UNALIENABLE RIGHTS AND FOREIGN POLICY

First Things | 4/15/2008 | Thomas F. Farr
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On May 30, a surprise notice in the Federal Register roiled the landscape of international human rights advocacy. The U.S. Department of State announced that it was establishing a “Commission on Unalienable Rights” to advise Secretary Mike Pompeo.

The Commission will “provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” It is advisory and will have no independent authority. Its fifteen members will represent diverse views on the issue. Most of their names were announced by Pompeo yesterday.

Language - Human - Rights - Hopes - Conservatives

This language of “natural” human rights has raised hopes among conservatives who believe that human rights have not played a sufficient role in the Trump administration’s foreign policy so far. The high-energy diplomacy of U.S. religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback is a welcome exception, but advancing other human rights has not been a priority for the Trump administration.

The deficit has been particularly noticeable in policies toward North Korea, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, each of which presents national security perils for the United States. These nations’ policies of savage repression ought to offend our commitment to human dignity. Their systemic human rights abuses also threaten our national security because they are permanent impediments to the social, economic, and political developments that can counter despotism and lead to reform. A recent bipartisan letter to the president on North Korea, authored by the Religious Freedom Institute, praised the president’s outreach to Kim Jong Un but urged the integration of human rights into our long-term strategy. The letter received only a pro forma reply, the kind reserved for irrelevant policy recommendations.

Efforts - Stalwarts - Rep - Chris - Smith

And aside from the efforts of stalwarts such as Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Marco Rubio, international human rights has receded as a Congressional concern. Thanks to Senate Democrats, the...
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