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Engagement Versus Human Rights

March 15, 2010

Wall Street Journal
MARCH 15, 2010

President Obama's appeasement of rogue regimes isn't yielding good results.

It's been more than a year now since President Obama began seeking
engagement with rogue regimes the world over. Last week, his own State
Department tallied up the benefits of that effort to human rights. There
appear to have been none.

Around the world, human rights deteriorated markedly over the past year,
according to the 2009 Human Rights Report, released Thursday. The trend
wasn't confined to traditional forms of repression, such as restrictions on
assembly or religion. Authoritarian regimes are adapting to modern times but
restricting speech on the Internet, booting out nongovernment organizations
and more. State surveyed 194 countries.

The report found that China's situation had "worsened" as Beijing cracked
down on minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, jailed human-rights lawyers and
journalists, and enforced its one-child policy. Iran's "poor human rights
record degenerated," particularly after Tehran rigged its June election.
Burmese authorities "committed extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape,
and torture."

State tried to put a gloss on the downward trend, noting that the United
States and others are showing "leadership in advancing respect for universal
human rights, promoting tolerance, combating violent extremism, and pursuing
peaceful solutions to long-standing conflicts in the Middle East and
elsewhere."

But if that's true, the "leadership" doesn't seem to be working. After
State's report was issued, featured offenders such as Iran, Venezuela and
Vietnam strongly dismissed the findings. China called the U.S. "the main
source of many human rights disasters worldwide;" a suggestion echoed by
Russia. Even Ethiopia said the report contained "serious intellectual
deficiencies."

However absurd, these reactions show that human-rights offenders pay close
attention to what amounts to a mere State Department report. Imagine the
good it could do if Mr. Obama more closely aligned his diplomatic priorities
with its conclusions.
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