Globalist Review

A New Order for this Century and the Next

-America's role in the 21st century-
-Balancing social and economic growth-
-The next stage of our economy; sustainable capitalism-
-Engaging our enemies and allies-
-Recovering and maintaining moral leadership-
-The role of soft and hard power-
-Unilateralism or Multilateralism-
-Empire or Hegemony-

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Moral Leadership--Torture


America's legacy of moral leadership has aided its authority to serve as a promotional beacon of freedom and justice in the international order. It was, we must remember, the American creed that initiated the idea of basic, state-protected individual rights. It was an American administration that first conceptualized what would eventually become the United Nations. It was an American first lady who was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a decision by the American Supreme Court that first established the idea of customary international law and that all nations are bound by it. From USAID to the World Bank to the Peace Corps, the precedent of humanitarianism has strongly remained an American one.

Today, the country once lauded for its moral accomplishments has effectively disregarded the Geneva Conventions, rewritten laws against torture, and enshrined both preemptive and preventative war into concrete doctrine.

The shift of the torture paradigm is the most disconcerting. We know about rendition. We know about Guantanamo. We know about waterboarding. "The United States does not engage in torture" has become shrouded in the same humorous and hypocritical hue as "I did not have sex with that woman."

Revealing their affinity for trashy television, those who staunchly advocate the use of torture tend to discharge the "Jack Bauer" excuse. In their minds, America is the target for an imminent attack every day, and the tough heroism of Bauer-esque government agents willing to use all means necessary to extract information continue to save us from impending doom. Just like on television.

We know that this is a fallacy. And we know that substantive evidence exists that renders torture ineffective. Unfortunately, we also know that this evidence has been hijacked and manipulated by many groups intending to construct an absolutist, bullet-proof case against the practice.

Yet there have been documented cases where torture helped extract important information from foreign detainees. Although lacking the dramatic climax of an episode of "24", the use of torture has worked. Sometimes at least.

But should it matter?

Sanctioning the use of an internationally-banned practice reeks of Machivellianism: that the ends justify the means. It is quite striking how torture proponents' rhetoric of today resembles the work of the former Florentine.

Yet, for a moral nation, the ends never justify the means, because the means are what makes us moral. What separates us from our enemies--or so we are told--is that we are on the right side of the ethical coin. If we engage in their flavor of activities (the very ones that we have so ferociously condemned) then instead of the good and the evil, it's the vanquished and the victor.

Of course, it's easy to play the "but it saves American lives" riff. It's difficult for a "moral" and "free" nation to allow demonstrations of freedom and morality to potentially compromise the security of its citizens. But there are many activities that the government could undertake to potentially save lives that, because they violate our laws and our principles, are distinctively prohibited. We are unwavering in our refusal to negotiate with terrorists. There is little doubt that conceding to bin Laden (who has three main demands of the United States, and two of them--withdrawing bases from the Middle East and pulling troops from Saudi Arabia--are pragmatic options) could easily save American lives. Yet we remain steadfast.

Bans against torture, like many of America's creeds, must remain uncompromising. Otherwise this country is unfit to retain its moral authority in the shifting world order.

Energy Security with Ethanol


It is clear that today, more than ever, our country and the world need realistic energy alternatives. More specifically, when we speak of transportation, the solution to our dependence on foreign oil will most likely be found in a number of options. Ethanol is of course the most talked-about substitute for our addiction to petroleum. But is it a practical solution? E-10 is already mandated in some states and E-85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) is considered the next step. More and more, it is becoming apparent that ethanol derived from corn is energy inefficient and a burden on food prices. Many speak of ethanol from fiber or cellulose as the future of ethanol production. But can we really become energy independent, or with an ethanol future will we have to depend on new countries and alliances to completely supply our energy needs?

The idea of a new energy partnership is not a bad one. Countries like Brazil, whom we have long sought to woo into a Latin American power bloc, produce and export ethanol from sugar cane. Indeed, a U.S.-Brazil ethanol trade agreement could help spur a whole new era of energy alliances throughout Latin America.

Ultimately, a long term direction is needed. But does ethanol provide a viable solution? Can we look to our own backyard for remedies to our energy needs and greater regional interests?

Friday, January 25, 2008

America's Path

What is the vision of the 2008 presidential candidates for America's role in the 21st century world? Continued engagement in Iraq or not, multilateralism or unilateralism, how is the United States to be presented to the world in the coming decade and how will it engage our enemies and allies? Do we perceive ourselves as leaders in an uncivilized world or leaders among equals. These are important questions to be asked on a macro level. A clear vision of America's path both in the minds of its leaders and the minds of its citizens will be imperative as we as a nation confront difficult questions and choices of energy alternatives and our national security. What should this path be and how should it be articulated and implemented...?

What is the number one priority in Iraq today?

Which presidential candidate presents the clearest path for America's foreign affairs?