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The documentary film The Rise of ISIS by PBS’s Frontline is a captivating, memorable, and information story about the rise of movement that has become a dominating force in the Middle East and currently poses a serious threat to security and well-being both in the region and internationally. Hence, the film is reported by Martin Smith and takes almost an hour, 54 minutes, to be more exact, and may be deemed as a ‘must-see’ for anyone interested in international relations, in general, and in the story of how ISIS has managed to become so powerful within a relatively short period of time.
Although, the film hardly presents any qualitatively new information, as all the issues and events it discusses are publicly available, a masterful combination of the narrative, interviews, and illustrative material create a compelling and intense movie that viewers cannot tear gazes away until the very last second. Besides, the movie is extremely thought-provoking, especially for the US citizens who are encouraged to think and discuss whether Obama’s administration was right in its decision to leave Iraq. Events described in the film start with the departure of US troops from Iraq in 2011 and end before the siege of Kobani in Syria. The tone and narrative of the film make it obvious that Smith considers the US government and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to be responsible for the rise of ISIS. The fact is that the Sunni minority was denied of access to the Iraqi governmental positions held by Shiites, which caused dissatisfaction and resulted in militant uprisings. Even though the film seems to be credible and full of convincing factual information that is supported with shocking videos and respective interviews, it is highly prejudiced and presents only one view of the situation. In other words, it provides no room or time for individuals with dissenting views, which makes it extremely biased.
In terms of presentation, it follows the conventional realist explanations for the renewed conflict in Western Iraq, as it opposes the USA and its Western allies, on the one hand, and the ISIS, on the other hand. Besides, it portrays the latter as a threatening enemy of the USA that should have been contained and eliminated with the use of military force. The presentation is highly critical regarding President Obama’s orders relating to the 2011 departure of US troops and current refusal to respond to the Iraq conflict with force. Therefore, it is evident that it follows the realist theory and supposes that military capabilities constitute a powerful tool in international relations that can make other countries comply with demands for peaceful resolution and avoidance of conflicts.
The dialogue between the Melians and the Athenians, as presented by Thucydides in his retelling of the Peloponnesian War, may be considered as a classic example of how political realism is manifested in international relations. Thus, the Athenians in the dialogue under consideration are evidently supporting the realism theory in their actions, while the Melians do not agree with conventional underlying premises of this theory. It is hard to determine whether Thucydides supports realism or not, but the fact that the Athenians sound more convincing and even mocking with respect to their opponents implies that he is also a supporter of the theory.
In the dialogue, the Melians make some points in an attempt to convince Athenians to abandon their invasion endeavors and go back to the previous format of peaceful co-existence. Hence, the Melians emphasize that Athenians behave in an immoral way, as their city is neutral and has never posited itself as an enemy of Athens. Besides, they point out that should the Athenians continue with the invasion plan, it will make other neutral cities of Greece weary of Athens and can even lead to their unification for the purpose of resisting bloodthirsty Athenians. It can also ramp up hostility in the country and lead to bloodshed and political opposition between Athens and other cities.
Moreover, the Melians claim that they cannot surrender without a fight, even though they acknowledge their military inferiority to the Athenians. However, surrender would make them look like cowards and would invoke shame on their city and families, which is why the only thing they can do is fight and hope that gods will support them and assist them with a miraculous victory. The Melians suppose that gods have to support them, as they are right from the moral standpoint. Besides, the Melians hope that the Spartans will honor their past promises of support and will come to fight on their side against the Athenians. In turn, the Athenians cannot comprehend the Melians’ position and their lack of realism. They emphasize that there can be no talk of morality and gods’ support in such wars as strength is the only thing that matters. Therefore, they are certain in their victory, as well as certain that the Spartans will not come as their direct interests are not involved in the conflict, which is why, being realists, they will not risk a confrontation with the Athenians to support weak Melians.
