more interested when there are things going on overseas (and when are there ever not?). There are times when you just want your country to be in charge, times when it's starting to seem like the other fourth graders are hanging out together in the corner of the playground and whispering about beating you up. Take now, for example: We've still got two wars over in Iraq and Afghanistan, and China's funding the development of Iran's oil fields. Sounds like a great combination if we're talking about being a tad anti-democratic. If George Bush was still president we'd be hearing another speech about the "Axis of Evil" (maybe this time it would expand to include China, and probably ten other countries as well... seeing as "evil" seems to mean whoever's against us, and there are always lots of those). If we were on the top of that "human development" list, maybe we wouldn't have quite so many enemies. We'd be the well-adjusted fourth grader who has lots of friends and gets elected "Most Likely to Succeed." That would be infinitely preferable to the current state of events.

And aside from thoughts of power and relative control, let's think about the fact that we're higher on the military power list than we are on the human development list. What does that tell us? As the infamous bumper sticker says: It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. Especially speaking as a student, I support that statement. Shouldn't we, as the supposed greatest country in the world, be focussing a bit more on education and literacy than on beating everyone else up?

So today I'd like you to think: Think about where this country is in the world (not literally, though it'd be nice if you could pick it out on a map, too). Think about our power and just how much of it comes from the military. Think about which fourth grader you'd like to be. (Pick the well-adjusted kid... he's got extra peanut butter cookies.)

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