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.