Posted by: jackslife | November 16, 2007

Can Human Rights Trump National Security

There were some statements that, frankly, surprised me a little in the democratic debate at UNLV Thursday. When asked about whether human rights can trump national security, it sounds like all of the candidates except for Richardson said no. I wonder if this is their true feelings, or if they just know that it is the response required in post 9/11 America.

I think there are two separate questions that this raises.  I didn’t watch the debate, so I’m  not sure exactly what was being responded to, but there is the question of our own security at the expense of our rights and then there is the question of human rights in other countries at the expense of our security.  My opinions vary depending on which one we are talking about.

If we are talking about our personal rights, I think that there is definitely a point where human rights trump national security. I hardly think it’s worth being safe at the expense of my rights. I don’t want to live out 1984, just so that I can feel a little safer. I think this is all just a matter of degrees. Most people are willing to sacrifice a certain amount of their rights for security, but there is always that point where the sacrifice is no longer worth it. I would be interested to know what other people’s thoughts are on this subject, because to me one of the things that makes America great is that we have all of these rights. If you start chipping away at the positives, the negatives of our system become a lot less tolerable.

If we are talking about foreign human rights, then I think that we have to worry about our home first and then look to those other areas.  I do actually tend to agree with Obama’s statement in this regard; the two don’t have to be in conflict to one another.  This seems like a false dichotomy, unless we are merely talking about how we allocate our resources.

I also would say that I think our motivation for choosing which causes to get involved in seems to be, at best arbitrary and, at worst less than pure.  I have said for a long time that the Sudan had a greater human rights pull than many of the places we have gotten involved in, but it is only now that a few celebrities get involved in the current Darfur situation that our attention turns there.  I do, however, accept that I don’t know everything that is going on in all these situations.


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