Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Global Issues10th Edition
By James Harf and Mark Lombardi
Unit 1: Global Population and Resources
Issue: Is Global Aging a Major Problem?
Yes: Richard Jackson, from “Global Aging and the Outlook for Growth and Stability in the Developing World,” Global Aging Institute (2017)
No: Maurizio Bussolo, Johannes Koettl, and Emily Sinnott, from “Golden Aging: Prospects for Healthy, Active, and Prosperous Aging in Europe and Central Asia,” World Bank Group (2015)
Richard Jackson, president of the Global Aging Institute (GAI) and formerly of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that demographic trends have affected “the great upheavals of history” from time to time. He points to the upcoming 2020s as a watershed decade when widespread disruptions are likely again to occur. For Jackson, during this next decade, global aging is likely to have a major negative effect on “economic growth, social and political stability, and the shape of the world order.” The World Bank study authors call into question the old adage that demographic trends such as global aging, once put into motion, cannot be stopped and typically lead to increased economic costs. They suggest, for example, that aging societies “are not destined to experience stagnation or decline in living standards.” They argue instead that aging “creates many opportunities, including opportunities to increase labor productivity and the quality of education.”
Issue: Will the World Be Able to Feed Itself in the Foreseeable Future?
Yes: Shenggen Fan, from "Progress, Uncertainty and Rising Antiglobalism," 2018 Global Food Policy Report, International Food Policy Research Institute (2018)
No: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, from "2017: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Building Resilience for Peace and Food Security," Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2017)
Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, presents a generally positive outlook on the ability of the global food system to provide sufficient food for the world’s population despite a number of non-food related intrusions that negatively affect the global capacity of the world’s food system. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, on the other hand, looks to an increase in the world’s chronically undernourished people, from an estimated 717 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2017, as a barometer for revealing a worsening situation, in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and West Asia. Given the prevalence of conflict throughout the globe and the increase in climate-related shocks to the food system, two major deterrents to food security, the authors’ despair of providing adequate food for all without “renewed efforts through new ways of thinking.”
Issue: Can the Global Community Successfully Confront the Global Water Shortage?
Yes: “The United Nations World Water Development Report 2018: Nature-Based Solutions for Water,” United Nations World Assessment Programme (2018)
No: Lisa Guppy and Kelsey Anderson, from “Global Water Crisis: The Facts,” United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (2017)
The report suggests that “solutions may be closer than we think” to solving the problem of more than 2 billion people lacking access to safe drinking water and more than double that amount having no access to safe sanitation. The key, according to the Report, is to use nature to create a cost-effective way to address these problems while also providing “environmental, social, and economic benefits.” The authors point out that water has been a pressing concern and in some areas of the world, a “critical national concern.” They argue that business as usual will result in the failure of the international community to address goals created by international bodies regarding adequate water supplies. The report examines the water crisis from six inter-related contexts “water scarcity and insecurity; water-related disasters; water, sanitation, and health crisis; water infrastructure deterioration and destruction; unsustainable development; and ecosystem degradation.”
Issue: Is the Global Oil Crisis of the Last Half-century Over?
Yes: “World Energy Outlook 2017,” International Energy Agency (2017)
No: Chris Martenson, from “The Looming Energy Shock: The Next Oil Crisis Will Arrive in 3 years or Less,” PeakProsperity.com (2017)
In this current review of the world’s energy outlook, the International Energy Agency, an autonomous UN agency established in 1974, surveys the current global energy system. The report points to four “large-scale shifts” in the system: “the rapid deployment and falling costs of clean energy technologies . . . the growing electrification of energy … the shift to a more service-oriented economy and a cleaner energy mix in China … and the resilience of shale gas and tight oil in the United States.” The Report concludes that these are good signs for the world’s attempts to address non-renewable energy resources such as oil. Chris Martenson, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, presents a forceful argument that within a couple of years, either the world economy will outgrow the supply of oil or the economy will collapse, both undesirable outcomes.
Issue: Is the Paris Climate Change Agreement Working?
