Sunday, July 24, 2011

Security Slacker

Hey All,

For those of you not already doing so, check out my new blog at


Sunday, April 17, 2011


Tomorrow night Passover begins. As a result I have been researching haggadahs online. Skimming one option I found the following, "Everyone should feel that he or she personally came out of Egypt, and that the passage from slavery to freedom was a living experience to be told and handed down from generation to generation." Only two months old, and yet already worlds away, my memories of Cairo bleed like wine on a tablecloth. While tales of my travels, my friends, and the revolution are regaled often, the meaning of my six months in Egypt lurks in the gaps between thoughts, waiting for me to fully realize what lessons are buried in the rough. As I reflect on Passover's black-and-white tale of good's clear triumph over evil, I struggle to sketch my own story in shades of grey.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The launch

Yes folks, it is in fact that moment you've been waiting for. As promised, I have created a website dedicated to the art of foreign policy analysis, with an emphasis on national security. While simultaneously filling the role of unemployed college graduate (a bit cliche at this point I know), I prepared what I hope will be a public forum for educated debate. I welcome contributors - if you have an interest in international affairs and want a chance to write, then The Mandell Group is the place for you. Please keep in mind that the website is in its infancy, so the design, content, and capabilities will continue to be refined.


-CEO, Founder, and Intern of The Mandell Group

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Sun Also Rises

The United States’ response to the revolution in Egypt has been understandable but ultimately still lacking. It is important to acknowledge that the Egyptian revolution was entirely an internal affair. The grievances were between a ruler and his people, and the revolution itself was from start to finish, homegrown. It was wise therefore that the United States respect the Egyptian people’s right to self determination. If I recall correctly, Secretary Clinton made a statement to this effect during the protests. The challenge for American- Egyptian relations however starts now. The United States already missed one opportunity to win the goodwill of the Egyptian people during the protests. While intervention was neither necessary nor appropriate, it was obvious America stayed behind the curve in terms of rhetoric and support. This is understandable, it took less than three weeks to topple a regime in power for more than three decades. It is no surprise reaction time would be slow. As I hovered near my television in Cairo a week or so before Mubarak resigned, I kept silently urging President Obama to come out with a clear message in support of the protesters. I understand the delicacy of the matter. Gamble and lose and suddenly the country would have made a serious error with a key strategic ally. Yet, the Egyptian realization of values that America founds itself upon was too clear a moment to tip-toe around. This opportunity lost, it is time to step in and help make real change possible. As a piece in Al Masry Al Youm describes , the road ahead for Egypt is long. Much of the change thus far has been political when it needs to be economic. As an NPR Market Place report suggested, Egypt is ready for democracy, but the adult illiteracy rate of over 30% will prove a challenge. Acknowledging that the United States already sends billions of dollars in aid to Egypt, a targeted initiative would go a long way. For example, offering to fund Egyptian run programs that fight illiteracy, a project especially important as elections draw near, would go a long way towards forming a new and better relationship with the Egyptian people and possibly the larger Arab world.
Understandably, the United States and Israel both worry about what is to come next. For both parties I would offer the following solace: this will be a period of transition, but can ultimately lead to relationships that are more sustainable. Dictators have a shelf life, and desperately supporting those that have an iron grip on power has proven to be poor foreign policy. It is hard to tell where the pieces will lie, but thus far the changes in the Arab world have been secular, peaceful where possible, and democratic. This is a surprising and positive trend that the United States and even Israel, should both embrace. Uncertainty abounds, but soon it will be time for the United States to start forming new and improved relationships with countries that will look entirely different this month than last. This is an opportunity. As Middle East Institute scholar Robert Murphy argues, now is the time for the United States to rewrite its Middle East policy in order to finally align its interests with its values.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Mandell Group

The job search is an interesting process. It inspires a good amount of humility, most likely too much frustration and creative if not shameless interactions with those who can help. While the typical day on the job hunt can range from daydreams of a corporate corner office to threats of retirement at age 23, if nothing else it forces self-reflection. What am I interested in? Luckily, I have an answer, arriving at one can be a journey in itself. Me, my passion is security policy. While growing in popularity, this statement usually elicits some head tilts. I'll do my best to define it (as I see it) here. Security policy is not a unique field, rather it is a framework or perspective in which to view many of the challenges we are faced with today. In order to make a decision about what policy will make the nation safer, it is important to weigh the economic, environmental, political, social, and military implications of both the problem and the solution. I like to tell people that despite the rhetoric there is a good amount of idealism involved. A world free of nuclear arms is not outside the scope of security studies. Much of the recommendations made within this framework are instantly credible due to their national security guise. It's one thing for a left-of-liberal advocacy group to recommend we end our addiction to foreign oil. It's quite another when military officials recommend the same thing due to security concerns. I enjoy the comprehensive nature of the discipline, because after all, though we all pick separate majors in school, in reality issues cannot be classified into single categories. Ultimately my goal is to advocate for (and maybe one day create) policies that would make the world a safer, better place to live. That's what I'm interested in.
Now no one has snatched me off the job market as of yet. Though my search continues in earnest, I would prefer not to wait to get started. I will be developing a website where I can publish some freelance analysis, and hope to have others with similar interests contribute as well. Until I get more content on the site however, I will be sharing my thoughts here. The issues of the day are too interesting and too important to wait for someone to finally pick me. Though if any future employers are reading this, please, pick me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arabian Nights

