15 April 2017   Leave a comment

It now seems as if the US has decided to show its military power as a means of asserting its foreign policy.  The Syrian attack, the use of the MAOB bomb in Afghanistan, and the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson carrier group just off the coast of North Korea are all examples of the US demonstrating its military might.  Such demonstrations are important at some points, but one should remember that military power only makes sense in the context of a clearly articulated and understood foreign policy.  That underlying logic is not yet apparent and, in its absence, the demonstrations of military power are not likely to influence the other major powers, notably Russia and China, very much.

The Pew Research Center has found that government restrictions on religious practices increased in 2015.  The study identified non-governmental restrictions, defined as “increases in mob violence related to religion, individuals being assaulted or displaced due to their faith, and incidents where violence was used to enforce religious norms,” as well.  The study found that

“Of the 198 countries in the study, 105 (53%) experienced widespread government harassment of religious groups, up from 85 (43%) in 2014 and 96 (48%) in 2013. Limited harassment – cases that were isolated or affected a small number of groups – also rose, taking place in 52 countries (26%) in 2015 (up from 44, or 22% of countries, in 2014).

“Government use of force against religious groups increased as well, with 23 countries (12%) experiencing more than 200 cases of government force in 2015, up from 21 (11%) in 2014. There was an even bigger increase in the number of countries with at least one, but no more than 200 incidents of government use of force against religious groups: 83 nations (42%) fell into this category in 2015, an increase from 60 countries (30%) in 2014.”

The rise in intolerance is small but troubling.  Religion is a dynamic component of nationalism and the passions of nationalism often lead to conflict.

John Tasioulas teaches law at King’s College in London and he has written a worthwhile essay on human rights, raising questions about how one can justify them.  He does not believe that human rights are adequately protected simply as laws or as agreements in democratic societies.  He asserts that

“human rights are rooted in the universal interests of human beings, each and every one of whom possesses an equal moral status arising from their common humanity. In other words, in defending human rights, we will need to appeal to the inherent value of being a member of the human species and, in addition, the interests shared by all human beings in things like friendship, knowledge, achievement, play, and so on. And we will need to ask whether these considerations generate duties that are owed to each and every human being.”

I am not sure why this argument offers greater integrity to the idea of human rights.  Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of human rights atrocities committed when some people are considered “sub-human” by the dominant powers.

Posted April 15, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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