Yes: Todd Stern, from “Why the Paris Agreement Works,” The Brookings Institution (2017)
No: Kelly Levin and Taryn Fransen, from “Understanding the ‘Emissions Gap’ in 5 Charts,” World Resources Institute (2017)
Todd Stern, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggests that the negotiated agreement had to clear eight distinct hurdles. He argues that the final agreement was successful in overcoming all of them and provides arguments for his position. He concludes that, unlike all attempts in the previous 20 years, this agreement breaks new ground that “needs to be defended, supported and implemented.” His bottom line is that the agreement is working. The World Resources Institute report co-authored by Senior Associate Kelly Levin and Senior Fellow Taryn Fransen uses five charts to explain the “emissions gap,’ the “difference between the emissions level countries have pledged to achieve … and the level consistent with limiting warming to well below 2 degrees.”
Unit 2: Expanding Global Forces and Movements
Issue: Will The International Community Be Able To Successfully Address The Next Global Pandemic?
Yes: Arthur G. Fitzmaurice, et al., from “Contributions of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Implementing the Global Health Security Agenda in 17 Partner Countries,” Emerging Infectious Diseases (2017)
No: Meera Senthilingam, from “Seven Reasons We’re at More Risk than Ever of a Global Pandemic,” CNN (2017)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article describes the efforts of the Global Health Security Agenda, a partnership among a variety of national governments and both international governmental and non-governmental organizations to increase the capacities of countries to respond to infectious disease pandemics around the globe. Launched in 2014, the partnership has made significant progress in helping 17 countries achieve a list of stated objectives. Meera Senthilingam, Editor for CNN Health and Wellness, points to the view of public health experts that the world is at a greater risk than ever before in history of a global pandemic along the magnitude of SARS, swine flu, Ebola, and Zika. Seven major global trends, the author suggests, contribute to the increased likelihood and magnitude of such pandemics.
Issue: Do Adequate Strategies Exist to Combat Human Trafficking?
Yes: Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, from “Meeting the Global Challenge: Effective Strategies to Prevent Human Trafficking,” Trafficking in Persons Report 2016, U.S. Department of State (2016)
No: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), from "Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016," Austria: United Nations (2016)
The U.S. Department of State Report describes its two decades effort to combat human trafficking, focusing on the three Ps-prosecution, protection, and protection. While the report discusses challenges to the State Department’s efforts, it focuses on success stories and examples in the fight against human trafficking. The 2016 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report spells out the magnitude of the problem with the compilation of major data collected about human trafficking. The most worrisome development since the previous report is the increase in the movement of refugees and migrants.
Issue: Is Saudi Arabia Moving toward Increased Democratization and/or Liberalization?
Yes: Thomas L. Friedman, from “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, At Last,” The New York Times (2017)
No: “Freedom in the World 2018: Democracy in Crisis,” Freedom House (2018)
Thomas L. Friedman, a long-time analyst of the Middle East, argues that the most significant reforms taking place in the region today are in Saudi Arabia, mainly due to the efforts of the young, controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Friedman travels to the Kingdom to interview the Crown Prince and Saudi citizens about these religious and economic reforms. He comes away from these conversations convinced the country is moving in a more liberal, open direction. Freedom House is a U.S. government-funded non-governmental organization that annually assesses a country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties. It relies on a large number of reputable analysts and academic advisors, and subjects its methodology to public examination by experts. Its most recent analysis for Saudi Arabia concludes that the country’s status is “Not Free” and documented examples of crackdowns on reform advocates.
Issue: Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat to Humanity?
Yes: Tim Adams, from “Artificial Intelligence: ‘We’re like Children Playing with a Bomb,’ ” The Guardian (2016)
No: Max Tegmark, from “Benefits and Risks of Artificial Intelligence,” Future of Life Institute (2018)
Tim Adams, in relaying the thoughts of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, contends that AI represents an existential threat to humanity because AI will develop the ability to replicate its intelligence and learn at a much faster rate than humans. Max Tegmark, an MIT professor, contends that AI can and will be a great boon for humanity and will be shaped by its ability to problem solve and not by some myth regarding its own capacity to “turn on” humanity at some point.
Issue: Is the West Losing the Global Information War?
Yes: Alina Polyakova and Spencer P. Boyer, from “The Future of Political Warfare: Russia, the West, and the Coming Age of Global Digital Competition,” The New Geopolitics (2018)
No: Molly C. McKew, from “Putin’s Real Long Game,” Politico Magazine (2017)
The authors, both from The Brookings Institution, contend that we are at the nexus of technology, big data and AI such that states and other entities can now engage in political warfare without great consequences and at low cost. They argue that this is exactly what Russia is engaged in right now throughout Europe and the United States. The author, a former advisor to the president of the country of Georgia, argues that the Russian strategy is to so undermine truth and reality in the West so that basic institutions and social order breaks down. The author articulates ways that the West can thwart such actions and win.
