Drawing A Line Between Liberty And Security In The Face Of Terrorism

Drawing a Line Between Liberty and Security in the Face of Terrorism

The national and international news inundating our media sources beginning in December of 2015 have been concentrated mostly on ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and the terror issues it has created throughout the world. 2016 is a Presidential election year in the United States. National security has now become the front and center issue for this election due to these new ISIL threats.

Many candidates, governmental leaders, commentators, as well as many concerned citizens have been calling for some extreme measures to protect the U.S. from further and larger attacks. The crucial questions arising from these threats are what actions need to be taken to protect Americans and to what extent these measures should be extended to.

Our country was founded largely upon the ideas of liberty and human rights for all. These ideals have been upheld throughout most of our history with notable and timely exceptions. These exceptions occurred during times of extreme threats against our national security. Prime examples of these happened during the Civil War, World War II, and after the 9/11 attacks. Measures were then taken which may have enhanced national security but also seriously curtailed many of our Constitutional rights.

Which way will we now turn in the aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. Our national security may be at a crossroads but most certainly the quality and very existence of our personal liberty and human rights are at stake. I have begun writing this Hub in the afternoon before President Barack Obama's address to the nation regarding this ISIL threat. Hopefully he and and his national security team will strike the correct and balanced response both now and in the future.

I will begin this Hub by outlining past national security threats and our response to them as well as the results. Then I will give a brief exposition of the current events that have led to the rise of ISIL and their newest and most ominous round of terrorism. Next I will give a summary of the few options being floated by different policymakers and pundits to deal with ISIL and its threat to us and the world. Finally I will state my opinions on the best avenues for us to advance against this threat and why they are the most appropriate in ensuring our security while also upholding our personal liberties.

Extreme measures taken against real or perceived security threats date back to almost the beginning of our republic. President John Adams and his Federalist Congressional supporters passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 in response to French threats to the United States during an undeclared naval war between our two nations. These acts placed heavy restrictions on immigrants and banned false statements against the federal government. It was ill advised and somewhat paranoiac and helped lead to President Adams' defeat at the hands of Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Most of these acts were then allowed to expire.

President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the first year of the Civil War allowing his government to detain indefinitely any perceived disloyal citizens without any legal proceedings. He ignored the Supreme Court's ruling overturning these actions. He also imposed martial law in some areas and curbed some freedom of speech and the press. This was all done in the name of national security because of the threat posed by the Confederates and their sympathizers.

The federal government imposed a large litany of restrictions on the American people during World War II but one was particularly heinous. That action was the internment of many Japanese Americans into camps during that war. This was to preclude possible Japanese sympathizers from sabotaging the U.S. and its war efforts.

Most recently, the President George W. Bush administration performed several actions in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that severely curtailed liberty and civil rights in the pursuit of greater national security. The first was the rounding up, interrogating, and then the indefinitely imprisoning of hundreds of perceived Muslim enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay without any due process of law.

The second was the passing into law of the Patriot Act. This Act was created to give our surveillance agencies more tools and almost unfettered access to most conversations and records in an effort to thwart possible new terrorist attacks. The Patriot Act gave the government a virtual blank check to gather information from all sources on all Americans and those who contacted them. This was done in the name of fighting terrorism and avoiding another 9/11 or worse. This broad blanketing of data was recently legislated against but the government still has wide surveillance powers.

The rise of ISIL can be traced back largely to two events. The first was the 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein and eliminated his army. Regardless of one's view on the sagacity of initiating the war, the subsequent disbanding of Hussein's army with nowhere for them to go and nothing to do proved to be a recipe for disaster.

The bulk of the insurgency that fought both the U.S. and the new Iraq government installed after the invasion consisted of mostly former Iraqi army personnel. This force was somewhat beaten back and degraded with the "surge" started by the Bush administration in 2007 but was never fully defeated in any substantial way.

This leads us to the second major cause of the rise of ISIL. The Syrian people began to rebel against their dictatorial leader President Bashar Al-Assad in early 2011. This was inspired by earlier uprisings in the Middle East during the "Arab Spring" of the previous year. The rebels began to attain a series of victories and Assad's time as dictator appeared to be coming to an end. His forces then began to bomb rebel areas relentlessly and even perpetrated a chemical weapons attack on a rebel controlled civilian town.

President Obama had stated earlier that a chemical weapons attack would be a "red line" that the United States would have to respond to if crossed. Great Britain was in agreement but President David Cameron decided to put military action against Syria to a vote in Parliament. He resoundingly lost that vote.

