12 March, 2012

Thoughts on America's Foreign Failures


We live in a turbulent and effervescent time. This turbulence and effervescence is not limited to the borders of the United States, however; as recent events such as the Arab Spring and the South Sudanese secession have shown, it is a worldwide phenomenon that has, if anything, become more relevant over the past two decades. The United States operates in an increasingly globalized and increasingly interconnected web of international affairs, so it follows logically that we ignore these changes to our peril.
Equally perilous to any nation exercising statecraft in today's sociologically and economically influenced world of global politics is an ignorance of history, especially recent history. A nation which acts in a manner that is historically ill-informed will necessarily be unable to understand the cause-and-effect of its own actions. It will blunder about in the manner of a man trying to kill a butterfly with a hatchet, and will soon come to heel when the international community begins to recoil from such heavy-handed buffoonery.
It is my contention that The United States is just such a hatchet-man. Our foreign and diplomatic policies are bringing us closer and closer to international humiliation, and when combined with our military polices, are making us less secure and less free. Further, if our over-arching diplomatic goal is to serve as a model and example for the rest of the world- small developing nations in particular- and to spread democracy, then those goals are ill-served by our present stature and system of policy.

Concept: Blowback

Perhaps the chief lesson that our policy-makers must learn, vis-a-vis correcting the above noted ignorance, is the lesson we are taught by the (surprisingly intuitive) phenomenon which the CIA was the first to label. The name that 'The Agency' gave this phenomenon is both crudely descriptive and memorable, so it is the name that I shall use for the purview of this post: 'blowback.'
Indulge me, if you will, in a thought experiment. The United States, lets say, has just elected a new president in an open and fair election, and that president has broad support from a clear majority of American citizens.
This president is not, however, to the liking of the Canadian government. This new president-elect has promised to engage in policies which the Canadians find to be against their own principles. So the Canadians, acting unilaterally, send covert operatives to Washington to assassinate this potential threat.
Once they have done so, the Canadian government seizes upon the turmoil that follows in the wake of the assassination to install a puppet president of their choosing. They then begin to fund this puppet regime to support a vast military presence (perhaps even supplemented with Canadian troops) which would be used to police the nation, to the detriment of freedoms and rights of citizens all across the United States.
Imagine how you, as an American citizen, would feel. Imagine the resentment toward Canada that would well up inside you. Think of how such an intrusion would tend to foster rebellious and insurgent tendencies. Even if the puppet regime operated in such a manner that it benefited you; providing education, jobs, et cetera; imagine how you would naturally feel affronted and frustrated with the interference in your sovereign affairs by an alien, foreign power.
One could easily understand the motivations of, and perhaps even sympathize with the methods of, an American underground resistance movement in such a circumstance. A resistance which targeted Canadian presence and Canadian influence by actively disrupting military and government operations would be a logical consequent of the above described Canadian interference. The group may even go so far as to strike at the Canadian homeland in order to make a political statement about the solidarity of the American people.
Have you imagined this scenario thoroughly? If you haven't please do so before reading on. It is imperative that you understand that sensation of being occupied; the realization that your nation is no longer sovereign, but is instead a de-facto subject.
What does this have to do with blowback? Well, put simply, blowback means this: people the world over resent having their internal affairs muddled with, and when a powerful nation interferes with a weaker nation, that weaker nation's population will almost inevitably think of that interference as a belligerent and unwelcome presence, and will react accordingly. When a powerful nation attempts to manipulate smaller or weaker states, those states will tend to see those attempts as hostile, and will often react with hostility in kind.
It follows that any nation engaged in such activity must expect some sort of deleterious reaction from the indigenous peoples involved. Speaking in terms of concrete example, America cannot engage in the activity of managing foreign nations, especially by using force or coercion, without stirring up anti-American sentiment and, on occasion, anti-American actions.
There is an important counterpoint to be made here: the concept of blowback and the idea espoused above (that nations should be aware of the consequences of their actions in this regard) is most emphatically not to say that smaller nations (or groups therein) are justified in using whatever tactics they choose to cast off the imperialistic influence of or interference from larger nations. Again, to cite a specific example, regardless of the actions of the United States in the Middle-East throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center were not justified or vindicated in doing so.
That having been said, it should have been immediately clear to all Americans why they did what they did; and no, it wasn't because they hated our decadence and freedom or for any religious ideals (though I'll not deny that those were contributing factors). Primarily, and foremost, it was because of their political motivations in response to the perceived arrogance and belligerence of the United States in particular; the Western world in general. And we, in the United States, should be wary of undertaking the same sorts of actions which provoked (though, I repeat, do not not excuse) those attacks.

