Ever since World War II, the United States of America has been the champion of democracy and human rights throughout the globe.
We have stood up to dictatorial governments and demanded that their citizens be allowed to live free of fear and oppression. Presidents of both parties have pursued that policy. It has been the cornerstone of our national security and has made our country the envy of other nations. Our country has decidedly strayed from that policy in recent months, heartening autocratic nations and causing concern amongst our steadfast allies.
As the world rose from the ashes of World War II, the U.S. embarked on a policy of building alliances with European and Asian nations to counter the Communist countries. We formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization(SEATO) as bulwarks against the totalitarian countries. Although SEATO eventually withered away, we have maintained strong bonds with democracies in Asia, which act as a mainstay of our national defense in that part of the world. In Europe, we have based our security on democracies that are united through NATO and the European Union. The policy has served America well.
We have supported and encouraged democracy throughout the world, believing that democratic nations are less likely to resort to force of arms to resolve disputes. We have believed that autocratic governments which deny their citizens basic human rights can produce violence, either against the people or by the people. In order to promote human rights, the U.S. State Department annually scores nations on their human rights record. We have engrafted advancement of human rights into our foreign policy.
President Trump has taken another direction in dealing with democracies and autocrats. Although Russia gobbled up Crimea, has maintained a thinly veiled proxy war in Ukraine, and launched a serious attack on our election process, he has declined to utter a harsh word about Vladimir Putin.
Former FBI Director Comey says Russian hackers have attempted to hack into hundreds of governmental and business networks to find exploitable weaknesses. Our allies around the world have had similar experiences and they must be mystified by the President’s silence. Rather, they have seen the Russian videos of the President yucking it up with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the White House. Then, he publicly criticized our European friends and pointedly refused to recommit to the mutual defense article of the NATO Treaty, something that had to seriously disturb our friends, but greatly please Mr. Putin.
During the President’s trip to Saudi Arabia, He informed the Saudis and other Middle East despots that they need not worry about the U.S. pestering them about providing basic human rights for their subjects. As long as they do business with America and buy our “beautiful weapons,” all will be good. The Saudis will be able to continue indiscriminate bombing in Yemen without our interference, despite the fact that this will fuel even more rage amongst the civilian population there and elsewhere against the U.S.
President Erdogen of Turkey has been warmly received by the President even as Erdogen expands his powers and tramples on the rights of his citizens. Same with President Sisi of Egypt. President Duterte of the Philippines is graciously treated despite his overseeing of 7,000, and counting, extra-judicial killings. These leaders all show up on the rogues gallery of the State Department’s human rights score sheets but we apparently no longer expect nations to treat their populations humanely in order to gain our favor. That encourages the despots and greatly diminishes America’s standing in the world, as well as our nation’s security.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice and former Idaho Attorney General.