President Trump’s embrace of authoritarians sends an unequivocal message about human rights.
IT is difficult to tell if President Donald Trump’s recent entreaties to authoritarians in the Philippines and North Korea are deliberate strategy or impulsive blunders by a president utterly unschooled in history or foreign policy.
Either way, the White House invitation to Rodrigo Duterte — despite his campaign of death squads — and offer to meet Kim Jong Un send a consistent message. After all, Trump has already stated his admiration for Russia’s “strong leader” Vladimir Putin, talked of his “great friend” Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and sent congratulations to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his march toward total control.
Trump’s bromance with strongmen ignores their flagrant human-rights abuses, making a mockery of Ronald Reagan’s call for America to be “a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” We fought an endless war in Iraq supposedly to impose American-style democracy at the edge of a sword, only to now hand the sword to dictators.
White House advisers offer weak reassurances that Trump’s public embrace of strongmen is actually strategic, and he will raise the human-rights abuses privately. That strategy would be more credible if Trump had a coherent foreign policy. Instead, he seems to be blindly lurching between crises, ignorant of lessons that could be learned in any Geopolitics 101 course.
It would be useful for Trump to remember the history. Reagan, for example, feted Duterte’s authoritarian predecessor, Ferdinand Marcos, and Jimmy Carter met with Chilean mass murderer Augusto Pinochet. Those came to be seen as dark stains on the U.S. record of standing up for human rights.
Yet Trump is now admiring authoritarians committing those sins in real time, one after another. Erdogan jails his nation’s free press, al-Sisi sanctions mass…