Date
17 July 2018
An empty seat marks the place of the US representative to the UNHRC. Washington’s withdrawal from the UN body doesn’t mean the US is backing away from its commitment to upholding human rights, the US envoy to the UN insisted. Photo: Reuters
An empty seat marks the place of the US representative to the UNHRC. Washington’s withdrawal from the UN body doesn’t mean the US is backing away from its commitment to upholding human rights, the US envoy to the UN insisted. Photo: Reuters

‘America First’ policy undermining American soft power

Ever since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the United States has been withdrawing from several international agreements and groups.

The most recent one is the United Nations Human Rights Council.

And the grounds for the US departure from the UN body are, if anything, rather childish.

According to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the US is quitting the UN Human Rights Council because the agency is a “hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights” by accepting countries with distressing human rights record like China, Cuba and Venezuela as its members.

Meanwhile, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also said Washington is withdrawing from the council because of the body’s “chronic bias” against Israel.

The justifications which Pompeo and Haley have cited, in our opinion, are unconvincing and flimsy. 

True, China, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Iran might be notorious for their poor human rights record.

However, Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, has also been violating the human rights of Palestinians over the years, with Washington always looking the other way.

Besides, it would be totally unfair to call the council itself or its ongoing probe into the recent killing of Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces in Gaza on May 15 as being biased against Israel.

It is because the truth is, Israeli soldiers did use excessive force against Palestinian civilians during the crackdown on that day, leaving nearly 60 of them dead and hundreds wounded.

Even more ironic is that while Haley has stressed that quitting the UN council doesn’t mean the US is backing away from its commitment to upholding human rights, the recent “zero tolerance” policy adopted by Washington to separate illegal immigrant parents from their children at the US-Mexican border has provoked worldwide controversies and furore.

Doesn’t forcibly removing children from their parents and then putting them behind bars constitute a violation of human rights?

As the US is departing from the UN Human Rights Council, and then violating human rights when dealing with illegal immigrants at the Mexican border, it would inevitably take a heavy toll on its name as the self-proclaimed human rights defender and dent its moral mojo.

As a matter of fact, what truly makes the US the world’s sole superpower is not only its military might, but also, to a large extent, its advanced culture and values.

Unfortunately, what Trump’s policy of “America First”, which is now gradually turning into “America withdrawal”, is doing is simply erode the soft power of his own country further and further.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 21

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal

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