Intervention Into Syria Is As Well-Intended As It Is Ill-Advised

President Obama may soon authorize military intervention in Syria. The decision apparently rests on whether the Syrian government’s slaughter of possibly more than 1,000 of its own citizens was aided by chemical weaponry. Besides the fact that this is an odd and arbitrary basis upon which to violate another country’s sovereignty, intervention into Syria is as well-intended as it is ill-advised.

The Assad regime has denied responsibility for the attacks, and authorized a U.N. convoy to inspect the sites of the attacks to determine whether chemical weapons were used. Yesterday the convoy had to turn back after it was met with sniper fire, for which the Assad regime has also denied responsibility.

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There is good reason to believe the Assad regime is committing human rights violations and failing to fully cooperate with international law. However, this is true of many nations across the world at any given time, and the U.S. simply does not have the resources to intervene in every case. In addition, nothing in actuality makes the Syrian case more pressing than any other.

Most importantly, military strikes against the Assad regime would necessarily assist the rebel forces. There is no indication that a takeover by these forces would create a better situation for the Syrian people or the international community. There is, however, strong evidence that parts of the rebellion are strongly tied with Al-Qaeda.

Military intervention into Syria would mean that the U.S. is declaring war on a terrible, but democratically elected, regime, only to have it replaced by a resistance which is made up of an organization with whom the United States is already at war.

In Iran, the U.S. deposed Mossadeq. In Iraq the U.S. supported what a U.N. Security Council statement called chemical warfare by Saddam Hussein against Iran. The U.S. armed the rebels in Afghanistan who would later begin Al-Qaeda. There is no way to know the consequences of a military engagement in Syria. But if history and an ongoing war in Afghanistan is any guide, there will be no winning. Perhaps that’s why only 9% of Americans support military intervention.

We don’t want to see further decades of unrest and human rights violations perpetrated by governments we helped put in place. This is why my generation demands no military intervention in Syria.

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Germany’s Recognition of Bitcoin Gives Young People a True Monetary Alternative

If everyday consumers and young people are craving positive economic indicators, they can no doubt turn to the de-facto legislation of an alternative digital currency in Europe’s most powerful country for inspiration.

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In an unprecedented move, the German Federal Ministry of Finance declared in a statement earlier this month that Bitcoin is not only an acceptable “unit of account,” but also can be classified as “private money,” granting the digital currency its first official positive recognition by a state.

The statement came as a response to a parliamentary inquiry by MP Frank Schäffler, a member of the Free Democratic Party with a seat on the German Parliament’s Finance Committee.

“We should have competition in the production of money,” comments Schäffler on his website. “I have long been a proponent of Friedrich August von Hayek’s scheme to denationalize money. Bitcoins are a first step in this direction.”

For the struggling youth in Germany and across the world, this is a welcome and necessary change.

Bitcoin, the decentralized digital currency encrypted with the latest in cryptographic protections, has been used as an alternative to the current monetary system by thousands of tech entrepreneurs and curious digital natives since it was conceived in 2009.

In the last month alone, the price of a Bitcoin has shot up nearly 30 percent to its current price of 90 euros. It previously reached its all-time high of 200 euros at the peak of the banking crisis in Cyprus, given that the digital currency became an immediate alternative to worried consumers around the world.

What makes Bitcoin so attractive to young people is its autonomy from centralized, government control. Instead of being printed at the whim of a central bank, the currency is “mined” by thousands of computers solving a complex algorithm. It relies on crowdsourcing of bandwidth and source coding to keep transactions active and safe from hacking.

The more Bitcoins are mined, the more difficult it becomes to create one, ensuring that the currency will not fall into the trap of inflation because of its set finite amount of 21 million Bitcoins.

But more than just a currency safe from government hands, the fact that it exists only in the form of a chain of characters ensures that it remains purely digital, allowing instant trades at the fraction of the cost of credit cards. This is easily accomplished by the use of a smartphone wallet app or by exchanging Bitcoin addresses between people. This facilitates trade and removes the middlemen of credit card companies or even banks.

Already in the streets of Berlin, with the highest concentration of Bitcoin transactions in the world, the currency has become popular among bars, restaurants, printing shops and even a high-class boutique, according to the Guardian newspaper.

