Rights vs. Responsibilities

Dangerous Double-Talk

Written by JB Williams


Americans spend a lot of time fighting for, talking, debating and writing about our rights. No matter from which side of the political aisle we hale, we love our rights and we love to talk about them. It’s a shame we are not as enthusiastic about the responsibilities that accompany those rights.

To be sure, we Americans have more rights than we can shake a stick at. But the one we seem to love most, or at least hang our hat on the most, is our right to freely speak our mind. I’m certainly no exception.

Every fight we are engaged in today revolves around some real, perceived or desired right, as human beings, as fellow Americans, or as members of the world community. We fight over gay rights, abortion rights, religious rights, economic rights, artistic rights, gun rights, property rights, racial rights, majority or minority rights and even our right to act as a sovereign nation, in the interest of national security. Nothing will get a good fight going like a fight over rights…

Yet we seem somewhat reluctant to spend any time on the responsibility side of the equation. It’s almost as if some people fail to realize that each right carries with it an inherently inescapable responsibility. They interpret all freedoms and personal liberties to be free from consequence or responsibility, but nothing could be further from the truth.

As Americans, we have above all else, the right of self-determination. We not only have a right to decide what’s important, we have an obligation, a responsibility, not only as regards ourselves, but as regards our community and our nation.

On the August 14th edition of Face the Nation, leader of the Democratic Party Howard Dean announced to the world (his personal opinion concerning Americas response to Iran’s return to nuclear proliferation), that America “doesn’t have much [military might] left to fight a country that is a danger to the United States.”

Concerning a recent Bush press conference in which the President rightfully refused to eliminate military action as a option regarding Iran, Dean said “that no option should be taken off the table”, but that “he [the President] shouldn’t say it, because it can’t be delivered upon”, implying that either this President doesn’t have the will to use such an option, (proven wrong by this Presidents action in Iraq), or that America does not have the military strength to carry out such an option, an assertion made often by many liberal democrats these days.

Clearly Governor Dean, like any other American, has every right to such an opinion. However, as the leader of the second most powerful political party in America, representing nearly half of American voters, on a world stage, during a time of war, what were his responsibilities and did he live up to them?

Should he consider his audience, not just those like minded political ideologues that such statements are intended to rally, but the world-wide audience, including our enemies, who re-printed those statements in their own propaganda rags within minutes? What would we suppose Iran (or many other terrorist minded regimes in the world) might take from his statements?

Could we reasonably assume that Iran would take his statements quite literally, becoming more confident in their decision to defy the official position of the US administration and therefore, the UN, who never acts in such matters without the US? How did Iran respond to this news, that America was unable to “deliver upon” any threat of action? Let’s not guess. Iran answers the question…

“An increasingly defiant Iran called yesterday for Europe to open talks on Tehran's intention to enrich uranium, and dismissed a veiled Bush administration warning of military action against Iranian nuclear operations as psychological warfare.” states an AP article in the following Monday morning Seattle Times. In short, Iran immediately responded to Deans statements for benefit of the same world stage.

Reality is that military action in Iran became more likely as a direct result of Dean’s irresponsible statements. We know this because we have seen it before. Hussein, with the help of his bed-partners in France, Germany and Russia, became oblivious to threats of action from the UN or the US after successfully thumbing his nose at 17 hollow threats from the international community via an impotent UN throughout the Clinton years, leaving only military action as a viable means of forcing compliance.

For the record, when saber rattling doesn’t work, and our enemies call our bluff (if that’s what it is) using the saber itself is usually the only remaining option. In some circles, undermining formal foreign policy initiatives by discounting policy statements as insincere, would be considered “aiding and abetting” the enemy, whether intentional or out of ignorance. After all, it pretty much voids the efforts of diplomats actually charged with the responsibility of resolving conflicts without military action, doesn’t it?

What about liberal statements that Iraqis are worse off now than when living under the boot of the friendly Hussein family? Does anyone really believe this to be true? Even it if were true, (as if it could be), does such a statement not directly encourage those “insurgents” currently “resisting” efforts to create a free Iraq? Are these so-called “insurgents” motives not validated by such statements, there resistance emboldened by Americans who openly support their claims?

How about the statement that Iraq was not a hotbed of terror before American soldiers arrived, or Senator Dick Durbin’s statements accusing American “Nazis” of running modern day “Gulags”? Could the “insurgents” themselves have said it any better?

While all of these people have a right to make these statements, they also have a responsibility not to make statements which clearly support the views and ambitions of our enemies. Don’t they?

Can one claim to “support our troops” while making statements that aid, support and embolden the enemies of our troops? I can’t see how… Can one claim to be pro-American when all of their rhetoric is anti-America? What kind of national leader takes aim at his own nation in support of his nation’s enemies? Technically speaking, only a traitor!

It seems to me that a debate over rights vs. responsibilities might be the most important discussion we could have in America today, maybe the world. Which carries more weight, our right, or the inescapable responsibility?

Do we have a right to defend our nation and way of life against all enemies, foreign or domestic, at any cost? Regardless of whether or not we have the right, we certainly have the responsibility to do exactly that, whatever the cost. This is the first responsibility of every elected official, no matter their political party affiliation.

Most Americans agree that the war on terror is one we can’t afford to lose. But how do we win a war that half of the nation sees no need to fight? How do we defeat an enemy supported by nearly half of our population?

We have the right… but we also have a responsibility. Those who accept no responsibility with their right can not be trusted with that right. In war time, no one is more dangerous than an irresponsible individual willing to aid and abet our enemies for sake of political gain. Patriotism doesn’t get any more basic than this and I am troubled by the number of Americans who either just don’t get that, or just don’t care…

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