Earlier this year I tried to organize a student group similar to the Oxford Democracy Forum. It didn’t work out, alas – organization of that type isn’t my strong suit – but in the course of my efforts I drafted a statement of principles that (I believe) synthesized my sentiments regarding the (then potential) war in Iraq and the larger global campaign for freedom. To be frank, I thought it was a pretty solid document, and I’m reproducing it here.
We are a generation of a new age. As children we watched the Berlin Wall come down; in the decade that followed — the decade of our youth — we witnessed, and enjoyed, a tremendous economic expansion. Ours was a world of distant, localized conflicts and an independent, successful and secure North America. Coming into our adulthood at the beginning of a new century, we looked forward to a life consistent with the peace and prosperity of our early years.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, shattered the illusions under which we had grown. Not only were our hopes for a peaceful life dashed; our very security was shown to be at risk. Ours is a world of terror alerts, sleeper cells and dirty bombs; our televisions bring us news of terrorist arrests in our own cities; soldiers guard our airports; fighter jets patrol our skies.
Even as we confront these new dangers, we are mindful of the many other threats that perpetuate a dangerous world. Many of the regimes that sponsor terror also deny their own citizens basic human rights; their repressive world-view drives their terrorism and tyranny alike. Other regimes whose human rights abuses were overlooked during the Cold War have been allowed to consolidate their control; their citizens remain unfree. Still other nations have seen their electoral processes subverted and their democratic systems undermined; the rights of their citizens cannot but erode.
We do not believe that these are unrelated phenomena; rather, we believe that terrorism and tyranny are two faces of a common ill. By rejecting the principles of human rights and democracy, international terrorists and nationally-based tyrants pose a similar threat to the freedom of all humanity.
I – Human Rights
- Humans enjoy certain fundamental and inalienable rights, granted them by no other man or woman, but by their Creator, or by virtue of their mutual interaction.
- Foremost among these is the right to security in one’s person, and the consequent right to be free from any coercive act or decree which tends to adversely affect one’s physical security.
- Humans further enjoy the freedoms of conscience, expression, movement and association, except insofar as the exercise of these serves to adversely affect the fundamental rights of another; moreover, none may restrict the rights or freedoms of others without their express and continued consent.
II – Democracy
- Democratic government is necessary for the continued security of the rights and freedoms of humankind.
- Democratic government which guarantees universal participation, equal representation and a reasonable limit on the exercise of power is the single extant form of governance that incorporates the rights of humankind into the governmental order, and reconciles the exercise of power with the freedom of the individual and the community.
- Human rights can never be guaranteed by an undemocratic government, and no government that fails to guarantee human rights can properly be considered democratic.
III – Security
- Undemocratic government, being that which fails to guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens, represents a threat to democracy everywhere, being hostile to its fundamental tenets.
- Any government that exhibits a hostility towards democracy represents a threat to human rights everywhere, being hostile to the apparatus necessary for their security.
- Democratic governments must make every attempt, using peaceful methods when possible, and military means when necessary, to reduce and eliminate threats to human rights and democracy worldwide, and, consequently, to expand and secure democracy and human rights worldwide.
We undertake to promote these principles on our university campus through the sponsorship of speakers, debates, publications and other methods of raising awareness of and support for democracy. We further undertake to encourage the promotion of these principles beyond the halls of the academy by lobbying our governments and international organizations to adopt appropriate policies. We will work with any and all groups, both on and off campus, that share a dedication to the principles stated herein.
We reject the presumption so common on our campus, and on campuses around the world, that the American-led War on Terror represents political opportunism, economic imperialism or Anglo-American racism. We believe that as long as threats to democracy remain unaddressed, we will not truly be free; and that so long as our peers suffer under tyranny and oppression, we shall not be at peace.