Pre-election Homework: Understanding the Issues

There are a lot of issues at play in this election cycle; some of them are very well voiced by both candidates (e.g. immigration) and others are secondary.  If you're looking for an essay on the feasibility of Trump's fabled wall (or how he's backpedaling on that promise), or whether or not Clinton actually stored classified information on her servers (or if her security inadequacies just made that possible), then this is not the article you're looking for.

This article seeks to paint the broader context in which these more sensational actions occur. It's one thing to be for, or against, Trump's resistance to multiculturalism and something else entirely to know that the United States has been resisting multiculturalism since before they were united.  Similarly, it's one thing to lament Clinton's soft rhetoric on dealing with ISIL and something far worse to fail to consider that Clinton is attempting to prevent the same mistakes that Bush (and a first-term Obama) made against AQI.

In understanding the broader context, it is my hope that we'll be able to understand the motivations of the candidates and the likelihood of them actually carrying out their various promises and threats. It's rare that we see a candidate actually uphold his, or her, campaign promises, but when we consider the broader context of US political history, we needn't be as surprised by the promises they choose to leave unfulfilled.

Historical context

Before we can really get into modern day society, the first stop has to be history.  The below YouTube playlist covers topics from Alexander the Great to President Obama  and addresses them from different angles in order to highlight the importance of globalism, trade, and education while reminding us of the less remembered causes for some of our greatest tragedies (e.g. World War I being caused by a web of mutual defense  treaties).

Scientific Context

Science is another glaring gap in knowledge in modern politics. Whether we're talking about something that's essentially a fact of life (e.g. climate change) or something so ambiguous and marred by special interest groups as to be difficult to understand (e.g. sugar being as toxic and prevalent as nicotine), politics generally ignores or sensationalizes science to the detriment of the American people.

geopolitical strategy

The American geopolitical strategy is a topic that is all together ignored by mainstream media outlets (i.e. FOX, CNN, MSNBC).  That's downright scary when we consider that the thawing Arctic, China's aggression in the South China Sea, and Turkey's recent coup all have far reaching implications in day-to-day American life, and most of us remain blissfully ignorant of these changes.

the cause of the 2008 housing crisis

Although the 2008 financial crisis is only eight years removed from this election cycle, it has unfortunately fallen to the wayside in modern politics. This is still, however, an extremely important issue that we must remain aware of so that we do not repeat it; especially as we've come close on several occasions over the last decade.

the importance of education

This shouldn't be something that is controversial, but it somehow still is in 2016:  Education.  Education is a fantastic thing that shows high correlative relationships with things like: 

  1. Economic stability and upward mobility
  2. Fewer, but more productive, offspring
  3. Longer lifespans
  4. More empowered and politically active citizens

That list can go on, and on, and on until I find myself writing a blog post on nothing but education; so the main point of this introduction is to highlight just how freaking awesome education is and how pivotal it is in ensuring American success.  The four articles selected below will highlight the different ways in which we can affect education, and some specific issues throughout American society that are hindering our ability (or willingness) to educate our offspring.

military strategy

There are a lot of things that can be written about America's military strategy (e.g. the controversial F-35 program), but instead I want to focus on something a little less covered by mainstream media: The dangers of erratic behavior when it comes to planning and executing military strategy.  The article below is an expanded book review for Robert Gates' book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, that illustrates an extremely dysfunctional time in the US military and the causes that led to its dysfunction.

The Role Surveillance Plays in US Politics

Predictably, surveillance has died down as a hot-topic issue.  The first article addresses how publicly available information can be aggregated by anyone and used against individuals, and the second article highlights the importance of SIGINT reform; these two articles may not seem relevant anymore, the expansion of "big data" and its role in US governance still remains a big issue. The main theme for this section is the need for increased oversight and education for the general population in the ways in which information (both public and private) can lead to decisions being made on your behalf.