Issue: Is Authoritarianism on the Rise or Will Democracy Endure?
Yes: Suzanne Sataline, from “Democracy Under Stress: Is Representative Government in Retreat Worldwide?” CQ Researcher (2017)
No: Kurt Weyland and Raúl L. Madrid, from “Liberal Democracy Is Stronger Than Trump’s Populism,” The American Interest (2017)
Suzanne Sataline, a writer based in Hong Kong, contends that if one looks at the past 100 years of development, democracy is clearly in retreat and under attack from a variety of social/political and technological forces. Kurt Weyland and Raúl Madrid, both University of Texas professors, use the growth populism in the West as represented by the election of Donald Trump to argue that democracy is resilient, still strong and capable of thwarting any permanent growth of authoritarianism.
Issue: Is the Power of Social Media Undermining Democracy?
Yes: Erica Chenoweth, from “How Social Media Helps Dictators,” Foreign Policy (2016)
No: Helen Margetts, from “Of Course Social Media Is Transforming Politics. But It’s Not to Blame for Brexit and Trump,” World Economic Forum (2016)
Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver professor, contends that social media has been hijacked in part by authoritarian and antidemocratic forces to sew doubt and undermine democratic institutions around the globe. Helen Margetts, professor at the Oxford Internet Institute of the University of Oxford, argues that social media has been used for all kinds of reasons both democratic, social justice and authoritarian but sounding the alarm that it is now a force for anti-demotic impulses is overtaking its role and missing the larger context.
Unit 3: The New Global Security Agenda
Issue: Were Efforts to Withdraw the United States from the Iran Nuclear Agreement Misguided?
Yes: Philip Gordon and Richard Nephew, from “The ‘Worst Deal Ever’ That Actually Wasn’t,” The Atlantic (2017)
No: “Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” The White House (2018)
The authors, both policymakers who were part of the team that negotiated the Iran nuclear deal, argue it is doing what it was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy and therefore, efforts to walk away from the agreement are misguided. In announcing that the United States was leaving the Iran nuclear agreement, President Trump argued that the deal “allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and, over time, reach the brink of a nuclear break¬out.” He further stated that Iran’s claim it desired a peaceful nuclear program “was a lie.” Furthermore, the President also suggested that the deal failed to address Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and provides “inadequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating . . . .”
Issue: Has the Assad Regime Won the Syrian Civil War?
Yes: Daniel R. DePetris, from “How Bashar al-Assad Won the War in Syria,” The National Interest (2017)
No: Krishnadev Calamur, from “No One Is Winning the Syrian Civil War,” The Atlantic (2018)
Daniel R. DePetris, an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., suggests that early in the Syrian conflict it appeared that Assad was on his way out. But five years later everything had been turned around and the world came to understand “how wily, clever, and street-smart” the government had been all along, leaving Assad in power with the help of Russian and Iranian support. Krishnadev Calamur, a senior editor at The Atlantic, argues that President Assad and his regime have not won the war. It is more accurate to say that Russian, Iranian, and Kurdish forces have emerged as the victors. He writes that Assad would not be able to survive in power on his own, without Russian and Iranian support. And, while Assad’s goal is to regain control of the entire country, Syria as a unified nation has effectively collapsed.
Issue: Is a Two-state Diplomatic Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Possible or Likely in the Near Future?
Yes: Mara Rudman and Brian Katulis, from “A Practical Plan on the Israeli-Palestinian Front,” Center for American Progress (2016)
No: Nickolay Mladenov, from “Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Middle East,” UNESCO (2018)
The Center for American Progress study, authored by two experienced government analysts who served under Democratic administrations, suggests six building blocks for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The study’s authors, respected scholars of Middle East affairs, argue that despite a number of factors making a solution more difficult, progress toward a two-state solution can be made if attention is paid to these building blocks. Nicolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, suggests that it is a grim time for those seeking peace in the Middle East. For him, “much of the Middle East continues to be in the grips of an ongoing human tragedy of immense proportions.” He argues that those opposed to peace are gaining confidence with each passing day, and they are hindering progress by pushing unilateral facts on the ground that are “blocking the pathway back to the negotiating table.”
