US partnership with psychos and tyrants is a national embarrassment

The United States has allies and partners all over the world.  Yet very few people question the necessity of such partnerships, even when they are with states led by unhinged maniacs or tyrants.

Exhibit number one in the unhinged category falls to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.  Recently, Duterte seemed to call President Obama a "son of a b----."  As a result, bilateral talks were canceled between them.  Duterte has a propensity for such language, having slurred the pope and the American ambassador with similar language in the past.

However, one might be able to get over President Duterte's colorful turns of phrase if such language weren't accompanied by outright disturbing rhetoric and even more disturbing actions.  Duterte was elected on a tough-on-crime platform.  According to The Guardian, Duterte promised during the election that "100,000 people would die in his crackdown on drugs, with so many dead bodies dumped in Manila Bay that fish there would grow fat from feeding on them."  This hardly seems like an empty boast, since when Duterte was mayor of the town of Davao, he was connected to vigilante groups believed to have killed over 1,000 people.  He has admitted to participating in the killing of three suspected criminals while he was mayor and is nicknamed "the punisher."  Nearly 2,000 people have been killed within his first two months in office, and he has called for addicts to be killed by vigilantes.

Despite this outrageous behavior, the U.S. has pledged to help the Philippines in its war on drugs.  Even worse, following a 10-year defense agreement signed in 2014, the U.S. has begun deploying U.S. troops to the country in order to balance against China's claims in the South China Sea.

Moving a few thousand miles to the west, Saudi Arabia continues to execute or lash people convicted of having homosexual relations, behead people at an alarming rate, and bomb Yemen back into the Stone Age by targeting its schools and hospitals.

As a result of the Saudi intervention into Yemen, hundreds of thousands of children are on the verge of starvation.  The Saudis continue to use widely banned cluster-bombs, some of them from the U.S., to deadly effect against the civilian population.  More than three million people have been displaced within the country.  Doctors without Borders has been driven out of the northern part of the country due to Saudi bombing.  The entire situation is simply abhorrent.

This atrocity is made possible only by U.S. support.  Under President Obama, the U.S. has provided 40 million pounds of fuel to the very same Saudi jets laying waste to Yemen.  This aerial refueling is in addition to sharing intelligence and military advising.

This support continues on the domestic front as well.  President Obama vetoed legislation that would allow family members of the victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia.  Although Congress overrode this veto, it has provided its support through other means.  For example, Congress cleared the way for continuing to sell Saudi Arabia cluster munitions in June and just recently rejected an attempt to stop the sale of $1.15 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia.

These U.S. partnerships are an embarrassment and a moral affront.  Duterte's erratic and disrespectful actions as a head of state demonstrate either that he has a few screws loose or that he purposefully acts in such an outrageous and thuggish manner.  If Duterte's antics weren't bad enough, the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia makes the U.S. complicit in their many crimes and abuses against their own people and the people of Yemen.  Partnership with such a country isn't just an embarrassment; it is a moral outrage.

Unless America has become content with betraying core principles that our nation was founded on, such as the rule of law and a respect for the life of innocents, in exchange for partners like the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, the time has come for an alternative to the failed foreign policy status quo.  If the United States government wasn't trying to run the world, would there be any need for such unsavory "friends"?

Zachary Yost is a Young Voices Advocate who works in the D.C. area.

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