The quintessence of blinkism The American Conservative
One of the most startling manifestations of the Biden government’s subservience to liberal pressure groups is the sudden dismissal of the Inalienable Rights Commission appointed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the withdrawal of the commission’s measured and thoughtful report.
The uninitiated may be confused by the State Department’s involvement in issuing publications on fundamental rights. The latest report by President Donald Trump’s “1776 Commission”, also thrown in the trash by the new administration, has been criticized as an illegitimate attempt to disseminate an official version of the story. It was in return for that New York Times“1619 Project”. It was a work of official propaganda, if hardly an unprecedented one; Witnesses to the publications published at the time of the bicentennial existence of the Constitution and which have not been considered improper by anyone.
The State Department’s efforts were far more legitimate. Foreign policy realists, particularly the late George Kennan, have adopted Secretary of State John Quincy Adams’ cautionary statement from 1821 as a catchphrase:
America has spoken unanimously among them in the Assembly of Nations, albeit often to heedless and often too scornful ears, the language of equal freedom, equal justice, and equal rights. She has refrained from interfering in the concerns of others, even when there have been conflicts over principles to which she is clinging. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or is being developed, will be their hearts, blessings, and prayers. But she doesn’t go abroad in search of monsters to be destroyed. She is the benefactress of freedom and independence for all. She is only her own advocate and defender. She will praise the general cause by the face of her voice and the benevolent compassion of her example. She knows very well that if she signs up under banners other than her own, she could become the dictator of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own mind …
Kennan once urged the External Action Service “to refrain from moralizing public judgment about the internal quality or adequacy of Latin American governments” and shared William Howard Taft’s 1913 view of Mexico: “We can get the qualifications of Sunday School superintendents do not get to the heart of the necessities of the situation where anarchy reigns. “
After World War II, the US Congress passed two fundamental documents. The first was the Charter of the United Nations, which states in Article II, Paragraph 7 that “nothing in this Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially the national competence of a state.” derived from the Westphalian Treaty of 1648, which ended the wars of religion in Europe, whereby uprisings of religious dissidents within states without foreign help were unsustainable.
The second was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which all members of the United Nations (except Saudi Arabia) including the communist countries were ready to accept at least as aspirations limited to political rights, including property rights, to free elections and religion. Subsequent agreements that attempted to define economic and social rights were passed by some countries but not by the United States.
These documents were supplemented in 1975 by the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was signed by around 30 European and Atlantic states, including the United States and the Soviet Union. Article VI, paragraph 1 of the Helsinki Final Act undertook to adhere to the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and only to the obligations set out in the international human rights conventions to which they may be bound, “Refers to expressly refers to “fundamental freedoms of thought, conscience, religion and belief”.
Subsequently, during the Carter administration, the State Department set up a human rights agency to oversee compliance with the Helsinki Final Act, which was expanded beyond its signatories to include all members of the United Nations through an amendment to the Foreign Aid Act in 1979 , as it has not been seen as the job of diplomats to systematically criticize the domestic politics of the nations to which they were accredited. Reports on human rights emerged in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which covered torture, imprisonment without trial, and similar abuses, and was subsequently supplemented by other laws, including the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
The report commissioned by Secretary Pompeo was thus directly related to the tasks of the department, as they are legally and probably laid down in the Helsinki Final Act. Its commission chairman, Professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, was the author of The World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which discusses the origins of the Universal Declaration and its limitations to ensure general ratification. The report carefully discussed this story and called for the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United States Congress, and those recognized in the International Freedom of Religion, ratified by Congress, to be given priority in American foreign policy and in the reports of human rights countries becomes the 1998 Law, and this attention should be paid to the rights of national self-determination and subsidiarity recognized in both the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
In appointing the commission and delivering its report, there was a cacophony of organized criticism from dozens of American abortion and gay rights organizations. It is evident that the “rights” these organizations must defend were not those agreed upon by members of the United Nations and the US Congress in ratifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So-called “reproductive rights” were anathema to religious authorities and governments in Roman Catholic, Muslim and some ex-communist countries, including Russia, Poland and Hungary. These rights were not enacted or endorsed by most United Nations countries, the United States Congress, or the vast majority of state legislatures, and have been the subject of ongoing controversy in the United States and even in international religious bodies such as the Anglican community. Its acceptance in the United States as it is is based on 5-4 Supreme Court opinions that are not supported by any authoritative text. The late conflict of laws professor Brainerd Currie deplored the fact that “legal scholars and, to a lesser extent, the courts under their influence, through the coercion of internationalist and altruistic ideals, have culpably suppressed the natural instincts of self-interest of the community.”
In the statement by Secretary Antony Blinken, which threw the report in the trash and ordered the inclusion of “gay rights” and “reproductive rights” in human rights reports, neither this background nor these considerations are discussed. Indeed, this indicated that he had not read the report. When pressure groups or the campaign staff imported into the White House whistled, he jumped up. His justification for rejecting the report in its entirety was as follows: “Human rights are equal; There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others. “
One wonders whether this logic extends to the “right to keep and bear arms” or the right to commercial speech, both of which are “discovered” by majorities in the US Supreme Court greater than that in the US Supreme Court Webster Abortion case or the Upper skin Gay marriage case. Rights Talk is a game that any number can play, as the Wilhelmine Justice showed when they undermined the Weimar Republic. The spread of “human rights” harbors dangers for the international and national order. like Professor Mark Mazower in his Ruling the World: The Story of an Idea::
A world where human rights violations trump the sanctity of borders can lead to more wars, more massacres and more instability. The clear line between war and peace set out in the United States Charter is blurred. The boundaries between home and abroad, legal and illegal, civilians and combatants are more confused than ever … a vocabulary of permissions, a means of enforcing power and control that normalizes the debatable and justifies the exception.
There is, in fact, a hierarchy of rights defined by the inscription on the tomb of our first Secretary of State and in the rotunda of his monument, and also recognized in the practice of our other great Secretary of State: John Quincy Adams in the passage quoted above, Charles Evans Hughes in his robust defense of free speech; and George C. Marshall in defining our alliance with the democracies of Western Europe. It is unsettling to see a pygmy on the giants’ seat.
George Liebmann is the author of, among others Interwar Diplomacy: Five Diplomats and the Making of the Modern World (Bloomsbury: 2019) and The Last American Diplomat: John D. Negroponte and His Time, 1960-2019 (Bloomsbury: 2015).