Imagine your obnoxious neighbor giving you an “F” grade for parenting. He is the richest and has the neighborhood’s gangsters loyal to him. What do you do? He has even molested some children in your neighborhood.
There is a reason why the annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” by the United States is formulated by the Department of State. It is a foreign policy instrument. If the U.S. truly cares about human rights, the country would be providing basic drugs to the poorest nations and irradicate easily curable diseases around the globe. It would be giving away food. It would not be killing innocent Iraqi and Afghani children.
Note also that it conveniently leaves out the United States in the report. The report is designed to dehumanize governments abroad for the American public. It is designed to help maximize legitimcy for the American government domestically. It is a propaganda tool. It is to rally support in case the U.S. government wants to go after any other government on the planet.
If you have been given an “F” grade, what do you do? Well, you calmly explain to your children that if they interact with the obnoxious family’s members, remember to tell them that it is wrong to molest others. You also acknowledge to your children some of the legitimate things that went towards the “F” grade and explain what is the best strategy to improve.
You also ask your children for ideas on how they’d like to improve. Their buy-in is important.
Invariably you will have rebellious children who believe the best way forward is to divorce the parents. That obnoxious neighbor even buys candy and toys for these kids.
Of course, you can start grading this obnoxious neighbor too. (See “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010.”) Knowing how other parents in the neighborhood feel about this particular neighbor, you can build solidarity in the community.
And that’s why in the U.N., the U.S. never “win” on “human rights” related resolutions. In foreign policy, the U.S. is completely neutered where “human rights” is concerned. She still invades other countries on “human rights” grounds, but that is because she cannot obtain mandate from the U.N..
Bombing of Libya on “humanitarian” grounds? To bring real humanity against violence in Libya is to put U.N. santioned troops on the ground. Why isn’t this point considered by the American public? Well, if the report each year gives Qadhafi’s government an “F,” the American public has steadily been prepared to one day support the bombing. You see how this report works? As I have said, the report is a foreign policy tool.
BUT, let’s assume there is genuity in this report. Then, the proper way to do it is to have it authored in a neutral international body. For an insightful discussion on the issues behind that, look at this article by Oli, “On Human Rights, Intervention and the International Order.”
The funny thing is, there are genuine concerns for humanity across America. The Gates Foundation, for example, does a lot of humanitarian work. Americans are generous in donating to world disasters. The true advocates of human rights do not operate under the banners of the U.S. Department of State. They don’t chant “human rights” either.
As Clinton said, this is all a “statecraft:”
As part of our mission to update statecraft for the 21st century, today I’m also pleased to announce the launch of our new website, humanrights.gov.
The irony out of all this is that Clinton is actually honest about what this report is all about, but the U.S. media is full of propaganda. Take CNN’s Fareed Zakaria’s article, for example. (CNN, mind you, supposedly a “liberal” media.)
In criticizing China’s report on the U.S., Zakaria said:
It goes by the title “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010.” They have been putting out such a report for years, but every year it gets bolder. This one has an almost gleeful tone and key punch lines like this: “The United States has always called itself ‘land of freedom,’ but the number of inmates in the country is the world’s largest.” That, according to China, is a human rights violation.
Then it goes on to cite figures that have no bearing on human rights violations as such – unemployment numbers, the number of people going hungry, gun ownership and so on.
The report loses itself and takes away from the more serious charges it does make about Guantanamo Bay and CIA detention facilities. The Chinese government should get the report done by serious Chinese scholars, of whom there are many, rather than the propaganda department of its Communist Party, which seems to have written this one.
Why can’t America fix her society so fewer people end up in prison? That is a metric of human rights.
Citing unrelated figures? Zakaria purposefully ignored section “VI. On US Violations of Human Rights against Other Nations.” That is just dishonest. Killing people abroad is not a violation of human rights?
The Chinese report is in fact written by China’s Information Office of the State Council. It pulled information from the U.S. media.
Gitmo is a disgrace. The Chinese report is a “propaganda” tool, but that is only in response to the U.S. report in the first place.
IF the U.S. one day turns over the exercise of grading everybody to the U.N., I would support it. This is a leadership opportunity the U.S. so far has squandered. That’s sad.
Finally, improving humanity is not easy. See Allen‘s prior article, “A More Holistic Approach to Improving the Human Condition.” And I also know there are banner-less Americans who quietly toiling away at this in foreign countries.