Posted in Miscellaneous

General Recommendations for the 2017 National Security Strategy

*This paper was written prior to the 2016 general election, offering policy recommendations for the National Security Strategy of one of the presidential candidates. As the present administration has not yet released a national security strategy, these recommendations hold particular relevance for the policy direction necessary to fulfill US priorities in the global order.

In 2017, the new administration faced a complex security environment with global challenges and a greater diffusion of power internationally. In drafting the 2017 National Security Strategy, it is imperative that President Clinton* and her advisors consider the following themes as critical elements of America’s international leadership: effective use of “smart power,” rebalancing of US priorities and engagements, and firm protection of American values.

Smart Power

Over the next four years, the US must implement a “clear-eyed” national strategy that shrewdly assesses the unique factors in each international conflict and “integrates all of our foreign policy tools”—diplomatic, information, economic, and military power—with the goal of advancing American values and the rule of law. 1 Primary reliance on military power “further[s] dark warnings about the potentially harmful effects of… rebalanc[ing] US national security spending or trim[ming] the massive military budget” instead of providing an objective view of US capabilities within the international environment; thus, a balanced smart power approach is necessary to deploy tools that can fulfill American goals on a case-by-case basis.2

Effective implementation of a smart power approach requires investing in and reinforcing domestic sources of power. The US should dedicate increased funding to the education of regional American experts, allowing for more informed and impactful intervention in regional crises. It is also recommended that the administration allocate more funds to conflict assessment efforts, in partnership with the efforts of think tanks, in order to assess the consequences of possible US actions and select the course with the least amount of conflict. Recognizing the increasing importance of the information domain, the administration should invest in advanced cyber capabilities so as to prevent non-state or state actors from developing unchecked influence in the digital sphere.

Smart power, based on the above national capabilities, must guide the Clinton administration’s strategy for engagement in different regional crises. In South Asia, region-specific experts should guide India and Pakistan to expand bilateral cooperation based on shared historical experiences and cultural traditions, with the end goal of a regional security framework. 3 In Europe, the administration must guide the UK’s process of exiting the EU, developing the economic structures necessary to mitigate the regional and global effects of short-term economic instability. By ensuring a smooth and “amicable split” and reassuring allies of the US’s commitment to NATO, America can continue to cooperate with member states in deterring Russian aggression. 4 Regarding the JCPOA, the US should continue Obama’s policy of lifting nuclear-related economic sanctions on Iran while strengthening cooperation between intelligence agencies and nuclear inspectors to ensure treaty compliance.5 American officials must analyze the future economic effects of lifting sanctions and restrict Iran’s future nuclear ambitions without constraining its ability to bring about regional peace. The Clinton administration should also continue the policy of addressing radical terrorism by curtailing its extensive online influence and empowering local troops.6


As Secretary of State, Clinton led the “pivot” to Asia, or realist shift in foreign policy towards regions that are increasingly important to American security and economic interests.7 This entailed “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches” to general regional crises in order to fulfill security objectives in a sustainable manner, while avoiding endless commitments to regions with little strategic importance to the US.8 The principle of rebalancing American regional commitments should continue to guide international engagement under President Clinton. The US should engage in the Middle East in a smarter and more effective manner, while deepening trade and defense cooperation with emerging regions such as East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. “Surging economic growth” and “aggressive military modernization” in East Asia have made the region an important and capable partner for the US in addressing international crises.9 China’s growing sphere of influence makes necessary American regional intervention as a counterbalance. Sub-Saharan Africa is developing into a strong potential market for American investors due to its high population growth, rapid urbanization, and expanding middle class. As a result of normalization of relations with Cuba, the US can stimulate its economic ties with Latin America and support the expansion of commodity production, labor, and services in the region.10

Implementation of an “undisciplined… strategy of liberal hegemony” encourages allies to free-ride on US defense capabilities and provides opposing states with a rationale to acquire greater military power.11 While some argue that American deep engagement helps to “maintain an open world economy,” general exercise of American leadership prevents the government from dedicating adequate resources to resolve the most pressing international threats.12 In the globalized world, international threats come from both regional conflicts and international challenges. Strategic rebalancing should therefore apply not only to engagement within regions, but also to engagement among different international issues, to ensure effective allocation of resources and power in all of the US’s foreign commitments, according to national interests.