The Rise of Terrorism,  Through The Lens of Blowback

The last quarter of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st has become, to any but the most disinterested of observers, the age of the terrorist in the same way that the gilded age was the era of the tycoon and the 1950s post-war period belonged to the Communists. Terrorism has become the great evil that defines our time; the scourge against which what seems like our entire national effort is directed. International terrorism has become the bogeyman hiding in our collective closet- and closet is an apt metaphor here, for we as a nation insist on looking away from the problem as if shutting it out of our minds or responding to it with crude force is enough to make it go away.
Yet perhaps Frankenstein's monster is a better metaphor to use when talking about terrorists. And the metaphor holds further, for just as when young Victor tried to create a beautiful new life he instead breathed existence into a hideous monster hell-bent on tormenting its naive and misguided creator, today's terrorists are the perverted and misshapen result of our best efforts at breathing new life into nation-states around the world. Just as Victor was insufficient as a man to play the role of God, so are we as a nation insufficient for playing the role of arbiter of the world's geopolitical landscape.
If we look at what are today the hotspots of terrorism around the world, we inevitably find that in the recent past, those were areas of intense Western (in particular, American) intervention.
In the 1950s, when Iranian revolutionaries overthrew the oppressive (and pro-Western) Shah and installed their own popularly elected leader, we went in and covertly removed him and re-installed a repressive regime, only to have that regime once again overthrown in 1979. This was, of course, followed by the now infamous capture of the US Embassy's staff who were then subsequently held hostage. While we feigned surprise at this action, the Iranian students who carried it out knew precisely why they did it, and they were happy to tell anyone who asked: they did it because of our constant interference in their affairs, and the very real grievance that we had propped up a murderously repressive government in their land.
Subsequently, we funded the war effort of a bellicose young dictator named Saddam Hussein in his bloody war against Iran all throughout the 1980s, providing both money and materiel to keep his sustained offensive going. This war cost many Iranian lives, a fact that certainly no Iranian is going to forget. Yet we seem to be genuinely nonplussed when confronted today with an Iran who is vehemently and avowedly anti-American.
Since the 1940s, we have supported a government in Israel which has been nothing if not antagonistic toward the entire Middle-Eastern region, Iran being a part thereof. We seemed to waver between outright support of at best, and mere indifference to at worst, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a nation (Israel) who has subsequently threatened to use them against Iran (among other nations) should the need arise, while at the same time our opposition to Iran's own nuclear program is unreserved and unyielding, even going so far as to consider strikes against Iran to prevent them from furthering it. Yet we wonder why it is Iran is so willing to harbor and fund known terrorists with such a violent anti-Western and anti-American streak.
Now, I'll not go so far as to say that Iran is justified in doing anything that it has done (or that it will be justified in doing whatever it plans to do). I'll not say that Iran's actions (and the actions of those harbored by Iran) against the West and America are morally correct. In fact, if anything, Iran displays a moral culpability by housing murderous terrorists, etc. However, for us to view Iran's actions as unprovoked is quite simply wrong.
Whether what Iran does is moral or not, though, is neither important to the point that I am making nor to the application of realpolitik in today's international climate. What is important, however, is that we understand that our actions today influence the reactions of tomorrow; that our belligerence and heavy-handedness today inspire the revolutionaries and reactionaries of tomorrow. We cannot continue to cross our fingers and hope for the best- not all revolutionaries are liberal and not all reactionaries are benign.
As if this were not evidence enough, I now quote the infamous Osama bin Laden in his 1998 fatwa entitled Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders (Crusaders being a radical-Islamist term for Westerners) on his reasons for wishing to attack the United States:
"First, for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.
If some people have in the past argued about the fact of the occupation, all the people of the Peninsula have now acknowledged it. The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people using the Peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless."
No more needs to be said. In his own words, the man who masterminded the World Trade Center attacks clearly states his primary reason for doing so: American intervention in his homeland, the Arabian Peninsula. We have been hoist upon our own petard. We have empowered those who already wished to destroy us with the reasons they could then give others to inspire those people to help them do so.