President Obama also decided that he needed, and I believe that he was Constitutionally correct, to have Congressional approval for a military action in Syria. Unfortunately, a war weary American people reflected in its Congress began to turn on this prospective action. The President saw the handwriting on the wall after the British Parliament vote and decided to withdraw his request and cancelled his proposed Syrian military action.

Russia subsequently intervened and brokered an agreement with Syria to have its chemical weapons stockpile destroyed. Syria complied with it and their chemical weapons threat was eliminated. Unfortunately it also left the Syrian Civil War in place with a political vacuum. Enter ISIL.

ISIL had already gained power and territory in Iraq when President Nouri al-Maliki refused to make any concessions to Sunnis in Iraq. His government even launched major attacks on some rebel Sunni villages. The Sunnis were outraged and allowed ISIL to gain the traction they needed in their areas.

The political vacuum in Syria allowed ISIL to spread into that country and lay the groundwork for their initial caliphate ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Their ultimate goal is to spread throughout the Middle East and beyond to create their larger caliphate which they call ISIL.

The question now arises as to what the nations of the world should do to battle this threat. Also to determine if they indeed feel the need to do so at all. The current world reaction is a hodgepodge of efforts that have been both ineffectual and often at odds with one another.

The Iraqi army has proven to be ineffectual until recently and has had to be buffeted by Iran and the Kurds, Syria has also struggled in this fight which is exacerbated by its fights with other rebel groups.

Other Middle Eastern nations have offered only lip service in the fight against ISIL. They know that ISIL's final goal of Levant will encompass all of their nations. Fear and apathy have precluded them from facing this threat up to this point. Saudi Arabia recently announced a new coalition of 34 Islamic nations to defend themselves against ISIL. We need to see in the future if this will amount to any significant action. Ominously Iran was left out of this coalition. This is just another example of the enmity between the Sunnis and Shiites in this region. It could greatly hamper this effort.

The United States and most of the NATO nations are now giving increased tactical support to those fighting ISIL. This support includes airstrikes, training, and reconnaissance but not much more at this time.

The Russians have inserted themselves into this conflict but mostly to prop up President Assad in Syria. They have largely conducted bombing raids on rebel groups other than ISIL. This may be changing now that ISIL has shot down a Russian passenger airliner. Talks continue between the U.S. and Russia on how to better align themselves to fight this threat in Syria and possibly come up with a peace agreement. There is much skepticism as to whether this will bear any fruit.

How should we now best proceed in fighting ISIL while also maintaining our American ideals of liberty and justice. Many extreme measures have already been floated. A couple of these have been by Republican presidential candidates.

Donald Trump has advocated for not allowing any Muslims to enter or re-enter the United States until this entire matter is sorted out. This is a very radical, un-American, and probably unconstitutional policy proposal.

Senator Ted Cruz advocates for the carpet bombing of ISIL in the Middle East. He does not seem to mind the fact that these terrorists have embedded themselves within the innocent citizenry. Carpet bombing would thus produce a horrible genocide that would make the United States a pariah around the world and especially within the Middle East.

These examples of extreme proposals against Muslims have gained significant support among Americans due to the immediate and enhanced threat that ISIL is perceived to be capable of. The past history of how the U.S. has reacted to extraordinarily dangerous threats shows that extreme measures are not out of our realm of possibility. This being said, what actions should we take to avoid similar draconian measures while also working to eliminate the ISIL threat and keeping Americans safe?

First off, we need to cease demonizing Muslim people whether they are Americans or not. This just creates new terrorists as well as sympathizers. We need to keep the vast majority of Muslims who are our friends and allies on our side. Their assistance in fighting ISIL terrorists both at home and in the Middle East is vital in our quest to eliminate this extreme terrorist army.

Furthermore we should not go back to the days of the President George W. Bush era where we sought to go it alone and impose our will on a country or region. This ISIL threat is a worldwide one but most immediately to the Middle Eastern nations. It is their countries that these fanatics seek to take over to create their caliphate. We most certainly should continue to offer our support and definitely increase it. Sending our troops to fight them would only portray us as the bad guy and would expand ISIL's support. These Middle Eastern nations need to assert themselves and fight for their freedom and not always rely on the United States.

The old tactics of isolating a perceived minority threat during a time of national crisis such as during World War II helps no one and strips away at our Constitutional rights. This is true against the oppressed minority group but also against all of us. It sets dangerous precedents and slowly degrades our rights. The post 9/11 Patriot Act is another example and our rights in this instance have never been fully recovered.

