Over the past few weeks, with the Second Inauguration of Barack Obama as a backdrop, a mostly-ignored crisis has been unfolding in North Africa. As President Obama declared at his inauguration that “a decade of warfare is ending,” the United States began aiding France with their bombing campaign in Mali, to little fanfare, fulfilling President Obama’s actual foreign policy goal: to maintain an American global presence, with little accountability here or abroad.
Meanwhile, over the inaugural weekend, to the north of Mali in neighboring Algeria, a hostage crisis at a British Petroleum natural gas plant ended violently; at the time of this writing, 37 hostages were killed, 3 of which were American. Details are still unclear, and the situation is sensitive, but the mind recalls another inaugural hostage crisis 32 years ago with a happier ending.
The events in Algeria and Mali are intrinsically linked, not just by the actors therein, but by the actions which spurred them. To properly confront the crisis at hand, we must also confront our contributions to the crisis, for as Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Google has taken some heat lately over censorship issues. No doubt we’ve all heard by now of the famous “The Innocence of Muslims” video on YouTube that, whether it did or did not cause attacks on our embassies, has been a center of controversy.
It stirs up debate on censorship, so I wanted to offer some thoughts on censorship.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s the whole First Amendment, but if you break it down to an even simpler form…
Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about censorship. But this isn’t about Congress. This whole issue is about Google and whether or not Google should censor the opinions of its users.
I love censorship. I censor things all the time. If you decide to get obnoxious in comments on this blog, I’ll censor you. I try not to, because I want to encourage debate, but if your comments take away from the debate, yeah, I’ll censor you.
I censor things in my home as well. I censor what TV shows my kids see. I use parental control software to censor what Internet content is available.
Censoring content, whether on my web site or in my home, is my right and my responsibility. The same applies to Google. If something posted to a Google property is inappropriate, Google has a right and a responsibility to censor the content.
I’m going to say something that is highly controversial amongst libertarians. It may even lead me to be cast out (particularly among one “part” of the movement). If that is the case, then so be it. It is my suggestion to the United States government to deal with the rash of attacks on our diplomatic missions throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East: send in our forces. Find the people who have done these terrible deeds.
Bring them to justice. And then leave.
This flies in the face of generally accepted libertarian foreign policy, at least as construed by many “rank and file” libertarians. We’re not supposed to be in other countries. We’re not supposed to be out there getting ourselves involved. And if American personnel are hurt, we shouldn’t get ourselves involved more.
This, however, is dangerously short-sighted and naive. Yes, we shouldn’t be in foreign countries. On that I completely agree. But we should not, when we are attacked, simply throw our hands up in defeat and pull out. Or do what President Obama did, and “apologize” for one man using his right to free speech. That does not keep us safe, and that does not fix anything.
Giving in to bullies and madmen does not stop them, it emboldens them, as Britain learned so painfully after Munich. There is also no room for it in libertarian philosophy. If someone aggresses against you, if they attack you and destroy or take your property, and worse if they actually kill you and your comrades, they have violated your liberty. That is not something that libertarianism condones.
President Obama just had to do it. After all, the freedom loving people of Libya wanted out from under the boot of Muammar Gaddafi, and we should use our military force for such noble purposes, right? So, we risked US personnel to support the rebels in Libya. They won, and I wasn’t really sad to see Gaddafi dead. But was it worth it?
Initially, some thought it would be by buying us some much needed “good will” in the Middle East. By supporting anti-dictatorship rebels, there was supposedly a chance that we would be able to start mending a few fences with non-terrorist Muslims.
Yeah, that worked out great, didn’t it? The United States Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three of the embassy staff were killed Tuesday. Stevens was reportedly a key player in the effort to oust Gaddafi.
I don’t think anyone wanted to rebels to lose. As I said earlier, I wasn’t a fan of Gaddafi and was glad to see him taken down. I also happen to believe in self governance and love seeing people take their nations back from psychotic dictators that make Bond villians seem sane and rational.
However, American military personnel were put at risk. It was yet another example of American adventurism, and just like our other most recent examples, it’s netted us jack.
When will the powers that be understand that all of this nets us nothing? While we were fortunate to not lose Americans during the Libyian operations, the risk is there for any combat operations, and what has it gotten us? Clearly, nothing.
Written by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Virulent identity politics are swirling across post-revolutionary North Africa, as seen on full display in Libya and Egypt. Some reports now point to a pro-al Qaeda group or other extremist elements as responsible for the attack in Libya, planned in advance and unrelated to the anti-Islam video. The protestors in Libya may have been acting separately. There are still many unknown details.
But the idea that a derogatory and clownish internet video justifies mob violence or murder can only be described as barbaric.
