Paul R. Pillar
The obvious backdrop to anything the Trump administration pronounces about human rights is an administration foreign policy that gives short shrift to human rights.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been justly criticized for his creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights, with the mission of redefining human rights. The move appears designed to base the redefinition on religious doctrine that Pompeo infuses into his conduct of official business. The religious orientation is reflected in the membership of the commission, the common thread of which is a focus on religious issues, often with an openly sectarian coloration. One of the members, for example, contends that Christianity is the foundation of human rights, at least as those rights are understood in the West. Creation of the commission, which will be nested under the Policy Planning Staff, constitutes an end-run around the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which includes the office that has long monitored human-rights issues worldwide from a nonsectarian perspective.
The obvious backdrop to anything the Trump administration pronounces about human rights is an administration foreign policy that gives short shrift to human rights. This disconnect is most visible in President Donald Trump’s friendly hobnobbing with dictators from Egypt, North Korea, and other countries with harsh authoritarian rule. It is reflected in Trump’s joking with Russian president Vladimir Putin about the inconvenience of a free press and how nice it would be to get rid of bothersome journalists.
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