viagra for salelicphilosopher.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/800px-Lake_Dukan_06-510×382.jpg” alt=”" width=”510″ height=”314″ />The recent news coverage of the three American hikers detained in Iran since 2009 raises important questions about ‘danger tourism’ and its role in foreign policy. The hikers’ trip to mountainous northern Iraq took an unpleasant turn when they wandered into Iran and were promptly accused of espionage by the Iranian government.
Media response to the event has been generally sympathetic to the hikers. But maybe they shouldn’t get off so easily. Consider their vacation destination. Kurdistan has many features that make it attractive for adventure tourism: it’s isolated, unconventional, and thrillingly dangerous. But there are many other destinations that meet similar criteria and are far less politically sensitive.
So why Kurdistan, and why the border region? Is it such a unique and lovely place that the hikers had to go there specifically? It was most likely chosen because of its political instability, not in spite of it. The State Department makes it very clear that travel to Iraq is inherently risky. It’s even reasonable to assume that hiking in Kurdistan is politically dangerous. Considering these travelers were appropriately warned, to what extent is the government obligated to protect them? Read more
When can military leaders criticize constitutionally protected speech?cialis 20mg>
Last week General David Petraeus made news for speaking out against a Florida church’s plan to burn copies of the Koran. While many commended General Petraeus for his comments, a few others felt his tone was inappropriate. Over at the Democracy Arsenal, Michael Cohen worries that Petraeus may be discouraging other forms of free expression that are vital to the democratic process.
Now I would imagine that Petraeus is correct, but there is something deeply disquieting about having a four-star general characterize an expression of constitutionally protected free speech as a danger to American troops and US national security operations.
I sort of hate slippery slope arguments, but it seems to me that this is the very definition of a dangerous slippery slope.
For example, would people be comfortable if Petraeus characterized an anti-war march as a threat to the US mission in Afghanistan? Or what if Petraeus condemned a Congressional vote to cut funding for a weapons program as a threat to US soldiers in the field? Such behavior would almost certainly overstep not just the letter of civil-military relations, but certainly the spirit.
Why the State Department’s criticism of Arizona’s law is a strike for states’ rights
The AP reports that the US State Department listed its objection to Arizona’s immigration law as a step the State Department is taking to protect human rights. Understandably, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer disagrees, writing:
“The idea of our own American government submitting the duly enacted laws of a state of the United States to ‘review’ by the United Nations is internationalism run amok and unconstitutional.”
Let’s take these claims one at a time.
If the role of the High Commissioner on Human Rights is indeed to protect human rights, a state’s ability to criticize its own past decisions seems to be critical. Given the UN’s lack of hard power and unwillingness to intercede in state-level politics except when absolutely necessary (and often not even then), for there to be any kind of international human rights regime states must police themselves. The State Department’s actions seem to be internationalism of the best kind.
Further, the State Department’s decision is in fact a strike in defense of state sovereignty. By criticizing Arizona’s law, the State Department concedes Arizona’s ability to make laws that displease federal bodies. While the State Department is working through legal channels to overturn the law, in the meanwhile the immigration law remains on the books and seems to be a legitimate and likely target for human rights discussions.
It’s certainly not clear why Brewer thinks the state department’s decision is unconstitutional, other than the fact that things one disagrees with tend to be unconstitutional. In fact, the federal judge who ruled against Arizona’s law seems to believe that it’s the law itself that’s in the wrong.
Image credit: Wiki Commons
Project Syndicate has an ongoing series by Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati on “The Open Economy and its Enemies.” There is more or less a consensus among economists that free trade promotes economic growth; the law of comparative advantage still holds nearly two centuries after it was formulated. But the opinions of both the public and other social scientists are more ambivalent.
Competition is the means by which actors in an open economy are disciplined. But competition generates losers and winners, too –at least in the short run. Non-economic concerns with free trade include growing inequality, the constant displacement of people under conditions of ruthless competition, environmental degradation, the globe-spanning hazards of mutual dependency, and national security.
Critics of free trade may accuse economists of linear thinking for ignoring the messiness of reality. But economists might equally accuse critics of free trade for ignoring the bottom line –that increased wealth will expand the possibilities of what a society can accomplish.
The free trade debate, like many others, asks how willing we are to trade increased levels of wealth for other values, and under what conditions. Not surprisingly, this debate tends to come to the fore in times of economic uncertainty.
Image by Flickr user free range jace used under a Creative Commons Attribution License
On both the 11th and the 23rd of this month there have been stories on BBC citing the inadequacy of the international aid response to the Pakistani floods. At the moment, there are seven mentions of the Pakistani floods on the front pages of the BBC site.
U.S. news outlets have less to say. CNN, Fox, CBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have one or two mentions each on their front pages. ABC News and the Wall Street Journal have none at all. Elsewhere in the world, Der Spiegel, Xinhua and Pravda are about the same.
The British understandably feel a peculiar connection with their former colonial possession. But in most of the world, you would not think that there is an ongoing calamity displacing millions of people, exposing them to hunger and disease.
One BBC article offers tentative answers for this indifference. Some suggest that Pakistan is merely unluc
ky. The floods come while donors are fatigued from the Haitian earthquake; the disaster unfolded over a span of weeks and makes a weak headliner; the floods are a part of the seasonal monsoon rains.
