Ryan J. Suto's Blog

18 January 2013

Equal and Inalienable: Natural Human Rights and the ICCPR

This paper about a possible scientific basis for natural human rights can be found here.


This paper first seeks to establish a scientific basis for the finding of natural human rights and how rights relate to morals, law, and culture. Next, the paper focuses on the derogation mechanism of article 4 of the ICCPR, compares derogable rights and non-derogable rights, and investigates the assumptions of derogation. Lastly, the paper finds an over-inclusive nature of the ICCPR, which results in the artificial imposition of extra-natural rights, leading to low levels of any compliance. Thus a lack of compliance to the ICCPR in whole violates the actual natural human rights which are enumerated. It suggests that an international human rights regime which is restricted to demonstrable natural human rights, without derogation, and including more forceful enforcement mechanisms would be a more effective tool of promoting human rights throughout the world.

17 January 2013

Small Nation, Big Questions: Bahrain After the Arab Spring

This paper about the background and future of the ongoing tensions in Bahrain can be found here.


This paper will discuss the political and social climate in Bahrain one year after the Arab Spring came to the country on February 14, 2011. The paper is divided into three main parts in order to give background and context. First, the paper will discuss the various iterations of inequality in Bahrain. Second, the governmental and international responses to the 2011 unrest and government crackdown on protests will be discussed. Lastly, a discussion will intend to tie the themes running throughout the paper together and discuss the future of Bahrain.

Standards of Expression in Transitional Societies: Incitement in Kosovo

This paper on differing models of free expression and their relation to transitional and post-conflict societies can be found here.


This paper argues that standards of incitement should adhere to a more restrictive model of free expression in transitional societies and a less restrictive model of free expression in mature societies. The several international agreements which involve standards of hate speech and incitement regulations envision a singular standard by which all societies should be held. The view which is dominant in international law will be referred to as the International Model; the alternative view, the Libertarian Model, advocates for greater individual freedom with respect to incitement, hate speech and governmental restrictions on speech. At present there exists an assumption that these views are wholly separate legal understandings and do not operate in concert.

Next, the paper selects a particular case, Kosovo, to elucidate the nature of free expression in transitional societies. The time immediately after the recent 1999 Kosovo War and Kosovo today will be discussed. Kosovo presents a case where the repressive pre-war Milosevic-controlled media environment has been succeeded by a restrictive media regime imposed by international organization in the name of peace and security.

What Constitution? Nepal's Experience in Post-Conflict Reconstruction

This paper on Nepal's Constitutional crisis since 2008 can be found here.


Constitution building, and especially creating electoral structures within constitutions, is the most important institutional and legal process within post-conflict reconstruction. The determinations made during this process shape how the society functions and how politics itself occurs in the future of the society. This paper will investigate the role of constitution building in post-conflict Nepal. Specifically, the paper will focus on electoral design within post-conflict constitutions. First, constitutions generally are discussed and next post-conflict constitution building. After that, the nature of electoral design will be discussed. Best practices of constitution building will be offered. Second, a short background of Nepal will be give. The 2007 interim constitution and the 2008 election results will be discussed.

Transitions in Tunisia and Egypt - What Does the Future Hold?

This paper on the political transitions in Egypt and Tunisia after the Arab Spring can be found here.


In January 2011 protesters in Tunisia forced out long-time dictator Ben Ali. Egypt’s Mubarak was soon to follow. In this paper I outline the transitions of both states - looking specifically at elites, institutions, and civil society. I discuss democratization literature in the context of both states and their likely futures. I conclude that the most significant difference between Tunisia and Egypt are elites - and that such a difference is sufficient to present differing predictions. Tunisia has a better chance of democratization than Egypt because her elites have formed consensus around both democracy and secular governance, whereas Egypt’s have yet to do so and show little promise of such consensus in the near future.

Non-Self Determination: Foreign Elements in Iraq's Post-Conflict Electoral Design

This paper about the US's decisions regarding Iraq's elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein can be found here.


