The size of the humanitarian crisis with its epicenter in Syria has reached such proportions that even Barack Obama’s apologists are becoming appalled by the scope and the lack of a visible end point. My colleague, Moe Lane, posted on this earlier in the day. While this particular crisis is tied directly to dunderheaded foreign policy decision making on the part of Hillary Clinton (‘let’s try to overthrow Bashar Assad without a plan and see what happens’), the disaster itself is directly related to Assad being an Iranian client and Obama being unwilling to do anything to make the Iranians unhappy and scuttle his rush to surrender.
This is not a one-off. Obama, perhaps uniquely among American presidents, has completely embraced a foreign policy that would have gagged a harden realist like Henry Kissinger. Obama has decided to pursue his policy aims independent of any concern about human rights.
The left recognized early on what was coming.
Back in 2010 the radical left CommonDreams gave a cutting critique of Obama’s human right record though, naturally, couching it in terms of blaming Bush:
In the short term, however, Obama’s failure to more boldly address human rights concerns have alienated much of Obama’s progressive base of support. The right wing, meanwhile, disingenuously portrays Obama as retreating from his predecessor’s supposed support for democracy and human rights. Although the Bush administration provided even more assistance to governments engaged in human rights abuses and used pro-democracy rhetoric largely as a ruse for empire, Obama’s lukewarm support for human rights has enabled right-wingers to seize the moral high ground. As a result, the perceived weakness of the Obama administration’s human rights record raises important ethical and political questions.
In 2014, Human Rights Watch had this to say:
By contrast, a U.S. government that forsakes human rights ideals is one that is likely to be seen—and taken advantage of—as lacking resolve. When Obama tried to placate Beijing at the time of his first visit by downplaying rights and delaying a meeting with the Dalai Lama, China saw this as a sign of weakness to be exploited. Vladimir Putin came to a similar conclusion when Obama refused to expand the Magnitsky list of Russian rights abusers whose assets will be seized or to sanction banks that facilitate the resupply of Bashar al-Assad’s killing machine. Those positions emboldened the Kremlin to support Ukraine’s abusive former leader against a popular uprising and to protect the Syrian government as it slaughters and deprives civilians in opposition-held areas.
How about some highlights
Obama has ignored human trafficking violations by Malaysia and Cuba.
The Iran nuclear deal was inked with Iran still listed as a state sponsor of terror and a chronic human rights abuser.
Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terror despite no change in its behavior.
The plight of Chinese pro-democracy dissidents has been ignored.
Obama ignored the one-party state in Ethiopia, calling it democratic… he might have meant this is how Democrats would like to run things.
Atrocities in North Korea and Iran go unremarked as we suck up to those despotic regimes and Christian communities are exterminated without acknowledgement.
While one can carry the idolatry of human rights to illogical extremes (see Carter, Jimmy) the one thing that has historically set the United States apart from other great powers is our insistence that human rights were a universal principle. Without that morality guiding our foreign policy it is easy to allow Russia to carve out chunks of Ukraine and to falsely imprison and try Ukrainians traveling through Russia. It is easy to allow our ‘allies’, the Turks, to aid ISIS in exterminating Kurdish populations. It is acceptable to set off a humanitarian catastrophe and walk away from it.
This isn’t a right wing attack. This is a fact that even the left is finally acknowledging.