Other explanations, however, point to Pakistan’s perceived faults. Namely, Pakistan’s links to terrorism and corruption within its government make sympathy a tough sell. Comments on the story’s page suggest, sometimes harshly, that a country capable of amassing nuclear weapons, maintaining a large army and funneling money to terrorists surely has the means to rescue its own people.
This is close to approval of collective punishment. Victims of the flood cannot be held personally responsible for the dubious actions of Pakistan’s ISI (its clandestine intelligence service), its decades under military government, or greed and corruption of its officials. Moral and legal codes everywhere assign agency to individuals and judge them accordingly. Can individuals be blamed for the actions of others in a group over whom they have little control? What are the bounds of collective responsibility?
Image by Flickr user DFID-UK Department for International Development used under a Creative Commons Attribution License
George Soros writes at Project Syndicate that the recent expulsion of the Roma from France is tantamount to collective punishment. His outrage is echoed by a French priest who prays for Sarkozy to have a heart attack.
Although every state obviously has a right to protect public order, critics of the expulsion wonder “what harm can a few hundred people do?”
They wonder too how it’s acceptable for an EU country to forcibly relocate EU citizens without due process, especially when all EU citizens are entitled to freedom of movement.
The Roma are the continent’s largest ethnic minority group. They are not native to Europe and are in fact descended from Indians. Their distinct ethnic identity combined with misperceptions has historically made them outcasts everywhere. The Roma presently being deported from France tried to escape
dire poverty and discrimination in Romania.
Despite being EU citizens, the French government’s recent treatment of them signals that no state may reliably look out for them.
How should we respond to the problem of stateless people? For Theodor Herzl and the Zionists, the answer was obvious – to reclaim an ancestral homeland and establish a new nation. But the present Arab-Israeli conflict highlights the extraordinary difficulty and moral complexity of such a solution. And no reasonable person could suggest that the Roma try to re-conquer Punjab in northern India.
The solution will have to be the least impossible of impossible alternatives. The European countries should probably make a concerted effort to integrate the Roma and make them full members of their societies.
Not only does the “plight of so many millions of Roma… [make] a mockery of European values” as Soros writes, but the alternative is to allow a moral and social problem of enormous proportions to fester and ultimately truly undermine public order.
Image by Flickr user Rivard used under a Creative Commons Attributions License
An examination of the ethics of illegal immigration and states
Congress is considering a bill which grants legal status to high school graduates who came to the country before they turn sixteen and have lived here for at least five years.
Why is it appropriate to make an exception for students alone? The truth is that the answer may tell us something about the value of citizenship, as well as why states have the right to confer citizenship upon some persons while denying it for others. Read more
For the first time, the United States will send an ambassador to attend the ceremony in Hiroshima marking the anniversary of the atomic bombings during World War II. Some critics think that this is tantamount to a US apology.
Signs of sympathy toward Japanese suffering could be seen as criticism of the U.S. decision to drop the bombs — viewed by many Americans as a pragmatic move to hasten the end of the war that the U.S. entered after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
This seems like a very weak argument. Even if the atomic bombings of Japan were morally permissible, they were at best unfortunate necessities of war (in fact, we could say this about any act of war). Even the most ardent supporter of dropping the bomb should admit that it is simply the least horrific choice out of a regretful handful of alternatives. This being the case, sympathy and grief toward the victims of the bomb is not only compatible with support for the decision to drop the bomb, but is probably a morally obligatory addendum to the act itself. Read more
WikiLeaks and its documents are here. What do we do now?
On Monday, Sam highlighted WikiLeaks’ enormous release of secret documents concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan, and US efforts in and relations with both countries. As he noted, one of the first questions we should ask is whether or not WikiLeaks’ document release is legal.
Obviously, the cat is out of the bag: WikiLeaks and its documents, for good or for bad, are here. The bigger question now is how governments and citizens will respond.
Leaks, even large ones, are not unheard of (think Pentagon Papers). To answer both this question, and the earlier one to which Sam pointed, we need to determine if this leak is unlike any previous ones—and whether deserves a unique response as a result. Read more
For his role in 16,000 deaths during the Khmer Rouge, Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch,” was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison. That he may walk free in 19 years at the age of 86 due to time served has baffled and infuriated Cambodians. The worst tyrants of the last century mostly escaped formal justice (Hitler, Stalin, Mao); others did die in ignominious circumstances and were effectively the victims of mob violence (Mussolini, Ceausescu, arguably Saddam). Duch’s case and surprisingly light sentence brings to mind the perennial question of justice for politically-motivated atrocities.
We seem to know what crimes against humanity are when we see them. But the story is often more complicated in places like the most impoverished parts of the Third World, where politics is a life-or-death affair. Interest groups are divided along ethnic, class, or religious fault lines and power is a means to extract resources for the favored group at the expense of all others. An old Kenyan aphorism holds that to seize the machinery of the state means that “it is our turn to eat.” In these cases murder, rape and torture may become routine tools of political intimidation.
How do we evaluate crimes against humanity and the justice that should follow when the only clear distinction between victim and victimizer is that the latter is stronger than the other, and when it seems likely that the other side would behave just as monstrously if the circumstances permitted?
Photo by Flickr user Sebr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license