Since antiquity, the prerogative to live or die rested in the judgment of the state. Statistics from the past explicitly demonstrate how states had absolute power and massive authority over their citizens to the extent that individuals did not have the right to determine their destiny or existence. In other words, their country determined when they would die. Ancient governments could end life when it became appropriate according to their discretion. Michel Foucault gives a classic model in his works Right of Death and Power over Life and Society Must Be Defended on how lives were completely pegged on the mercy of the ruling power. In the manuals, the author clearly illustrates with irrefutable examples the way nations abuse people they are entitled to safeguard. Foucault uses the term biopolitics to define a twofold role of most states worldwide. He says that countries have the power to terminate an individual’s life or permit their existence. It is good to note that the kind of sovereignty has faded with time due to increased pressure on countries to revise their cruel approach and policies on humans. Nevertheless, biopolitics have not diminished, since there are reports of liv-or-die practices in some nations, particularly in Asia. For instance, in Iran, there are laws that permit sentencing one to hang in cases of treason.
In the past, wars erupted frequently, so every nation had to be alert lest they become captives. Research reveals that in cases where the survival of sovereignties was under a threat, they did not hesitate to call upon the civilians to come to their defense. According to many scientists, the practice is indirect control over the lives of the citizens who were to participate even if it meant losing their lives. Anyone who attempted to violate such calls was in most cases put to death. Such instances have elicited sharp debates among scholars with some arguing that in such events the sovereignty did not exercise complete power over its subjects. They debate that it was a matter of defending their own country. However, a critical analysis of such incidences confirms the contrary.
Presently, most counties seem to be exercising biopolitics in a crafty way. The proof is apparent in incidences that demand international interventions especially in war-stricken regions. In many cases, the US government, for example, has aided the overthrow of the existing authority in different regions. A good example is the dethroning of the Libyan government and toppling of Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The US troops facilitated the capturing of the latter and handing him over to authorities for execution. Moreover, the US government has consistently threatened to attack Syria and Iran apart from leading a series of drone to Pakistan. Its continued focus on Iran nurtures the debate since many share the view that Iran cannot challenge America in terms of warfare. The clear result of the discussion is that the US is trying to prevent Iran from rivaling Israel in terms of nuclear power. The previously mentioned supports Foucault ideology that racism remains one of the key causes of demise. In fact, America’s relationship with Arab countries is not very successful and peaceful.
Furthermore, the inferior are more likely to die in a society. For example, the West relentless attacks on Arab countries lucidly manifests that they consider themselves more powerful. The Syrian conflict, for instance, has invited discussion among western countries, with most of them supporting the use of force to save lives. Countries such as Great Britain, France, and Germany have been on the frontage in advocating for immediate measures to end bloodshed in Syria. They argue that delayed intervention will hurt the innocent and defenseless civilians particularly women and children who suffer the most.
Based on the given modern examples, a twofold interpretation of the right to kill and let live emerges. First, it is appropriate in certain contexts where some have to die for the liberation of many. For instance, presently, more than 100,000 people have died in Syria due to war. Thousands have fled and are now living as refugees in neighboring countries such as Turkey. To date, the conflict still rages, and many people wonder whether it will end soon. The majority of Syrian citizens have consistently asked for help from foreign powers, particularly the US. Moreover, the Syrian war has caused many to be widows, orphans, and homeless. One wonder how they will start again from scratch should the crisis stop. In the Syrian context, external forces will have to exercise the right to kill in order to save lives.
International deliberations focused on ending the Syrian conflict yielded no fruit. Instead, killings continue as the Syrian government battles the rebels. In such situation, military force will be the only solution since peaceful negotiations have failed. External forces will have to use their power in order to restore tranquility and avoid further loss of lives. Though the violence approach looks inhuman, in the end it saves a majority.
Another classic example of why right to kill and let live is sometimes appropriate is the war in Somali. For more than 20 years, Somali was not witnessing relative calm. To date, an ongoing battle between the state and Al-Shabaab continues. Consequently, the nation has been split with each side controlling a section of the country. The cause of the conflict has been the government reliance on support from western countries, which amounts to treason according to Islamic laws. Al-Shabaab usually commands the suffering and starved residents to withdraw from receiving food aid from European countries. Those who try to violate such laws are subjected to severe torture; some are even tortured or killed.
