Foreshadowed warnings and Unlikely Alliances

American foreign policy in the Middle East has long been characterized by uneasy alliances with unlikely partners.  For the last decade, our partners in the region have provided important support to American military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, as the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq come to a close many academics are beginning to question whether certain alliances have been as helpful as many believe. In particular, American support for Saudi Arabia has been unwavering since the 2001 attacks despite the majority of the hijackers’ involved being Saudi nationals.  When compared with the human rights record of Saudi Arabia in basic legal proceedings one begins to question why American foreign policy personnel believe this relationship is beneficial for American image abroad.

In 1996 there was a terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers, a popular apartment building used by foreign military personnel in Khobar Saudi Arabia. Nineteen of those killed were American airmen. In response to this an open letter was written by Chandra Muzaffar (1996), Lessons from the blast: Opposition to US Alliance is strong within the kingdoms middle class.  The letter is very concise but provides an extreme amount of foresight into the future problems with United States involvement in the region. Firstly, it points out that the King of Saudi Arabia is considered the custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and because US policy seems to dictate much of the royal families’ actions many are beginning to view the United States as ‘the custodian of the custodian’. Information obtained from the 9/11 Commission report has indicated that many of the hijackers from Saudi Arabia were indeed middle class well- educated persons.

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U.S. Operations in Bolivia: A Paradox of Policy

As was the case with the majority of the geopolitical proxy wars of the mid- to late-20th century, the case study of U.S. operations in Latin America throughout the cold war largely resemble neo-colonialism. This was the argument employed by Lawrence Whitehead (1969), a renowned scholar of Latin American democratization, who identified U.S.-Bolivian relations as a pure example of such; where the U.S. suborned the local regimes to protect its economic, ideological and national security interests through material aid. Such aid was used to keep sympathetic regimes in power and, further, the threat of curtailing this aid was a well-used manipulative tool that allowed the U.S. to bring regimes to heel.

In the particular instance of Bolivia, the economic and political factors underpinning U.S. operations were two-fold. For one, the nation was home to a considerable quantity of exportable tin that came to surpass silver as its most valuable commodity during World War II. However, it was the political turmoil that gripped Bolivia in the wake of the war that made it of significant concern to the U.S. government. Following a disputed election in 1951, in which the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) was denied victory, the group launched a successful revolution in April 1952. A large motivator of this was the abject socioeconomic conditions to be found in Bolivia after generations of laissez-faire government policies and exploitative capitalism. The severe inability for the MNR to combat these issues was seen as an opening for the spread of socialism, thus Bolivia became embroiled in the Cold War power dynamics of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Continue reading

Solidarity Forever

May Day 2013, the recent collapse of a garment factory on top of hundreds of workers in Bangladesh just five days ago is yet another grievance charged against the global game of capitalism.  The inequalities exacerbated by globalization in Bangladesh have roots in the same issues facing workers the world over since the formation of wage labor:  the right to a living wage, the right to collective bargaining, an equal wage and the right to a safe working environment.  These grievances have been outsourced to the third world for commodity production which we see as goods in the US marketplace; however, the agriculture industry, for which 51% of US land is dedicated, relies on cheap labor power to harvest.


A recent acquisition to the Human Rights Collection are the records of UConn’s Migrant Worker Health Clinic.  At the University of Connecticut Health Center, the office of the Migrant Worker’s Health Clinic runs a mobile clinic at agricultural farms throughout the state, providing health, dental and eye care through volunteer physicians and students to seasonal migrant laborers.  Workers from Latin America and the Caribbean come to Connecticut to work on Tobacco and fruit farms without health coverage and other labor rights afforded to US citizens.  With immigration being a continually vibrant topic of discussion (as well as the shaper of the country we know today) this collection provides a very real context of local immigration issues surrounding the precarious labor relationship with foreign workers.  This collection is an ongoing acquisition which portrays the quantitative data on the labor pool itself as well as the outreach and resources provided on behalf of the clinic.

In addition, Robin Romano’s photograph collection and personal papers from his work on child labor in the third world provide an important visual representation of what unrestricted market demand looks like.

For more information, please contact the curator to schedule an appointment to view these materials.