Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Libya and the Arab Awakening

Several people contacted me to address the situation in the Middle East and provide an analysis of it.  To be honest, you could write several books on just the development of the past few months, and in my opinion, you need to break down and analyze each of the countries.  Yes there are common themes in each of these areas, but you have to examine the exact situation with regards to economics, domestic politics, international politics, society, demographics, etc.  For starts, I'll offer my perspective on the situation in Libya, as this has become the most pressing issue of the day. 

In doing so, I will address several key areas.  I will begin by commenting on the recent development of events in the country and touch on the domestic politics of the state that led to the current situation.  I will then look at the international reaction to this incident and how its portrayed in the media.  Following this, I hope to analyze potential US policies on the area in an attempt to determine what the best course of action will be to take.

But to begin, here's a collection of political cartoons to spark future interest:

As well, with all of the events and issues of the world that are going on, I figure I should develop a separate blog to address all of these problems.  That will allow me to use this blog on more discussion on principles and the ills of our society that will remain separate from current events and politics.  But that's just something for the future, probably when I get time in a week or two.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gun Control Part 2

In my last post I examined Gun Control more on the wording of the 2nd Amendment and the differing interpretations of that right.  This time around, I'd like to focus on the wisdom of banning weapons.  While I do support gun rights and am therefore biased, I fail to see the justification for the banning of weapons.  From what I've witnessed, the only legitimate case for banning is generally made on the basis that it would have the potential to decrease violent acts in the country.  However, statistics I've examined have not demonstrated any real correlation of gun control with lower rates of crime.  I would accept the fact that gun control would reduce the ease in which people would commit crimes, and in the sense that may reduce crimes in particular cases.  However doing so may cause different crimes in different cases.  To be honest, statistics can easily be provided that make a case for either gun control or gun rights, so I feel it's not safe to provide any of those for this discussion.

So if the case for gun control on the basis of realist grounds remains limited, let's examine the case made by gun rights advocates.  From what I generally hear in the news, the US should protect gun rights because:

  • It needs protection from the government
  • It needs protection from others
  • It's their civil right
  • It's their civic duty
  • It'd leave it in the hands of only criminals
I'm sure there are more cases out there, but these are the basics I'm familiar with.  Let's unpack each other these statements.

Protection from the Government:
The case is often made that citizens needs to maintain their arms in order to be an additional check on the government.  That if a government becomes too powerful or interferes with the rights of a citizen, then they would have the means to defend themselves from that government.  Since the Bill of Rights seems to be concerned with limiting the government's control of the people, I find this case particularly interesting.  As a studier of history, it seems that governments that have the power to do something will attempt to do so if the costs aren't too great.  In authoritarian regimes, this could mean oppressing the people enough that they fall back in line, but not so much that they engage in rebellion and have the means to be successful.  The government's situation would thus be improved by limiting the ownership of firearms within the country, and if you look at examples like Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union, the government was able to dominate certain aspects of society because they had no means to fight back.

In a liberal democracy, things are a bit different.  There are often more checks and balances in place within the government itself, and in theory, the people are supposed to have the ultimate sovereignty.  Nevertheless, there remains the possibility that an elected government could overstep its powers in some way.  This seems particularly possible in times of war where the government takes emergency powers that often enhances the executive.  With an increased power, that government may attempt to enact certain legislation that violates rights of citizens, thereby acting much like authoritarian regimes.  By having gun control, then, the likelihood of such rights violations by the government seems as if it would only increase.  From that sense, then, I'd say that gun ownership would be helpful in providing an additional check on the government.

Protection from others:
I won't go into this one too detailed for the simple fact that it would require statistics that could be easily manipulated as I said previously.  The essence of the argument though is that people need to have the ability to protect themselves or others from people attempting to commit crimes against them.  A counter-argument can easily be made that the police should be the ones providing the protection, so I don't feel that this argument is relatively strong one way or the other.  Indeed, it can be far too politicized to have any legitimate bearing on this issue, but that transitions into:

Civil Rights:
 Moreless this is the idea that I mentioned in my last post that it is the right of the person to bear arms.  The Consitution's Bill of Rights guarantees this right in the eyes of some, and I feel I made a case for why, according to the language, that gun ownership should be accepted.

