From issues like Ebola to the Islamic State to potential war with Russia, the world is being flooded by major crises that hinge on “tough decisions” being made. Unfortunately, policies like preemptive quarantines of potential Ebola carriers and terrorist threats often leave Americans choosing between their civil liberties and their wellbeing.
Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, the US started down a slippery slope in favor of national security, which resulted in a near total disregard for civil liberties by American national security apparatus. Instead of balancing national security interests with the need for civil liberties, America’s national security apparatus, the NSA and CIA in particular, decided to find ways to circumvent civil liberties.
As the world learns more and more about the misconduct of what should be the most trustworthy people with any government, only thanks to the ongoing revelations of Edward Snowden, and faces an overwhelming number of security threats, tough decisions will have to be made to both protect the American People and their freedoms.
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”-Rahm Emanuel, 2008
The political world is always looking for an issue that makes their side look good and the other side look bad. Typical followers, America’s political class are trailing after the news industry, which has clearly found Ebola to be a sound business opportunity given it is providing America with a continual stream of news stories featuring enough regurgitated background information and nonessential updates to drive the American People into a full-blown panic over Ebola.
Despite recent Gallup Poll data showing Americans are far most concerned with the economy, government performance, and jobs than Ebola, among the many other major crises unfolding around the world, the 2014 Midterm Elections have not been defined by these issues. Part of the reason stems from the sheer volume of crises happening around the world. Another reason is the Midterms are not a “national election,” which means local concerns will largely drive voter turnout and choice instead of polarization national figures and policies.
With that in mind, it may not be possible to trust much of any macroscopic political analysis that examines whether Democrats or Republicans as parties can better address these concerns of Americans in general, but professional news outlets would normally be expected to provide nonstop cover of how candidates are planning to address these top concerns.
Unfortunately, making 2014 about the economy, government dysfunction, and jobs does not make political sense. After all, no easy solution can solve these problems while there are too many skeletons in the closets of Democrats and Republicans to have a meaningful, national conversation on these issues.
Ebola, on the other hand, is both interesting and frightening. As the solution to dealing with Ebola is already known and fairly easy to comprehend, i.e. isolate, treat, and disinfect, the reality that Ebola is in the news has opened the flood gates for political leaders who react to public fears and outrage instead of leading during times of crisis. In a classic “getting tough on…(insert issue),” Ebola is the perfect issue for local and state politicians to focus on when trolling for voter support.
After several recent occasions where Russian President Vladimir Putin made threatening references to Russia’s nuclear arsenal of 5,000 warheads, he is once again intensifying his efforts to characterize Russia as a victim of a Western conspiracy. Although the US has pursued policies that have caused destabilization in regions of the world, it was also the United States and the rest West that initiated the vision of an International Community where all nations have a voice and diplomacy always trumps war.
Russia, on the other hand, has too often played the antagonist willing to cooperate with the world in order to prevent nuclear war and to ensure Russian interests could be addressed even in a world increasingly dominated by US influence. With the Ukraine Crisis in mind, it appears the mentality of Russian leadership has not changed. What makes Putin so much more dangerous than his predecessors, who were constantly at odds with American leadership during the Cold War, is that he and his narrowing inner-circle appear to have no respect for the devastating power of nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, the provocative hardliners who have seized control of the Kremlin act less like the rulers of a world power and more like the leadership of an insecure rogue state, such as North Korea. North Korea is overly aggressive and provocative toward its neighbors, because the government is terrified of the International Community overthrowing the regime. In order to secure the support of its people, it has fostered a culture of paranoia and contorted visions of the world.
With the Ukraine Crisis on the verge of another flare up thanks to everything from Putin’s threatening comments on Russia’s 5,000 nuclear weapons to Russian spy planes and submarines within NATO territory, issues like the Islamic State threat are about to go on the backburner once again. Fortunately, Middle Easterners are more or less headed in the right direction when it comes to recognizing the threat of terrorism and addressing their own regional security interests.
When the Arab Spring Revolutions began to spread like wildfire, extremists seized upon the reluctance of authoritarian governments to reform and the ensuing power vacuum that resulted from the failure of governments to stand down. At the time, the world was hoping democratic Turkey could possibly serve as a regional leader capable of guiding its neighbors to democratic reforms and channeling the support of unpopular Western nations to countries in need, especially since Israel lacked broad constructive links to much of the Muslim World.
Where the decade of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq had done much to sour the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US, America could have only hoped the long-time Western ally might come through for the region. In an almost complete turnaround, Saudi Arabia, which was the birthplace of Al Qaeda, has taken on a leadership role in terms of supporting its neighbors in an emerging war on terrorism while Turkey has been one of the least reliable allies in the fight against the Islamic State.
Truth be told, Iraq is a relatively small and unimportant country in the Middle East, especially when it comes to Western interests, yet Iraq has once again become the focal point of Western intervention and regional security interests. This is even after Iraq has cost the US trillions in dollars as well as far more in blood. Ironically, it is another war in Iraq that is finally uniting the West and Middle East against terrorism.
In many respects, the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution protests are following the familiar pattern of other protests that have risen around the world in recent years. Just as Middle Eastern governments and the former Pro-Russian Yanukovych government of Ukraine blamed outside influences for their troubles with civil unrest, the leadership of Hong Kong and China are attempting to reframe civil unrest as the product of foreign conspirators.
Although the United States and other democracies can only be expected to openly side with peaceful protesters, or even violent protesters who are trying to defend themselves and others, China’s efforts to frame the Revolution as a foreign plot will be in vain. It is important to recognize Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997 without the China ever fully assimilating Hong Kong. Consequently, in the eyes of those protesting China’s role in Hong Kong elections, the Chinese are seen as the foreigners conspiring to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs
Meanwhile, protesters fear government leadership is conspiring to quietly crush their movement, even as the Chinese are avoiding the appearance of direct interference. While who is doing what will only be understand as events take place and unknowns become facts, the similarities that connect the Umbrella Revolution with the Ukraine Crisis, the Arab Spring Revolutions, and others offer insight into what is likely to happen.
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