ALPERN AT LARGE-By the time most of you read this, it will be Independence Day. Most of us remember that this day is actually not just a day off from work, but a celebration of when the original thirteen U.S. colonies declared Independence from the King of England. That event was pre-Constitution, pre-U.S. government, and a Declaration not just of our country's birth but a Declaration that Humanity is free--a God-given right, in fact.
A right...but not without accompanying responsibilities. Very BIG responsibilities.
Events are unfolding throughout the globe, but particularly in the Middle East, that underscore both the rights behind the Declaration that Humanity is free, as well as the responsibilities. Those who wrote the Declaration and/or fought in and/or led the Revolutionary War stemming from that Declaration (such as Jefferson, Franklin and Washington), recognized the responsibilities always had to be balanced with those rights.
Those responsibilities were borne by subsequent generations of Americans. Just as America's example of the inherent freedom for all Humanity inevitably extended beyond white males to all Americans, it had to extend--ideally by example, but arguably by force when dictators arose to threaten Freedom and Liberty--to the rest of the world.
The question as to whether the United States, in its rising hegemony to be the world's leading military superpower, has crossed the lines from being a liberator to the role of being an oppressor is one that challenges us both at home and abroad.
That is to say, the rest of the world must be both free because of us and free from us. The best thing that America can be is to remain--despite its imperfections and despite our shortcomings--the example for the rest of the world to follow. How to be that example is a neverending debate that arguably must be neverending.
Which is why foreign leaders might crave the might and power of Russia and China, but their citizens crave--in one way, shape or form--the example of America for their own lands, and in their own lives.
And it is that very example, that very model, that very image, that America must work hardest to promote, and both our current President and our previous Presidents have all tried in their own ways to promote.
Our ongoing celebration of Independence is one to which we must always strive--despite the agonizing questions of how it should be worked for--abroad. Whether it's leaving nations alone for their people to best appreciate and achieve their own Independence, or to step in and defend the people when they are beset by powerful dictators, Americans are SUPPOSED to inherently believe that Humanity SHOULD BE free.
President Obama and his successors have been handed great burdens and great opportunities alike from President G.W. Bush and his predecessors, and it's time for both this President, as it will be for the next President, to be both smart and bold to make it crystal clear that Freedom for all Humanity is what the United States stands for...that our Declaration is ongoing and is valid today as it was in 1776:
1) President Obama and the rest of America must find our collective voice and declare evil when we see it, and demand foreign leaders do the same if they are to be our allies and friends.
The kidnapping and murder of three innocent civilian teenage rabbinical students in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank is an example of Evil, pure and simple. These three were unfairly and horribly robbed of everything, and for merely the reason of being Jewish--and one was an American citizen.
This atrocious act was rightfully responded to with force by Israel, whose armed forces left no stone unturned as they tried to save this innocent trio amidst a terrified Israeli populace that (again!) has had to confront terrorism as part of its daily existence.
To his credit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sharply decried this act and recognized the trio's innocence. In stark contrast, Hamas political chief Khalid Meshal (whose organization is viewed as one that is terrorist by the U.S., and which is believed behind the abduction) congratulated the abductors.
It is uncertain and disheartening as to why President Obama still hasn't personally and without hesitation articulated the abduction and murder as evil, but better late than never. It MUST be done, and must be more than a feckless and reckless statement by Secretary of State for "all sides to show restraint". This kidnapping and murder WAS a game-changer, and President Obama must now make a game-changing statement.
2) There is NO moral equivalence between the killing of innocents and the law-restoring defensive actions of our allies--who deserve our support for these actions.
Just as Abbas is to be credited with decrying the kidnapping and murder of the three teenage students, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also to be credited with condemning the subsequent kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager by calling on authorities to swiftly investigate this "reprehensible murder" and urging all sides "not to take the law into their own hands".
Similarly, when bombs from Syria killed an Israeli Arab teenager a few weeks ago, Israeli forces pounded Syrian targets in response. Furthermore, the Israeli government, courts, and military have had to, and will continue to, limit-set its own extremist elements among those settling the borders of the occupied territories.
