Category: Grants

The Politics of Engagement

Stuart Thorson proposes scientific exchange as a practical way to avoid “demonization.”

Stuart Thorson proposes scientific exchange as a practical way to avoid “demonization.”

Last spring, several experts on Asian countries came together at IU to talk about “Engaging Enemies.”   The issue on the table was how to keep countries out of conflict now and in the future, and the test cases were North Korea, Iran, and Burma.

The word of the day was engagement.  Mel Gurtov laid the foundation of the discussion. Paraphrasing his definition:

Engagement is

  • reaching out
  • establishing cooperation and reciprocity
  • exercising persistence, patience, and ingenuity
  • maintaining credibility flexibility, and a tough skin
  • reducing tensions
  • resetting relationships
  • finding common ground
  • inculcating habit of dialog and mutual respect
  • achieving incremental agreements
  • creating honorable path to peaceable relations

Engagement is not

  • selling out national interests
  • tolerating genocide or other heinous crimes
  • exercising coercive diplomacy
  • postponing the inevitable
  • performing an act of charity

The positive aspects of engagement so apparently outweigh the negatives that it is hard to imagine that countries have not pursued it.  Miroslav Nincic explained some of the reasons why.  Most have to do with resistance of citizens to reaching out to an enemy.  US politics honors a “tough line” and “retributive justice.”  Efforts to engage are seen as “appeasement.” The popular perception is that “conciliatory gestures encourage bad behavior by rewarding offenders.”  Strategic matters related to unequal power relations and political instability can also disarm positive engagement.

The experts generally agreed that “sticks” have not worked.  Sanctions and coercive policies have not made North Korea or Iran back down from their determination to develop nuclear arms.  In place of sticks, Nincic proposes “catalytic carrots.”  Efforts to engage adversaries might be more successful if the objective were not to see a regime overthrown, but to see it alter its “more objectionable policies.”

Walter Clemens echoed this perspective.  He focuses on the hubris of both the U.S. and North Korea.  The politics of “tit-for-tat” and “an eye for an eye” have dominated.  “Arrogance and disdain” have nullified any hope of positive engagement.   He would like to see an abandonment of hubris for GRIT—“graduated reciprocity in tension-reduction”—which involves each side making a “limited series of unilateral concessions.”  But who will make the first step?  Will the initial gesture be trusted or gestures at any stage be betrayed?  Domestic hostility to concessions and bureaucratic inertia may make any GRIT momentum hard to sustain.

As difficult a problem as this may seem, there was some agreement on a solution.  Interactions should be driven less by the abstract—policies and principles—and more by the concrete.  “Getting to Know You” was the theme proposed by Andrei Lankov.  He proposes academic exchanges as a starting point and offered the example of two Russian individuals who came to the U.S. to study and then returned to the USSR to become spies or propagandists.  The suspicion that a country would use exchanges for nefarious purposes was thus affirmed until the beginning of perestroika—when both these individuals contributed to the collapse of the Soviet regime.  Exposure to a different world will promote change in the long run by building up internal pressures for reform and by preparing leaders to deal with a different future.

Stuart Thorson offered an example of successful exchange with North Korea in the area of scientific research.  Science abhors politics (even if it is involved politically), and the ever more global environment requires the relatively transparent movement of data over digital networks among scientific collaborators around the world.  His personal example was the successful collaboration and exchange between Syracuse University and the North Korea State Academy of Sciences.

Other experts echoed this focus on the concrete—people to people rather than policy to policy.  The U.S. needs to assert policies and principles less and to learn more about its enemies.  Humanitarian assistance, such as food aid, should be given for humanitarian, not political, reasons, Karin Lee asserted.  In Iran, the “Obama administration’s sanctions-only policy is both failing to achieve its objective on the nuclear front and adding to the regime’s repression,” said Trita Parsi.  Kun a. Namkung proposed that the U.S. needs to know more about Korean history—to understand that it might make more sense to see a West and East Korea than to see and North and South Korea, for example.  And while the U.S. may see changes in Myanmar as very positive, an understanding of the internal culture would prevent us from being surprised by setbacks there, observed Nicholas Farrelly.

The workshop was sponsored by the East Asia Foundation with assistance from several IU units, including the ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute, and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs.  The proceedings have just been published in Global Asia: A Journal of the East Asia Foundation (Summer 2013).

