Ralph Reed: Trump, Pompeo human rights agenda strong in face of abuses across the globe

Pompeo: If we’re going to fight for freedoms abroad we need to protect them at home

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discusses the importance of human rights with Bill Hemmer.

President Donald Trump, denounced by critics for his alleged autocratic tendencies, may seem an unlikely champion of human rights around the world. But as is so often the case, his critics are wrong.

The Trump administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to human rights, making the promotion of religious liberty and the rights of conscience the lodestone of U.S. diplomacy. Trump has championed religious minorities, including persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Uighurs in China, and gained the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison.

And Trump’s tough stance on Communist China signaled the most dramatic shift in Sino-American relations since Nixon’s diplomatic opening to Beijing in 1972. For decades China has stolen the intellectual property of U.S. companies, engaged in illegal trade practices, and brutally denied the human rights of its people, most recently by crushing democracy in Hong Kong. Its persecution of the underground church is notorious. As with Ronald Reagan’s posture toward the Soviet Union, Trump’s policy links China’s rogue behavior with its brutal denial of human rights.

Conservatives long ago learned that personnel is policy. Trump understands this principle, most boldly perhaps in his appointment of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Pompeo, a full-spectrum conservative with a distinguished career in the U.S. Army, Congress, and the CIA, has made it his mission to rescue America’s long and cherished tradition of advocating human rights from UN bureaucrats and muddle-headed liberalism.

Last year Pompeo created the Commission on Unalienable Rights, chaired by the distinguished Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon. The commission’s newly-released report issues a clarion call for placing human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy, based on the Declaration of Independence and American tradition.

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The Declaration advanced the most radical idea in human history: that all human beings are endowed by God with certain inalienable rights. The sole duty of government is to safeguard those rights. These rights would later be enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and the press are now widely recognized as foundational to civic health and prosperity, yet they remain denied in much of the world.

Pompeo’s commission faults the United Nations for making a mockery of human rights, allowing China, Cuba, and Libya to dominate the UN Human Rights Council. The U.S. resigned from the UNHRC in 2018 because it did not want to remain part of a hypocritical council. A prime example of the UNHRC's hypocrisy was displayed the following year when the council allowed Venezuela to win a seat despite having one of the worst records on human rights in the world.

Trump’s critics charge that the U.S. is abdicating its leadership and retreating from the global stage. But viewed through the prism of the Declaration and the UN’s own Declaration of Universal Human Rights in 1948, the U.S. is actually providing moral clarity and leadership by example at a time when both are much needed. 

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The Commission on Unalienable Rights offers a road map for foreign policy should Trump win a second term. Too often given short shrift by the media, the Trump administration has sanctioned dictators from the mullahs in Iran to the corrupt Maduro regime in Venezuela, which holds power after a sham election, robs its citizens of basic rights, and starves them with failed economic collectivism. The Trump Administration has promoted liberty and human rights while avoiding overweening military commitments.

Could Trump, elected in no small measure because he promised to build a wall, be the instrument for bringing down the walls of oppression that rob so many of their God-given rights and potential?  If the blueprint provided by his State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights is any indication, his administration could do so, offering hope to those struggling to be free across the globe, while confounding its critics.

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