Implementation of this policy requires balancing of domestic processes and international actions. Despite the US’s leadership in the effort to combat climate change, popular domestic opposition to energy and emission regulations obstructs quick ratification and implementation of international climate agreements by Congress. The US must therefore invest in rebalancing the public-government relationship and expanding public awareness of the benefits of climate change-related regulations—such as job growth in clean energy markets. Free trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership cause similar public concerns regarding job loss. In order to move workers from negatively-affected, low-wage fields to areas where they can productively contribute to the national economy, the US government must provide greater technical education opportunities for unskilled laborers displaced by foreign competition.

Firm protection of American values

As elaborated in founding documents, America is built on the values of democracy and universal human rights, a foundation that should be clearly represented in US foreign engagements. However, the US can only extend its values abroad when it implements them fully at home, a stance that the new NSS should clearly uphold.13 To this end, the US government must remain diligent in its prohibition of inhumane practices such as torture and racial discrimination. The executive should also restore the “constitutional dynamic between the executive and legislative branches of government” in order to strengthen democratic participation in major national decisions.14

Acting in accordance with these values, the US must acknowledge its responsibility to alleviate human suffering and respect human dignity by accepting up to 65,000 Syrian refugees into the country over four years, prioritizing human capital and those who can contribute productively to the national economy. Internationally, the administration should help local governments in Syria build the infrastructure necessary to provide civilians with basic services. This region wide effort should be carried out multilaterally, through international organizations such as the UN and regional partners such as the European Union. This approach embodies the US’s liberal internationalist responsibilities, but realist assessment and implementation of these responsibilities.15

The Hillary Doctrine states that women’s political and economic empowerment is an underestimated force for domestic and international peace, and should therefore be an essential national security priority for the US.16 Accordingly, the administration should devote more of the security budget to the Office of Global Women’s Issues, which ensures that consideration of women’s rights is fully integrated in foreign policy formulation and implementation.17 Through the Office of Global Women’s Issues, the US government should reach out to countries in which women are denied the most fundamental rights and offer economic assistance such as microfinance loans to encourage economic independence and stability. The Office should also convene forums for women leaders throughout the world to raise awareness of the need for women’s active participation in civil society.

Finally, commitment to American values implies that the US must urge other states to protect human rights and adopt democratic processes, strategically and in the most impactful manner. While the US seeks diplomacy and cooperation on shared concerns with authoritarian powers, it should promote these values, leading to the preservation of the universal rights of their citizens and a more stable political structure. In negotiations with China over mutual concerns such as climate change or robust and sustainable economic growth, the US should quietly pressure China to respect the freedom of speech and avoid imprisoning dissidents. This method is to be preferred over publicly confronting China, which has historically been ineffective in expanding American values and strengthening bilateral cooperation. The US faces a similar situation with Russia, whose frequent military expansionism in neighboring countries has violated the international rule of law. To restore democratic processes in regional matters, the administration should stand with powerful allies and pressure Russia to resume peace talks.

Over the past eight years, President Obama’s national security strategy successfully restored American leadership. By applying a smart power approach, rebalancing foreign commitments and domestic processes, and promoting national values, the Clinton administration must maintain the US’s influence as a firm, clear-eyed, and collaborative power in the international sphere.



1 “Clinton’s Speech on the ‘Smart Power Approach to Counterterrorism,’ September 2011,” Council on Foreign Relations, 9 Sept. 2011.

2 Zenko, M.A, “Clear and Present Safety,” Foreign Affairs 91.2 (2012): 81.

3 National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds (Washington DC: National Intelligence Council, 2012) 75.