Nation Parenting, National Security, and Failure

Clearly there seems to be an incentive for the West to engage in the manipulation of the internal affairs of other states. Interestingly enough, America in particular has been rather lucid in detailing its motivations.
First, according to America, they seek to spread liberal democracy 'round the world, providing all peoples with the liberties of self-determination and 'human rights.' When asked to justify America's global interventionism, those who defend her policies often cite this goal as chief among many. In this view, America is a generous entity, taking on the role almost that of a parent, chastising the adolescent spasms of nations around the world and correcting their behavior with the end-state of betterment as the desired outcome. 
Second, and today almost as commonly cited as the first, is the maxim that America must retain an overseas influence in order to remain secure against threat in her homeland. America must, so the story goes, actively counter and thwart any (potential) threat against her before it materializes into an actual strike. To advocates of this strategy (if it can be called that), the best defense is a good offense.
Though there are many other rationales, I will focus on these two alone because, together with being the ones most commonly referred to, they are the two with the most important rebuttal in terms of adjusting our current national policy, since they are the two which inform it the most. Both of these claims would be valid justifications for America's present national foreign policy where they true, yet unfortunately for the supporters of global interventionism, they are palpably false.
The first is an example of a logical conundrum. When America interferes with a foreign state to influence it's government, it is always to the end of fashioning that foreign government into a facsimile of our own. The local people are only give a modicum of real choice and latitude in determining their own fate; one need look no further than the regimes propped up in Iraq and Afghanistan to see that. Just as Henry Ford once (supposedly) said, "you can have the Model T in any color so long as it's black," American intervention seems to tell struggling states around the world, "you can have any form of self-determination you want, so long as that self-determination looks just like ours." Further, the newly forged micro-Americas are expected to be not only reliant upon America's foreign aid (the better to retain control over them!), but also to genuflect before American national goals and policies. They are not, then, truly sovereign, but closer to puppet-states or colonies, in all but name. If that sounds like self-determination and the spread of true democracy to you, then you are profoundly deluded.
The second is morally abhorrent. It implicitly seeks to sustain a policy of perpetual prophylactic war. Let us not delude ourselves; war is death. War is misery. War is always a terrible, impoverishing, wasting, destructive, and murderous affair. Sometimes, there are worse things than war; it is then, and only then, that war is justified. We do not execute citizens who might become murderers; we ought not wage war against those who might one day attack us. We certainly should not use war as a tool for forwarding our national agenda in the way that we currently do - it is morally reprehensible that we send our troops around the globe and engage in preemptive strikes. But all of this begs the question. If we've engaged in a policy of prophylactic war aimed at keeping us safer here at home, and we have, then has is been successful?

Are We Safer Now?

With troops stationed in nations around the globe, with the Pentagon's yearly outlays increasing with no end in sight, with new and more terrible weapons constantly under development, and with the wars of the past two decades, each billed at least in part as a step toward a more secure world for America, are we safer now having done all of it?
The short answer is, to little surprise, no.
Look at what has happened where we have exerted the greatest national effort, in money and in lives, over the last 10 years and you'll see my point:
In the time that we have been in Iraq, we have caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, combatants, non-combatants, and 'other' alike. The government cobbled together is corrupt and ineffective, broken by sectarian strife and civil grievances alike. For the duration of our combat presence there, what would otherwise have been marginal groups have found the popular support they needed to carry out civil terrorism all throughout Iraq.
In the decade (and more) that we have been in Afghanistan, we have done far more damage. Al Qaeda continues to draw popular support in Afghanistan and in neighboring nations (such as Pakistan) because of our military presence there. As is the case with Iraq, the government we inflicted on the Afghan people is totally incompetent at providing basic services (which still must be provided by the "coalition" military forces), and reeks with corruption from the provincial level on down.
Because of these blunders and missteps, those who seek to portray America as an evil power bent on taking over the world have had to do little work in convincing their neighbors. Anti-American sentiment has not decreased since our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they have increased. More Americans have died in the mountains of Afghanistan and the sands in Iraq than have ever died from terrorist attacks on American soil, and a great many more have had their lives forever altered by misshaping, mutilating injuries and the terrible demons of PTSD. Point blank: the cost in lives, money, and materiel that we have given ourselves far outstrip anything that terrorists have ever done to us. 
Further, our continued presence in the Middle East is assuredly empowering the leaders of groups like Al Qaeda and others who can now point at current events as an 'I-Told-You-So' in their polemic anti-American rants. Even as you read this article, the next generation of terrorists are training to attack America, and plans are most certainly in the works to carry those attacks out. Our blowback is coming.
Just as our ham-handedness in Iran led inextricably to the situation we now face with them, our crude and blunt military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq are informing and arming the terrorists and rogue-states of the 2020s. We are today laying the foundations that the demons of tomorrow will use to prop up their scaffolding of backwards ideologies, radical Islam, jihad, and hate.
We are more vulnerable, more at risk, today than we ever have been because we insist on prodding the hornet's nest again and again. The terrorists thwarted our best efforts to curtail them in 2001; they will do so again whenever they have been provoked enough.

