Sunday, August 16, 2009

Essay on Personal Goals

Competition, the life blood of innovation, this is my life’s compass. Nothing makes a day brighter than being better than the next man. Shallow as my view may be to some, winning determines much of how I conduct myself. Confronted with a career stifled by being too good to young, I left to start my own company. While I was implementing a software product for a client that left much to be desired, I founded a software development project with a partner to make a better one. It is with this mindset that I determine and pursue all of my goals.

The most important goals in my life thus far have been growth in my industry and technical skills. As an IT company owner facing negative growth in customer spending for almost two years straight, this sector provides a lot of challenges. Having to be perceived as the best available for the least amount of money is a given these days. I pride myself on developing relationships that allow me to meet customer technology needs of today, while simultaneously creating a roadmap for their future needs. Giving them direction work to keep myself employed in the future.

Returning to school is not a decision I that gave much thought. Working for myself gives me the unique position of being involved in every facet of business. While functioning as a piece of the larger puzzle in the corporate world, one most often feels a disconnection between their work and the overall goals of an organization. My distaste for that situation, along with my general experience being an employee have led me to believe working for another was never again an option. Freedom from corporate culture I did not create or wish to participate in leaves me smiling at the end of every day. The thought of mindless meetings, dragging on way past there effectiveness; sometimes pop into my head on the way to the golf course many a Friday afternoon. All in all, I have a pretty good going here and I’m doing my best not to screw it up.

Maturity, and to a certain extent rational thinking in today’s economy, has a sobering effect on one’s view of the world. You can call it strategic planning or preparing for the worst, but sooner or later things go to hell (Murphy’s Law). It is with this new, slightly less opaque view of the world I return to school. Eventually the time may come when a new opportunity presents itself, one which involves coming to work under some else’s banner. The part that worries me the most is the lack of prestige bestowed upon workers who are not degreed from a university. Say what you may for the importance of a college education, and I’d be inclined to agree. But one must also concede the benefits of actual experience and the courage under fire that goes with it. In my employees, I must admit I look for a track record of success in their career more than a college degree. Alas, I am not in charge of everything in this world (I’m still waiting for the position to be created, which I will duly apply for). So I may someday be in the office of some HR executive, rambling away about the benefits to hiring myself for there “team”. It is for this day that I am sitting in Gen101 at the University of Phoenix.

While I am applying myself to the curriculum involved there are a few goals I have set for myself. The first, as you can probably tell, would be to come of less jaded in my writing. This not only applies to papers such as this, but also in my written communications, email, etc. I have a hard time with cynicism. Correction, I have a hard time without cynicism. Coming across as a likable personality in this medium, would probably do wonders for my HR skills as well. Some people just don’t have the thick skin demanded to work with me.

Another area for concern is my ability to manage multiple areas of my life simultaneously. As a person not unfamiliar with the 24 for hour workday, I sometimes have trouble letting issues go to deal with others of equal importance. One of the reasons I welcomed the addition of course work into my life was to break up the totalitarian grip IT work has been having on me. My girlfriend would probably love for me to have something to wake up in the middle of the night to work on, instead of those “stupid computers” of mine.

Lastly, I could use the humbling experience of working with others that have more knowledge in areas I am unfamiliar with. I do eventually have the goal of being a well rounded individually, who can have a conversation with another of differing views and come away feeling I have learned something. It is with this that I bid you and your fellow faculty good luck.


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North Korea Essay

North Korea is facing its seventh year of food shortages arising from weather-related problems. A famine killed tens of thousand of people in 1996-97. (Washington Times; December 8, 2000; Thomas Wagner, Associated Press) Thousands crossed the border into China looking for food.

(Washington Post; July 23, 2001;Pg. 16; John Pomfret, Washington Post Foreign Service) A large percentage of the population remains susceptible to malnutrition and their living conditions continue to worsen as energy shortages shut down factories and further reduce the ability of the country to feed itself. Although the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, tensions remain. As a consequence, the regime continues to spend huge sums and devote scare resources to feeding and maintaining a huge and menacing army.

Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict
Information on developments and trends within North Korea's borders is difficult to obtain. It is therefore difficult to determine with certainty to what degree North Korea's current problems are due to incompetent leadership, to the failures of a planned economy, or to environmental changes. That said, it is clear that recent changes in northeastern Asia's weather have played a role in undermining the North Korean regime. "The realization that North Korea was in deep trouble began with an act of nature. On the sticky midsummer day of July 26, 1995, the skies over the country darkened. Rains began to pound the earth, rains that were heavy, steady, and unrelenting and that soon turned into a deluge of biblical proportions. The DPRK Bureau of Hydro-Meteorological Service recorded 23 inches of rain in ten days; in some towns and villages, according to the United Nations, as much as 18 inches of rain fell in a single day, bringing floods that were considered the worst in a century." (The Two Koreas; Pg. 370; Don Oberdorfer). Notably also, commenting on this summer's drought in North Korea, the Washington Times quoted North Korea's foreign news outlet, KCNA, as saying: "From the climatological point of view, this long spell of drought is something rare in the history of meteorological observation. It is believe to happen once in 1,000 years." (The Washington Times; June 6, 2000; Pg. 15)

North Korea had been experiencing economic dislocations and food shortages since it lost its East European and Soviet trading partners in 1991, but the incredible series of punishing blows nature dealt to North Korea in the form of droughts, floods, storms and tidal waves from 1995 through 2001created serious problems for the regime. "North Koreans were consuming oak leaves, grasses, roots, and tree bark and other non-standard food--." (The Two Koreas; Don Oberdorfer; Pg 394) As evidenced by the disbanding of the Korean People's Army Sixth Corps in early fall 1995 (The Two Koreas; Don Oberdorfer; Pg. 375), the food shortages appear to have had an impact even on the military, that institution on which the North Korean leadership depends to remain in power. That these natural disasters were the results of environmental changes in northeastern Asia rather than something the North Korean regime did appears clear from the appearance of similar phenomena throughout the area, from never-before-seen severe snowstorms in Mongolia to droughts in neighboring parts of China.

