Reflections On The True Meaning Of Independence

When we read the words of our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” do we really think about their full meaning? Do we think that these unalienable rights belong only to Americans, or do we recognize that they belong to all of humanity as they are given by the Creator to all of humanity?  

Given Jefferson’s wording here, ratified by all the Founding Fathers who attached their names to the Declaration of Independence, it is clear that the term “all men” implies all of humanity. The Founding Fathers, in their insight, understood that all human beings are created by the same Creator and, therefore share equally in the possession and protection of those rights. The rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence are called “unalienable,” precisely because they are given to all humanity by the Creator, not by any human government. In other words, those rights exist a priori (before) government. Since they are universal and given by the Creator to all men, one of the few and most important responsibilities of government’s, is to promote, to protect and to defend those rights.

U.S. troops deliver aid to a foreign country.
U.S. troops deliver aid to a foreign country.

It is out of this understanding that the concept of military humanitarian intervention finds its purpose and meaning. There are two major reasons for such humanitarian interventions: natural disasters such as famine, hurricanes or earthquakes. The more difficult and more morally delicate of these challenges arise in situations like civil wars where those rights are being denied to civilian populations of a given country because of the deprivations that are often the direct result of war.  This video explains those two types of military humanitarian interventions simply, clearly and succinctly. As you will see, in the latter kind of military intervention, everything becomes vastly more complex and delicate in terms of how and when and where that military humanitarian intervention is applied. 

As we go through the events that occupy the latest news cycle in Afghanistan, this video gives some very thoughtful ideas around the goals, the applications, and the reasons for any military humanitarian interventions, whether in response to a natural disaster, or war zones. I think you will find it thoughtful and challenging.

Where the free are oppressed, governments have an obligation to intercede.
Where the free are oppressed, governments have an obligation to intercede.

When such humanitarian need becomes known, the military is often the most prepared institution to take on the huge logistical and supply line abilities that are necessary to meet the immediate needs of the civilians affected by either a natural disaster situation or those needs that are the direct result of violent conflicts of any sort. Examples are given here too where U.S. military humanitarian aid efforts were carried out successfully and where they were not.  The speaker speaks to the complexities that surround any such decision in a war zone situation and the delicate lines that exist between success and failure in these efforts, especially in war zone situations. 

U.S. troops deliver water to people in need.
U.S. troops deliver water to people in need.

The fact is that government has a particular, noble and profound duty to protect the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and Property of their civilian populations. Where that duty is not honored and civilian population experience suffering as a result, humanitarian aid is often desperately needed.  It is, of course, easier for us to contemplate that duty when it comes to natural disasters, but not so easy either to contemplate or to discern the complexities that come to play in situations of violence and war. There are always lessons to be learned, of course. Those who are wise always remain open to the challenge of learning from their mistakes. It is also a matter of our shared humanity to be concerned for the unjust, or unexpected suffering of our fellow human beings wherever it occurs and to be ready to be the Good Samaritan to those who are suffering.  

Military humanitarian intervention can make a positive impact.
Military humanitarian intervention can make a positive impact.

This video does not propose to answer any of the difficult questions that legitimately arise when the circumstances that call for military humanitarian interventions arise; it simply reveals the complexities that arise in the real world circumstances surrounding any given situation. It is, in fact, remarkably neutral in its approach. It points out why the military is, in most cases, the go-to institution to provide swift, organized and effective humanitarian aid in both natural disaster and war zone situations. But it also points out the complexities and extremely delicate considerations and actions that must be considered and adhered to before committing to any military humanitarian interventions in war zone situations and how fraught those situations are with potential disaster if the complexities and delicacies are either not seen or errors are made.  In any case, the video is challenging and thought provoking.

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