Nye has been among the first authors along with Keohane who have managed to produce an influential and detailed description of such a notion as interdependence. Besides, his inclusion of its costs and benefits, as well as of related key concepts like sensitivity and vulnerability has given rise to a heated debate among scholars who either support or oppose Nye’s views. Hence, interdependence may be viewed as a state of affairs when two or more states are mutually interconnected and rely on each other in some respect, so that transactions between these states have reciprocal effects that may be symmetrical or asymmetrical. This point about symmetry and reciprocal nature of effects is quite pivotal in the discussion of the notion under consideration as it is tightly interconnected with benefits and costs associated with interdependence.
Benefits are an essential component of interdependence, since they serve as primary motivations for states to be willing to engage in this form of relationships. Unless there are some benefits that will arise from interdependence of two or more states that they will enjoy to varying extents in the process, these states will abstain from becoming interdependent and will strive to remain independent. These benefits may be economical, political, diplomatic, military, social, and virtually of any kind, depending on states and character of their interdependence. In turn, costs constitute a component of these relations that takes place once the states have already become interdependent, but decide to break their ties. Hence, the costs serve as incentives to maintain interdependence and not break ties with states-partners. Although states may mutually depend on each to varying extents, i.e. asymmetrically, this dependence is still mutual and reciprocal, which means that all participants of the relationship will suffer some costs, in case the latter is broken. Sensitivity and vulnerability are two notions that concern costs and the states’ response to the change in the relations and their ability to rebound from costs, respectively.
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Michael Klare’s film entitled Blood and Oil is a masterful and enlightening documentary that focuses on the interconnectedness of the US foreign policy and its dependence on oil. This commodity is depicted as the driving force of foreign policies issued by the past four presidential administrations of the USA, as well as a primary reason of countless bloody conflicts, occurring primarily in the Middle Eastern region. Besides, the film brings to the foreground some concepts of the class system theory, as well as encourages revising future US policies in the region.
In relation to the class system theory, the film shows US willingness to deploy military forces to protect its oil interests in the region of the Middle East upon an agreement of representatives of the ruling class, while opinions of the working and middle classes are not taken into consideration. These representatives are US President Roosevelt and Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud who made a deal in 1945 that has impacted US foreign policy since then. Under this deal, Americans will protect the oil reserves and support Saudi Arabia in its conflicts in exchange for a privileged access to the commodity. Moreover, imperialism is another theory-related concept highlighted in the film, whereby USA is a country that has imperial aspirations and is ready to resort to wars to protect its world dominance, including its dominant right to exploit Middle Eastern oil reserves.
Withal, the film under consideration conveys a powerful message that the past and current practices, relating to US dependence on Middle Eastern oil and its willingness to fight wars on behalf of its regional allies, have to be abandoned, as they have proved to be unproductive and outdated. Such imperialistic behavior of the USA has resulted in the emergence of Al-Qaeda and is likely to result in thousands of deaths of American soldiers in the Middle East protecting US oil cravings. Besides, the ruling class has to listen to the mood of the middle and working classes who do not want to sponsor oil wars and have blood of American soldiers on their hands.
Regret to Inform is an unrivaled documentary focusing on the topic of war and military conflicts from the perspective of their aftermath and consequences. It has been directed by Barbara Sonneborn who had first-hand experience with the loss inflicted by the war, which has motivated her to reveal experiences of other people, primarily including women who have lost their husbands during the war in Vietnam. The film is unique in this respect, as its primary objective is to present a gendered picture of the war, as it is perceived by both American and Vietnamese widows.
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It seems that Sonneborn tries to convey a powerful message that war is an evil phenomenon with devastating consequences for all individuals involved, irrespective of the side they or their beloved ones have been fighting for. War always results in deaths and sufferings, whose close people die in a senseless and meaningless conflict fighting for political or economic interests of the ruling elite. Widows who are left behind all wars prove that their husbands cannot and should not be reduced to mere casualties that can be easily forgotten and discarded. The film is a touching and moving picture that advocates for peace more powerfully than any speech or policy could. Besides, it stands out among other documentaries, dedicated to the topic under analysis, not only thanks to its message, interviews, and illustrative materials, but also thanks to its unique perspective of the war through the eyes of women, in particular, widows.