 Mel Gurtov,  professor emeritus of political science, Portland State University;   editor in chief, Asian Perspective.
Miroslav Nincic, professor of political science, University of California-Davis.
Walter Clemens, professor of political science, Boston University.
Andrei Lankov, professor of history, Kookmin University, Seoul; adjunct research fellow, Australian National University.
Stuart Thorson, professor of political science and international relations, Syracuse University.
Karin Lee,  executive director of the National Committee on North Korea.
Kim A. Namkung, scholar and consultant on Asian affairs.
Trita Parsi, president, National Iranian American Council.
Nicholas Farrelly, research fellow of international, political and strategic studies, Australian National University.
Kate Gould, lead lobbyist for Middle East policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Mark Valencia, maritime policy analyst and consultant on Asia issues.
Keith Luse, former East Asia foreign policy advisor to Senator Richard Lugar.
Gil Latz, associate vice president of IU International Affairs.
There is much we still need to learn about Korean culture, said Kun A. Namkung.

There is much we still need to learn about Korean culture, said Kun A. Namkung.

Gil Latz said that universities won’t be able to bring North Korea into their productive research until they escape the stereotypes associated with Communism.

Gil Latz said that universities won’t be able to bring North Korea into their productive research until they escape the stereotypes associated with Communism.

Andrei Lankov proposed social exchanges as an effective way for enemies to get to know each other.

Andrei Lankov proposed social exchanges as an effective way for enemies to get to know each other.

Keith Luse recognized the importance of domestic buy-in. “Congress has to be a partner” in any effort to engage.

Keith Luse recognized the importance of domestic buy-in. “Congress has to be a partner” in any effort to engage.

What has the government been up to?

Is our historical record being destroyed?

Is our historical record being destroyed?

The government is destroying our history.  Matthew Connelly did not say this in his recent presentation as part of IU’s Framing the Global Project.  But those who heard him couldn’t be faulted if they left with that impression.  In his lecture on the history and future of official secrecy, Connelly, professor of history at Columbia, ranged from sovereignty, to diplomacy, to government secrecy, to the habits of archivists, and the power of computing to foil the best efforts to hide and destroy. 

The statistics are daunting.   The government produces about 270 million pages of classified documents each year.  Changes in regulations over the past decade—more documents tagged secret, fewer individuals with the authority to change the tags—have led to about 200 million documents a year being withheld from public scrutiny.  The result is that by 2010, the government had accumulated 9 billion pages of classified material.   

One immediate impression is that the government is trying to hide its tracks, to cover its mistakes, and that may be true.  Since we cannot see the documents, we can’t know for sure.  But other motives are at work as well.  Some matters we are better off not knowing—how to create a deadly flu virus for instance, or how to create a nuclear weapon.  Connelly also has concluded from reviewing the metadata of classified documents that much has been retained in classified status to create noise and make it difficult for enemies to ascertain the motives for classification.  And the Supreme Court has made it more difficult for private citizens to accomplish a successful declassification review. 

Other more venial motives are at work as well.  The pile of paper and electronic material has not escaped the notice of government agencies.  The State Department, among others, has set goals for processing the declassification backlog.  The targets for declassification are ambitious, but the agencies have not established sufficient funding to accomplish them. They spend on declassification one twentieth of the amount they spend on classifying documents.  “Archivists are completely overwhelmed,” Connelly explained.   To get the job done, they have had to resort to sampling methods—methods not random and often misguided, Connelly concluded.   In order to manage the workload, whole classes of records are being destroyed. Historians of immigration thus have lost much potential history as immigration and visa application records are thrown away.  Historians interested in sports diplomacy may never know all they need to about the national role in the Olympics because documents tagged to sports may be discarded.  “Only 3-5% of the governments documents are retained,” Connelly said. “I don’t think the agencies know what has been lost.”

 “People who have been trying to stop pushback have been completely outgunned.”  Still, 1.4 billion pages have been declassified.  With so much material, no historian could ever work through it all, so isn’t the destruction a moot point?  Outdated thinking, Connelly would reply. 

Firstly, the habit, fostered by academe’s methods of graduate education, of historians working in isolation will not be the only way for historians to work in the future.  As scientists assemble big, worldwide teams to solve their biggest problems, so historians now have tools that will make it possible to work as teams.  And those tools work best the more they have to operate on.  The application of computers to natural language processing, latent semantic analysis and machine learning has changed the face of linguistic and literary research.  Connelly sees it doing the same to history.  Feed all of these documents into a computer and as the data set becomes ever more massive, the computer will find patterns, clues that will not only reveal what is in the available historical record, but also what might be in the destroyed or redacted documents.

