You’ve got to Fight…for Your Right…to…Gain Citizenship

During our discussion in class today on different forms of group identity, many of you seemed surprised when I mentioned that there were many non-US citizens currently fighting for the US military in Iraq; many (a majority at least) are doing so in exchange for the promise of US citizenship. Which begs the questions, just how many non-citizens are currently serving in the US military? According to this paper (pdf),

“As of February 2003, there were 37,000 non-citizens serving in active duty in the U.S. armed forces, almost 12,000 foreign nationals serving in the selected reserves, and another 8,000 serving in the inactive national guard and ready reserves.”*

As we learned in class, prior to the establishment and consolidation of nation-states in Europe, post-Westphalia, most political leaders recruited mercenary armies. Thus, the link between military protection and citizenship is a modern phenomenon. This makes the results of a recent survey done by Foreign Policy Magazine very interesting.

recruit_armed_forces.jpg

Many proposals have been suggested to help the military meet its recruiting and retention needs. But an incredible percentage of the index’s officers favor the same solution: Nearly 80 percent support expanding options for legal, foreign permanent residents of the United States to serve in exchange for U.S. citizenship. A high percentage of officers, about 6 in 10, also support the idea of allowing more recruits who have a high school equivalency degree—but no diploma—to serve. Almost 40 percent favor reinstating the draft.

*Not all of these, of course, are serving in Iraq. Moreover, while it is a seemingly large number it is still a very small percentage of the total military.

Another Foreign Policy List: How to Steal an Election Without Breaking a Sweat

Foreign Policy magazine frequently publishes “lists” that are meant to illuminate, in a sometimes ironic manner, political phenomena that are receiving much discussion.  In a recent issue, the focus turns to elections.   From their introduction:

From Abuja to Islamabad, autocratic regimes have become adept at manipulating “free and fair elections” to stay in power. Here’s how they do it—and how to stop them.

Here is their list, with some real-world examples of each:

  1. Control the processKenya’s constitution invests an enormous amount of power in the executive branch. This allowed President Mwai Kibaki to create a vast system of patronage throughout the government based largely on tribal ties. The head of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu, has recently admitted that he was pressured by the president’s office to announce results before he could verify their authenticity.
  2. Manipulate the mediaIn the months leading up to the recent presidential election in Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government shut down Imedi TV, an opposition-friendly television station founded by one of the president’s rivals and managed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
  3. Keep out the observersDuring the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections, judges at individual polling stations made seemingly arbitrary decisions about whether to allow outside monitoring. The result? Some stations were monitored and some were not. Monitors were beaten by police in one southern city, and eight were arrested and released elsewhere.
  4. Misreport resultsNadia Diuk, senior director for Europe and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), relays a tale from Azerbaijan’s 2000 elections: “The light went out in the room where the counting was to take place, and the flashlights of the observers just caught sight of a bundle of ballots sailing through the air to land on the counting table.” [This is my favorite! :)]
  5. Foster incompetence and chaosNigeria’s 2007 national and state elections take the chaos prize. Ballots arrived late to polling stations, if at all, or were printed with missing or incorrect information. Polling places and procedures were changed at the last minute. With security lax, reports were rampant of militants harassing voters and youth gangs breaking into polling places and making off with ballot boxes.
  6. Resort to the crude stuff A favorite tactic in Egypt is to deploy riot police in strategic polling locations to keep out voters for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood—while state employees arrive in buses and are ushered in en masse. In 2005, a bloody showdown in the streets of Alexandria between government-backed thugs wielding machetes and Brotherhood supporters seeking to cast their votes became international news, embarrassing the regime.