Issue: Is Russia Increasingly Pursuing a Strategy to Threaten Democratic Regimes Throughout Europe and the Western World?
Yes: Larry Diamond, from “Russia and the Threat to Liberal Democracy,” The Atlantic (2016)
No: Mark Lawrence Schrad, from “Vladimir Putin Isn’t a Supervillain,” Foreign Policy (2017)
Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University, argues that Putin “has embraced an opportunistic but sophisticated campaign to sabotage democracy.” For Diamond, of greatest danger is the “alarming decay of liberal democracy in Europe and the United States.” Mark Lawrence Schrad, a Villanova University professor, suggests that Western commentary on Russia’s foreign policy can be placed into two rather extreme camps. One approach calls Putin a global menace while the other sees a country falling apart. Schrad argues that the reality is somewhere in between. “Russia is not nearly the global menace that many fear, nor is it doomed to collapse.” Accordingly, he believes that any analysis must be a “sober assessment of the country’s capabilities and limitations.”
Issue: Will China Be the Next Global Superpower?
Yes: Kenneth Rapoza, from “The Future: China’s Rise, America’s Decline,” Forbes (2017)
No: Alan Dupont, from "Will China Rule the World? Asian Superpower Faces Uncertain Future," The Australian (2016)
Forbes writer Kenneth Rapoza argues that most economic and social indicators point to both a steady rise for China and a decline for the United States. When the crossover point occurs will be is anyone’s guess. Dupont contends that despite China’s enormous gifs and potential, it still faces great obstacles in its quest to move from regional dominance to true superpower status.
Issue: Can Diplomacy, Rather than Military Action, Result in North Korea Denuclearizing?
Yes: Uri Friedman, from “Here’s What Trump Actually Achieved with North Korea,” The Atlantic (2018)
No: Brian Barrett, from “All the Times North Korea Promised to Denuclearize,” WIRED (2018)
Uri Freidman, global affairs staff writer at The Atlantic, argues a case can be made that diplomacy might finally work this time in getting North Korea to denuclearize after the latest round of negotiations at the leader level. Among the author’s six reasons for optimism is the fact that the two countries are talking to each other at a political decision-maker level—putting the politics first and at a very high level—and that any North Korean denuclearization pledge such as this latest one is significant. Brian Barrett, News Editor at WIRED, is not hopeful, suggesting that this is simply another example of the pattern where North Korea promises to “abandon nuclear efforts” with “surprising regularity” and then does not follow through on its promises. He argues that North Korea uses the promise of denuclearization as a “bargaining chip in times of desperation” and details the multiple rounds of negotiations over the past several decades that have all ended in failure.
Issue: Is Cyberwar the Future of 21st-Century Conflict?
Yes: Rick Stella, from “From Cyberwarfare to Drones, the Future of Conflict Is Electronic,” Digital Trends (2016)
No: Daniel Moore, from “Struggling with Cyber: A Critical Look at Waging War Online,” War on the Rocks (2017)
Rick Stella, Outdoor Editor of Digital Trends, makes the argument that in the aftermath of 9/11, innovation and technology in warfare became of paramount importance. As a result, cyber warfare has become the dominant trend in weapons research, development and ultimately application. Daniel Moore, a threat intelligence engineer, makes that case that it is too easy to simply argue that if technology is sophisticated, then it means that all warfare will be cyber. He maintains that one must define one’s terms before hitting the default button that all warfare is moving in a cyber direction.
Issue: Is Nuclear War More Likely in the Next Decade?
Yes: John F. Harris and Bryan Bender, from “Bill Perry Is Terrified. Why Aren’t You?” Politico Magazine (2017)
No: Stephen M. Walt, from “The World Doesn’t Need Any More Nuclear Strategies,” Foreign Policy (2018)
The authors, both writers at Politico, through working with former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry paint a pessimistic picture of the likelihood of a nuclear war in the coming years due to issues such as nuclear proliferation, great power rivalry and increasing tensions among key global actors. Stephen Walt, Harvard professor at the JFK School of Government, articulates a nuanced critique of nuclear politics but still maintains that the use of the nuclear deterrent has and will continue to make nuclear war less likely over time despite changes dimensions in the current global landscape.