We need to embrace our Muslim American community and reinforce the rights and values with them that have made our country great. Giving in to our most base fears and resorting to draconian measures hurts all of us.

Ignoring our Middle East allies and simply throwing our armed forces against ISIL will not only alienate everyone in the Middle East but it will also strip them of their responsibility to deal with their problems. We are currently paying for that failed policy with this newest terrorist incarnation.

President Obama should continue to gather allies all throughout the world and especially in the Middle East. We need to enlist and empower them to deal with this mortal risk to civilization. Our continued upholding of Constitutional rights to all Americans and human rights to all peoples will show everyone which side it is in their interest to support. This choice will become crystal clear if we follow this path and not revert to our past draconian actions during national security crises.

This path is not the most emotionally satisfying solution but it is the only one that has a chance of success. Otherwise ISIL will grow indefinitely and we will become a pariah. Hopefully the United States will stay on this sensible course and not revert back to our bygone bad ways.

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Comments 22 comments

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 10 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

A good and interesting look at an important topic.

Another time that the American government did not respect civil rights and liberties was during World War 1 and after the Russian Revolution. Look up the Sedition Act of 1918 and the Palmer Raids.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

You are absolutely correct B. Leekley but I did not want my Hub to go on even longer than it did already. I tried to stick with better known episodes. Our country's dealings with national security problems is very poor. I know that national security is the number one job of the federal government but much more consideration needs to be considered for preserving our Constitutional rights. They get eroded more after each event. Thank you very much for your comments.


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 10 months ago from Orange County California

HSchneider

I have to disagree with your entire position on this subject.

First of all, the Constitution has been watered down since the 1900s, It has been misinterpreted by the SCOTUS anytime the government is involved in the case. Specifically, their interpretation of the Interstate Commerce Clause which allowed the Federal Government to bloat its size and vastly increase its scope, at the expense of the states and the rights and duties.

Since 1970, the federal government did nothing to protect us from the oil cartel and its monopoly on oil. The two oil shortages in the 70s was the Middle East flexing their control of oil to teach us a lesson not to support Israel.

The 14th Amendment, nor the constitution really protected the people. This country is a Democratic Republic and it was created to run by majority rule, and not the whims and desires of the few.

The constitution never meant that all men are created equal, as Blacks were used as chattel and didn't count as a whole person. Women weren't allowed to vote, and the 14th Amendment or the 15th Amendment didn't give them that right.

Was is more important in the US than the right to vote, and yet it took until 1920 for women to be able to vote.

So to say what is Un American and Un Constitutional is really fantasy, if you are trying to use the words of the constitution, as the constitution is only as good as it is interpreted by the SCOTUS.

The Federal Income Tax violates your 4th, and 5th amendments constitutional protections but the SCOTUS has always found in favor of the government.

The 16th Amendment was totally against the context of the constitution by allowing Income to be tax without regard to apportionment among the states. The Constitution itself allows for Income to be Taxed, but it had to be apportioned among the states.

The US hasn't declared a war since WWII, and we haven't won a war since 1898. Winning a War means to resolve the issues that were the reasons for us to go to war. Clearly, that rules out winning WWII. Eastern Europe went from the NAZI to the Communist and they weren't freed until the Berlin Wall went down.

My point is that the constitution has been corrupted for over a hundred years, and today it no longer resembles the constitution of the US. The words are the same, but the SCOTUS has changed their meaning, and not for the better.

ISIS and ISIL were directly attributed to the once again failure to win a war, this time the war in IRAQ. Leaving IRAQ to fend for itself after we took away its equilibrium under Saddam Hussein was wrong. But we did that many time in the past in other Non Declared Wars.

We are technically at peace, and have been since WWII, so the Patriot Act should have been unconstitutional.

The immigrants that came to this country in the late 1800s and early 1900s came here to become part of this country. Today, many of the immigrants are illegal, and those that come in to the US legally want the US to adopt the culture, and the laws of their old country.

We have an immigration legal system, and yet we don't follow it for those people that get into the country illegally.

Finally, the US Constitution has been warped for the few, while it was written for the majority. 911 was proof that the federal government was not capable of protecting its citizens against an attack in their own country.

Not a single defense was involved in protecting the country during the attack, and non of the trillions of dollars spent on the government to protect us was effective on that day.

19 low tech terrorists outwitted the entire federal, state, and local governments.


