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Reader ripostes: Various

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COMMENTS

14 September 2010 11:35

Below, four reader emails on four different topics. First, Will Price:

I think the main problem with 'human rights' is not the rights themselves, but the conflation of human rights as an ideology, rather than simply working out how best everyone in the word can live in vastly different political and social worlds.

Sam is correct that rights don't 'exist at all times and in all places', but I don't agree that this is what human rights 'rest on', unless the discussion of them has become dogmatic — which then stops real discussion anyway. So whilst I agree that 'the idea that human rights are primordial and eternal' does indeed inhibit debate, I'm not sure that the use of the words human rights is the problem.

Maybe it just comes down to how people interpret the word 'rights', and maybe you are correct that it tends to be interpreted as a yes/no, black/white issue. If so let's just make sure we don’t give up on the discussion itself, simply find more appropriate words (humanitarian ethics') to enable the conversation (and action) to continue.

Your point about the child labourer in India seems a bit of a strawman argument, as I suspect that there actually is no one simply telling them about their rights and nothing else, but ignoring that I think it actually can be useful to tell someone they have a 'right to education' even when they have little chance of receiving it, as that itself can be part of the education of a population and education is the underpinning of all social change.

As always I think more information to more people with more discussion is generally a good way to go

Chris Skinner:

Rodger Shanahan is correct in stating that possession of military units and materiel does not constitute military power per se. The capability to operate that materiel effectively must also be demonstrated so as to overwhelm an opponent if possible, or if not then the capability to sustain the effort over protracted timescales to outlast an opposing force must be shown.

I interpret the insightful article by Dr Michael Wesley (‘A relationship in need of a rethink’ ) to say that a decade or more hence Indonesia will have the economic power to create military forces of a magnitude sufficient to alter the attitudes of the US and others regarding power balances in our region. This must affect Australia fundamentally and does require us to make judgements on whether such power currently exists or could be built up over a period requiring us to prepare now for that situation.

In just the same way that Australia’s submarine force is working to restore the potency that its numbers support so should we expect that Indonesia may do likewise. It takes less time overall to raise and train military forces than it does to design and acquire the material those forces will employ.

Anonymous writes:

Re. Hugh White's claim that 'America's political leaders have convinced themselves that a small group of fugitives on the run in Pakistan poses a bigger challenge to America's place in the world than the economic transformation of the world's most populous nation.'

This is not correct at all. I was working at ONA in the 18 months after the September 11 attacks. I remember distinctly that, in the months after the attacks, the CIA built up a team of analysts to analyse the al Qaeda threat by taking resources from all but one of their existing teams. That one team which remained fully resourced was the China team. To me, this shows that the Americans saw China as being at least as important as the threat from al Qaeda.

Also, the US hasn't so much been chasing al Qaeda for the last nine years, as dealing with the problems created by their need to regain control of the situation when the threat emerged. Removing the threat in Afghanistan (via invasion) and Saudi Arabia (by putting their armoured divisions in Iraq, next to the Saudi oil fields, to heavy the Saudis to get moving on the problem) was done very soon after the initial deployments. But dealing with the consequences of those deployments is what has absorbed many of their waking hours.

Carlton Hughes, one of our Canadian readers, points out this post from a Canadian politics blog:

'The Ultimate Speaker's Parade is coming to Parliament Hill!...(Canada's) very own Peter Milliken will be hosting the 9th meeting of the Speakers of the Lower Houses of the G8, as they exchange...experience, opinions and information, primarily on parliamentary matters such as the role of parliaments and the organization of parliamentary functions in a rapidly changing world.'  To which one commenter replied, 'Too bad that the Speaker of the Australian House isn't elected yet, he or she probably could have used the advice. Of course, he may only be the speaker for a few weeks. I too would have liked to see the speaker from South Korea invited. He is obviously in good enough shape to break up fights in the chamber.'