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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, a biannual publication dedicated to publishing exemplary undergraduate research in the humanities and social sciences.

Volume 21 Issue 2 2008


Drunk On Oil: Russian Foreign Policy 2000-2007

Over the past seven years, oil has climbed steadily in price, while at the same time Russian foreign policy has become more assertive. Many commentators have linked these two phenomena, claiming that such aggression is due to “petroconfidence” – implying that the increase in the price of energy resources is causing or enabling this increased aggression. This paper attempts to analyze whether or not such linkage is empirically justified, finding that it is. The author measures a newly constructed metric of Russian aggression against the price of oil, to see if the relationship is statistically extant. The paper goes on to dissect the various ways in which oil resources can impact foreign policy decision-making, and scrutinizes potential alternative reasons for alterations in Russian foreign policy decisions. Finally, future trends in regard to oil price, Russian energy production and Russian political leadership are outlined, with the conclusion assessing the implications for the United States.

Again, and Again, and Again: Why We Fail in the Face of Genocide

After the exposure of the Nazi atrocities against ethnic and religious groups in World War II, the international community declared that it would never stand for such violence again. To this end, the member states of the United Nations passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. Yet, despite this codification of international law pertaining to genocide and genocide-like crimes, these crimes continue to abound, leaving no recent decade untouched. This thesis seeks to understand the reasons for the continuing prevalence of genocide and genocide-like crimes through an analysis of the body of genocide law, the actualities of state practice in the current international system, and the United Nations’ ideology and practices. In closing, it presents a series of recommendations intended to increase the prevention, suppression, and prosecution of genocide and genocide-like crimes.

Chinese Student Protests: Explaining the Student Movements of the 1980s and the Lack of Protests Since 1989

Chinese students today are growing up in era that is significantly different, both politically and economically, from that of their predecessors. Today’s youth have been characterized by the media as pragmatic, materialistic, and uninterested in politics. In light of such developments, one may wonder if the days of pro-democracy student protests are over in China. Have students become too uninterested in politics and satisfied with their economic situations to spearhead protests like their Tiananmen predecessors? What factors initiated student protests in the past, and why have they not occurred since 1989? This paper argues that current students are, in fact, not too different from their protesting predecessors. Both groups share similar characteristics of pragmatism, materialism, and lack of interest in politics, as well as similar political grievances. Therefore, the lack of protests since 1989 cannot be explained by a decline in political interest or the appeasement of political grievances. Instead, three other factors seem to be crucial for a student protest to occur in China. First, political opening by the government is necessary to “awaken” and prompt students to protest. Second, progressive elites inspire students to protest. Third, some salient event often serves as the final catalyzing force for student movements. This paper asserts that the lack of protests since 1989 is not a consequence of changing student attitudes and situations, but rather due to the limited degree of political opening that has occurred since 1989. Finally, although the Chinese government has done a noteworthy job of improving living standards and economic opportunities, students today still harbor political grievances similar to those of the 1980s generation. Therefore, if the government sends signals of political relaxation in the future, perhaps the incumbent generation of students may rise up to protest like their predecessors.

Bridging Fiction and Documentary in Godard's Notre Musique

This paper is a close analysis of Jean-Luc Godard’s 2004 film, Notre Musique. Its primary focus is the implications of Godard’s blending of documentary footage with staged footage. Among the examples of documentary and narrative blurring, Godard stages an interview with an internationally known poet, Mahmoud Darwish, and though the pretext is completely false, the exchange that takes place is honest and potent. Aside from the famous personages who play themselves, the film’s other main characters are actors. They insert themselves seamlessly through events that actually took place in Sarajevo (i.e. that were not planned for the shooting of the film). I believe this technique echoes Godard’s belief that people have faith in the imaginary, and doubt reality. Even though the narrative curve is atypical--there is no climax, and the two main characters never meet--it offers that which the spectator needs in order to submit himself or herself to a film: the imaginary. Thanks to the lens of narrativity, the varied documentary subjects (the Israeli/Palestine conflict, the symbolic rebuilding of the Mostar Bridge, the Native American plight, the future of digital filmmaking) whose philosophical links would otherwise not be considered are conjoined into a field where realities point to imaginaries and vice versa. Throughout the film, the characters acknowledge the inability of images and words to represent certain atrocities, and strange way by which imaginary representations are at times more believable than the truth.

Surviving Through The Post-Cold War Era: The Evolution of Foreign Policy In North Korea

Between the years of 1989 and 1992, the Cold War Era came to an end with the collapse of the communist Soviet bloc. However, unique among the Soviet imposed communist regimes, the struggling North Korean government has lived on, defying odds and predictions. How is it that the North Korean regime is able to withstand the pressures of change? What impact did the transformation in the international situation have on North Korea’s seemingly contradictory and often unpredictable foreign policy? Most research on this subject has focused on North Korea’s unique internal structure, but this paper will show that, as was the case in Eastern Europe, the answer to these questions can be found in the regime’s geopolitical conditions.

By using articles from the Rodong Sinmun, Kulloja, and the Pyongyang Times from this period, this paper will show that North Korea believed that the changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union posed a serious threat to its internal system, sovereignty, and legitimacy due to the deteriorating geopolitical environment. This understanding compelled North Korea to implement new foreign policies to adapt to a new world order: establishing friendlier relations with its neighbors and developing nuclear capabilities. This paper will illustrate that both policies were rational and complementary responses that has been critical for the survival of the North Korean regime. Also, as these two policies are inseparable, instead of coercing or enticing North Korea to accommodate, it will be much more effective to change the underlying considerations that led to these policies.