James Slaven profile image

James Slaven 10 months ago from Indiana, USA

Nicely written. I agree with a fair amount, especially how we should treat others. The items I disagree on, which are quite few, and that are new are tucked away to think about later when I have peace and quiet.

On a personal note, I get the need for safety, but prefer to err on the side of liberty and freedom. That is, if we cannot have just near total freedom (I'm not an anarchist).


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

This concept is repeated and I feel uneasy as this being a reason to not do something: "Sending our troops to fight them would only portray us as the bad guy and would expand ISIL's support." Worrying that fighting evil will make evil worse is a little strange. We could have said the same with Japan and Germany in that WW. We also have no control over what madmen will do. We can only do what is right - regardless of how we look.

The world is different today than in your examples. Today one man can carry a nuclear suitcase and destroy an entire city. The examples are helpful but not defining or controlling. History does repeat itself. But today is history for tomorrow.

A most helpful and intriguing article that covers the bases and gives us all pause to reflect.


Prakash Dighe profile image

Prakash Dighe 10 months ago from Dallas, Texas, USA

Well written hub, with in-depth analysis of a complex situation facing the world. We all know there are no quick fixes, and finding a balance between our security and privacy concerns is not an easy task. I generally agree with your views, though the question is how long do we wait for the Muslim and other nations to put their troops on the ground? The only way to defeat ISIS is have troops on the ground, along with air attacks. Delays in this aspect works to the enemy's advantage. We probably need to set a time frame within which troops from various nations - Muslim, European and some of ours need to be on the ground.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Bradmaster, I agree that the Constitution has been interpreted many different ways in the past both for the good and the bad depending on how one looks at each issue. My view on Trump's proposal to keep all Muslims out is arbitrary and against our principles as a nation. Can this action be interpreted by the Court as constitutional? Sure. But I would consider that to be absolutely wrong. Most of the other GOP candidates agreed. Cruz's assertion that he would carpet bomb ISIL anywhere is simply inhumane for the innocents in the region. That is my opinion as well as many others. I do not wish to debate all of your arguments against the various Amendments and how they have been misinterpreted. We have covered that substantially in other Hubs and we are at loggerheads with most of these issues. I would be happy to debate one issue at a time that you raise but after just getting home from work, I simply cannot. My main assertion in this Hub is that we need to engage our Muslim friends at home and abroad to more successfully fight ISIL. Sending our armies in there has simply created new and stronger enemies. Thank you for your comments.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, James. I also agree with your tendency to err on the side of freedom and liberty. It is true that we cannot have anarchy rule but we must be sensible and only fight the good and smart fight. Also not to fight everyone else's fight. I look forward to hearing your disagreements with parts of my Hub in the future.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Eric, I am all for going to fight an imminent and mortal enemy if there is a clear reason, a clear strategy, and a definite confidence in our doing the right thing. Our war in Iraq was a major factor in creating ISIL. Not the only one but the first and most important. Going back to simply throw our armies against them, I believe would make the situation worse. Enabling and encouraging our Middle Eastern allies to do so seems to me to be the better way to go in this instance. Thank you as always for your comments and compliments on my Hub.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, Prakash. I agree that we have to ensure that Middle Eastern nations must put troops on the ground quickly. Strong diplomacy in this area is needed. These countries must be shown that their very lives are at stake and we are not going to always bail them out. We will certainly aid them greatly but they must step up. We probably would have to go in eventually if they began to make even more serious and rapid gains but I still believe we must wait on this. We already have advisors on the ground and this will surely increase as it should but we cannot be seen as the invader again.


bradmasterOCcal profile image

bradmasterOCcal 10 months ago from Orange County California

hschneider

My point is that today and for the last one hundred years we have watered down the constitution and now the minority rules and that is unAmerican as the country was created as a Democratic Republic.

That was my point in the previous comment, and I gave it examples. So it is not a lot of points, it is one point with examples. And my comment on your hub is that its point is Un American, as well as illogical in the context you provided. My opinion.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Excellent position and one that I understand, HSchneider. That damned hard to fine tune balance. Certainly your contention that the parties at hand need to deal with their own mess is critical to an understanding.

Cuss it though we may, our system usually finds a proper balance between our Constitution and our security. I was reflecting and decided that you examples tell me, we do it very well with few exceptions.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 10 months ago

HSchneider, this is a dangerous and touchy subject, and you have analyzed it well. As far as whether or how we participate in the warfare against ISIS/ISIS, it seems that we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. We must remember, though, that our Constitution was written for 13 colonies armed with muskets, and amended as we grew. We also have to remember that until the West was settled, immigration was encouraged. Now some of those very immigrants are fearful that their liberties are in danger if we continue an open-door policy. We can't say today that we should open our borders to all who want to come legally simply because we were open 100 years ago. I don't think we need to close our borders, but we do need to author and implement a cautious policy.