The existence of this crypto-currency has given young people a true monetary alternative to the national currencies which are only propelled by debt and arbitrary interest rates.

This is a welcome sign in Germany, which less than 90 years ago was marred by a failing currency and destructive hyperinflation which created an economic environment conducive to radical and dangerous worldviews.

Moreover, low interest rates maintained by central banks provide little to no incentive for young workers to begin saving their money, so they are encouraged to spend as much as possible in order to help sustain the current monetary status quo.

Since young people are already so keen at conducting business and the majority of their communication online, the transaction costs to using a purely digital, online currency are extremely low.

What better for the next generation than to have a system which encourages choice, rewards innovation, and fosters a deep respect for the value of work?

On a European continent currently contemplating another billion Euro bailout for a struggling member state, the recognition of Bitcoin by the German Finance Ministry is a pivotal moment for young people to begin to control their own destiny.

As the taxpayers of tomorrow, they are ultimately the ones who will be stuck with the bill with today’s excessive spending and government devaluation of national currencies.

For the sake of our future, let’s give young people a chance with an alternative currency.

If you’d like to speak with or book Yael or any of our other Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.

The Disaster That Was Waiting to Happen in Egypt

A few weeks ago, one of the worst episodes of mob violence I have heard of in Egypt’s recent history occurred. Not too far from Cairo’s bustling in center, a man and two of his friends were brutally murdered by a mob. Their crime? They were Shia, followers of a certain religious ideology that wasn’t to the liking of their executioners. Days earlier, president Morsi had been present at a big open-air meeting with his followers and supporters to talk about Syria. In his presence, people came to the stage, inciting hatred and sectarianism. He did nothing.

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Now, many bearded men (beards being trait marks of Muslim Brotherhood members in particular and Islamists in general in the public perception) have reported being harassed on the streets. The tide has turned and the Muslim Brotherhood is now in the shoes of the despised minority, the one vulnerable to mob violence. In fact, just a few days ago, they had to be escorted out of a mosque they were staying in since angry crowds had gathered outside threatening their safety. The very conspiracy theories they helped spread while in power are now being used against them, the rhetoric of inciting and condoning violence has continued, except now they are the object, not the subject of the hate speech.

Mohammed Morsi was the first elected president after the revolution, his victory came in a very polarized time where the votes were split 50/50. Instead of realizing the magnitude of the country’s problems, whether social or economic, Morsi completely ignored former promises for reconciliation and comprise and instead pursued a course that could eventually only lead to collision. After having alienated the judiciary and the media, the former president ultimately alienated the very democracy that brought him to power by issuing a Constitutional Declaration placing himself above judicial scrutiny and appointing a so-called ‘Private’ Prosecutor. He tried justifying this extreme disrespect for the very foundations of the state by claiming revolutionary legitimacy to do so.

And so, months later, the Army, in a turn of irony worthy of Egypt, proclaimed to be deposing the president with so-called revolutionary legitimacy as well. The legitimacy they felt was granted to them by the millions who took to the streets demanding the departure of the regime, in scenes reminiscent to those of January 25th, 2011.

As tragic as this rise of populism is, coupled with a rhetoric riddled with conspiracy theories and completely void of reason and realism, there is an important lesson to be learned. When liberals demanded a limit to state power, a fair Constitution that doesn’t discriminate and true protections for human rights, they were ignored. Those who were in power, the Muslim Brotherhood, likely never imagined they would fall from grace so soon. They never imagined that they’d be indiscriminately called terrorists and people would justify their indiscriminate killing. They probably didn’t imagine some would be asking for their political exclusion by law, such as the law they used in order to exclude old regime members when they came to power.

The golden rule goes like this: “Do to others what you would have done unto you.” The lesson out of all of this for Egypt is that the system is more important than the actors on the stage. With a system of checks and balances, decentralization, rule of law and respect for individual liberty, minorities have as little to fear as majorities. Their rights are considered as holy and they know that a safe, stable and prosperous future is dependent upon the reciprocity of those fundamental principles. Instead of falling into the pit of hateful vengeance, Egyptians need to step back, see what got us here and make sure they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. For those who light fires are too often eventually engulfed by the flames themselves once the winds turn.

As an advocate for my generation, I see an obligation to protect the democratic process, with appropriate checks, regardless of who is in power.

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