This paper discusses the elections which took place in 2005 after the US-led invasion of Iraq. Specifically, it focuses on the policy choices made by foreign and foreign-chosen actors regarding those elections. After offering a background of the post-invasion setting, the electoral system for these elections was described. Lastly, offered are four critiques. First, that the January 2005 election to create a body to write a new constitution should have resulted in a much more representative body given the importance of constitution writing. Next, the de-Ba’athification process itself served to undermine the legitimacy of the transitional elections. Moreover, a truth commission for state-sponsored injustice and the use of amnesty would have proven to be a better model for transitional justice than de-Ba’athification. Lastly, foreign influences in Iraq were a primary hindrance which rendered the transitional process largely unsuccessful. This paper argues that the chief problem with democracy at gunpoint is that as a process it is not chosen democratically, and as such bequeaths upon the resultant systems an original sin of external imposition. The paper suggests that such foreign actors in the future should consider more fully the ramifications of imposed democracy.

Monochromatic Rule in the Rainbow Nation: Electoral Design in Post-Apartheid South Africa

This paper on post-conflict electoral engineering in South Africa can be found here.


In this paper I discuss the constitutional and electoral policies of post-apartheid South Africa. Specifically, I discuss whether the electoral design of its National Assembly has promoted multiparty democracy. Now nearly two decades removed from the ending of apartheid, I also discuss whether South Africa should seek a new electoral system for the National Assembly. I first discuss relevant history and the negotiations to end apartheid; I then discuss the results and implications of the post-apartheid elections. Lastly, I discuss South Africa’s electoral future and offer open-list proportional representation with provincial-specific lists as an ideal electoral reform.

Assault Weapons Ban: Democrats Need Better Messaging to Pass the Bill

This post about messaging and issue framing with respect to gun control can be found at PolicyMic.

I feel that there are three ways to view policy: what is objectively right or wrong, what is legally or structurally possible, and what is in line with public opinion or the perception of other relevant actors in the system of governance. The first, then, is philosophy, the second is law, and the third is politics.
This post will only concern politics, which Democrats generally haven’t done well at the national level since Bill Clinton left the presidency. However, right now should be a Democratic golden era.
The Democrats recently affirmed their control over the presidency and the Senate. The House is a bit more difficult for Democrats, as gerrymandering has resulted in the Democrats needing over 7% more votes than the Republicans nationally in order to control the House.
The nation’s changing views on gay marriage benefits the Democrats and the nation’s changing demographics looks to do the same, too. Issues like immigration reform and the DREAM Act have begun to push a majority of Latinos into the Democratic camp, shown by Obama’s win of the Latino vote this past fall. Even the fiscal cliff — in the economic realm of policy where Republicans are most often trusted — has gone the way of the Democrats, as far as politics is concerned. That’s because a majority of Americansblame the Republicans for the mess in the first place. This is of course reminiscent of the 1995 government shutdown, which was ultimately also blamed on the Republicans by the American people.
In theory, Democrats have also been dealt an easy hand on gun control. The recent tragedies of gun violence have led to both knee-jerk reactions and honest reflection on the legal status of guns in our country. Real politics is insensitive and dirty and so the debate has shifted in favor of those arguing for gun control. Politics is about perception, so in this post, the actual content of Senator Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban is of little import — just as the content of, say, the USA PATRIOT Act was not important at the time of passage. In politics, what’s only important is what the American people think the law stands for. We’ll let the lawyers and philosophers decide what’s right and wrong or what can or cannot be done.
What the Democrats must do is convince the American people that this piece of legislation both protects their children from future gun violence while allowing responsible gun owners to continue to have their Second Amendment rights. Their first problem is the name used in the media. The "PATRIOT Act" is positive and affirming. The "Assault Weapons Ban" is negative and brings forth images of Pelosi and Feinstein taking guns away from people. However, since it uses the term "Assault Weapon," it can succeed if framed properly.
Congressional Democrats better read PolicyMic because here are their keys to political victory: only say two phrases when discussing either this piece of legislation or gun control in general. "We want to protect the American people and our children from gun violence," and "We support the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners." That’s it.
This debate is the Democrat’s to lose, and complicating the message will only make the party look divided and unsure of where it stands. The Democratic Party doesn’t need to convince the National Rifle Association about gun control, only those on the fence or undecided about the issue. Those individuals can give the Democrats the political clout on this important issue. 

