"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More Questions on Obama's View of Human Rights

Check out this excellent op/ed in The Wall Street Journal by Bret Stephens. Once again it echoes others' concerns regarding Obama's stance with those governments who would violently oppress criminally neglect their own people. Read the whole piece. It is not long.

"China: In February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Beijing with a conciliating message about the country's human-rights record. 'Our pressing on those [human-rights] issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,' she said.

"In fact, there has been no pressing whatsoever on human rights. President Obama refused to meet with the Dalai Lama last month, presumably so as not to ruffle feathers with the people who will now be financing his debts. In June, Liu Xiaobo, a leading signatory of the pro-democracy Charter 08 movement, was charged with 'inciting subversion of state power.' But as a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing admitted to the Journal, 'neither the White House nor Secretary Clinton have made any public comments on Liu Xiaobo.'

"Sudan: In 2008, candidate Obama issued a statement insisting that 'there must be real pressure placed on the Sudanese government. We know from past experience that it will take a great deal to get them to do the right thing. . . . The U.N. Security Council should impose tough sanctions on the Khartoum government immediately.'

"Exactly right. So what should Mr. Obama do as president? Yesterday, the State Department rolled out its new policy toward Sudan, based on 'a menu of incentives and disincentives' for the genocidal Sudanese government of Omar Bashir. It's the kind of menu Mr. Bashir will languidly pick his way through till he dies comfortably in his bed.

"Iran: Mr. Obama's week-long silence on Iran's 'internal affairs' following June's fraudulent re-election was widely noted. Not so widely noted are the administration's attempts to put maximum distance between itself and human-rights groups working the Iran beat.

"Earlier this year, the State Department denied a grant request for New Haven, Conn.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The Center maintains perhaps the most extensive record anywhere of Iran's 30-year history of brutality. The grant denial was part of a pattern: The administration also abruptly ended funding for Freedom House's Gozaar project, an online Farsi- and English-language forum for discussing political issues.

"It's easy to see why Tehran would want these groups de-funded and shut down. But why should the administration, except as a form of pre-emptive appeasement?

"Burma: In July, Mr. Obama renewed sanctions on Burma. In August, he called the conviction of opposition leader (and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner) Aung San Suu Kyi a violation of 'the universal principle of human rights.'

"Yet as with Sudan, the administration's new policy is 'engagement,' on the theory that sanctions haven't worked. Maybe so. But what evidence is there that engagement will fare any better? In May 2008, the Burmese junta prevented delivery of humanitarian aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some 150,000 people died in plain view of 'world opinion,' in what amounted to a policy of forced starvation.

"Leave aside the nausea factor of dealing with the authors of that policy. The real question is what good purpose can possibly be served in negotiations that the junta will pursue only (and exactly) to the extent it believes will strengthen its grip on power. It takes a remarkable presumption of good faith, or perhaps stupidity, to imagine that the Burmas or Sudans of the world would reciprocate Mr. Obama's engagement except to seek their own advantage.

"It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism—or perhaps cowardice—to treat human rights as something that 'interferes' with America's purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them. Yet that is exactly the record of Mr. Obama's time thus far in office."

I think Stephens is particularly accurate regarding Obama, Sudan and Burma. Obama seems to not grasp the obvious truth that the Burma junta and Omar Bashir's government, first and foremost, wish to remain in power. The idea that they would willingly weaken their hold over their citizenry due to diplomatic engagement is incredibly naive and seems based on inexperience and ignorance.

Why would the U.S. wish to strengthen and give legitimacy to these oppressors with the policy of "engagement?" Why would the U.S. not want to engage and give legitimacy to the opposition groups struggling to overthrow these butchers?

I think the answer is rooted in the idea that if we all get together and wish real hard, that dictators will stop being so mean to their people (an idea skewered in Naked Gun 3 when Leslie Nielsen's character is onstage at the Academy Awards). When has this ever happened? This type of non-action may be popular because it is easy, requiring absolutely no effort except the shaking of a head and a feigned (or at best shallow) empathy.

Obama exhibits two traits in his international policies: cowardice and self-absorption.

Obama's apology tours bespoke of both traits. He demonstrated, for all to see, that fear of being viewed as unpopular would shape his foreign policy. He also suggested that he feared the rising powers of Iran and militant Islamic extremism by backing down and acting conciliatory in the midst two wars. Likewise, Obama demonstrated the self-absorption inherent in offering empty apologies for the that he takes no credit for. It is outrageously shallow to expect an apology such as his to carry any weight. Such apologies are meant, not for those supposedly wronged, but to assuage the self-image of those offering the "apology." It builds this image with false, meaningless, and superficial self-abasement. More significantly for those around the world, it also demonstrates a fundamental weakness of both purpose and tenacity.

We're starting to see the meat of these policies now. Sudan offered a buffet of human rights incentives for the government to leisurely pick and choose from as the situation worsens or betters irregardless of U.S. actions. Iran given the opportunity to develop nuclear weapons without having to bother with genuine engagement. Myanmar (Burma) strengthened , legitimized, and offered the opportunity to tighten their iron grip on Burmese people in exchange for petty promises.

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