11 October 2018   Leave a comment

Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times who often writes about world politics, sometimes insightfully and sometimes from a very parochial point of view.   His op-ed in today’s paper is worth reading.  I think he overestimates the power of the international liberal order since 1945 to contain bad behavior and certainly underestimates the strength of US allies to support that order.  But the op-ed does offer a good way to think about the unwillingness of the current US administration to call out illiberal behavior and what the consequences of not having a strong voice for human rights are for the world as a whole.  The position of the Trump Administration on the disappearance of a Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, is illustrative.  When pressed on whether the US should cancel a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia because of suspicions that the Saudi government had killed Khashoggi, the Post reports:

“During an interview Wednesday night on Fox News, Trump said he wanted to find out what happened to Khashoggi but balked when asked if he would support blocking further arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as some senators have suggested.

“‘Well, I think that would be hurting us,’ Trump said. ‘We have jobs. We have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that’s doing probably better economically than it’s ever done before. Part of that is what we are doing with our defense systems and everybody is wanting them and frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country.’”

Tonight, the Washington Post is reporting that the Turkish government has audio recordings of Khashoggi being tortured and killed in the Saudi Embassy, presumably from bugs implanted in Embassy.  If true, clear evidence of the crime would make it impossible for the world to ignore.  Additionally, there is little evidence to suggest that the alleged $110 billion arms deal is really at risk–it is not even clear that such a deal was ever going to happen. 

Respect for human rights is not automatic in world politics–the system is biased in favor of the authority of states.  If one wishes to live in a world where human rights are respected, one needs to stand against the power of the state.

Posted October 11, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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