Last night I volunteered at a charity event in Portland's glitzy Pearl District neighborhood. It was an annual fundraiser and the organizers aimed to please. The tables were set, the caterers were matching, and the theme was... in poor taste. For the record, the charity most likely picked the theme for the evening upwards of a year ago. Unfortunately however, "Arabian Nights" seemed to be both disconnected and insensitive. This was not a commonly shared opinion, honestly I seemed to be the only one to notice. After I got over the irony of flying home from Egypt only to find myself at an event playing Amr Diab's greatest hits, the tragedy of it all began to sink in. Here during this Arabian night, guests would be invited to shower themselves in festive jewelry, take a risk and get a henna tattoo, and try their luck at wine ring toss (my event) before enjoying their Lebanese meal and dinner entertainment. A good time was surely to be had by all. How many of Portland's glitterati crowd asked themselves if the same was true for the real Arabian night? Will the Arab world sleep soundly? Or will they wake up to more violence, uncertainty, and injustice?
The situation varies across the region. Mass protests continue in Yemen and Bahrain. On a smaller scale, protesters also take to the street in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In Egypt, though protests continue, the people have begun to dig in to start the real work of implementing lasting change. Egypt was on my mind last night. A friend of mine wrote about how even though the revolution accomplished an admirable feat of ousting dictator Mubarak, the real change so desperately desired by Egypt was in no way guaranteed and was perhaps even in jeopardy of slipping away. If Egypt was on my mind, Libya was on my heart. While the champagne flowed and bids were placed as casually as greetings were offered, I thought about Libya's Arabian night. Some parts of the country rejoiced after taking control from the government, but the violence and oppression continues. Qaddafi continues to kill his own people. The Libyan people are literally dying for their rights, and here we are discussing the pros and cons of the 2009 Pinot Noir.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dear Students

Dear Students,

I will not be returning as your teacher for the second semester. I think we can all agree teaching is not my calling. That said, I was very happy to have you all as my students. Your personalities and energy kept my day interesting. One of the main differences between school in Egypt and school in the States is that in Egypt, students want to relate to their teachers as they would a friend. This took some getting used to but in the end I really enjoyed it. It was a pleasure to get to know you all and I hope that we can stay in touch. If I could give you one last assignment it would be to write to me and tell me your thoughts on the revolution. I would love to hear your reactions and your predictions for the future of your country. So please write, tell me what you think!

As you continue your studies and then move on to careers, I hope you'll keep the following in mind:
1. Things are more likely to go wrong when you're in a hurry. This is something a teacher of mine told me in high school and I'm sure glad he did. For example, if you're running late for your first day of work, watch out, because this is probably when you'll lock your keys in your car.
2. Machines can tell when you're trying to do something important. You've already seen this to be true. Your printer works until you actually need to print out an assignment that is due. Keep this in mind. It helps to actually tell the machine that you know their trick and not to worry because you are not actually in a hurry.
3. Think for yourself. I'm only slightly farther down the road than you but what I am learning now is that we all see the world differently - and this is okay. At the end of the day, your thoughts make up who you are. It is okay to disagree with what you hear in class or even what your friends say. Finding out what you truly believe in and then communicating that clearly is what education is all about. Surprise: there is no right answer (except on my quizzes.)
4. Education is not just a check in the box. Please, please don't be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions. Training your mind to think critically is a dynamic, fluid process. Education is not just something that happens if you are physically present in school for 12 years. It is something you work at and develop according to your own style and interests.
5. Live deliberately. This one you've heard before, but it's true. Our time on Earth is short and I believe much better spent living a life thinking and acting with intention. As you have just witnessed, you can do whatever you want - the world is yours for the taking. So it's time to start deciding what kind of person you want to be, what kind of work you want to do, and start making your place in the world.

I hope this helps. Please don't take my departure personally. If anything you guys had me double guessing my decision. I hope to get emails from all of you soon telling me your thoughts about the new Egypt. Also, please contact me if you're ever in need of college recommendations, etc. or just some general advice or guidance.

You guys are the best.

Much love,

Miss Erica