The U.S. government should make crystal clear to its Libyan and Egyptian counterparts that if they wish to have any relationship, let alone a functional relationship, with the United States in the future, we expect the perpetrators of these acts to be brought to justice swiftly and for sufficient measures to be undertaken to ensure they cannot be repeated. Apologies are not enough.
For its part, the United States needs to figure out what went wrong in terms of operational security, and how the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed and the Cairo embassy overrun. The past 10 years have blurred the line between warfighters and diplomats, but this experience is a reminder that the two are still distinct.
There are dumb ideas…and then there are really dumb ideas. And then there are, so to say, Congressional politicians. We’re not quite at that level yet, but it seems like it. I am of course, referring to a rather silly piece in Slate magazine titled “Let’s Nationalize Facebook,” written by one Phillip N. Howard, a professor of communications and information technology from the University of Washington. His reasons for doing so are:
Over the last several years, Facebook has become a public good and an important social resource. But as a company, it is behaving badly, and long term, that may cost it: A spring survey found that almost half of Americans believe that Facebook will eventually fade away. Even the business side has been a bit of a disaster lately, with earnings lower than expected and the news that a significant portion of Facebook profiles are fake. If neither users nor investors can be confident in the company, it’s time we start discussing an idea that might seem crazy: nationalizing Facebook.
I’d like to echo the comments of my fellow contributors here at United Liberty in a call for a non-interventionist foreign policy on the part of the United States when it comes to the situation in Gaza. This conflict is complicated and poses no real threat to our national security. The U.S. should discontinue its foreign aid to Israel as well as Egypt, Jordan and all other countries receiving the largesse of the American taxpayer.
Independent of any opinion regarding who is “right” and who is “wrong” in this conflict (I think there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides), I do have to stand up and give Israel a small moment of applause for standing up to the United Nations. Israel is a sovereign nation and has the right to make its own military decisions. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently reacted to the UN Security Council’s recent resolution on the situation in Gaza:
Last week was the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the United States’ involvement in the war in Iraq. After 10 years, I still believe that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime was the correct decision, but that the aftermath of the initial invasion was horribly managed, with poor rules of engagement, no clear strategy, and no real definition of “victory.” Even after the successful surge in troop levels helped to prevent an immediate decline into civil war and achieve an unsteady peace, the inability of the Obama Administration to come to a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government not only left the United States with no tangible benefits 10 years later, but also left Iraq in a precarious position that runs the risk of declining into civil war that could have horrible regional consequences.
Earlier this month, the White House announced that it would end public tours as a cost-saving measure due to the sequester, automatic cuts to the rate of spending increases that took effect at the beginning of the month. The move, which was clearly political in nature, was met with resentment and it has ultimately hurt Obama’s messaging on the sequester.
The White House apparently hasn’t learned anything as it appears that the annual Easter egg roll is now in jeopardy, according to Politico:
The next casualty of sequestration could be the Easter Bunny – at least according to a White House e-mail that recently landed in Capitol Hill inboxes.
The White House warned Congress that budget uncertainties could nix the annual Easter Egg Roll for kids, which is planned for April 1.
“[B]y using these tickets, guests are acknowledging that this event is subject to cancellation due to funding uncertainty surrounding the Executive Office of the President and other federal agencies,” the White House cautioned, according to two Capitol Hill sources who provided the language. “If cancelled, the event will not be rescheduled.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that the egg roll would go forward, although he left open the possibility that that could change.
In what was likely one of the most anticipated speeches of the weekend, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who raised concerns about President Barack Obama’s drones policy last Wednesday during a 13-hour filibuster, offered conservatives a new brand of conservatism.
Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” played as Sen. Paul took the podium in an electric atmosphere where half the auidence was standing as a nod to the #StandWithRand theme. He noted that he only had 10 minutes to speak. “But just in case, I brought 13 hours worth of information,” Sen. Paul said as he held up two large binders to rousing applause. “I also came with a message for the President. A message that is loud and clear. A message that doesn’t mince words,” he added.
“Don’t drone me, bro!” someone shouted from the audience Before he went back into his speech, Sen. Paul replied, “Thats not exatly what I was thinking. However, I may have distilled my 13-hour speech into three words.”
“The message to the President is that no one person gets decide the law. No one person gets to decide your guilt or innocence,” he said. “My question to the President was about more than just killing American citizens on American soil. My question was about presidential power has limits.”
Sen. Paul hit on President Obama’s civil liberties record. “If we destroy our enemy but lose what defines our freedom in the process, have we really won,” he asked. “If we allow one man to charge Americans as enemy combatants and indefinitely detain or drone them, then what exactly is it that our brave young men and women are fighting for?”