“These records are now valuable in a way they were not in the past. In data mining research, we don’t always know what kind of data is going to be useful.  We need to ask different questions about what is worth preserving.”  By aligning the databases representing the work of large numbers of historians, scholars can find unredacted versions of redacted text.”  With enough of these samples, computers can begin to predict what lies under the large chunks of text blackened out in documents that are released.   That will make it more possible to know if the redacted material contradicts the apparent direction of the text. These processes can analyze classification data that accompanies most government documents to identify linguistic styles–and so make it possible to identify authors.

“How do you have democracy if you don’t know what your government did 40 years ago?” Connelly asked.  With these new tools, and with a new attitude and procedures for handling the massive documentary materials that the government has accumulated, historians “can begin to restore the integrity of the historical record.

Click here for more information and sponsors of the Framing the Global Project.

Charity, Trust, and Cultural Traditions


Abbie Jung speaks from Vienam about her experience with NGOs in Souteast Asia. Listening are Bloomington (upper left) and panelists and an overflow audience in the IUPUI Global Crossroads classroom (lower right).


          The Red Cross Society of China is one of that country’s oldest and largest charities; yet in a recent survey in China, 82% responded that they would not contribute to it.  In Communist or former Communist countries of Southeast Asia, the government looks suspiciously on nonprofit philanthropic organizations, suspecting that their very existence is a tacit criticism of the government’s failure to provide an important service, and so regulates nonprofits heavily.  As a consequence, some nonprofits prefer to register as for-profit companies, and face the tax implications instead.

             This year, the Center on Philanthropy celebrates a quarter century on the IUPUI campus.  The store of knowledge and expertise it has accumulated in that time has drawn international attention.  The center’s reports on the impact of new laws and regulations on philanthropic giving are watched closely and reported widely in the press.  But the laws of philanthropy are not quite the same as the laws of physics.  Habits of giving and expectation of the results of giving operate differently in China than they do in the U.S.

             The China Philanthropy Leadership Initiative, a group of IUPUI students interested in Chinese philanthropy, gave those differences center stage in a symposium at the Global Crossroads classroom of the IUPUI Office of International Affairs.  The event included participants from campus and from the Indianapolis community; the truly “wired” venue allowed Bloomington to participate and brought in a speaker currently working in Vietnam.   

             Leslie Lenkowsky, SPEA and Center on Philanthropy professor and one of a handful of top international philanthropy experts in the nation, opened the session with a challenge to the notion that the laws of philanthropy vary around the world.  He outlined five problems that all nonprofits must address—from the need to define their mission and expectations, to the difficulty of measuring outcomes and determining impact, to the lack of incentives to perform effectively. 

             Melynne Klaus, director of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, outlined the work of that organization to make a positive impact on the arts scene in Central Indiana.  They have worked to simplify the application process (and reduce the grant application time that organizations must devote) by standardizing the application form with similar organizations in the city, and to establish rules of transparency and clarity of mission.  They ask organizations that apply for funding to establish their own measurable goals as part of the application process, and then the organization is evaluated for how well it meets its own goals.  Anthony Lorenz, CFO for WFYI, the nation’s 19th largest public broadcasting corporation,  provided a financial context for establishing transparency.  It tracks community needs through patterns of annual giving.

             Abbie Jung, based in Hong Kong and San Franciso, happened to be in Vietnam when she spoke to the group about her experiences with nonprofits in China and Southeast Asia.  Philanthropy is a long-standing tradition in Asia and giving is generous.  She noted differences from Western trends. Private giving is still more common than strategic support of civil entities and NGO’s.  Family interests and education are the traditional objects.   Patterns of  government regulation and enforcement are still evolving. 

            The IUPUI symposium was the signature event of semester-long program exploring philanthropy and its global implications.  The initiative was completely student driven and was developed both to expand cultural understanding of the workings and issues of philanthropic organizations and to train young professionals through resources that go beyond the campus.

Reconciliation in West Africa

Nobel Laureate Lehmah Gbowee and Marion Broome, dean of nursing. The School of Nursing is working with the University or Liberia to rebuild the university’s nursing and public health programs, whose facilities and programs were devastated by decades of civil war.

“In most of our communities today, people are still looking over the heads of women and looking beyond for experts to come and reconcile their communities,” Lehmah Gbowee said recently to a packed room at the IUPUI McKinney School of Law.  “Women have the capacity.  They understand the context and issues.  They know the stakeholders, and they know in part some of the solutions to their problems.”   

