Friday, December 30, 2011

2011- what a year!

2011 is almost over! Where did the time go? It has been a wonderful year for Maris and me. Here are some of the key events and highlights:

Year of the office. In January I gave Maris 'the office' seasons 1-3 for her birthday, we loved it and are now watching season 7 which we got this year for Christmas! That is almost 7 years worth of the office all packed into a single year. I really recommend the office for anyone looking for a funny TV show.

Year of the callings. This year I was called to serve as the district clerk and in the district presidency. The district clerk calling was by far the most challenging I have ever had and it helped me grow a lot. Maris is now the young women's president in our branch. One of the best things about living in Estonia is it gives more opportunities to serve in the church.

Year of the jobs. This fall I started as an IR 'assistant' in our department. I've been teaching classes, supervising students on their theses and even blogging a little on our IR blog! It has been awesome, the people I work with are great and the students are great. I love my job. Maris started as a teacher this year. She has wanted to be a teacher since high school. The students love her and she is doing a great job. She teaches 7th grade Estonian.

Year of the conferences. This summer I went to a conference in Turkey and Iceland to present a paper. Both of the presentations went well and now I have submitted revised versions of both papers to be published, hopefully 2012 will be the year of publications! Maris attended some conferences, one was on epics in Tartu which she liked.

Year of summer vacation. We had a great 5 week trip to the states this summer. We included trips to San Francisco and Canada! Including the conferences, summer was wild and travel packed, just the way it should be.

Year of a great marriage. March was our one year wedding anniversary, soon it will be two years! Maris is great and life with her keeps getting better and better.

2012 preview:

What will 2012 hold? we'll soon find out. Hopefully it will include the following:

More of my great job. I love my job and hopefully things will continue to go well with it. The university is building a new building that should be ready by September (they say May) all of our offices and class rooms will be there! we are all very excited. After the building is done the university will have top notch facilities. I also have 3 publications in the works, hopefully some of them will work out.

More academic tourism. The funding for academic travel is pretty good. Hopefully I will be able to participate in a conference or two, or maybe a summer school program. Some of the destinations to consider are Germany, Slovenia and Salt Lake City!

More time in the same calling. Since moving to Tallinn I have had three callings, the first for 5 months, the second for 8 months and now the third for a little over 3 months. In Tartu I had basically the same calling (switch from second counselor to first counselor doesn't really count) for the whole time I was there. I really like my current calling, I get to work with some really neat people.

No more time in school. I will still be in my PhD program, but Maris is very excited to graduate, she has a lot to do but I know she can do it! By the end of 2012 I will be more than half way through my studies!

Also another great year with Maris and hopefully opportunities to visit family back in the states.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is over already, where did the time go? We had a wonderful Christmas in T├Árva. The Christmas dinner is always the best part, blood sausage, sour kraut and a pork roast. We opened up our presents before we left on the 22nd, and got back today. We got lots of good stuff, some DVDs and some Hanna Montana Uno cards!! We'll have an entertaining 2012 now. My parents sent us nice packages which was wonderful. We read some good Christmas books to get us in the mood, "Cracked Wheat for Christmas" "the mansion" were the best ones. Also reading Luke chapter 2 and 3 Nephi chapter 1 are classics. Hopefully everybody reading this blog had a great Christmas too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Restore America-Ron Paul for president

I am using this blog post to endorse Ron Paul for president. The Iowa caucus is only a few weeks away and so I felt I could not wait any longer. I was hesitant to make an endorsement this year, because I will be teaching a class on US foreign policy, and I will be politically neutral in the class. Since none of my students know about this blog (I think) I am ok with making this endorsement. Friday was a money bomb for Ron Paul and he raised 3.7 million dollars which is a big success for him. I would have loved to donate money, but with limited funds this blog is the only thing I can do to help Dr. Paul win this important election.

These are perilous times for the United States. The country's economy is on the Fritz, the national debt is soaring, tensions with Iran are at an all time high and the country is trying to decide how to deal with the rise of China. The president in 2012 will have the job of restoring America and preventing a potential collapse. After a careful analysis of all the candidates, their platforms and abilities the only candidate who is able to restore America is Ron Paul. (Jon Huntsman gets an honorable mention here).

This will be a long blog and will go into detail on only the benefits of Dr. Paul's foreign policies. It should be noted that his economic and governance policies are also just as inspiring as his foreign policy. We would not have to worry about trillion dollar deficits and we would not have to worry about an imperial president in a Ron Paul presidency. Now, onto the foreign policy.