In 1989, when the Cold War was coming to an end, Francis Fukuyama declared that the end of history was imminent and inevitable. No matter how nostalgic or sad it may be, it was the truth in the author’s viewpoint. Although, nowadays, it has become evident that Fukuyama’s prediction has not come true, his article published in the magazine The National Interest has become an essential part of the literature on international relations, as well as caused heated debates on the accuracy of his statements.
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The primary factor, leading to the end of history, is the lack of significant ideological confrontations, as according to Fukuyama, the Western liberalism would win over all over existing ideologies. This had to be so, since in the late 1980s Communism was gradually eliminated and even though China remained a Marxist country, it had already become Westernized to a large extent, thanks to its interests relating to business and economics. Hence, triumph of the Western idea is the major factor, leading to the end of history, as it marks the time when the humanity ceases its ideological evolution and when Western liberal democracy is universalized in the world as the finite form of government that should be instilled in all countries. Of course, some conflicts and, perhaps, regional wars may occur among pre-history countries, but in the end they will succumb to the influence of the West and will unite the latter in the post-history stage.
Margaret Hermann is one of the scholars interested in the interrelation of foreign policy behavior and personal characteristics of political leaders and her findings are based on her empirical study, dated as of 1980. In addition to six personal characteristics, she has studied how training and interest in foreign affairs impact foreign behavior of the country’s leader. Her initial hypothesis was that leaders with extensive training in the field of foreign affairs would be more likely to enjoy a wider range of choices in terms of the foreign policy and would not allow their personal characteristics to impact their decisions. Besides, high interest in foreign affairs would also mean lower impact of personal characteristics on foreign policy decisions, as well as creation of a more effective and flexible foreign policy. In turn, little or no training would not only lead to leaders having little interest in foreign policy and being unapt at it, but also would imply high impact of personal characteristics on respective decisions. Training can also increase a range of activities, behaviors, and strategies that a leader can employ in the foreign policy domain to benefit the country and achieve desired goals. For President Obama, it means that his personal characteristics are likely to have a significant impact on his foreign policy behavior, as he has little training in the field. Furthermore, his interest in foreign policy becomes irrelevant, since being a leader of the USA means that he has to pay much attention to this aspect. At the same time, the Hermann’s theory also means that President Obama does not have a wide range of strategies, behaviors, and tactics at disposal in his foreign policy behavior arsenal due to the lack of training in the past, which is why it may be complicated for him to negotiate with political leaders who have undergone much training.
Soldiers of Conscience is a documentary produced by Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan on the basis of eight life stories of eight US soldiers who have solved the dilemma of to kill or not to kill and are willing to share their personal experience. This documentary does not try to convince the audience that there exists only one question to this eternal issue of a war. On the contrary, the film promotes tolerance and equally pays attention and respect to soldiers who now object to killing others during a military conflict and soldiers who are ready to kill for the sake of defending their ideals of freedom and democracy. However, the film emphasizes that irrespective of the choice, soldiers have to live with profound consequences of their decisions and that all soldiers are unwilling to deprive other human beings of life. Otherwise, they would be soulless monsters, yet most soldiers have been trained to shoot enemies reflexively, which is another moral dilemma raised in the documentary. The film is extremely thought-provoking and raises controversial questions that have been considered as a taboo in the military for many years now. Everyone realizes that war means killing other people, but hardly everyone thinks about a price soldiers have to pay when they shoot other human beings. The matter is that they have to live with this fact for the rest of their lives, which is why many of them start objective to this choice on the basis of the conscious choice. Nonetheless, the film is absolutely right that all soldiers may be termed as soldiers of consciousness. Besides, all soldiers have to solve this basic, yet extremely complicated moral dilemma before they join the army and are deployed to participate in military confrontations, no matter how hard it may to make this ultimate decision that would impact the rest of their lives.
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