Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gun Control in a Modern World

Gun control is an often reported controversy dividing political parties, cities and families. The first law that dealt with gun control was the 2nd Amendment. It took over 200 years for the Supreme Court to rule in 2008 in District of Columbia vs. Heller that this amendment gives the right to own a firearm. This is important as many critics site the formation of a militia as a key condition to gun ownership (this would be similar to the system used in Switzerland). However, the court has ruled and at least some form of gun ownership is allowed for all American citizens.

There are millions of safe and responsible gun owners in the U.S. The number of gun related crimes relative to the number of total guns owned is less than a fraction of 1 percent.  (See for more statistics). This means that a large portion of the gun crime is committed in a very small minority of gun owners. Attempts have been made to reduce these gun deaths by restricting the sale of guns and requiring background checks. However, criminals always find ways to gain an advantage over rivals and to gain weapons illegally. While these methods have some value, they are not the only solution. 

A large portion of gun crimes and gun related crimes can be traced to drugs, alcohol, and other addiction/substance abuse problems. Gun use in gangs and criminal organizations has been commonplace for over a century (think Al Capone). Perhaps, the restrictions and enforcement should focus on dealing with the underlying issues in gun violence, rather than on the guns itself. While the U.S. has a higher than average gun crime rate, the rate for assaults and robberies are on par with similar countries. What this means is that in violent crimes in other countries, bladed or blunt weapons are used instead of guns. And yet, you don't see the call to ban knives or baseball bats.

To solve the issue of gun control, one will have more success if the focus is placed on prevention of situations in which improper gun use could result. This could mean more money spent on tackling drugs, gangs, domestic violence, and other problems where guns may be used. The Supreme Court has ruled and guns are here to stay. Now, the emphasis must be placed on preventing situations where improper gun use is the highest. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Syria and Lybia: Tale of Two Countries

With the recent devastation and loss of life in Syria, many have wondered why the response of the international community has been so tame compared to a similar situation in Libya. The simple answer is Syria has an ally on the U.N. Security Council with veto powers, while Libya did not. Libya was an oil producer and was much closer to European shipping lanes. However, Syria is in the Middle East with little effect on European shipping routes and trade. Furthermore, Syria is a long-time and ardent ally of Russia and a mass importer of Russian weapons and supplies. And herein lies the problem. Russia has used its veto on every resolution that could lead to the use of force. It should be noted that China has followed Russia's lead on this situation.

And so, Russia has prevented the use of force and outside intervention in Syria, but had no objection with Libya. The only apparent difference between the two tends to be Russia's billions of dollars in sales of arms and long standing treaties with the dictatorship of the Assad ruling family. However, there must come a time in international relations, where the past must be set aside when the human cost is so great. International law and common humanity dictate that the severe loss of human life and crimes against humanity trump trade and old alliances. Hopefully Russia will be softened by the severe condition of the Syrian people and allow international aid to help the people who are victims on either side of the raging conflict. The people of Syria should be allowed to choose their rulers and to speak freely without the fear of death and torture. Until Russia and China stop using veto powers on the U.N. Security Council, it appears that the only option for many Syrians is to flee and hope for the best.

Friday, July 13, 2012

President Obama First Term Foreign Policy Grades

President Obama Foreign Policy Grades

For this post I have decided to grade key foreign policy aspects of President Obama's presidency. Grades are shown below. (Guide to grades: A-Great Performance, B-Average Performance, C-Below Average Performance, D-Dreadful Performance, F-Failure)

Secretary of State: Grade: A. 

The choice of Hillary Clinton is the key to the President's foreign policy. Having had little experience in foreign affairs, choosing a woman with vast international experience from her time as first lady and her work afterwards was a great move. She does not seem to back down on America's interest or apologize for America. The same cannot be said for the President however. But, his choice of Secretary of State was a brilliant move and she has proven a capable diplomat.

Israel: Grade: C-.

The President has not made Israel a top priority in his foreign policy agenda. Typically, Israel is a key ally and powerhouse of the U.S. Middle East foreign policy. Under this administration, the Israel-Palestine peace process has gone virtually no where and no large summits have been held on the issue. Granted, most summits are unsuccessful, but they show a willingness to try. The President needs to improve his support of Israel to ensure a strong U.S. foreign policy in the volatile region.

