Rodriguez Believes that Military and Diplomatic Efforts are Necessary to Combat Terrorism
In the seventeen years since the U.S. initiated its Global War on Terror, we have participated in two wars — Afghanistan and Iraq, we have initiated special operations in a host of other nations, and we are currently engaged in supporting those who are attempting to defeat ISIS. We have learned through these efforts that a war designed to defeat an idea is a challenging task that is terribly expensive both in human treasure and in resources expended.
The face of American involvement in this venture has primarily been through military actions in which we have positioned combat assets and special operations forces in theatres of operation where we hope to achieve our mission of eradicating terror. Associated with these operations are the diplomatic ventures—often behind the scenes—to encourage allies to support U.S. efforts and to promote regional peace and security in areas scourged by conflict.
Much of what we are witnessing in the Middle East stems from diplomatic decisions made nearly a century ago at the conclusion of the First World War. International boundaries drawn by colonial powers, indifference to regional sectarian interests, and the potent politics of petroleum reserves all contributed to the scenario that has played itself out over the past century. Poor diplomacy helped to create this crisis, but more effective diplomacy can lead to a potential solution.
Effective engagement of regional players is key to any solution— military or diplomatic —since those whose global neighborhood is disturbed stand to lose the most through the continuation of hostilities and the humanitarian crises that follow. Nations like Egypt and Iran, because of the sheer size of their populations and their regional influence, have dominant powers that can be used as a force for good or for ill in the efforts to defeat ISIS. The U.S. has attempted to draw largely financial support from Arab neighbors in the Gulf States like Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, but their support has been more symbolic than substantive. Turkey has seemed the most willing to engage, but since it is fearful of Kurdish autonomy it has much to lose in this venture and has thus gone back and forth with its support. In addition, the U.S. commitment to Turkey as a NATO ally also complicates this situation.
Force alone cannot destroy the ideology of the terrorist. Nations within the region must reject this methodology and work to resist its adherents with all possible vigor. Religious leaders from all faith traditions must reject outright any perversions of dogma that seek to justify the killing of innocents in the name of political justice as utter madness. The global community of nations must be willing to find an effective diplomatic solution for the affected region that includes border adjustments, investments in aid and economic development, and cultural exchange. Those who know hope and opportunity are less likely to be radicalized and attracted by a false ideology that promises success from violent misdeeds. The U.S. can play a key role by reasserting its role as a moral force for good in the world. However, an emphasis upon diplomacy does not mean giving up the right of the U.S. to defend its self-interest and to support its allies whenever they are threatened. No enemy should ever question the resolve of this nation to act when American citizens or property are threatened.
Rodriguez Says Criminal Justice Reform Must Move Beyond the Era of Mass-Incarceration
The United States has slightly less than 5 percent of the world’s population but approximately 22 percent of the world’s incarcerated. This alone tells us we urgently need to reform our criminal justice system. The cumulative effects of retributive justice practices, mandatory sentencing guidelines, and practices like “three strikes” provisions over the past generation have overwhelmed our criminal court system and placed an untenable burden on our prison system and therefore on our taxpayers.
The average cost of incarceration per inmate per year is just above $30,000 — double that in some states. The cost to taxpayers at the local, state, and federal levels is staggering. We must do all that we can to ensure public safety, but we must develop a system that is cost-effective and outcomes-based, and our current practices are failing on both counts.
As a result of the “War on Drugs” launched in the 1970s, we have witnessed skyrocketing numbers imprisoned for non-violent drug-related offenses. This has taken a tremendous toll upon African American and Hispanic youth, and the impact upon broken families and broken communities has been devastating. Although we pay lip-service to the notion that the primary purpose of incarceration is rehabilitation, our behavior as a society does not match up. Ex-felons find themselves shunned in the job market without any real opportunities to start fresh. It should surprise no one that the U.S. rate of recidivism is staggeringly high.
Along with the rising prison population, the construction of new prisons has become one of the largest industrial growth sectors in recent years. Some states, along with the federal government, have outsourced this work to for-profit facilities sometimes termed “the prison-industrial complex”. When we place a priority upon the economic impact that a prison will have while ignoring the cost to society, we have lost sight of the key issue at stake.
As a society we must do the following:
- Support the use of corrective measures short of incarceration when apropriate.
- Increase support to probation and parole officers and social workers who can monitor and mentor those who need guidance and direction.
- Renew a commitment to working with youth offenders since an effective juvenile justice system can transform the lives of a future generation.
- Work to erase the stigma associated with being an ex-felon.
Criminal justice reform aimed at reducing mass incarceration should not be viewed as an effort to get “soft on crime.” Those who commit violent offenses must know that the full force and effect of the U.S. legal and criminal justice systems will be used to bring them to justice. These reforms are intended to make sure that the punishment fits the crime. Evidence shows that our current system is not working. Effective reforms can spare future generations the terrible effects produced by this failed policy.