Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not just another conflict in the Middle East

When I saw on the news that the United States started launching tomahawk missiles at Libya assist the rebellion against the country's dictator Muammar Gaddafi, my reaction was quite different from when the U.S. was planning to invade Iraq. In the case of Iraq I was opposed from the start, and I knew that the Bush Administration's reasons for going to war were lies, and that it was a cover for a neoconservative wet dream. It was also a virtually unilateral act opposed by most of the international community. In contrast, I find myself much more conflicted on the issue of Libya. As a principle, my parents and I are generally anti-war. However the case of Libya is very unique and quite different from Iraq. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue here, and as is often the case with foreign policy, people's views are not falling along party lines. Within the right wing, neocons are criticizing President Obama for not doing more and sooner, while libertarians are opposed to the action. Within the left wing, most support Obama except for those whose are staunchly anti-war. Here I will list the valid arguments both in favor of and against Obama's actions.

Arguments in favor of what America is doing are quite obvious, particularly the argument that what is happening in Libya is a potential humanitarian crisis, in which Gaddafi could slaughter large numbers of innocent Libyans if he is allowed. We have intervened in humanitarian crises before, notably the ones in Balkans and in Kosovo in the 1990s. In the same decade, we failed to intervene in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which Bill Clinton has said was one of the greatest regrets of his presidency. It is likely that if there had not been any intervention, that Gaddafi's forces would have massacred the rebel stronghold of Benghazi by now, especially considering how poorly equipped the rebels are to fight on their own, which is another reason why they need assistance. Not only does the situation warrant intervention, but the action has the support of the international community, including the Arab League. This is not a unilateral action. Obama is also trying make as small an American footprint as possible, a clear shift away from the Bush Doctrine, which is better not only for affected countries but for America's image in the Middle East and as a supporter of democracy.

On the other hand there are multiple reasons to be cautious about action in Libya. The most obvious is the risk of America getting sucked into another foreign conflict when we don't want to. Not only is it costly financially on top of the two wars we are already involved in, but if events don't go smoothly there, we could end up having to stay longer than we want and more involved than we want to be, all of which can have adverse consequences. Another thing to consider is America's decision to intervene in Libya but not in other countries in which humanitarian crises are happening, such as Bahrain, as well as some cases in which America is actually backing the dictator. There is also the aspect of the action's constitutionality, given the fact that Congress was not consulted. As mentioned above, both sides of the ideological divide have people who are opposed; both Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX) oppose involvement in Libya, the former believing that taking such an action without approval of Congress is an impeachable offense (and while I generally agree with Kucinich I think that is a bit over the top).

After considering all the factors, I think that personally I am leaning in favor of the intervention as long as Congress approves and as long as the American role can be kept as small as possible. Still, it is a complicated matter and it isn't easy to take a side.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan goes nuclear

I have always been personally opposed to nuclear power, which can be more dangerous and polluting than oil or coal. Nuclear disasters can harm very large numbers of people with the release of radiation, including people who may be far away from the disasters. I learned at a young age how nuclear energy can be one of the dirtiest and most polluting methods of producing energy, even more so than coal, since radioactive pollution lasts so much longer than any other kind. The damage Japan has suffered from last week's earthquake and tsunami was awful enough in of itself, however the country's escalating nuclear disaster is becoming one of the worst ones of all time (second only to Chernobyl). It has reopened to debate over the safety of nuclear power here in the United States, especially in earthquake prone areas.

Yet some politicians don't see this as a reason to stop pushing for nuclear power and they view it as "clean, alternative energy." I was appalled when I saw on the news that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said we shouldn't stop using nuclear power because of one disaster because we don't stop flying planes after one crash. That is an absolutely ridiculous analogy because the damage from a plane crash is nowhere near as great as the damage from a nuclear disaster. It also turns out that nuclear power has bipartisan support. President Obama endorsed nuclear power as alternative energy in his most recent State of the Union Address, but what really put me in disbelief was when Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was on the news stating how he was still supportive of nuclear energy. Politicians ought to know better considering the severity of what is happening in Japan. On a related note, what is even more ridiculous is the willingness of House Republicans to make cuts to life-saving tsunami warning systems, even after the devastation the tsunami that hit Japan caused.

What really worries me is the danger nuclear power and radioactive pollution pose to the West Coast of the United States. There have already been reports that radiation leaked from Japan could reach the West Coast, but the most troubling thing of all is how unprepared this region of the country is, not only because of how seismically active it is, but also because a system is lacking to get people within large population areas to safety. Considering the damage that has been done in one of the best prepared countries in the world, we really should rethink the use of nuclear power here in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A fast one in Wisconsin

For this post I initially intended to go back to the topic of Asperger's and autism that I covered in the first post, but after what I saw on the news about the latest event in Wisconsin, I was so astounded that I had to write about that instead. What happened in Wisconsin is that State Senate Republicans, along with Republican governor Scott Walker, who showed signs yesterday of compromising with Democrats and giving up their efforts to bust unions in the state, pulled a fast one and got around the rules to push through union-busting legislation without Democrats present. In a desperate, undemocratic, ideologically driven move, Wisconsin Republicans subverted laws requiring an open process and took budget repair language out of the union-busting bill so they could pass it without the AWOL Senate Democrats, making it obvious that unions, not the state budget, was their target. This makes it more obvious than ever that those Republicans were going to stop at nothing to wage war on the middle class, following a series of extreme tactics to get the Democrats to return to the state. Recall efforts directed at the Republicans have been given great additional momentum in the wake of this outrage.

Wisconsin is not the only state in which Republicans have attempted extreme power grabs. They have done the same in Ohio, and in Michigan they are attempting something even more extreme, trying to give the governor authority to declare fiscal emergency and then be able to not only disband unions, but entire local governments. All of these unprecedented unpopular efforts have generated a huge backlash which is not likely to subside any time soon. This all confirms what I already knew, that this is class warfare, and this will not stand.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A revitalized left

On February 26, 2011, I went into San Francisco where many people were gathered together for a rally that was held in solidarity with protesters in Wisconsin in opposition to the state government's efforts to break unions. Similar rallies were held that day in major cities and all 50 state capitals. Demonstrations were also held in support of Planned Parenthood, which the House of Representatives is trying to defund. In addition, while I was in San Francisco, I also came across a protest supporting freedom for Libya. This activism is some of the largest and most enduring continuous liberal activism that has been seen in this country since the 1960s (except perhaps with the exception of protests against the Iraq War).

For much of the time period since the 1960s, conservative activism has been much more prominent, whether it was the rise of religious conservatives in the 1980s and 1990s, or the rise of the Tea Party movement in recent years. In fact over the past several decades, since the Reagan Revolution of 1980 (which ultimately led to the term "liberal" becoming a dirty epithet), the whole country has been moving to the right, to the point that today's Democratic Party is essentially to the right of the Republican Party of the 1950s. The Republican Party has kept moving the center further to the right while the Democratic Party has kept chasing the center and capitulating to the Republican Party, no matter who has been in power. Now for the first time in a long time, the Democratic Party is really holding its ground and refusing to budge on the issue of worker's rights. The firm standing in Wisconsin, in addition to the other above mentioned activism, could potentially be a sign of the end of the country's rightward shift, but only time will tell.