Our highest calling is to serve in defense of human rights. The collective easement of human suffering has been the goal of organizations such as the U.N. and EU since their inception. It is notable when a country withdraws from their responsibilities to those organizations and actively chooses to eschew diplomacy for empty political threats. President Donald Trump and his administration have chosen to do just that for the entirety of his time in office.
However, something more insidious is happening with this presidency that every on-looker should be paying attention to. Trump is not just slowly withdrawing from these organizations; he is also attacking the organizations themselves. In 2018, the administration announced a plan to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council – the U.S. would be the first nation to ever withdraw from the council. Trump also ordered a withdrawal from the UNSCO and to defund the U.N. Reliefs and Works committee – an organization responsible for supporting displaced Palestinians.
Officials within the Trump administration have made direct threats against International Criminal Court judges and prosecutors – the ICC prosecutes individuals responsible for war crimes and genocide. The threats were made in response to a potential full-scale investigation into U.S. involvement in war crimes in Afghanistan.
The message being sent by the Trump administration to international peace organizations is clear – they do not believe in the effectiveness of international organizations. Receding backwards has had permanent consequences for foreign policy because other countries have rushed to fill the gap in leadership.
China, a major beneficiary of the Trump foreign policy strategy, continues to expand into foreign countries through its “Belt and Road Initiative.” Belt and Road, a massive international infrastructure development project, allows for Chinese investment banks– controlled by the CCP to provide loans to developing countries for infrastructure. India, a U.S. ally, has accused China of using the high debt burden imposed by these loans to seize control of regional choke points.
The Trump administration has, so far, had no response to the increasing influence of China which has been spurred by their own actions. After President Trump started the trade war, China began to diversify their investments to mitigate the damages that the trade war incurred. China has made permanent inroads in neighboring Asian countries and moved to increase their influence abroad.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration focuses on a perceived threat at the border from Central and South American immigration. Trump nakedly employs race-baiting tactics meant to weaponize the underlying racism against peaceful immigrants. Here, the Trump administration shows the insidious nature of its foreign policy strategies.
Employing a barbaric child separation policy in widespread numbers the Trump administration caged children and separated families. Instead of taking responsibility for his use of the policy Trump deflected blame on to previous administrations.
“We had separations when I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I did not have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together,” said Trump.
The statement was a bold-faced lie as reported by PolitiFact – previous administrations used the child separation policy rarely, but the Trump administration systematically separated children from their families.
The New York Times would later report that the policy was meant as a deterrence to families seeking asylum – their human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One needs only to read brief accounts of the horrific conditions at these facilities to realize the truth of their reporting. The cruelty was, explicitly, the point.
Cruelty has become a hallmark of the Trump administration, especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of proposing solid responses to the pandemic Trump has chosen to fall back on a time tested and proven method of race-baiting and lying to deflect blame. Instead of accepting the consequences of his actions, Trump has chosen to blame the World Health Organization for being under Chinese control.
Meanwhile, over 200,000 people have died in the United States in the seven months since March alone. Several reports claiming that Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Trump and the leader of an early task force meant to address the threat, chose to scale back a national testing response to COVID-19 for political reasons. The task force reasoned that the virus would primarily effect democratic states, and it would be easy to blame governors for the pandemic. If true, this would be a major human rights abuse by the Trump administration and a clear abuse of power.
Cruelty, as it appears, is the point of the Trump administration. Trump has made a consistent and pointed effort to communicate his enmity for the concept of human rights. From his withdrawal from the Human Rights Council, Trump has made it clear that he neither respects nor responds to human rights. Preferring to lie and defer blame away from himself, Trump has made a conscious effort to be cruel – caging children is just one example of an atrocious human rights track record.
In the next week, the American people will be a referendum on the COVID-19 pandemic response employed by the Trump administration. However, remember that this vote is not just about COVID-19 and the economy – it’s also about the caged children sitting in ICE facilities who still haven’t been reunited with their parents. This election is about common decency and respect for the sanctity of life Trump so zealously seeks to violate. Cruelty can never be the point of U.S. foreign policy, but it will continue to be if Trump is re-elected this year. Remember those children when you vote and remember that it was President Trump who ordered their suffering.