over whether top Saudi Arabian leadership murdered US -based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a striking example of the consequences of Donald Trump’s blanket disregard for democratic politics and human rights in other countries. This departure from decades of American foreign policy rhetoric remains comparatively undiscussed.
However, in the Middle East, my area of expertise, I believe this Trump policy shift opens the door to exactly the sort of flagrant attacks on individual freedom and safety that likely recently claimed Khashoggi.
Yet, the Trump administration’s abandonment of support for democracy and civil rights hurts the interests of both Middle Easterners and Americans.
Did the US Walk the Walk?
In the past, US leaders and officials within the government have shown interest in political rights and government accountability in other countries. Such talk has nonetheless often taken a back seat to considerations of geopolitical power or resources.
Even before the US became a superpower after World War II, Western countries like England and France of the Middle East. This left a regarding the sincerity of Western leaders’ stated political values.
Yet these days even the pretense is gone that US policy in the Middle East – or elsewhere – should advance political freedom.
When asked about why he refuses to criticize repressive rulers like Putin or Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Trump’s response is to question whether .” Denying that the US is distinguishable from countries that penalise dissent, the current American leader disavows the very project of advancing democratic values abroad.
Is it actually significant that the White House ignores political rights and freedom?
In the Middle East, the difference is large and palpable.
For one thing, increased deference to authoritarian leaders in the Middle East by the world’s most powerful democracy has allowed for the pursuit of deadly warfare and attacks on civilians. This is apparent in the actions of , who has .
Egypt under President Sisi is than it was prior to 2011 under Mubarak. Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia may be committed to increasing Saudi prestige and the selective enhancement of . Yet he also has shown .
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
Such a strong reaction is hard to imagine in the days when at least pockets of the US government showed concern about human rights in the Middle East. In this instance, the Trump Administration refused to support Canada, its democratic neighbour. Similarly, Trump’s response to Khashoggi’s disappearance so far is to .
The upshot is that Middle Easterners have grounds to believe that Washington cares little for their basic well-being, their hopes for more responsive political systems and, in Syria and Yemen, their very lives.
People in the Trump administration purport to care a great deal about . This is why it is puzzling that they side strongly with unelected leaders willing to use intimidation and violence to quell dissent.
It is tempting to argue that the inconsistency of US efforts to further democratic values means that these efforts don’t matter.
At least in the Middle East, racked by ongoing war, the rising influence of autocrats, and increases in flagrant attacks on critical speech like Khashoggi’s death, I fear that the Trump administration’s abandonment of such efforts will in fact fuel more misery and anti-Americanism.
(The author Chair, Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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