4 Oliver, Tim and Michael John Williams, “Special Relationship in flux: Brexit and the future of the US-EU and US-UK relationships,” International Affairs 92.3 (2016): 559.

5 Sanger, David, and Michael Gordon, “Future Risks of an Iran Nuclear Deal,” New York Times 23 Aug. 2015.

6 LA Times staff, “Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech, annotated,” Los Angeles Times 28 July 2016.

7 Kay, Sean, America’s Search for Security: The Triumph of Idealism and the Return of Realism (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield) 183.

8 Kay 187.

9 National Intelligence Council 74.

10 National Intelligence Council 74.

11 Posen, Barry, “Pull Back: The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs 92.1 (2013): 116-117.

12 Brooks, Stephen, et al. “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement,” Foreign Affairs 92.1 (2013): 3.

13 Obama, Barack, National Security Strategy (Washington DC: The White House, 2015): 19.

14 Kay 275.

15 Zenko 83.

16 Traub, James, “The Hillary Clinton Doctrine,” Foreign Policy 6 Nov. 2015.

17 Kerry, John” “Why Women are Central to US Foreign Policy,” op-ed. US Dept. of State 8 March 2013.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Are you happy, contento, or glücklich?

For Americans, happiness isn’t an elusive concept. Multiple surveys, including this one by Myers and Diener, have found that North America has the highest concentration of happy people in the world. Moreover, one-third of Americans report that they are “very happy,” compared with 10% of Portugese and similar percentages of Italians and Frenchmen. Yet for Polish linguist Anna Wierzbicka, this is a deceptive statistic that misrepresents key linguistic, semantic, and cultural differences. In a sharp rebuke of cross-cultural happiness surveys that make sweeping generalizations, Wierzbicka urges a more sophisticated approach to the question of global well-being.

“Being happy” doesn’t mean the same thing to Americans that “sehr glucklich” does to Germans.

Happiness is a complex concept informed by the surrounding culture. Thus, each language brings a nuanced connotation to its word for “happiness.” For instance, Mandarin has two putative counterparts for the English “happy” (xi, which means…, and li, which means…), neither of which exactly matches the meaning of the English word. Cross-cultural surveys such as those referred to above require a common, universal measure of emotion for definitive results; this is difficult to achieve in studies in which participants are provided with a translated version of an originally English survey.


The meaning of the word “happy” has undergone a significant semantic shift as part of the gradual dampening of emotions in Anglo-Saxon culture.

Languages are cultural entities in flux: meanings meander and new words appear according to societal trends. In the words of lexicographer Kory Stamper, “…language is a true democracy, built entirely by the people who use and have used it” (Word by Word). For many centuries, the English language has gradually shifted away from expressing emotional intensity. Words like “grief,” “woe,” or “sorrows,” that were once used frequently in daily conversation today refer exclusively to bereavement or similarly bleak situations. The use of the adjective “happy” has expanded to apply to a broader spectrum of situations. I can be pretty happy that I received a passing grade on a test, but also very happy that I received the job appointment of my dreams. This has led to an especially interesting phenomenon: while English speakers can express their “level of happiness” on a gradable scale, other cultures refer to “happiness” (in their language) as an absolute or peak experience. The implications are clear for cross-cultural surveys that ask whether respondents are “very happy,” “happy,” or “pretty happy” with their current life.


Local cultural norms produce different attitudes toward experiencing and expressing positive emotions.

Wierzbicka cites numerous memoirs and poems by foreigners that attest to the uniquely American tendency to smile, always display positive thinking, and engage in cheerful small talk. It is clear that different cultures place different emphasis on verbal and nonverbal expressions of positive emotion. Future surveys must therefore take into consideration the impact of cultural norms on a respondent’s assessment of his emotions and his self-reporting of his emotional state.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Diminutive Domiciles with a Meaningful Message

I will be the first to admit that I am an enthusiastic follower of the tiny house movement, a corollary of the rise of relevant segments on Home & Garden TV. At the center of this trend is the tiny house, a compact 100-400 sq. ft home that can be self-built and is often constructed on a trailer. Moving into a tiny house, or “home downsizing,” has been offered as a means to reduce housing costs; lead a less wasteful, energy efficient lifestyle; gain more time and freedom; and simplify one’s life. Yet I recently began to contemplate the concerns associated with what I once considered the cutest panacea to a disorganized life.