Venezuela: Grade: C

The President's recent remarks about Chavez have left many questioning how serious he takes the Venezuelan President Chavez. Chavez is a very important part of South American policy and his leftist views have influenced several other nations in South America. Furthermore, his strong support of Iran and the country's large fuel reserves make Chavez a force to be reckoned with. His influence in the region should be countered by a strong U.S. presence in the region to promote stability, transparent democracy, and free trade in the region.

North Korea:  Grade: B-

The changing of the ruler in North Korea provided an opening for the U.S. to assert its willingness to help the North Korean people to prosper. More should have been done to take advantage of this rare change in power in North Korea. Furthermore, tensions with South Korea including the sinking of a South Korean ship and shelling of an island killing South Koreans should have been met with a more forceful condemnation by the administration. However, this situation could have gotten out of hand very quickly and led to larger skirmishes and complications for U.S. pacific interests. A larger military conflict was averted and the tensions were defused with minimal loss of life. This must be commended. But, ultimately, the failure to act with a new leader in Korea should be seen as a mistake.

Iran/Syria: Grade: C-

The President has allowed Russia and China to stall most efforts by the U.S. to counter Iran's growing nuclear power. Furthermore, the influence of Iran in the Syria crisis and the failure of international bodies to act as innocent children and families are killed and ruined is a tragic failure. The President has not been effective in dealing with China or Russia in his foreign policy in relations to Iran and Syria. It should be made clear that old alliances and arms deals will not be tolerated with leaders who commit great acts of violence against their people. In addition, Iran must not be allowed to gain nuclear weapons with their current threats against Israel and U.S. military bases in the region. 

E.U.: Grade: C+

While remaining quite popular among the leaders of Europe, the President has done this at the cost of U.S. exceptionalism. Europe has long been a strong economic and diplomatic partner with the U.S. However, under the current administration, it seems that America is being brought to be equal to Europe, when it should be left as the prime country in the world. All countries should strive to first serve their own people before those in other countries. The President should remember that America is a great country and should always strive to keep our nation ahead of others. 

Overall: Grade: C

The President has done a substandard job in representing the interests of the U.S. abroad. In a push for equality, he has sacrificed diplomatic power that has been built up over the last century. America is a great nation and its interests should be vigorously defended at home and abroad.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Supreme Court Healthcare Ruling

As this will be my first post, I would like to set the basic premise of this blog. I am a well educated and well read American hoping to find clarity in the midst of a whirlwind of media and political messages. The views expressed are my own and may contain bias based on my life and what I have seen. I choose to remain as anonymous as I can to prevent any negative backlash. I will research and study any topics if requested (please be polite or I will ignore you). And now, on the first post.

For this post, I have chosen to talk about the Supreme Court's recent ruling on President Obama's chief domestic policy, healthcare. Many republicans and conservatives were shocked to see Chief Justice John Roberts join the court's more liberal wing in this ruling. Roberts has long been considered a conservative justice with Anthony Kennedy as the courts lone moderate. However, in this case he went against the grain of his fellow conservative justices.

This was not only a conservative move by the Chief Justice, it was brilliant. He effectively ended the notion that Congress could compel people to buy a product. This was found to be unconstitutional. The mandate was only upheld because it was a tax and not a fee (despite what some may say, this is a tax under the eyes of the law). Only as a tax was this law upheld. It has forever granted that Congress has no power to compel the purchase of any item. Furthermore, the Chief Justice limited the punitive power of the federal government against the states. He sided with the states that choose not to participate by protecting them from losing current funding. States rights and economic choice are both conservative values that the Chief Justice has upheld. In calling this a tax, states were protected and economic liberty was retained. Conservatives may be fuming over an apparent defection by Chief Justice Roberts, but it was by this that he ensured the federal government didn't overreach and violate states rights as given by the 10th amendment.

So, while some may disagree with this ruling, it should be apparent that the Chief Justice put politics aside and stuck to the Constitution of the United States of America. He should be commended for his even hand in a tough and politically divisive issue. For my next post, I will discuss gains and losses in foreign policy under the current President of the United States.