The year 2014 proved the West cannot yield power to emerging powers

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As the world sadly ends the year 2014, perhaps capped off with another air travel disaster in Indonesia, the geopolitical situation between the West and the East (Russia, China, and the Rest) has perhaps made the world a more difficult place to live in.

The economic implications of trying to isolate Russia (and to a lesser extent, China) have had a profound effect not only in Europe and South East Asia, but also back to the energy lands of the Middle East. Not to be heard in the mainstream media to be sure, the petroleum kingdoms of the Middle East are unsure whether they can really stand the lowest oil prices not seen in many years.

The ever sluggish economic performance of the EU has not really made the peoples of Europe more prosperous.  The search for decent jobs is still a struggle for millions, while economic activity in the continent almost solely relies on a resurgent Germany. It is widely accepted that if it weren’t for Berlin, the entire EU project could’ve fallen apart.

South East Asia remains a hotspot for territorial brawls, with China on one side, and South East Asian countries becoming more ‘assertive’ and being emboldened by the ever-present United States on the other. The situation in South America, especially with the anti-West stance of Brazil and other major economies there, is a little more bearable as the recent major elections have maintained the Leftist attitude of Latin leaders.

And yet, everywhere you look at the headlines, from the resurgent Islamic movements in Syria and Iraq, to energy uncertainties transiting the Russian-Ukraine border all the way to Europe, or to expanded American military presence in Australia, Japan and the Philippines to ‘contain’ China, the West has shown it is reluctant to yield to the powers of ‘the Rest’. The problem with this of course is the intensifying clashes from the Middle East to Ukraine, which has resulted in countless lives lost.

The scandals between the NSA and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have not even put a stop to the continued moral violations the United States is committing to the world. For instance, Guantanamo Bay still exists (which is surprising especially since Obama promised he will close it during his presidency) and those curious personalities like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange continue to be described in the West as ‘traitors’.

Drone attacks, which kill significant numbers of civilians, continue pursuing their own little “Mission Accomplished” strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Under Obama, the United States has committed more of these drone sorties than his supposedly war hungry predecessor.

As the geopolitical situation in most parts of the world remain unresolved, and with no resolution in sight, we can only expect to remember this year as perhaps the major turning point in a future global conflict that might finish the human populace for good. Whether that catastrophic future will arrive or not, we can only admit that the West will still play the greater role in helping foster another century of peace, or whether they will not relinquish their centuries-old power to emerging powers and risk global annihilation.

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On the CIA’s torture program: Admitting is only halfway to accountability

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More than a decade has passed since the United States and its allies started their so-called ‘global war on terror’ the ripples of which are only becoming clearer as the years start to wane against the coalition of the killing.

How the United States has conducted this ‘war on terror’ is, for some time now, an issue that has seeped their way to the headlines, from the illegal Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, to the revelations of former intelligence officers, including Snowden and Assange.

But more recently, in a redacted 500-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on how the CIA conducted it’s euphemistically called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, it was confirmed that the CIA conducted a secret torture program. It is no surprise, but what is worrying is that no one person was named nor the critical times they were conducted were mentioned in the report. As Bush and Obama fondly remind the world, ‘people should be held accountable’. But as we suspect, moral relativism plays a role in how the US conducts its foreign policy.

For instance, former US vice president Dick Cheney staunchly denied that the CIA’s program of enhanced interrogation techniques is equivalent to the legal term ‘torture’. In an emotional interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Cheney, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was unapologetic about the CIA program, and instead said ‘I would do it again in a minute’.

The former vice president also played the emotional card, saying that what constitutes torture were the 9/11 attacks, saying that “there is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation”. As to what the NBC host enumerated (rectal feeding, keeping a man in a coffin-sized box, handcuffing another man’s wrist to an overhead bar for 22 hours per day, for two consecutive days) during the interview, Cheney pointed out that “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.”

On the one hand, the US Department of State denied the possibility of prosecuting anyone involved in the CIA’s torture program. In a press meeting, Jen Psaki played the emotional card saying “we made the decision to lay out very transparently what exactly we have done in the past that we didn’t think was consistent with our values, and I think that’s showing strength as a nation”. Such statement is consistent with Obama, who advised Americans “to focus on…getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

This essentially denies anyone from being held accountable for such gruesome misdeeds. Indeed, by choosing to move on and forget about the past, the US is fortifying its foreign policy position of using torture as an available option for future American leaders because it is morally relative to do so.