Beneath the facade of cheap housing costs and satisfied new homeowners are the problems of local land laws and neighborhood land use covenants. In many cases, local zoning laws state that homes must exceed a particular size in order to qualify for registration; other neighborhoods prohibit parking of large vehicles or ancillary home units on one’s property. Frequently, tiny houses require residents to pay for and install power separately. Depending on the homeowner, the cost of power hook ups and energy generators inflates the deceptively manageable upfront cost. Tiny houses also pose a unique challenge in the real estate market; these miniature abodes attract a very specific demographic of buyers, and selling a tiny house can take a considerable amount of time.

Regardless of these inherent concerns, widespread media coverage of and rising (albeit passive) interest in the tiny house movement offer important insight into our society.

First, reality television and social media–unsurprisingly–play a major role in shaping modern lifestyles. Shows such as Tiny House, Big Living, Tiny Nation, and Tiny House Builders have caused many people to make adjustments to one of the significant economic decisions in modern life. Traditional advertising techniques continue to have a strong impact on American consumers: the bandwagon phenomenon motivates buyers to join the seeming flood of tiny home-owning families that are paraded across television screens. Similarly, the exclusive portrayal of designer-style homes associates the miniature houses with an ideal of cleanliness and order rarely achieved in daily life. Even the “3-months after moving in” photo shoots bear a suspicious resemblance to the model homes on display in IKEA stores.

The tiny house movement also captures a common desire to escape life’s burdens. Thus, the physical act of eliminating nonessential furniture and material possessions appeals to a generation of homeowners eager to shed the strictures imposed by previous generations, established social norms, and past mistakes.

Finally, many homeowners have expressed environmental concerns as their primary motivation for choosing a tiny house. These abodes require fewer raw materials and less energy input for day-to-day activity; coupled with energy-efficient household appliances, tiny living is a lifestyle change with vast appeal for any environmentally conscious soul. Though tiny house transactions make up less than 1% of the current real estate market, it’s clear that they’ve “rolled” over deeply ingrained sentiments in contemporary society.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Ambassadors that Cause a “ROK-US”

While serving in Korea, one suffered from a knife attack by a militant Korean activist. Another was dismissed within a year for his excessive alcoholism. Two helped to save the life of a future Korean president. Over the years, the US ambassador to Korea has played a pivotal role in guiding collaboration between the two countries on a number of issues, including trade, cultural exchange, and North Korea. Yet the men (and woman) that served in this position each brought unique life experiences and skills that, for better or for worse, shaped the contours of this Asia-Pacific relationship.

When the US first established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Joseon in 1882, the heads of the American legations were known as envoys, resident ministers, and consul-generals. Direct diplomatic engagement halted during the Japanese Occupation; from 1905-1945, the US sent no representatives to the country forcibly governed by Japan. Once two separate Korean states were established after WWII, the US government formally recognized South Korea and sent its first ambassador in early 1949.

Over the past 7 decades, US ambassadors to Korea have overwhelmingly been career diplomats (18 career to four political appointments), indicative of the high priority that the White House places on appointing an experienced leader to manage the strategic relationship. Edwin V. Morgan became the shortest-serving ambassador to Korea in 1905 when, after presenting his credentials in June 1905, he was forced to close the legation and leave the country six months later due to Japan’s take-over. Ambassador Richard Walker, who “transformed quiet diplomacy into a fine art,” served the longest term[1]. Over his five years of service, he helped to secure the release of dissident and future Korean President Kim Dae-Jung from the dictatorial Park regime. And during Obama’s first term, Ambassador Sung Kim became the first Korean-American to serve in this position.

