On May 26, Zbigniew Brzezinski – one of our best diplomats – passed away at the age of 89. He served in the State Department under President Lyndon Baines Johnson and also served as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981.
Brzezinski’s idea of a human rights based foreign policy is very relevant today. In his book “Power and Principle: Memoirs of a National Security Advisor,” Brzezinski stated that a commitment to human rights would demonstrate the values of a democratic republic to people in developing nations and make the United States more appealing than our adversity at the time, Soviet Russia. The national security advisor made three basic propositions in a speech in 1978 at the 13th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The first is that human rights is the genuine, historical inevitability of our times,” he said. “The second is that human rights is a central facet in America’s relevance to this changing world. And the third is that there has been progress in the effort to enhance the human condition insofar as human rights are concerned.”
Carter included human rights as a component of his foreign policy. The policy meant measuring U.S. financial support for various countries using their human rights record as a barometer. In the four years of the Carter Presidency, there were improvements in the records of countries like Peru, Argentina, Indonesia, Chile and Brazil. After his term as National Security Advisor, Brzezinski said the human rights policy put Soviet Russia on the defensive in the third world. Brzezinski later served on the board of directors of the human rights organization Amnesty International, saying that the organization served as a quality public relations organ for a revolutionary idea of advancing human rights.
President Donald Trump places the concept of human rights in the “no priority category.” Trump has supported a $2 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates – a nation who is supporting the country of Yemen in their civil war against anti-government insurgents.
The civil war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine. The proposed arms sale gives Congress the opportunity to pressure the UAE on their human rights record. If Congress approves the UAE arms deal without demanding that the UAE agree to a ceasefire to protect Yemen from famine, there is a chance that millions in Yemen could die of starvation.
In the first week of June, the Pentagon announced the State Department had finalized the arms sale to Saudi Arabia – a U.S. ally that has blocked food aid to Yemen. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) weighed in on the issue and said “the Saudis are deliberately trying to create a famine inside Yemen in order to essentially starve the Yemenis to the negotiating table and the United States is participating.”
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has encouraged the world to ensure “the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid by air, sea and land” into the country to alleviate the suffering of 17 million food-insecure Yemenis caught in “the world’s largest hunger crisis,” which is “man-made” and is starving and crippling “an entire generation.” Since the 1990’s, fundamentalist Islamic terrorists have struck in various countries in various ways. They choose terror as their weapon because they don’t have access to a traditional military.
When it comes to blunting the appeal of terrorist factions, a commitment to human rights would strengthen the appeal of our country and democracy and blunt the appeal of fundamentalist terrorists. Human rights will become a full blown ideology to compete with the ideology spread by terrorist factions.
Sources: “Power and Principle” by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Move On.org and The Washington Post, The Atlantic.