Human Rights and Foreign Policy

To all appearances, the neocon church militant has occupied the Trump administration in the form of a new human rights panel under Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. As head of the “Commission on Unalienable Human Rights,” Pompeo promises to “ground our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” One might think that this panel would win the applause of the establishment Left, which is always eager to impose its feminist and LGBT agenda on some hapless Third World society or on insufficiently progressive European countries.  But neither the Washington Post nor the Los Angeles Times is giving Pompeo and his panel the time of day. The first reason is that Pompeo is associated with “an administration that has winked at gross human rights violations by allies such as the assassination of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, an atrocity that… had been ordered by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salman. “

But this is not the only reason that the Los Angeles Times wants nothing to do with the Trump-Pompeo enterprise. Even more important, “Rob Berschinski, a State Department official in the Obama administration who is now with the group Human Rights First, noted that the new commission was conceived ’without the input or awareness of the State Department’s human rights experts and members of Congress.’ ” Moreover, it would appear that Pompeo’s aim is “an attempt to narrow the definition of the rights for which the United States would hold other countries, including American allies.”

Most of these complaints can be ascribed to transparent partisan politics. The Obama administration winked at the tyranny of Cuba’s Communist dictatorship, and Berschinski’s superior publicly cozied up to Communist mass murderers in Cuba because the American Left has never gotten over its romance with Fidel Castro and his regime. Mohammad ben Salman is a saint in comparison to Obama’s Cuban idols, who apparently never offended Berschinski, unlike Trump’s friendship with the Saudi government.

But there are two other complaints in this brief that are more interesting. First, what “human rights” exactly would Pompeo be “narrowing” if his panel has its way. Why, furthermore, is there anything wrong with limiting the human rights package to America’s “founding principles”? Of course we know the answer to this query. Leftist human rights “experts” want to expand the universal enforcement of human rights beyond what they view as an archaic minimum to such newly minted universal rights as staging gay pride parades, proliferating feminist demands, and perhaps globally available transgendered rest rooms. The Los Angeles Times editorializes against Pompeo (“shame on him”) for skimping with his list of “human rights worthy of protection.”

An even more appropriate question to ask is (pardon the language!) “What the Hell is a ‘human rights expert’?” I have a good idea what a physicist or mathematician is? But are “human rights” a science of some kind that require expertise from someone hired by the State Department at taxpayer’s expense. Perhaps Berschinski’s pals are devising a system of thought about the rules by which human beings are able to coexist in the same societies. But if I’m not mistaken, Aristotle and others have been doing this for several thousand years; and given the moral urgency with which the Los Angeles Times and our “experts” are speaking, they may be after more than an updated version of Aristotle’s Ethics.  Possibly they hope to bring all of humanity into conformity with our standards of political correctness.

Lest I hide my hand, let me say that I don’t find Pompeo’s undertaking much more palatable than those who are attacking him from the Left. He and his presumably neoconservative “experts” believe they can limit “human rights” to their favs, which are America’s “founding principles.”  What we’re dealing with here is an attempt to raise to a universally applicable and required creed the Declaration’s pronouncement that “all men are created equal. The givers of grades for adhering to this creed will be ensconced somewhere in the Washington bureaucracy and occasionally asked to appear on Fox News. How much real power they’ll have to inflict their interpretations on the unwilling is still unclear.

Personally I’d like to narrow what the government does in other more meaningful ways. How about organizing a panel that oversees the task of having our State Department “experts” minding their own business?  Yes, I know that our human rights mavens would complain that we were betraying our moral identity by becoming isolationists fixed on our own endangered freedoms. They would regard such a decision as relativistic or selfish because America should be going around the world imposing its “values,” as defined by the democratic church universal. Needless to say, we Americans could simply tune out this griping.

Mine is not a call to moral blindness. If there are brutal acts being committed by other states, such as the mass murder of innocent people, let us proceed to take appropriate action (short of war). But let us stop pretending that our present cultural preferences constitute sacred rights that must be universally promulgated by moral “experts” and then globally enforced by our federal government.                

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