Late June, 13, 2013, the Obama Administration announced it had confirmed the Syrian government’s periodic use of chemical weapons on its People as well as its intentions to offer the Free Syrian Army military support. Given the increasing military intervention from Hezbollah, ongoing military aid from Iran, and Russia’s apparent view that it is more unethical and immortal to break a legal contract than it is to halt its delivery of weapons systems, which will aid the Syrian government in its efforts to murder its People, opposition forces in Syria can certainly use the support of the United States.
There are those who believe, however, that the United States has no vital interests at stake in the Syrian war/humanitarian crisis. Here are three fundamental vital interests:
1. The use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction threatens US and global security. Consequently, any use of weapons of mass destruction must be severely punished while any future use of such weapons must be prevented.
2. The globalized threat of terrorism continues. Not only are there globally connected terrorists operating in Syria, there is a very real chance the various terrorist groups, which have connections to Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks that are seeking to harm the US and its allies, could gain access to the aforementioned weapons of mass destruction.
3. The International Community has been shaped by various treaties and organizations, such the UN, in order to foster global security and stability. Instead of war, conflicting parties have been encouraged to seek diplomatic channels; however, the authority of international law and organizations must be supported by real action when parties fail to adhere to the consensus of mediators and the International Community. As such, the United States and all governments of the world have a vital interest in ensuring rogue governments like the Assad government conform to international norms and expectations.
Furthermore, there are also those who want to continue the pursuit of a diplomatic solution without Western intervention. Unfortunately, the Syrian government is likely using such efforts to delay military intervention while its allies are already escalating the conflict. Although arming opposition groups could create long-term threats, the argument is fast becoming a moot point thanks to the allies of the Syrian government. That said, direct military intervention by the West, especially air cover, continues to be preferable in the long-term, yet any action is likely to be limited. Consequently, a controlled arming of the Free Syrian Army with the West providing air cover is probably the best option at this time.
While the above analysis offers the best solution for a rapidly worsening situation, such an approach should be taken with the following two analyses from a year and two years ago in mind:
When Google wants to tailor ads to its users, it uses various algorithms to identify key phrases without the need for human review of personal data. In regards to the top secret NSA database of phone, internet, and credit card data, which supposedly only shifts through “meta-data” versus contextual data, our national security officials and elected officials argue such a massive effort to track the behavior of individuals is useful. Quite frankly, the secretive nature of the George W. Bush and Obama Administrations creates distrust in government while opening the doors to government abuse. Plainly, there is no compelling or imminent state interest, which is the standard test for violating Constitutional boundaries, in keeping the building of a long running and highly applicable database of personal information a secret.
Given the global terrorist threat is ongoing and tools like this database can be used for any kind of police action, as well as other activities, the American People should have been given the opportunity to publicly review this program before it was even launched. As thoughtless as the IRS was when it ignored the need for greater sensitivity in its efforts to verify the credibility of Conservative groups’ claims for 501C eligibility and the blatant sidestepping of First Amendment protections for convenience of investigators by the DOJ when it seized records of members of the Press, the secret building of this database demonstrates a complete disregard on behalf of the national security community to hold itself accountable to the American People.
That said, a more honest, transparent approach by the US government would have hinged upon the ability of the American government to balance the state interest of national security with the state interest of protecting civil liberties. Consider that the police do not have the authority to simply follow American citizens around 24/7 without some sort of justification and oversight; when they do, it is a crime. As such, our national security officials do not have the right to stalk and harass millions of Americans, because they might make use of their digital life to uncover a potential terrorist attack. Consequently, there should be no NSA database. Instead, the NSA should be openly collaborating with private companies to access data when needed and offering their private partners’ the tool needed to identify potential target. That is, companies should be maintaining their own databases, if they choose to do so, and government should be regulating their use of those databases and accessing that database itself when there is a clear national security issue. In turn, companies like Google, which also need to do a better job of addressing the ethics issues surrounding of such information collection, should be tapped to build those tools. Meanwhile, the US government needs to do more to cooperate with the governments of the world by setting global standards on data sharing and privacy protections, so the global threat of terrorism can be addressed democratically through cooperation and the balancing of two fundamental state interests.
Read old posts