Changes In America's Global Position

All of the mistakes I have detailed above, combined with our explicitly stated national intention not to change radically the foreign policies that induced them, have led to a standing in the world that has diminished greatly from just a century ago. In some ways America retains a hegemony; our economy is still (for the time being) the world's strongest and our military still ostensibly the world's most effective. Yet in the 'hearts and minds' (to shamelessly borrow the phrase with tongue planted firmly in cheek) of leaders and citizens around the world, we are a tarnished nation on the descent.
In the past century, our nation has gone from being a creditor to being a debtor, in hock to China, among others, to an degree that would embarrass any other sensible nation. It has gone from a position of moral eminence and from an ethical high-ground to being a perpetrator of nearly endless war and death, raining our bombs on brown people the world over for the slightest offense. It has gone from being a place of refuge for the disaffected and oppressed masses the world over to being an imperialistic world-cop supporting brutal regimes whenever it serves convenience or expediency.
We have castigated ourselves on the global stage and our conduct in the past 50 years ought to be a cheek-reddening humiliation to anyone who loves this nation, as I most certainly do.
As a nation, what is imperative now is that we begin to curb our offenses as immediately as we possibly can, that we might work toward regaining some of our once immense credibility. Our list of allies and supporters is growing thinner by the year, and that is naught but our own fault. We must cease our morally terrible and strategically damning policy of global interventionism now, lest we stand alone as a hated and reviled has-been shell of a nation, an outcome most certainly not too far over the present horizon.


As we have seen, our current policies are neither strategically desirable nor ethical. They do not serve our national interests and, in fact, by turning away our allies and creating resentful new enemies, they precisely counter what is good for us as a nation both in the short term and in the long run.
Our fling with interventionist world policing has failed utterly and terribly. We are now beginning to reap the harvest we have sown: our total national debt is now greater than our yearly Gross Domestic Product, thousands of Americans have been put into body-bags and as many family have been destroyed as a direct result of our actions, money and resources that could have been used to fix our ailing Midwestern region, hit so hard by the recession, have instead been invested in the failed attempt to fix the Middle East. We cannot sustain our present course for much longer.
I leave you, dear reader, with this thought:
"[In war,] the best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed...
...The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school building in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. 
This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road we have been taking.  
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
The man who spoke those words was no peace-loving leftist liberal campaigning against the invasion of Iraq, nor was it a counterculture hippie from a protest against the Vietnam War, though it serves the purposes of both. It was Dwight D. Eisenhower. 
We must change. Now.

01 March, 2012

Whence Cometh Rights?

I Have A Right...
Every day, it seems that we hear something about rights. We hear discourse on what constitutes a right and what doesn't, who deserves what rights, which rights are more or less important, whose rights are more or less relevant, and so forth.
What seems to cause many of these issues is a difference in opinion regarding just what a 'right' is. For instance, a fiscal conservative will tell you that it is a person's right to operate a business with little interference from a central government, whereas a liberal might argue that consumers have rights to openness from said business, and so forth. Clearly, there are a myriad of opinions on what constitutes rights, and who has them.
However, it is difficult to say just where the line ought to be drawn for the same reason. Do we have the right to be housed? Fed? Do we have a right to a successful career? A right to love? To happiness?
It seems to me that what is lacking from many of these discussions is an underlying theory of rights, if you will. If we were to agree on a source of rights; a process by which they come into existence, perhaps, or an inferential construct that shows where rights come from, then we might be more inclined to agree on what these rights are in the first place.

