“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship.”
Aaron Sorkin’s vision of a presidential speech is beloved by many liberals and progressives, but the two sentences above are truths for all Americans. Rights are always paired with responsibilities. The boundaries between one individual’s rights and those of another are always blurred. In the constant search for balance, injustice is inescapable. We see this reality in many familiar guises; life versus choice, free ownership versus gun control, and free speech versus offensive speech. This week’s big news highlights a fourth major front, national security versus transparency.
The Wikileaks disclosure of 90,000 classified documents relating to the Afghan War has stirred the debate to life. As with all of these debates, vocal partisans have lined up on each “side”, ready to advocate for their absolute positions. On one side, the notion that the security establishment is entitled to control the flow of information; once a document is classified, any breach threatens national security. The opposite side disputes that notion, advocating instead for transparency in and around the application of deadly force. Truth, the transparency advocates are apparently arguing, will set us all free.