Because whether the innocent victims of terrorism--which, as its definition, is more than just a single killing but the intentional terrorizing of a whole population--are Jewish or Muslim, Israeli or Arab, it is evil, is against everything that America values, and must be fought either by us and/or our allies.
Israeli forces are not going to occupy the Hamas-occupied Gaza Strip, and have had to be both swift, effective but measured in its response to the murder of the kidnapped teenage trio.
Yet American calls for this worthy restraint remain both reckless and feckless unless they are supportive of those measures, which are as defensive and responsive as our own attacks on terrorists abroad have been.
President Obama and the rest of us must both unswervingly and forcefully decry terrorism and be willing to defend the War on Terrorism, wherever and whenever it is fought.
3) We must recognize and support our friends, and call on the rest of the world to adhere to the rights and responsibilities of Independence and Liberty--it's who we are.
As stated before in a previous CityWatch article, the need to openly declare--with both boldness and shrewdness--who our ideological and strategic friends and partners are is as vital and timely as ever.
Who are our ideological and strategic friends? Unfortunately, they've yet to be articulated in a crystal-clear and forthright manner by President Obama, but they were very recently articulated by the aforementioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Again, better late than never, but President Obama must without further hesitation recognize those who have risked, and continue to risk, life and liberty abroad in the Middle East to defend the American principles of Independence and Liberty: Israel, the Palestinian moderates, Jordan...and now the Kurds.
Declaring the need for an independent Kurdistan to the U.N. would be the best, most critical image of moral clarity that Obama and Netanyahu could ever promote during these ideologically and strategically unstable times. The Kurds have earned their own state, and they are rapidly becoming the pre-eminent Muslim ally (overtaking Turkey) to embrace Western-style unity, stability, tolerance and economic stability.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are "frenemies" that we've had to embrace (as in "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"), and they will have to do their own soul-searching to determine whether they will take the painful but necessary steps to promote Western-style democracy, economic prosperity, security and tolerance.
And ditto for Iraq and Afghanistan--it's both correct to decry President Bush for his military and political blunders as well as applaud him for promoting democracy abroad, and it's both correct to decry President Obama for his own military and political blunders as well as applaud him for promoting democracy abroad.
But the need to loudly and forcefully demand the Iraqis and Afghans step up is part of what America's original Declaration of Independence is all about, as well as its corollary that ALL Humanity is inherently Free (a God-given right, in fact).
Responsibilities and rights go together, and if the Iraqi peoples and their leaders can't recognize that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a divisive failure, then Iraq must be split up.
Unfortunately, al-Maliki has failed to blend the southern Iraqi Shiite leadership with the central Sunni-dominated lands and the northern Kurdish-dominated lands. He has earned the scorn and rejection of the Sunnis and Kurds--who were as responsible for establishing the peace as al-Maliki is for having lost it by not establishing the tolerant and cooperative Iraq that President G.W. Bush and our allies fought for.
On the same note, the Afghans will have to make the choice to step up and fight for civilization or go back to the Taliban-dominated Stone Age which created such a safe haven for al-Qaida. Afghan President Karzai is an international joke, and the Afghan people deserve (and must step up for) better.
To conclude, the world is a smaller place than it was in 1776. Events abroad DO have critical economic and even safety/security implications and ramifications here in the U.S. Even in America's infancy, when the fledgling American military had to take on and fight the Barbary pirates to protect American interests, we could not ignore events "over there" to protect ourselves "over here".
President Obama, as with the rest of us, has the responsibility to remember what Independence and Liberty really means. We are NOT higher lifeforms than the rest of Humanity, and the rest of the world deserves the same Independence and Liberty we currently enjoy...
...but the necessary debate of whether to show restraint or force to promote our ideals of Independence and Liberty abroad can, will and should be consistent with our ability to be smart and bold, not reckless and feckless, when demanding the promotion and defense of these ideals both at home and to the rest of the world.
Happy Independence Day!
Vol 12 Issue 54
Pub: Jul 4, 2014