What is a 'Right?'
Before we get too deep into this topic, I think it would first be prudent to define just what we mean when we say the word 'right,' as distinct from, say, privileges or something similar.
I think that the easiest way to define a 'right' is to define what it is not: a privilege. A privilege is something which cannot be abridged; it is given by the governing body voluntarily, and can be taken away without moral consequence.
For instance, being permitted to practice medicine.  Nobody in their right mind would argue that each and every person should have a 'right' to perform surgery. However, we all seem to agree that certain members of our society who demonstrate the requisite skill ought to have the privilege of doing so, for all of our benefit.
Now, to the contrary, rights are something a bit more untarnished. A right is more than a privilege; it is something that a government must permit, lest that government be rightly viewed as immoral and unjust.
The right to freedom of expression comes to mind as a handy example. There is something about expression which intrinsically yearns to be free. We rightly judge governments who clamp down on expression in its myriad forms to be totalitarian and oppressive in nature. There is something within this freedom which seems to indicate that it ought to be free, independent of other factors.
Yet again, we're left with the inadequacy of our understanding. We must be able to distinguish where rights come from before we can judge which principles are rights and which are not. Again, some sort of explanatory construct is needed.

Common Explanations for Rights
Something like such a construct is often postulated by those who typically fall on the 'right' of the 'left/right' political spectrum: that rights are inalienable because they are 'god-given.' That is to say, that people are 'created' as 'endowed with certain liberties,' which they then proceed to define in various ways.
This would satisfy our requirements, to be sure. Clearly if this hypothesis were held to be true, it would follow that whichever 'rights' this 'creator' 'endowed' would clearly be the only valid rights; all others would be privileges or the like. 
However, what about those of us who don't accept the claim that such a creator exists (atheists, agnostics, etc)? Or that such a creator would bother to delineate rights (deists, wiccans, etc)?
Clearly, since both scientific evidence and reason point us away from the idea of a creator god, a better explanation for rights must be found.
Another explanation for the origin of rights, at least here in the United States, is that they are bestowed by the Constitution. Such a claim can be relatively easily countered by simply asking two questions:
Do non-Americans have rights?
Would your rights go away if the Constitution went away?
Clearly, the answer to the former is 'yes,' and the latter is, 'no.' But these answers drill a hole in the middle of the 'rights come from the Constitution' argument, and for obvious reasons. So, again, this is an inadequate explanation.
Call it arrogant, but I think that I've hit upon an explanation of where natural rights could come from without invoking a supreme being or claiming that they're bestowed by a mutable document.

Imagine A Person Alone
To begin, I'd like you to image a single person alone in the word. For sake of argument, let's imagine that it is today's world; indistinguishable from how the world is right at this moment save for the fact that it is inhabited by one person only.
What may this person decide to do?
Clearly, he or she may decide to write whatever they wish on whatever subject they wish. They may speak whatever words they wish. They may create whatever art they wish, and display it. And so forth.
They may go wherever they wish of their own volition. They may eat whatever foods they choose; those that are available, anyhow. They may wear whatever clothes they choose, whatever ornaments they choose.
Now, let us imagine that this person's world is suddenly populated with many other people but, as yet, there are no governments. What may he or she do now?
Clearly, he or she may enter into mutually-agreed-upon arrangements with other people, including transfers of property or social arrangements such as marital union or sexual congress.
Without going into too much redundant detail, I think that you get the idea.

But What Does This Have To Do With Rights?
If you haven't guessed it already, here it is:
I'm arguing that a 'right' is essentially 'that which a person in isolation or in a society free of government has the liberty to do.'
Now, there are important limitation on what this defines as a 'right' that are worth discussing rather early on.
The first is that this definition doesn't include things which our person has not the ability to do. Our person hasn't the right to suspend the law of gravity and float in the air, because he or she lacks that ability, even in isolation.
The next is that there are certain other things which are not, in this model, 'rights.' For instance, being provided food and shelter are not rights, because a person in isolation must provide these things for him/herself, and in our anarchist model, our person may either provide them for him/herself, or enter into an mutually agreed-upon arrangement to acquire these things. In either case, he has the 'right' to undertake the action which leads to being fed, or sheltered. Yet being fed and sheltered are not themselves rights, among others.

