"That didn’t stop us from being just as excited for a jammed packed day."

Grace Masback
Oregon, USA

Day 5 Reflections: Coming to Terms with a Different Perspective

Today was a day of challenges – a challenge to stay awake, a challenge to interact in myriad social situations, and constant challenges to open my mind to perspectives, ideas, and opinions that ran contrary to everything I have been taught and believed in.

Today was the first day that the exhaustion of all of the incredible learning, creating, and socializing that we have been doing truly set in. The decreased energy and dip in morale was evident, but that didn’t stop us, myself included, from being just as excited for a jammed packed day complete with a lecture, our 4th seminar, and an occasionally stressful capstone work period.

The day began on a high note with a tantalizing and highly engaging lecture from Professor Malvesti. I enjoyed the fact that she employed simplified, yet interesting, hypotheticals to draw us into the topic in ways we could relate to and easily understand. I admire her presence, power, and stature as a female in the field of security, a field significantly dominated by men. It was inspiring to see her take control of the room and speak with such command of the subject matter and authority. I feel confident that for all the young women in the room she will remain a memorable role model.

The discussion section following the lecture was difficult, at least for me. We talked first about the U.S. government’s justification for entering Pakistan, without informing Pakistani officials, in order to kill Osama Bin Laden. We then talked about whether or not the U.S. had the right to intervene in foreign conflicts more generally.

When it came to Osama Bin Laden, it had never occurred to me that the United States might have been in the wrong with its actions. Bin Laden was a terrorist responsible for killing thousands of innocent Americans and terrorizing our nation. The United States had every right to find and eliminate him. Right?

Concerning the decision to enter Pakistan without informing Pakistan government officials, I remember reading an article that alleged that Pakistan may have aided Bin Laden in his multiple-year evasion of U.S. forces (given the fact that Bin Laden’s compound was relatively conspicuous and very close to a major military academy). If this had been the case, it would have made no practical sense for the U.S. to work with or inform the Pakistani government about its plans (ignoring the issue of whether it violated Pakistan’s sovereignty).

In my discussion group, I heard a completely different side of the story. A fellow student from Pakistan stated that although he understood the U.S. government’s lack of trust for his government, he felt that if the U.S. felt like it could invade his country with no warning, then the U.S. should be ready for Pakistan to do the same to the United States, a scenario we all agreed that the U.S. would clearly never accept.

A student from Palestine questioned the entire concept of the United States intervening in the affairs of other sovereign nations, a point seconded by students from China and South Korea. In fact, they mocked the belief of the U.S. that it can legitimately declare war via the AUMF. They criticized the U.S. for only intervening in countries where it directly served U.S. interests and termed the U.S. a “bully.”

I was immediately defensive and a bit frustrated. The United States is clearly not alone when it comes to invasions of state sovereignty. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood their anger and their hurt. While I am proud that the United States is a global superpower, it’s a fact that the U.S. puts its national interests ahead of other considerations, which leads inevitably (and unfortunately) to invasions of other countries, civilian causalities, and a lack of respect for state sovereignty. Not surprisingly, my fellow students from other countries have grown up with vastly different perspectives on the behavior of the United States in international affairs than I have. It is to be expected.

Today, I learned a lot about myself. As open-minded as I may think I am, I have spent all but two years of my childhood in the same country, and have been fed a steady diet of ideas and perspectives on the world from an American point-of-view. If I hope to pursue an education and career in global affairs, I must work to truly open my mind -- to understand the world not only through the eyes of the country to which I pledge allegiance and that I call home, but also from the perspective of people from around the world.

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