Some Lessons about Alliances, Human Rights, and North Korea from President Obama’s Iran Policy

June 13 2018

In the aftermath of the Singapore summit, Elliott Abrams reflects on what role human rights should play in U.S. policy toward “the most brutal regime on earth”:

[R]aising human-rights issues will not destroy the effort to change North Korea’s nuclear conduct. President George W. Bush raised freedom of religion repeatedly with Chinese leaders, and that did not prevent a working relationship. President Reagan put human-rights issues at the center of his relations with the Soviets, and that did not prevent remarkable progress in the relationship. . . .

[Furthermore], how we act toward North Korea must reflect who we are as Americans, even if the impact over there is slight. . . . The Trump administration must recognize that among our nation’s greatest assets is our association with the cause of liberty. Working for the peaceful expansion of the frontiers of liberty is not a sucker’s game, or a disadvantage or liability, or a waste of resources. It is in very concrete ways one of the greatest advantages of the United States in world politics. It is ultimately what ties allies like Australia, South Korea, and Japan to us: the knowledge that what we seek for them is what we seek for ourselves—peace, security, and liberty.

The alternative is to leave those allies, and others, with the sense that our relations with North Korea exclude them and their interests, which we have forgotten. That is what happened in the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran: close allies situated near Iran, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel, came to believe their own interests were simply being forgotten. We saw in 2009 that the Obama administration viewed protests in Iran askance, not as the people’s call for freedom but as an inconvenience to negotiations with the regime. Japan and other allies in Asia have critical security interests at stake in our relations with North Korea, and we should always give pride of place to maintaining close and longstanding alliances as we undertake to open new relationships with hostile powers.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Barack Obama, Human Rights, Iran, North Korea, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times