Civic Duty:
This idea stems from a framework that people could help deter crime, but also supports the aforementioned check on the government.  In a liberal democracy, it is necessary to empower the people with tasks to better society, like voting in proper leaders.  Having a means to protect that society could also be lumped into there.  Counter-arguments are then made about the police again, but the fact of the matter is that the police are, in fact, working for the government.  Their interests may not be the same as the interests of that society, and so its the peoples civic duty to help enforce things.  This issue with police can easily be seen in a country like Egypt, where the police were the oppressors of the people under Husni Mubarak.

Guns for Criminals:
This idea is particularly interesting.  It revolves around the idea that should gun control laws be passed, then only law-abiding citizens would turn them in.  Criminals would therefore be the only ones that'd realistically be carrying them.  Supports of this would say that these criminals would find it harder to obtain these guns, but to be honest, we have almost as many guns as we do people in this country. Th ability for a criminal to obtain a gun would be quite easy to do, and this seems as if it could actually increase the amount of crimes committed with a gun, because criminals would not be worried about their victims carrying.

I could continue but it's rather late and I need some rest.  Basically, however, with all the facts that I've seen on the issue of gun control,  I just don't see how banning gun ownership is constitutional, viable, or even safe in this country.  If any of you are gun control advocates, by all means post on here; i'd love to hear your comments and hopefully you can help me understand the case that you make better.  With everything that I've seen however, gun control just doesn't seem to be the right way forward.  Any thoughts?

Next time I plan on examining the problems that our society has.  Hopefully discussing this issue of gun control will inform you of how I will examine our trouble areas and attempt to lead discussion on how to change those problems.  However, future posts will likely be more on the basis of principles and the ills of our society and not one key issue.  I may bring issues up from time to time or examine contemporary situations like the revolutions in the Middle East, but the ultimate goal of this blog is being able to come up with ways that we can make our society better.

2nd Amendment Cartoon

Well in line with my most recent post, here's a cartoon that pretty much sums up the historical foundation I provided:

As the comic demonstrates, the real debate over the 2nd Amendment comes from whether the people have the right to bear arms, or if it was reserved for a well-regulated militia maintained by a state.  My blog post analyzes this issue on a historical and contemporary basis and you can view it here.  I hope to continue this discussion later tonight by comparing the history of guns and gun laws in the United States and other liberal democracies. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gun Control

I was going to reserve my first few posts to discuss the problems that exist today and why those problems exist, today.  However, I got into a discussion with both a far left  and far right person on the issue of gun control in America.  With our current Supreme Court, owning weapons is generally seen as being a civil right that is guaranteed by the Second Amendment's right to bear arms clause:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Court cases in recent years has seemed to reaffirm the idea that citizens can own weapons including assault rifles, shotguns, hunting rifles and handguns.  Nevertheless, gun control has become an extremely politicized issue.  On the one hand, Democrats often argue that guns are inherently dangerous, can lead to deaths that would have otherwise not happened, and are all around not good for society.  They often argue that the Second Amendment is reserved only for "a well regulated Militia."  On the other, Republicans stress what they see as a guaranteed civil right that allows for self defense and more.  Much like the issue of gay rights, abortion, and other rights issues, gun control has thus come to be extremely politicized.

With these basic facts established, what would the best approach to take regarding gun control?  To start, I'd like to examine the Amendment itself and offer my views on it.  The first part is not disputed in that a well-regulated militia is a state right, as seen with national guards within all 50 states.  The issue is then "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  When separating this statement out, I don't think anyone can argue the fact that it seems to say that keeping and bearing arms is the right of the people.  That this right shall not be infringed by the government.

Yet people then stress the need to take the entire statement as a whole, and from there interpretations can be made that this right is for the people within the militias;  that, however, puts forth another problem.  At the founding of the country, each state was able to form its own militia;  indeed, this fact had a large influence on the outcome of the American Revolution.  After the Articles of Confederation failed and the Constitution was enacted, these militias still stayed in effect.  Indeed, the national army was still relatively small and states retained lots of power in comparison to the federal government.  In fact, if you were ask people of this time where they were from, they'd often say from Virginia or New York, and not the United States.  People identified with their states first and foremost and their country second.  This allegiance to the state made it so a well regulated militia would be loyal to that state, and there were circumstances when this militia came to be willing to defend state policies... Toledo Strip anyone?

