AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 3
Racism, Immigration and Human Rights
Question 3: To what extent should the safeguarding of human rights, including but not limited to preventing genocide and combating racism and religious persecution, inform our nation’s international relationships, trade agreements, and diplomatic conduct?
The United States is still the most powerful country in the world and, in that role, we are still capable of setting the tone globally on issues like human rights. If we make human rights a centerpiece of our foreign policy and diplomacy, the world will follow.
Right now, President Trump has a chaotic foreign policy at best, and an amoral, transactional foreign policy at worst. He befriends dictators either because he is too weak to rebuff them, or because he sees the world in transactional terms and does not care to exercise moral courage or moral leadership.
I still believe that soft power is a stronger weapon than military might. The United States can exercise soft power by making it clear, in our dealings with foreign countries, that we practice what we preach and uphold our values of liberalism and tolerance. Two quotes from Reinhold Neibur come to mind. He said “The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” The United States is the only nation powerful enough today to practice a politics of justice on the world stage. The other Neibur quote that I often think about is “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” Our approach with other nations should be to comfort the afflicted--those persecuted by the powerful, those marginalized, discriminated against, or worse. And in so doing, we should afflict the comfortable--the despots, plutocrats, and mass murderers of the world. Nobody but the United States is in a position to do that.
If not us, who?
From Xinjiang, to Crimea, to Myanmar, we’ve witnessed an assault on human rights globally over the last several years. Rather than conducting a values-based foreign policy that fulfills America’s diplomatic, security, moral obligations, President Trump has embraced –– even celebrated –– authoritarian leaders and regimes engaged in vicious suppression of their people based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors. In January of 2021, the United States must start to reclaim its mantle as a steadfast supporter of human rights and international norms by repairing and renewing our alliances with other democracies and centering diplomacy as the cornerstone of our foreign policy. Along with our allies, we need to send a clear message to the world that persecution and infringement on human rights will not be tolerated. States who engage in this behavior must understand that they will not benefit from trading privileges or warm diplomatic relations with the U.S. and other democratic countries. These efforts must also go hand-in-hand with a democratic renewal at home, with efforts to root out systemic racism and voter suppression and a return to a humane immigration agenda, among other measures. As I see it, safeguarding human rights globally isn’t just a moral obligation –– it’s also a matter of strategy, as abusers of human rights simply aren’t trustworthy partners.
This is a very sensitive issue, because our world is full of nations who are autocratic and oppress their people in order to perpetuate their regimes. The United States was founded on the principle that the people are sovereign with the God given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and our Constitution was created to protect those rights, which were more specifically defined in our Bill of Rights. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights is what unites us, and our ideals have changed the world to benefit millions of people worldwide for almost 244 years. With that said, when conducting foreign policy, we need to take positions that are in our strategic, economic, and in our political interests. Some of the nations we must do business with are lacking or even detrimental to different aspects of the human rights we as Americans expect to be protected. We need to consistently make the case publicly against human rights violations made by all nations, regardless of our relationships and agreements. We can also take certain punitive actions against nations in the form of sanctions and trade deal demands to coerce regimes to respect the rights of their citizens. We need to be pragmatic with our approach in order to protect our overall strategic goals, but I believe a consistent, measured, and aggressive strategy can yield positive results over time.
The United States has and always will be fundamentally human-rights oriented. I believe our nation’s human rights ideals and its strategic concerns are not mutually exclusive, rather just the opposite. As my father always reminded me growing up, it is the times that we stray from those ideals of democracy, human rights and justice that we run into wars, conflict, and global challenges. I am strongly dedicated to promoting bilateral and especially multilateral cooperation through our international relationships and trade agreements to increase the spread of human rights and democratic ideals. When we do it alone, we risk skewing the true meaning of democracy and rights in favor of personal or narrower agendas. If elected, I would work with congressional partners and the administration to restore multilateralism and address our security and peace challenges as a coalition.
As the Executive Director for a center of health and human rights, I am deeply committed to safeguarding human rights and see these as foundational to our international relations, trade, and diplomacy. In my 10+ years at the UN, I had the opportunity to see what U.S. leadership can be at its best. The Trump Administration has antagonized our allies while befriending authoritarian leaders and gutted the State Department. We cannot ensure our security or be a true global leader unless we recommit to our alliances with countries that respect human rights and invest more in the State Department. In addition, trade agreements should include provisions to ensure human rights and environmental protections.
I strongly believe in safeguarding human rights and that Congress must use its existing powers of impeachment, subpoena, and the purse to engage in thoughtful and diplomatic foreign policy that reflects our values globally and uses our power to stop genocidal and hateful acts.
Regarding inquiries 1-9, I plan to work with US Government Officials, Institutions and other subject matter experts to work towards addressing these important topics.
Safeguarding human rights, preventing genocide and combating racism and religious persecution must be at the core of how we approach our international relationships, trade agreements and diplomatic conduct. The United States must continue to be a leader in upholding values of democracy, freedom and justice. As one of the world’s only superpowers, the United States not only has a moral and ethical obligation to be a protector of human rights, but also to help lift other countries to join them in celebrating and upholding these standards.
The United States should implement trade policies and conduct its foreign diplomacy in a way that rewards our trading partners and allies when they implement fair labor laws, minimum wage laws, safeguard human rights, combat religious persecution, encourage democratic free trade unions, implement stringent environmental protections, combat racism, and strive to give access to opportunities to all its residents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, sex, socio-economic status, immigration status, abilities or language.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.
AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.
AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.