Gbowee, joint recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in ending civil war in Liberia, related some of the ways women worked for peace in West Africa–from establishing benchmarks to assure that the process did not stall, to making sure that leaders knew when promises were not being kept.  When peacekeepers come from the outside, the peace process “is one size fits all,” Gbowee explained.  They have their formulas and their books, and although relying on local knowledge is highly publicized, it is rarely done.  “One of the ways to hide things from the African people is to bury them in books,” Gbowee said.  And some stories of how peace is accomplished don’t get told, especially the stories of the successes of the women who are part of the affected communities.

Besides the practical and pragmatic advice that only someone on the front lines of the process can give—like making sure that soldiers who give up their guns receive promised payments—women are in tune with a vital component of the reconciliation process, exemplified in the story of the woman who while feeding a wounded soldier, heard the soldier’s admission that he had killed her daughter.  “Was I supposed to stop feeding him?” the woman asked.  Peace can only come, Gbowee suggests, when the answer to that question is “No.”

Gbowee’s presentation can be viewed in its entirety here.  The event had sixteen sponsors representing every part and every constituency of the IUPUI campus.

Caught in the Dark Net

Carolyn Nordstrom framing the global

She moves fast.  She talks fast.  She covers a lot a ground and rarely looks back.  When Carolyn Nordstrom is done giving a talk, everyone in the room is out of breath.  Never more so than when her subject is the cyber version of fire and brimstone—the dark, subterranean world of the computer hacker.   I suspect there are few times in the university when listeners leave so fully believing in the existence of Hell—at least the hell that she was describing.

Computer hacking has been around a long time.  It preceded the internet.  Some may remember having to be wary of sharing invisibly infected floppy disks.  The global spread of hacking, made possible by the internet, is also not new.  Users around the world are aware, however dimly, of the likelihood of lurkers in dark corners.

Nordstrom brings two important matters to the public discussion of cyber security. First, she offers a mountain of data demonstrating the reach, and perhaps more terrifying, the high level of organization and entrepreneurship of the hacker’s world.  And then she adds the central question, “Why don’t more of us know about it?”

She layers statistics upon statistics.  Experts estimate that as many as 15% of all computers have suffered a “drive-by” infection or some other undetectable change to their basic operating system that pulls the computer into a botnet.  The computer becomes a zombie totally at the mercy of a bot master to send spam, disrupt major web services, or collect private information like social security numbers and passwords.

Nordstrom talks about internet regions, “the dark net,” that only those in the know can find, and how cyberattack supplies and support services are readily available there. “Click here for money laundering.”

“It’s in front of all of our faces, but we don’t see it, and we deny it exists,” she says.  “The facts are terrifying, but what is more scary is what we don’t see.  I’m an optimist.  If I can see it, I believe it can be fixed.  The fix to the spread and power of cyber warfare will take the efforts of a generation of new students.” Indeed, the very young may be more on top of these issues than most adults, and she quotes one twelve-year-old, “The chaos is coming.  You adults don’t help.”

The internet and the potential it offers for attacks level the cyber battlefield and redefine our most basic concepts of power.  “The individual has the same power as the military in the hacking world.”  Those who explore and attend to the hackers’ world can quickly become hackers themselves.  It doesn’t take a huge government organization to master these skills.

Her talk is thin on moral proclamations and on solutions.  “I don’t want to alienate anyone from the discussion right now, and I don’t want to pre-empt or stifle your suggestions for solving the problem.”  The only advice she offers at the moment is, “Let’s talk.  Let’s get this subject out into the light.”  That’s the first step, but there are many questions left to answer.  Why, if so much power is vested in the hands of a few individuals, have they not brought down power grids or the world’s online money systems?  Why do individuals acknowledge the existence of a dangerous online world, but turn to their laptops and other connected devices as though they themselves were invulnerable?  And what should we do to change things?  Should we hide the extent of the threat (and so the panic that would ensue) and rely on individual morality and mutual trust?  Or should we train all the world to hack so that they can recognize it when they see it and find ways to protect themselves from it?

Carolyn Nordstrom is on the anthropology faculty at the University of Notre Dame.  She has devoted her career to the ethnographic study of dangerous issues—war in Africa, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and other transnational crime.    She has published several books, most recently Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World, based on three years of research into illegal trade around the world, research that took her to some of the world’s most dangerous places.  She spoke in Bloomington as part of the “Framing the Global” joint initiative of the IU Center for the Study of Global Change and the IU Press, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Saskia Sassen’s Compulsion: Territory, Authority, and Rights


Saskia Sassen (right), professor of sociology and co-chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University in conversation with Hilary Kahn, Director of the IU Center for the Study of Global Change, and David Zaret, vice president for international affairs.