The situation in Somali has caused neighboring countries such as Kenya to intervene. In 2010, the Kenyan government dispatched the troops to Somali with an aim of ending the conflict by obliterating Al-Shabaab. Since 2010, the Kenyan government has been working in liaison with the state of Somali in an attempt to restore peace. Many soldiers in addition to civilians have perished in the process. However, currently, Somali experiences more peace as ever before. Therefore, the Somali government in collaboration with Kenya is using the prerogative to kill and let live rationally. It is depicting bloodthirsty men who consistently pose a threat to life and peace. The fact that both governments have international support stresses the fact that the killing of Al-Shabaab militants is legitimate.
The next interpretation of the right to kill and let live is that most states have abused their sovereignty. According to Foucault, it is the duty of every government to protect its citizens. Nevertheless, in some cases governments are required to make a choice of supporting lives and letting them die. The evidence is clear in the international policies that threaten the survival of humanity. For instance, laws on abortion have led to the loss of many lives globally. Researches illustrate high number of abortions globally, especially among teenagers. The main reason for the formulation of the abortion law was to protect the lives of pregnant women who were endangered by pregnancies. Nonetheless, the law seems to have opened up a gate for more deaths as many are undergoing abortions. In some countries, particularly in developing regions, many women die in the process of abortion begging the question why the law was enacted in the first place. In spite of such occurrences, nothing seems to happen in relation to solving the issue of voluntary abortion. The subject of abortion continues to receive mixed reactions with many people rejecting it.
In Society must be Defended, Foucault demonstrates how states loosely surrender the lives of their citizens to death through irrationality. He illustrates how laws crafted by governments hurt innocent people who rely on the politicians for security. In conclusion, he urges states to protect the lives of those whom it exercises headship. His work insinuates that a good nation is one that honors the well-being of its subjects. In view of the book, it becomes definitive that the law on abortion is not the right one in certain settings. The reason is that many lives have been lost in addition to many facing avoidable consequences like infertility. If such laws were withdrawn, then there is a high possibility that many women would have been healthy.
Moreover, governments have failed to end inhuman cultures that favor one gender as opposed to another. Such failures have led to many losing their lives due to cultural beliefs. In India, for example, girls are not preferred, and thus the likelihood of survival before birth is minimal. In fact, in some regions, the girls are very few in contrast to boys. According to Mbembe, the phenomenon illustrates how states can determine who lives and who dies. Though the population of women continues to outpace that of men in India, women generally bear a heavy burden, which endangers their existence.
Studies reveal that in China, girls are abandoned, killed, or aborted. According to their culture, girls are regarded as a liability; thus, many hold the assumption that it is better to destroy their lives before birth than to allow them live. Although abortion is legal, aborting of boys is not permissible. In fact, most women will literary kill the newborn if it is a girl, since the mothers fear they daughters suffer as they do. The cultural beliefs underscore the fact that the government needs to revise all traditional beliefs. In India, women fear to keep girls because their law will not protect daughters in case their husbands marry other women or divorce them because of giving birth to girls. In some states, the situation is worse, as husbands and communities can kill women. In such situations, it is prudent to accuse the government of failing to protect the lives of its subjects.
Mbembe suggests that certain policies are detrimental to the society. For instance, some nations have laws sentencing their citizens to death in the contemporary world. In Iran crimes such as adultery attract a death penalty of stoning to death. Despite losing many people through such acts, Iran maintains the laws to date. Surprisingly, the most affected are women, which suggest bias in country’s policies. According to Mbembe, when a ruling government fails to establish laws that protect humanity, then death is inevitable. His work implies that though governments have improved by changing the livelihoods of their citizens, they have failed to focus on central aspects such as the constitution, which greatly devalues human life.
America is not an exemption; many have been sentenced to death in the US. The most recent case is the sentencing of the Boston bomber to death by the federal jury. According to the jury, the accused had to pay for his crimes with his life. Surveys from different organizations disclosed that many preferred a human-oriented punishment as opposed to death penalty. The case demonstrates how certain states are swift to destroy lives that they need to protect. Many did not expect a democratic nation such as the United States to pass the inhumane sentences.
In conclusion, contrary to popular beliefs, modern states hold the prerogative to kill or let live. The difference between contemporary states and ancient countries is that the former are practicing the rule in an indirect way. In the past, people could be forced to go to wars, but presently, people are incited to participate in war. Today, many policies hinder or threaten the right to existence. For instance, a law that permits abortion only for girls is selective and biased in structure. It rates one gender above another and therefore terrorizes and lowers the existence of another. Through the readings, it was discovered that all states have failed in their responsibilities to protect their citizens. Therefore, it is a challenge to all nations to revise their policies, as well as culture, in order to protect lives. The articles defines that most states have diminished their duty to save lives. Therefore, it is a challenge to all nations to revise their rules and regulations to protect citizens.