The three most recent diplomats to leave their mark on the position were Ambassadors Stephens, Kim, and Lippert.

As the first woman and first fluent Korean speaker to take the post, Ambassador Kathleen Stephens set many precedents during her term in Korea. She first connected with the Korean people while serving in the country as a peace corps volunteer in the 1970s; in the next 30 years, she toured Europe and Asia as a career diplomat, later serving as director for European Affairs in the National Security Council. For her contributions to strengthening US-Korea ties, she received the Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the Sejong Cultural Award, and the Korea-America Friendship Association Award. To add to her collection, she published a book, Reflections of an American Ambassador to Korea, based on her personal Korean blog[2].

When Ambassador Sung Kim was appointed ambassador to Korea, it was clear that his background and experience would allow him to cement bilateral ties. During his career in the Foreign Service, he gained significant Korea-specific experience as US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, Special Envoy in the Six-Party Talks, and Director of the Office of Korean Affairs. His personal connection to both countries and his balanced approach on bilateral issues such as the Free Trade Agreement, the North Korean nuclear crisis, peninsular unification and human rights issues certainly ensured the continuing strength of the diplomatic relationship[3].

Ambassador Mark Lippert was rightly dubbed “the most popular US ambassador in the history of US-Korea relations.”[4] This former NAVY seal served as a senior foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign; prior to his appointment as ambassador, he was a high-ranking member of the NSC and the Department of Defense under President Obama. As ambassador, Mr. Lippert achieved renown for his calm composure and communication immediately after being attacked by a radical Korean militant protesting against US-Korea military exercises. This attack did not affect his open and approachable persona; he continued to walk to work every morning and interact closely with Korean citizens. Ambassador Lippert is also credited for his work in advancing implementation of the KOR-US Free Trade Agreement and supporting Korean reunification and strong military collaboration with the US.





Posted in Miscellaneous

Why we need to study history (Spanish)

Como una estudiante de la clase de la historia de los EEUU (AP), he pasado mucho tiempo en el año pasado, memorizando fechas, aprendiendo sobre unas relaciones de causa-efecto entre cientos de acontecimientos, y estudiando detalles sobre el impacto que individuos y líderes nacionales han tenido en las sociedades. Sin embargo, nunca sentí como si hubiera gastado mi tiempo. Hay muchas personas que hablan de la importancia básica de estudiar la historia—nos enseña sobre los pensamientos y sentimientos de la humanidad, para que no repitamos los errores de nuestros antepasados. Pero, hay razones más sutiles para justificar este estudio.

Primero, en realidad, el estudio de la historia es el estudio de la historia de la humanidad (“the story of humanity”), y el aprendizaje de nuestras perspectivas. Cada década, y a veces cada año, cambia la interpretación de acontecimientos significativos como la formación de la declaración de las Naciones Unidas. Como analizamos y interpretamos nuestro pasado dice algo sobre la sociedad contemporánea; por eso, es tan importante que estudiemos la historiografía como estudiemos los acontecimientos pasados.

También hay razones políticas para estudiar e interpretar la historia; cuando los países participan en actividades bilaterales o multilaterales, es crítico que los actores comprenden las motivaciones de los otros. Cuando, por ejemplo, los EEUU trata de iniciar un programa bilateral con Panamá, los representativos necesitan comprender la perspectiva de las personas de Panamá hacia los EEUU, por la herencia del Canal de Panamá y el imperialismo estadounidense no oficial. Este tipo de conocimiento facilita la interacción fácil, y permite la continuación y la mejora de relaciones.

La diplomática eminente Eleanor Roosevelt dijo que “ayer es historia, mañana es misterio, pero hoy es un regalo.” Sin embargo, quizás es tiempo para considerar nuestros ayeres como los mejores regalos—los que aumentan el conocimiento humano y facilitan la interacción de paz internacional.