How Hillary Clinton Democratized Diplomacy One Tweet at a Time

This post on the State Department's use of technology in pubic diplomacy can be found at PolicyMic.

As Hillary Clinton continues to recover from her health scare and prepares to return to work as Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) is readying to succeed her at that position. And of course, questions remain about Clinton's intentions for a possible presidential run in 2016. But instead of peering forward, let us look back at how she has changed public diplomacy at the State Department.
Before Clinton arrived at State, the approach of U.S. public diplomacy was to "sell" the U.S. The goal was more analogous to marketing: to paint the U.S. in a positive light through commercials and other media campaigns. These actions, however, are only one-way: yelling at the television does not constitute a conversation.
So when Clinton arrived, she embraced 21st Century Statecraft: diplomacy through any technological means. Clinton brought on board technological innovators, such as Alec Ross, to change how America communicates with the world. The State Department now has hundreds of social media accounts, from Twitter to Facebook and from YouTube to Google+. Both individuals and agencies within the State Department have specialized accounts, and many operate in important and popular languages around the world. Under Clinton the approach of U.S. public diplomacy went from marketing to engagement. In a study under review at the Journal of Public Relations Research (entitled "A Social Networks Approach to Public Relations on Twitter: Social Mediators and Mediated Public Relations") Himelboim, I., Golan, G.J., Moon, B. and I have found that the State Department successfully uses Twitter to establish two-way symmetrical relationships with their publics.
In other terms, by embracing new technological innovations in the context of a traditional bureaucratic structure, Clinton has democratized diplomacy. Around the world foreign publics can now converse and interact with the State Department on their mobile phone, tablet, or computer in their native language. They only need internet access and a social media account. Have you ever sent an email, Tweet, or complaint to a faceless organization, only to be pleasantly surprised at receiving a real response? Anyone who has knows first-hand the difference between marketing and engagement. Public diplomacy, among other things, is a tool of what I call preventative national security: responding to the grievances of those who feel slighted by America before they become radicalized and violent.
Like any other approach this engagement model of public diplomacy is not perfect, and as such must be used alongside broadcast media approaches to public diplomacy and traditional diplomacy, as well. But Hilary Clinton's embrace of new technology to institutionalize conversations between the State Department and foreign publics around the world will build relationships and help shape America's image abroad for generations to come. Because while a commercial can last only thirty seconds, a relationship can last a lifetime. 

Sandy Hook Shooting Asks Deeper Questions Than Gun Control

This post on conceptions of security and liberty can be found at PolicyMic.

First, my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones yesterday in Connecticut. No words I write should be construed as to detract from the enormous pain these families must bear. I also wish to post to not be thought of as 'politicizing the issue,' as I hope only to raise relevant questions.
In the wake of 9/11, many Americans felt understandably vulnerable. One solution was presented in the USA PATRIOT Act and governmental actions of domestic surveillance. Few progressive voices (very few in Congress) decried this legislation in particular as eroding fundamental rights in favor of a raised sense of security. The right of privacy, they argued, can be inferred in the Fourth Amendment. Over the next decade progressive proudly proclaimed that 'those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' The conservative response was that without life, liberty itself is useless, and that the 'smoking gun' of another terrorist attack would be in the form of a mushroom cloud.
The security argument prevailed over the liberty argument here.
In the wake of the various shootings across the country this past summer, many Americans feel understandably vulnerable. One solution presented by a few progressive (very few in Congress) is to increase restrictions on gun ownership, as most of the guns used were legally purchased. The right to bear arms, conservatives have countered, is explicitly mentioned in the Second Amendment. Conservatives might further contend that 'those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Progressives might respond that the 'smoking gun' but be another mass shooting of innocent Americans.
I am not trying to suggest that these situations are perfectly analogous. I am only hoping to draw out that they both boil down to arguments of liberty and security. How one sees the issue beyond that may be a product of political leanings, emotional bias, or legitimate fundamental differences in the cases presented. The dialogue we have as a society should not be narrowly construed as gun rights or national security, but a deeper question of what are our fundamental rights and under what circumstances, if any, is it acceptable to derogate from them.
In Plato’s Apology Socrates shows us that we must remain humble. As such I don’t propose that I’m wise enough to know any answers. I can only ask the questions.
May peace be upon you and your family.