If we assume that this postulate is a valid explanation for where 'rights' come from, then it is rather easy to define, as we have above, what is a right and what isn't.
This comes into sharper focus when we synthesize this idea with the theories of Social Contract as described by, among others, Hobbes, Locke, and Montesqieu.
In a rather brief summary (I encourage you to read the works of the above noted authors if you haven't already for a more detailed, eloquent, and textual exploration of this idea), 'social contract' simply means that governments come about when citizens voluntarily band together for mutual protection and benefit.
An important aspect of this theory is that the people, when doing so, necessarily lose some of their natural rights. They voluntarily give them up in order to acquire things like stability, safety, protection, etc.Viewed this way, we can see that any government is intrinsically a body which abridges some or all natural rights, no matter how virtuous that government may be.
It follows, then, that the best sort of government (when viewed through the lens of liberty) is that which strikes the most economical balance between delivery of these social goods (safety, et al) and the preservation of as many natural rights (i.e. the abridgement of as few natural rights) as possible. In the context of the ideas I outlined above, this means that that government is best which restricts our hypothetical person in isolation the least, all else held equal.

Rights Can Neither Be Created Nor Destroyed
Despite the best efforts of folks on both sides of many debate to claim or assert the contrary, I don't think that natural rights, as described above, may be created or destroyed.
Let's look first at the creation of rights. Can this be done? Well, no. We cannot go back and give our idealized person in isolation any abilities that he or she doesn't already possess and, therefore, we may not give ourselves any new natural rights in the process.
We can, however, acquire new privileges. Privileges may be granted at will, and are limitless in their potential scope and breadth. A government may, if it wishes, provide all of its citizens with the privilege of being given a new car upon graduation from University. However, the granting of this privilege doesn't implicitly or explicitly grant the citizens of this rather generous nation a new 'right.' The distinction is important.
Contrariwise, rights cannot be destroyed either. They may be abridged, true enough. They may be denied. But just as we cannot go into our idealized world of thought experiment and specially endow our person in isolation, we cannot cripple and hobble him, either.
We can, and should, view any attempt to deny people of their natural rights as defined above as immoral, undue, and deride it as such. However, we must remember that we, as humans, still retain those natural rights regardless of whether they are recognized or not and they are, in that sense, inalienable.

You Don't Have The Right...
Clearly, when viewed through this paradigm, there are many 'rights' claimed by all sorts of groups or citizens which are not natural rights in the strictest sense. Now, this is not to say that these principles are not worth protecting as a privilege, just that there is nothing intrinsic about them which dictate a special consideration as immutable or inherent in any way.
An obvious example of this is health care. Many groups around the country have claimed, in my view erroneously, that it is (or ought to be) a right for each citizen to be provided health care throughout his or her life, yet in my view, this is not a right at all (for reasons that, I'm quite certain, are by now clear to you).
It is, however, a privilege which may be a desirable one to bestow on our citizens; at least, upon those who haven't the ability at present to provide it for themselves. That debate is one that can be had, and the fruitful result will hopefully be a policy which is at once economically feasible and compassionate.
Most emphatically, however, this does not bestow any rights! This does not imply that to receive health care is a right! Just that it is a privilege; a privilege which may or may not be granted.
This may sound quotidian or, perhaps, semantic in nature, but I think that it is vastly important to point out which ideals are natural rights and which ones are not.

I hope that, more than anything else, I have inspired you to take a second look at your notions of what constitutes a right and what doesn't, and where those rights really come from.
In the end, I think that liberty and freedom are things worth preserving, and they are ideals which are both increasingly important in our modernizing society and increasingly under attack by those who would seek to profit or gain power at our expense.
I urge you, reader, to identify your rights, and strive however you can to defend and protect them. For they cannot be taken away; they are yours forever; but they can be taken away.
And functionally, that's the same thing.

*Cue the Beastie Boys music*