What is a government’s responsibility?

The apocalyptic 21st c has carved out  a division on how best to determine the rights and responsibilities of government to their citizens, though, and maybe more crucial,  has been the case of collective security.   Economic matters will always retain their zeal among government in order to campaign for political office or re-election. The founding of the United Nations, the rights and responsibilities of those in affected regions with instability due to counter forces to the ruling elite (see Syria) or simply those factions that are at a crossroads of the many who fall under policy that favour them (see Britain), place a burden on  UN members . The United States has shouldered the burden of collective security starting with The Treaty of Paris in 1898 that shifted independence to Cuba away from Spain and along with that Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and Guam into the American orbit and with that, a stronger sense of colonialism.1

Rightfully, the first order of business for government is the protection of their citizens, those who reside within their borders legally or have business interests that require their presence for extended periods of time (notwithstanding Multi-nationals.) They must be a guarantor of those rights or we have the prospect of opportunities for terrorism such as the incident in 1970 that led to the FLQ  (Front de liberation du Quebec- a French Canadian separatist group)  kidnapping British Trade Commissioner James Cross  in Quebec, Canada. So, we have installed various mechanisms to protect government dignitaries and to a  lesser extent, the average legal citizen.

However, the founding of the United Nations on October 24, 1945 promised a new world order based on “collective security” guaranteed by its members to provide assurances of safety. Great idea and wonderful concept, though, the post WWII global structure weighed heavily on the United States with much less of a role for stalwarts such as the United Kingdom, France and Italy. Germany and Japan had much work in front of them to win back the good graces of the international community and still have work to do to become truly sovereign nation- states apart from American influence. Former Harvard Professor, Samuel Huntington famously spoke of a culture change regarding conflict among humans in “The Clash of Civilisations” in 1996. Huntington could foresee the rise of Islamic fundamentalism born out of the Israeli- Palestine discord that has been festering since the founding of the state of Israel in a Post WW2 world. Staunch allies of Israel among Western powers has given rise to jihad and thrust various groups into the spotlight,most famously or infamously, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

This notion of collective security then begs the question: what is a government’s responsibility and to whom.

Libertarian’s refer to positive and negative liberty. Negative liberty being characterised as the notion that  I am free as long as I can act unimpeded by other persons while I am pursuing my objectives. If I am interfered with, then I am unfree. In the positive sense of liberty, my decisions are mine alone and not affected by external sources. This sounds good but a bit fishy. In government, we are affected every day by external forces who impose sanctions on us in the form of taxation. In our daily lives,we encounter laws that may affect us in a puerile manner, such as minor infractions like jaywalking, riding a bicycle without a helmet or other regional laws that are devised to protect us from ourselves and other citizens. The notion of immigration can create some unease because jobs are being shifted in this era of globalisation and soft(er) borders. Seats in classrooms are being allocated to international students that create competition among citizens for opportunities in the work-place and colleges that never existed to this extent for past generations, which drive up the cost of tuition. Yes, the benefit is a diverse group of students who bring a  well-rounded palette  of ideas and experiences to the class-rooom and this is invaluable. Ditto for the work-place.


Back to the notion of collective – security, the rise of jihad has spread to Europe and has left many Parisians and European’s lacking “Positive Liberty” which, in turn has forced governments to ramp up efforts to screen individuals or groups that may have designs on terrorist activity. Pivoting back, we might say that America and its allies flubbed the security file in Libya, Iraq and other nation-states that gave a window of opportunity for terrorist’s to enter. Currently, U.S. President Donald Trump is correct in claiming that some nation-states do not pay their fair share for collective security. Yes, the system is a bit convoluted with NATO a surrogate organisation competing for funding in order to do what the UN was designed to do in the first place. NATO was designed as an anti-dote to Eastern Europe and The Warsaw Pact, which itself was designed as a collective security blanket for the (FSU) Former Soviet Union. Along the way, the Allies found the lust for power too appealing once the Berlin Wall fell and with it the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. With that, the West has embroiled Russia over NATO’s incursion into Eastern Europe, while  the U.S. has China in its crosshairs over their inability to curtail North Korea and their pursuit of nuclear proliferation. The recent death of American student, Otto Warmbier begs for a military response to North Korea’s abuse of the 22 year old held in detention. The New World Order is a, pardon the pun, a land-mine of Foreign Policy rationale; hence,  a military operation on the Korean Peninsula might engulf that region in uncertainty and a refugee crisis for China and South Korea will ensue. America, then,  is caught between a rock and a hard place in protecting its mainland from a potential missile strike from North Korea  and placating to Conservative’s who admonish what Senator John McCain referred to as the murder of Otto Warmbier. Can America continue to operate in this version of a collective-security vacuum, without thrusting innocent parties into a global conflict. Is it too late to turn back the clock to a time when nation-states policed themselves, first & foremost. Military budgets be damned, suggest that with the rise of defense spending, the notion of peace-keeping will continue to vary with the Heads of State as well, placating to those naton-states that stimulate our economies with lower priced goods and multi-lateral, historical relationships. But, an attack is an attack on positive and negative freedoms and those that support all forms of democracy. Therin lay a government’s responsibility. Or not.

  1. “1898: The Birth of a Superpower.” Office of the Historian. <https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/superpower.>

About Kevin Kieswetter

Hello, I have continued studying part-time at the University of Waterloo, with an interest in the political situation in Tibet, and North America. Recently, I have published a companion or white paper to an earlier work. If you have an interest in the situation on the Ttibetan Plateau, please have a look.
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One Comment

  1. I agree with most of your opinions except the lack of contributing monetary money to the U.N. Trump does not realize all that Canada has contributed through the years to the peace keeping part of the U.N. Does he think that he pays for these duties. Where are the Americans? Canada has also sent troops when asked to keep the peace in other countries. Only a part of the money comes from the U.N. while our men are on the front lines between warring factions. This makes me so furious with people who do not realize that a man’s life is worth more than can be measured because we do not count the sickness that comes from serving in foreign countries.

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