Nations, which have not embraced respect for human freedom, can learn the significance of their respect by benchmarking other nations’ best practices and approaches in terms of advocating for human freedom. This paper analyses whether the US can act as a good benchmark. It also discusses whether it can be a source of good aspiration for freedom to other nations around the world.
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The US participation in protecting Freedom at the International Level
Freedom from internal and external inversions encompasses one of the fundamental aspects that a nation should guarantee its citizens. However, the UN charter prohibits nations from attacking others unless they are responding to an assault. This claim perhaps reveals why the US continues to stay in Afghanistan amid the hefty expenditure of taxpayers’ money to sustain military operations. While other nations can emulate the strategies and policies of the US of seeking to ensure that its citizens live without breach of the freedom of territorial integrity, some of its foreign policies amount to the breaching of territorial integrity of other nations. Hence, they also compromise the freedom of other people.
The efforts of NATO to engage Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in the war resulted in the spreading of the war into the North West parts of Pakistan. In 2004, NATO forces launched attacks to flash out and kill Taliban militia and al-Qaida insurgents who were seeking refuge in Pakistan. This move led to the emergence of Waziristan insurgency in 2007. In May 2011, the US navy SEALs managed to kill the kingpin of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden. In three weeks, following his killing, NATO began working on a strategy to exit from Afghanistan. During this time, the UN sought to engage Afghan’s government and the Taliban insurgents in peace talks to restore peace so that NATO forces could exist from Afghanistan (Keppel 2008).
Unfortunately, until today, an exit plan has never been fully implemented. People in Afghanistan continue to live under fear of attacks and without freedom of self-governance. In this extent, considering the roles played by the US in terms of stabilizing different nations including Iraq and Afghanistan, its capacity to constitute one of the best aspirations for freedom around the world remains questionable.
Since the emergence of the war, which took place after the toppling of the Taliban’s government between the US and allied troops in Afghanistan and later to include the Afghanistan government, tens of thousands of ordinary civilians have lost their lives. In addition, ‘over 4,000 ISAF soldiers and civilian contractors as well as over 10,000 Afghan National Security Forces also died’ (Keppel 2008, p.63). Although many of the people who have perished in the war are Taliban insurgents and ordinary civilians, statistical findings on the number of deaths of security forces from the Afghanistan government and ISAF indicates that the Afghanistan war had a negative ramification on civilians and the security forces. The main question that emerges here is whether it is necessary to erode the freedom of life of thousands of innocent people in the name of pursuing a small group of terrorists. Can other nations emulate the US strategies of protecting its sovereignty while such efforts lead to the loss of innocent lives?
Although deaths and casualties that were encountered in the Afghanistan war from 2001 up to date are due to the operations of the Taliban against the US and NATO forces, international reactions point the largest finger of blame to the Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents. For instance, the United Nations attributes 76% of all civilian casualties in the Afghanistan war from 2001 to 2009 to Taliban (Keppel 2008). The AIGRC (Afghanistan independent human rights commission) referred to acts of terrorism by Taliban against the group’s fellow citizens as war crimes. Amnesty international built on this line of argument by claiming that Taliban war crimes involved the attacking of civilians, killing of teachers, worker abductions, and setting of schools ablaze (Keppel 2008).
Based on these arguments, protection of innocent people against war crimes by terror groups amounts to an important mechanism of fostering the freedom of people against risky situations, which may lead to loss of their lives. In such a context, the US forms an important source of aspiration for freedom around the world. It engages in the process of destabilizing and toppling of governments such as the Taliban government, which fails to respect human rights and freedom.
The main concern of all nations that are involved in the Afghanistan war is to enhance freedom from external inversion and terrorist acts that are acerbated by Taliban and its sympathizers such as the al-Qaida. However, political critics such as Meyer (2010) claim that the interest of the US in the Afghanistan war is beyond their (critics) stated interest in the war. The US navy managed to kill Osama bin Laden, the main person who the US considered a terrorist. It claimed that he was responsible for the September 11 attacks. Why is there a continued stay of the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan soil? The interest of US and NATO forces in the Afghanistan war is also questionable considering that the US has insisted on carrying the roles of night raids on Afghanistan citizens in the name of flashing out Taliban insurgents from their sympathizers. In this context, the US fails to form the best aspiration around the world for respect and/or upholding of the freedom of both its citizens and players in the international community.
The US has a history of supporting resistance groups. However, it later turns against them once they develop into terrorist groups. In 1997, the US recognized Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Indeed, Robin Raphel instructed Ahmad Shah Massoud to consider surrendering to the Taliban government. Sometimes later, ‘top foreign policy officials in Clinton administration flew to northern Afghanistan to try to persuade the United Front not to take advantage of a chance to make crucial gains against the Taliban’ (Keppel 2008, p.89). The officials insisted that the time for cease-fire had arrived.