By 2010, rich governments, firms, and individuals bought or rented 70 million hectares of land in mostly poor countries.  That is 1.7 billion acres or more than a billion and a half football fields.  When Saskia Sassen ponders that figure, and many other current trends, she thinks of territory.  She claims to be a geek about that word; it, along with authority and rights, has become her obsession.  When faced with trends of this scale, we need to rethink what that word means and what territory is becoming. Territory has for centuries been closely aligned with the idea of sovereign states.  Indeed, land ownership is one thing we have come to expect to be documented rigorously and protected to the full extent of the law.  When a company buys a million acres in a poor country, there is no immediate thought that the land is no longer part of the national sovereignty—the nation’s laws still apply to it, don’t they?  Yet, with such a powerful economic presence, the company can win exceptions to regulations and laws.  Localities will bend their rights and authority to keep the economic well-being that seems  promised by such a massive presence. 

Sassen’s goal is not to deny the truths of world economics and politics as we have come to understand them, but to assert that those truths are not sufficient; she wants to provoke us to be less comfortable with our large well-established definitions as globalization expands our ways of working in the world.  Sassen is known world-wide for her work on defining the impact of globalization.  IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret explained in his introduction, “She persuasively argues against convention and overly simple accounts that juxtapose global and national as mutually exclusive categories for social forces that are thought to be engaged in a zero-sum game. Instead, she shows that many important global changes operate within the institutional structure of nation-states, but also restructure those states.”  Judging by the many pockets of animated conversation after her presentation, Sassen has succeeded in her provocation.

Sassen is the first in a series of visiting scholars who are part of the IU Framing the Global Initiative, a five-year project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The Center for the Study of Global Change and the IU Press are working jointly to bring top scholars together, virtually and actually, to begin to define new global concepts and analytical frameworks. Their work will take formal shape in a series of books by participating scholars to be published by the IU Press. 

Saskia Sassen grapling with concepts of territory, authority, and rights.

International Youth Library Awards Fellowship to IU Faculty Member

Donna Adomat, assistant professor of literacy, culture and language education.

Donna Adomat, assistant professor of literacy, culture and language education.

In the aftermath of World War II, a new Germany sought ways to promote hope and values among its youth.  To that end, it established the International Youth Library.  Now housed  in a 15th century castle in Munich, that library  contains the largest collection of children’s literature in the world.  To make these resources available worldwide and to promote international exchange and cooperation, the library awards a dozen fellowships each year.  One of this year’s fellowships went to Donna Adomat, IU assistant professor in the department of Litercy, Culture, and Language Education, School of Education.

Adomat has done extensive research on how children with disabilities are portrayed in children’s literature.  She will spend three months at the Munich library expanding that research by studying sources from around the world and from many historical periods.

Blutenburg Castle, Munich,  since 1983 the International Youth Library

Blutenburg Castle, Munich, since 1983 the International Youth Library

Flagships for Language Instruction – Chinese and Swahili


The flagship is the “lead ship in a fleet of vessels, typically the first, largest, fastest, most heavily armed.”  Committed to assuring that the U.S. has the expertise in languages and culture necessary for its national security, the National Security Education Program (NSEP) has established The Language Flagship to increase the mastery by U.S. students and scholars of languages around the world.  It  chooses carefully which ships will fly its language flags. 

Jennifer Liu (Flagship in Chinese)

Jennifer Liu (Flagship in Chinese)

IU now has three of them.  The first leads the fleet of Chinese language instruction for undergraduates, awarded in 2008 and captained by Jennifer Liu, professor of East Asian languages and cultures.  In December 2010, news reached IU that another of its ships would be flying an NSEP flag, Swahili instruction for undergraduates, captained by Alwiya Omar, clinical associate professor in the Department of Linguistics.  Now a third IU ship has received its flag, this one for graduate instruction in Chinese, also under Jennifer Liu.

Alwiya Omar, flagship in Swahili

Alwiya Omar, flagship in Swahili

  The three flagships are charged with teaching their respective languages, but also developing better ways of teaching them and promoting them by stimulating institutional support and overseas study.  They will teach the students, but also the teachers of the language and they will guide other institutional ships into their language harbors.