I have a family member who was in DOD Black Ops during the Vietnam War and for years thereafter. Some of his information from personal experience is damn scary. I wish I could say more, but it is my opinion that if we err, for our own protection, it should not be on the side of caution and political correctness.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Bradmaster, I believe that the Constitution has not been watered down but merely filled out. The main writer of the Constitution, James Madison, did not initially want a Bill of Rights because it would limit them and too hard to add any. The Constitution was created to be malleable to adjust to changing times. I know you disagree with this but from all of my readings on its creation, I have discerned this point. All Justices, whether, liberal or conservative bend parts of the document to serve their purpose. The conservatives or strict constructionists won't admit this but it is true. I agree with your point that the interpretations of the Constitution have greatly changed over our history. My point then is that Trump's, Cruz's, and others' views on these matters are un-American in my view and probably in the view of most legal scholars and even politicians. Thanks for your further comments, Bradmaster.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you Eric and I agree that we generally get this balance right. It is just during times of high national security stress, we tend to overdo security and we need to guard strongly against this. Most of these overreactions die of their own weight but most leave remnants and precedents behind that are dangerous. I absolutely want this country protected strenuously but let us deliberate hard upon these matters and not overreact. Thank you again for your comments.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank for your comments, MizBejabbers. This is a difficult subject but I agree we should error upon caution and we should plan and work with our friends to defeat ISIL or any enemy and not jam a war down on others. I also agree that times have greatly changed on immigration and we need a much more secure and sensible policy. I only believe that those that just rail against all immigrants, whether legal or undocumented, no matter the circumstance, are arguing from a much too simplistic and easy point of view. I wrote a Hub a few years back arguing for a strong policy where employers would suffer stiff penalties for employing undocumented immigrants. Those here who have been working hard and had long roots here would be given a road to citizenship that would be onerous but fair. There were many other points but my point is that complex issues such as this can be and should be very nuanced. Many people do not want to see these nuances. Good to hear from you again MizBejabbers as always.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 10 months ago from California

Most interesting hub. Afraid I don't understand what your premise is on human rights and liberty. Probably just me.


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, Tirelesstraveler. My point on human rights is that our country has often restricted them during times of national crisis and that when Trump calls for not admitting any Muslims into the country, including Muslim Americans, this is another example of this. It also restricts their liberty as we did to Japanese Americans during World War II. Cruz's call for carpet bombing indiscriminately in the Middle East is downright inhuman.


Gordan Zunar profile image

Gordan Zunar 10 months ago from New York

Schneider, you made some good conclusions and I understood what you really meant by unAmerican and unConstitutional behavior.

Bradmeister, I agree with you on the Constitution and its original purpose and history. I also agree ISIS is a consequence of the failed and unecessary Iraqi war. I disagree on the immigrants trying to change the US culture and impose their own laws. Which immigrants are you referring to, Muslims? I have not had that impression, even though I met people who critisized America and praised their old country but at the end of the day wouldn't change the Promised Land for nothing. Also, it would make no sense claiming that anyone is trying to change the American culture since this culture is a mix of all cultures of the world. What exactly would be the American culture?

Finally, 911 was an inside job, that should be clear as day by now. No way can two skyscrapers made of steel collapse to the ground in such a short time from an impact of couple of airplains hitting not the bottom but the middle of it. Just read the last two sentences of your first comment. The government did - nothing. Scary, isn't it...


HSchneider 10 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

Thank you for your comments, Gordon. Bradmaster is correct that the Constitution has been interpreted different ways during our history but I argue that it has evolved with the times as it was meant to. He and I clearly differ on this key point. You make an excellent point that Muslim Americans in no way are changing American culture. All ethnic groups over our history have added their unique parts but our culture has over time changed them more. We are in vastly most cases the Promised Land for them. Muslims in this era are no different.


Joan King profile image

Joan King 7 months ago

Common sense needs to prevail. Donald trump and Ted Cruz would make America less safe if they were to institute their policies.


HSchneider 7 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey Author

I absolutely agree with you, Joan. Both offered draconian policies that would have set this country back a century in human rights. I actually feel Ted Cruz would have been worse than Trump. The Donald is mostly "hot air". Thank you for your comments.

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