Pakistan initiated its efforts to re-equip the Taliban. Following bombings of the US embassies in 1998, the US clearly changed its policies towards Taliban. This change of policies raised questions on the actual concerns of the US while waging wars against certain groups that are labeled as ‘terror groups’. Does the change of policies really seek to enhance the freedom of citizens it claims to be impacted by the activities of terror groups? What can one say about the innocent people who lose their lives due to a confrontation between the US military and insurgents within a nation such as the case of Afghanistan? Is there any safeguarding of freedom? These interrogatives raise doubts on the capacity of the US to form a good aspiration for freedom around the world.
The US Participation in protecting the Freedoms for its Citizens
Apart from exploring policies, which raise questions on the commitment of the US in terms of protecting the freedom of people at an international arena, there are also internal contentious policies, which establish a dilemma on its capacity to constitute an aspiration for freedom around the globe. Two major areas of concern include the ‘stop and frisk’ law and the US PATRIOT law. As one of the freedoms that are provided for in the US constitution, people have the right for protection of their privacy unless a court order justifies any violation (Peak 2012). However, the September 11 terrorist assaults compelled the US government to look for ways of balancing people’s rights of security and privacy.
The congress felt that the US government has a constitutional mandate to enhance security of the Americans amid the mandate to protect the US constitution, which proclaims people’s right such as the privacy rights (Wong 2006). This observation suggests that the rights of the Americans require proper balancing to ensure that one right does not amount to infringement of other rights and freedoms. For this reason, President Bush enacted the US PATRIOT Act into law in October 2001.
Section 213 and 215 of the US PATRIOT Act attract various controversies from legal scholars and advocates of human rights. Civil rights activists agree that the US PATRIOT Act infringes people’s freedom and rights to privacy (New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign 2013). This agreement stems from the promulgation of privacy rights in the fourth amendment. However, the history of the amendment introduces difficulties in terms of determining the level to which the US PATRIOT Act erodes people’s freedom and privacy rights.
Civil rights advocates cite sections 213 and 215 of the US PATRIOT Act as their major concern based on the capacity of the Act to breach civil freedom and rights (Rubel 2006). Sneak-and-peak provisions, as enumerated in section 213 of the Act, guarantee large powers to law enforcement agents to conduct searches in premises of unsuspecting US citizens without having to inform them priory in the effort to mitigate challenges of destruction or hiding of evidence (Cole & Dempsey 2002).
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This provision infringes the freedom of the US citizens with reference to their right of having their property protected from access by other parties without their authentication. The ‘gag-rule’, as provided for in section 215 of the act, gives law enforcement agencies the power to subpoena business records without the consent of the business owners (Rubel 2006). This provision suggests that the two rules do not make provisions for civilians and organizations to authenticate searches within their premises or information systems as a constituent element of their rights and freedom of possessing property and information. This claim raises a question in terms of the extent of the freedom of Americans so that the US can constitute an inspiration for freedom around the world.
As one of the constitutional rights, people have the right and freedom of movement without violation of their privacy unless when the violations are justified by court orders. However, this situation is not the case in the State of New York. In early 1990, the ‘stop and frisk’ law found its way into state laws in an effort to promote proactive policing (Kuh, 2005). Under section 140:50, the procedural law in New York makes provision for it while the ruling by the US Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio informs it. ‘Stop and frisk’ law gives New York Police Department (NYPD) legal justification for stopping and frisking pedestrians in search of contrabands such as weapons.
In 2011, the NYPD stopped and frisked more than 684000 people, majority of whom were Latinos and of African-Americans (Berginski, 2013). The author further notes that from 2004 to 2012, NYPD had stopped more than 4.4 million people in an effort to implement the ‘stop and frisk’ policy. Between 2011 and 2012, 87 percent of those who were stopped constituted Hispanic or African-Americans (Berginski, 2013). From all these people, only about 12 percent qualified as viable suspects for criminal activity. This case raises the interrogative on whether the ‘stop and frisk’ law protects people’s freedom from unauthorized search and sovereignty of movement without discrimination on racial lines so that the US can become an important source of aspiration for freedom around the world.
One of the fundamental rights of people is respect and protection of their freedom. For people to live productive lives, they must have autonomy such as the freedom of speech and freedom of movement among others. From the perspective of the US engagement in terms of fostering people’s freedom at the national and international level, the paper has discussed its questionable capacity to form an aspiration for freedoms around the world. More interrogatives were raised upon considering its engagement in Afghanistan war and/or enactment of the ‘stop and frisk’ regulation and/or the US PATRIOT Act.
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