So basically, it wasn't until after the Civil War (which was more about states' rights than anything in my opinion) that people began identifying themselves as American and that the American government began imposing its will onto the states.  Without a doubt, the ability of the states to minimize the oversight of the federal government was fast diminishing at this time.  Move ahead 150 years later and lets examine the "militias" of each state.  These National Guards receive vast federal funding, equipment provided by the federal government, and due to the influence by the federal government, these national guards can be used in foreign wars.  Servicemen that enlist within these well-regulated militias take an oath of enlistment with those joining the federal government.  They attend the same training as the others, and with our current operations, they deploy just the same as servicemen for the federal government.  

In my opinion, these well-regulated militias are still being maintained by the state and providing security for that state, but not in the same matter that they once were.  As the term National Guard implies, their job isn't supposed to be getting involved in federal affairs, but rather guarding the nation.  Again, though, the influence of the federal government has allowed for this to happen.  Yet, I'd venture to say that the founders of the nation would not have intended for the present circumstances to occur.  If using both clauses of the Second Amendment with this history, then, I think it is clear that only maintaining National Guards are not enough.  Even if it is the people in militias who are supposed to have the right to bear arms in order to provide for security of the state, the oversight of the federal government is so vast that they seem to be able to dictate what those people though.  Due to this, I tend to side with the idea that the right to bear arms is supposed to be reserved for the people in not just the militias, but in regular homes.

Too Long; Didn't Read:
With this, I've made a case that while the second amendment's language is disputed, the right to bear arms must be preserved for ordinary citizens.  By using history and examining present circumstances, it seems clear that the idea of what constitutes a well-regulated militias has changed, and because of that, the right to bear arms must extend to the people.  In my next post, I will be examining just what this means in my mind and as to why I think it is needed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A little about myself

 So a little about myself and my thoughts before I get posting real issues.  My area of study has been international relations with an emphasis on the Middle East, so I'm quite knowledgeable about the affairs of the world, but could use work on domestic issues.  My biggest concern is being able to create a better society.  Within the framework of my political thought, this means being able to formulate a government that serves the interests of the people by taking care of those in need, letting people achieve their potential, and not infringing upon their rights or choices.  It means getting society to look at issues in new ways and from there we can achieve begin to move forward.

With this in mind, I will be posting not only an analysis of problems, but probably my own thoughts on a subject.  In addition,  I will include articles by other people that I will either critique or praise in order to help get somewhere with this blog.  Oh and of course, I will be posting political comics and such.  I've always found it entertaining that people that poke fun at the problems with our system are often more correct than the rhetoric that politicians engage in.  Rather than keeping a veil over our eyes, comics seem to throw the issues right in your face; sure its in a comical manner, but its important to remain detached and keep a positive outlook on things. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

About this blog

    As the title of site suggests, this blog will revolve around identifying social, economic, civil, or political troubles that exist, breaking these issues down to their core problems, and engaging in dialogue to find effective suggestions on how to fix them.  Unfortunately, numerous issues exist throughout the world, and they quickly become politicized with given ideologies that often fail to accept compromise.  These ideologies become convinced that there way is the only way, and other suggestions that even question one aspect of their viewpoint get shot down immediately.  Due to this, I hope to discuss issues with as little bias as possible; I know it is impossible to not have my views come out when discussing issues like these, but nevertheless, I hope to detach myself as effectively as possible.

    To assist with this, I hope to to receive as much feedback from other people in the course of getting my thoughts down in writing.  I realize that many people would say very politicized comments, others may just be trolling, but any legitimate remarks I will take for what they worth.  Any suggestions that I may propose are by no means set in stone;  I do not consider myself to be an expert in a certain field.  My views are subject to change as I gain more knowledge on an issue and find find the best way to move forward.

With that, I invite anyone to leave comments with various issues areas or their own personal view on anything in general.