Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Editor’s note: About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 62nd annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 29. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. This essay addresses the issues covered by the Around the World group.
The slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the first topic our group at the Sun Youth Forum discussed, and despite unanimously agreeing that the murder was morally abhorrent, we were divided as to how the United States should respond to it.
One of the main arguments that emerged from our discussion was that the U.S. should limit its interactions with any nation that would kill and dismember one of its citizens — especially a journalist, with First Amendment protections of the free press being a key pillar of our nation’s democratic values. Supporting that argument contended that no amount of money or support from a country should make up for its actions against liberties that the U.S. is supposed to champion.
The dissenting opinion was simply that the U.S. has a great interest in remaining allies with Saudi Arabia, partly due to the economic value of our relationship but mostly due to the fact that our partnership provides a much needed level of stability in the Middle East. That’s especially the case as such world players as China and Russia are eager to exert more influence in the region. Furthermore, proponents of that opinion contended that Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and not the U.S., and Saudi Arabia is no stranger to executing its own citizens, regardless of them being journalists or not.
No consensus could be reached on how the U.S. should deal with Khashoggi’s murder, and the discussion soon evolved into a battle between morality and reality, a theme repeated throughout the day.
It came up again as we discussed Russia seizing Ukrainian military ships and arresting their crew members while in international waters. Our group generally agreed that the actions of the Russians were morally invalid, but we were split on how the U.S. should treat the situation.
One of the simpler solutions that emerged was to do nothing. After all, Ukraine is a small nation and Russia is a world power that has already shown its willingness to trample Ukrainian sovereignty. However, most of the room agreed this could not be the solution. The major split was between using economic vs. military force to deter Russian aggression.
Major economic sanctions have already been imposed on Russia, and they have appeared to hurt the country economically. As such, some believed that more sanctions could possibly deter Russia due to fear of economic collapse.
The counterargument was that the U.S. and NATO should intervene, given that they have the military power to defend Ukraine’s — and, by extension, Europe’s — sovereignty.
Our conversation reflected a tragic truth in world politics — the right thing to do is hardly ever the easy thing to do. Despite this, it revealed a glimmer of hope called empathy. Regardless of political ideology or background, the room was largely consistent in realizing that human life and liberty matters, but how much so is still in debate.
Andrez Parra is a senior at Las Vegas High School.