Except that Homer-Dixon discusses the impact of environmental change in terms of a developed North being threatened by an environmentally degraded South, and the situation between North Korea and South is reversed in these terms, Homer-Dixon's hypothesized three types of conflict are applicable to North Korea in all aspects.

Simple Scarcity Conflicts
River water is one of the three types of resources which Homer-Dixon foresees as a likely cause for simple scarcity conflict, and the conditions for such a conflict exist between North and South Korea: They both share a major tributary of the Han River which cuts through the center of Seoul. The river is vital to both countries, which funnel their water from dams to hydroelectric plants providing power and potable water to millions of people. Because North Korea is energy starved, the government has begun diverting large amounts of tributary waters to hydroelectric plants, a diversion of water resources that threatens South Korea's vital interests. Park Eung Kyuk, a public professor at Seoul's Hanyang University, observed: "This is one of the most urgent problems between the North and South since the Korean War" (Los Angeles Times; August 26, 2001; pg. 9; Christopher Torchia, Associated Press).

A more immediate scarcity, however, is food. Flooded coal mines led to reduced amounts of energy to run trains and factories, including those that produced fertilizers, reducing yields in areas not affected by flooding. Dormant factories were sometimes dismantled and its parts sold illegally across the Chinese border for food. Before defecting to the South on 12 February 1997, Hwang Jang Yop, one of North Korea's most prominent officials and the architect of its Juche philosophy of self reliance, told a trusted South Korean contact "War must be prevented at any cost" and to do so South Korea should provide food the people of the North ---." (The Two Koreas; Don Oberdorfer; Pg. 403)

Acute Group Identify Conflicts
Acute group identity conflicts are likely to arise should the North Korean regime implode or further natural disasters lead to mass starvation and the movement of masses of people over the North Korean-Chinese border in search of substance. When Famine struck North Korea in 1996-97, many fled to China in search of food. At first, China adopted a humanitarian position and allowed them to stay in the border region. In the summer of 2001, however, China launched a campaign of forced reparation of North Korean refugees (Washington Post; July 23, 2001; Pg.16; John Pomfret, Washington Post Foreign Service). This gives rise to the question, what will China do if mass starvation hits North Korea again and hundreds of thousands of North
Koreans try to cross into China in search of food? It appears reasonable to believe that China will take strong measures to close its borders in such circumstances, including firing on refugees. But will happen if some of the refugees include armed North Korean army deserters, possibly even army units? The potential for escalation of a refugee matter into a regional military crisis appears real - and dangerous.

Relative Deprivation Conflicts
There appears to be little likelihood of a relative deprivation conflict in North Korea because the military is solidly in control. There could be surprises and unforeseen turns of events, however. In shifting his power base from the Korean Workers Party to the military (The Two Koreas; Pg.408; Don Oberdorfer), North Korean leader Kim Chong-IL probably won the support and loyalty of the military with scarce resources, but it appears reasonable to believe he must have alienated and frustrated many in the ministries and KWP. As they find themselves with less of a shrinking “economic pie”(Homer-Dixon 505), they may be willing to join those lower status elements, farmers and workers, to take action if an opening should appear. As yet, Kim Chong-Il has named no successor. It appears possible a military officer or other power broker could move to seize power for himself in the case of Kim Chong-Il's sudden death, either through natural causes or assassination. A power struggle and civil war could easily breakout with the disenfranchised classes, the KWP and others, throwing their support to that person who they perceive as being most likely to return to them their perceived fair share of the economic pie.

Then, too, as noted by Homer-Dixon, "highly centralized dictatorship threatened by revolutionary actions, purges, and strikes are especially prone to engage in external war and belligerence." (Homer-Dixon; Pg. 506) North Korea does not appear to be threatened by revolutionary actions, purges, and strikes, but it is threatened by economic collapse and mass starvation and has long behaved belligerently toward South Korea and the UN forces stationed there. Commenting on the situation in 1997, American Commander General Tilelli said that "what worried him and his staff was the possibility that the North Korean leadership could become so desperate that the combined power of the U.S. and South Korean forces might no longer deter a massive attack." (The Two Koreas; Pg.397; Don Oberdorfer) Given the lack of what Pyongyang's leadership considers other options, said a member of Tilelli's staff, 'I don't think a decision to attack would be irrational-though it might turn out to be wrong.' " (The Two Koreas; Pg. 397' Don Oberdorfer) Shortly before his defection, Hwang Jang Yop also warned South Korea that "the North is developing nuclear, rocket and chemical weapons" and "believes it will win in a war." (The Two Koreas; Pg. 404; Don Oberdorfer)

Robert Heilbroner's observation that "Such regimes could be tempted to use nuclear blackmail as a 'means of inducing the developed world to transfer its wealth on an unprecedented scale to the underdeveloped world" (Homer-Dixon, Pg. 507) appears to describe North Korea's current foreign policy. The United States, South Korea, Japan and China are all delivering fuel and food to satisfy the demands and needs of the North Korean regime. The United States is obliged to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil annually, as well as to provide two light-water reactors by 2003 (with a cost of ca. 1 billion dollars a piece) (The Two Koreas; Pg. 357; Don Oberdorfer). Richard Ullman may be right in arguing that "third world nations are unlikely to confront the North violently in the face of the 'superior destructive capabilities of the rich,'" but that does not mean they will not and cannot threaten to confront wealthier nations violently. North Korea seems to be an example of an impoverished nation that has already successfully carried out such a threat.


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