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There are two questions to ask when assessing whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria: Is there a legitimate national security interest at risk here? And if so, is U.S. intervention in Syria the best approach to protect our interests?
The answer to the first question is a “maybe.” International conventions such as the Geneva Protocol from 1925 (signed by Syria 1968) prohibit the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (especially by a government against its own population) is reprehensible and threatens not only regional stability, but the well-being of people around the globe.
However, sweeping statements by our own politicians such as drawing “red lines” for foreign policy doctrine might threaten national security even more than the current turmoil in the Middle East. Rather than empower the U.S. to respond to difficult situations, such statements narrow tactical and military options, and have caused credibility problems in the past such as when Reagan stated the U.S. would not withdraw from Lebanon.
President Obama’s “red line” claim has put him in a difficult position: If Congress does not follow his recommendation and deliver upon his previous threats, Obama’s credibility is damaged. As tough of a loss as that may be for the President, it would be a victory for the U.S. One of the great differences between the U.S. and those countries threatening our security is that no single person can decide the fate of the entire nation. Future U.S. Presidents should come to finally understand that ex-ante military doctrines are not theirs to set, and they should consult Congress before declaring how the country will react to particular actions.
The move of President Obama to involve Congress in deciding whether to intervene in Syria or not was the right thing to do. Presenting this move as a surprise and not involving Congress from the very beginning is the actual scandal and exemplary of the lack of respect for our tripartite system of checks and balances cultivated by this administration.
As for the question of whether U.S. intervention is the best approach to stabilize the situation in the Middle East, the answer is a very likely “no.” Intervening will lead to a litany of unintended consequences, and likely fail to accomplish its stated purpose of sending a statement to Assad and other regimes in the region and around the world that Weapons of Mass Destruction will not be tolerated. At this point, intervention would serve the political interests of the President more than the security interests of the U.S.
It is not about isolationism but about being aware of the unintended consequences of interventionism. Many problems in the Middle East can be at least be partially seen as unintended consequences of former interventions, military aid, or intelligence campaigns. An entire decade of war has not stabilized the region at all but rather brought more instability, political uncertainty, and terror to the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Claims by some that less military intervention abroad means being disconnected to other cultures or indifferent to atrocities overseas are just not correct. The notion of not creating bigger fires in the Middle East has nothing to do with isolationism practiced in the early 20th, century but with a 21st century understanding of the interconnectedness of the world that suggests greater military intervention and greater violence might not lead to peace and stability.
Hawkish Republicans and bellicose Democrats (following the administration) are trying to continue the neoconservative heritage of the past ten years and thus lead us to a second decade of war.
The pro-interventionist alliance of Democrats and Republicans is another illustration how the mainstream parts of both parties try to push for more policing around the world and neglect the people’s opinion on these issues. It is now up to the American public, dovish Democrats, and non-interventionist Republicans to prevent another war. Real liberal Democrats are hopefully starting to understand that the Obama administration practices a style of foreign policy which is diametrically opposed to their fundamental ideas.
It’s about time to finally overcome the neoconservative direction of U.S. foreign policy. Congress and the President have to understand that stability in the Middle East can’t be brought by additional U.S.-led intervention.
The ongoing NSA revelations and the debate on how to deal with those who inform the public about our rights being violated shows that the United States is at a pivotal point in our history. We need to decide whether we want to be governed by secret courts and institutions which don’t hesitate to testify falsely in front of congressional committees or if we want to live in a society where we are protected against those who feel they have the authority to do.
Today’s youth have grown up in the most connected world that has ever existed. Our generation recognizes modern communications, social media, and especially the Internet as one of the greatest innovations in human history. We love sharing, liking, and collaborating via the web, keeping in touch with friends from overseas, and being able to work in virtual offices. We share information on the web willingly and voluntarily, knowing that it is available to others. We use free-of-charge services such as Gmail with the awareness that their business model is based on advertisement and marketing. We accept that trade-off: We share a limited amount of our information to gain the significant benefits that come from high-quality email services and online collaboration. But we do not consent to share everything with everyone.
When politicians such as President Obama and representatives of various intelligence services tell us that there is a trade-off between privacy and security, they are not actually offering a trade. Not only are we offered any meaningful mechanisms to defend privacy from these latest encroachments. There is little-to-no proof that programs such as PRISM add any value to counter-terrorism efforts. They are asking for a blank check to override our privacy and offering us nothing in return.
The Obama Administration and hawkish politicians on both sides of the aisle have labeled Edward Snowden as an “enemy of the state.” As long as they define “the state” by the individuals who hold the power within the state and the systems that exist to exert their powers, without regard to the lawfulness of their activities, then they are right. However, if we recognize the state as more than that, as an embodiment of principles of justice, to achieve certain ends such as protecting human rights, whose authority is derived from the people, who must be able to check what those in power are doing, then they are wrong. To the extent that a person is an “enemy of the state” for holding that state accountable to the principles of justice it is meant to embody and protect, we should call that state an “enemy of the people.”
My generation is frightened by the fact that we have been ruled by two presidential administrations and multiple intelligence services that bear greater resemblance to a dystopian Hollywood movie than the model of liberal and constitutional values we are taught in history and government classes. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison cannot even talk about the reasons why he shut down his service, for to do so would bring about criminal charges. It is unbelievable that this is possible in the country that brought about modern Democracy.
Our government, and the court system in particular, needs to start protecting people’s privacy instead of snooping around and massively collecting data of innocent citizens. Real security can only come about when we are secure in our rights.
For this reason, my generation demands more oversight for US surveillance practices.
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