I have read in the media that some people cannot support Ron Paul because of his foreign policy. This to me is a shocking tragedy. Ron Paul's foreign policy is the very reason why people should be supporting him. Ron Paul is a total contrast to America's current foreign policy. Everything I have learned from my studies in International Relations has taught me that the foreign policy of Neoconservatives will run this nation into the ground. Neoconservatism, in the foreign policy sense, is a wild mix of liberalism and realism. They believe in some liberalist ideas such as the democratic peace theory, but like realists do not believe in the merits of international institutions. This leads to an ideological based foreign policy of democracy promotion via unilateral means. The classical example of this foreign policy was George W. Bush. This foreign policy resulted in two wars, thousands of US deaths (hundreds of thousands of non US deaths) and trillions of wasted dollars. The strategy of "taking the fight to them", or "hit them before they hit us" ironically does not destroy threats but increases them. Neoconservatives assume that radical Islamic jihad is evil and has to be destroyed. There is an important question that has to be answered: Why do they hate us? For a Neoconservative the answer is "because they are evil". In reality radical Islamic jihad is being launched due to our foreign policy in the Middle East. In trying to "take the fight to them" we only incite more radical jihad in addition to the enormous cost of military intervention. This also creates more terrorists and more hate against our nation. This especially increases those willing to support and fund terrorism, making terrorist attacks possible. If a Neoconservative such as Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich were to be elected we can expect conflict with Iran because Iran is "evil". And as we have learned over the last decade military conflict rarely is beneficial.

Ron Paul offers a foreign policy that would bring peace and security to our nation. There are many arguments for a foreign policy of restraint. While some argue for a policy of off-shore balancing or non intervention (also called isolationism) the difference between the two is actually very small. I will refer to both of these policies as a foreign policy of restraint. Good arguments can be found here, here, and here. In this blog I will only address the issue of Iran, because of its importance in Republican foreign policy debates.

Iran. There isn't a more pressing foreign policy issue currently than Iran, because of their desire for nuclear weapons. I will not argue that Iran is only interested in nuclear energy, but I will argue that Iran with nuclear weapons is far less dangerous than military conflict with Iran. States, when treated as single actors, have a basic desire to survive. All other national interests are contingent on a state existing. Iran's development of a nuclear weapon is not to use it, but rather to create a MAD (mutually assured destruction) policy towards other countries. This would increase Iran's power and decrease the probability of a military conflict. Why would someone attack Iran when they could retaliate with a nuclear weapon? Of course the main question here is what if Iran is the aggressor. Iran is accused of wanting to "nuke Israel" often by the Neocons. This is just more war propaganda that rests on a mistranslated mis quote. This defies logic. The US pays Israel billions of dollars in military aid so that they can protect themselves, they also have about 150 nuclear weapons, meaning they could retaliate against several nuclear states. Iran will not nuke Israel because they know that Israel would in turn destroy their country. Israel has time and time again showed that they have no restraint in retaliating (Lebanon war, Gaza strip for example). Giving a nuclear weapon to a terrorist to then in turn "nuke Israel" is also highly unlikely for several reasons. Firstly a terrorist would not have the means to deploy a full sized nuclear weapon. Most likely they would only be able to use a dirty bomb, meaning a bomb with radioactive material, not an actual nuclear weapon. Secondly and most importantly it is easy to trace where a nuclear weapon comes from. Even if Iran claimed that they were innocent Israel would be able to see that the nuke came from Iran and would retaliate. Iran cannot take that risk because an Israelian retaliation would seriously jeopardize the very existence of the country. This is the MAD doctrine that worked very well in the Cold War. For an overview of a hypothetical war with Iran and Israel read this. Slide 31 is especially telling, Iran would have 16-28 million casualties and there would be no chance of recovery. They would in essence cease to exist as a modern state. The motivation to use a nuclear weapon for Iran is extremely slim.

The danger posed by a nuclear Iran is rather low (almost zero for the US) and does not merit military action. The past decade has shown that military action is rarely beneficial. Just recently Iran captured one of our stealth spy drones. Now they have the option of selling it to the Russians or Chinese. This transfer of technology is like giving the Chinese or Russians billions of dollars in research and development. This is another example of the cost of military intervention.

A vote for Ron Paul would be a vote for peace and prosperity. If you are considering any other Republican candidate (Mitt Romney) you should ask yourself if excessive military conflict and obscene defense expenditures are in America's best interest. I have, and the answer was no. I encourage all of you reading this blog to donate to Ron Paul's election campaign. When and if you are voting in the Republican primaries vote for Ron Paul, you won't regret it.