If you’re a murderous dictator, this is a joyous time to be alive.
No one will make much of a fuss if your opposition leader is jailed, if an annoying journalist goes missing or if, as happened in Congo, a judge who displeases the dictatorial president suffers a home invasion in which goons rape his wife and daughter.
.. The U.S. has abandoned a bipartisan consensus on human rights that goes back decades.
.. I’m back from Myanmar, where leaders are finding that this is also the optimal time to commit genocide.
The army conducted a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya ethnic minority, with soldiers throwing babies onto bonfires as they raped the mothers.
.. In the past, human rights was at least one thread of our foreign policy.
.. Trump defended Vladimir Putin for killing critics (“What? You think our country’s so innocent?”), and praised Egypt’s brutal president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for “a fantastic job.” Trump hailed the Philippines’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, whose dirty war on drugs has claimed 12,000 lives, for an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
.. when Trump visited Manila, he laughed as Duterte called reporters “spies” — in a country where aggressive journalism has landed people in the morgue.
.. A record number of journalists are in prison worldwide
.. Trump has met with the leaders of each of the three top jailers of journalists — China, Russia and Turkey — and as far as we know, has never raised the issue of press freedom with them.
.. “What’s completely gone is the bipartisan consensus that was a cornerstone of our foreign policy, that if you imprison journalists and restrict the media, there will be consequences,”
.. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen approvingly cited Trump’s attacks on fake news as a precedent for closing down radio stations and the much admired newspaper Cambodia Daily. After the crackdown, in November, Trump posed for a photograph with Hun Sen, flashing a thumbs-up — and Hun Sen praised the American president for his lack of interest in human rights.
.. “Your policy is being changed,” Hun Sen declared gratefully, and he lauded Trump for being “most respectful.”
.. Trump told the king of repressive Bahrain, “there won’t be strain with this administration.”
.. the government responded a few days later by killing five protesters
.. sentencing Rajab himself to five years in prison for his tweets.
.. Trump’s soft spot for authoritarianism goes way back. He has spoken sympathetically of the Chinese government’s massacres of pro-democracy protesters in 1989, and of Saddam Hussein’s approach to counterterrorism.
.. Periodically, Trump does raise human rights issues, but only to bludgeon enemies like North Korea or Venezuela. This is so ham-handed and hypocritical that it simply diminishes American standing further.
.. approval of the United States has collapsed to a record low of 30 percent. Indeed, more people now approve of China than of the United States. Russia is just behind us.
.. “Trump has been a disaster for U.S. soft power,”
.. “He’s so hated around the world that he’s radioactive. So on those rare occasions when he does something about human rights, it only tarnishes the cause.”
.. In Myanmar, a young Rohingya man pleaded with me: “Please don’t let us be treated as animals.
Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast
We talk about what’s known and what’s not known about terrorism; we talk about what’s working and what’s not to prevent it; we talk about whether we overvalue the threat of tactical terrorism and undervalue the threat of strategic terrorism, including cyber- and bioterrorism.
Tillerson Balances Trump’s Goals With His Own
In interview, secretary of state reflects on his role in administration, warns China on trade and territory
“Most of the things he would do would be done on very short time frames. Everything I spent my life doing was done on 10- to 20-year time frames, so I am quite comfortable thinking in those terms.”
His solution: “Delivering the incremental wins,” he said. “Incremental progress is taking you toward the ultimate objective, which is, as I say is eight, 10 years down the road.”’
.. Mr. Tillerson said one of his top long-term priorities is shifting the balance of the trade and national-security relationship with China
.. Mr. Tillerson warned China that the U.S. has an arsenal of economic weapons to force Beijing to address trade imbalances and a continuing territorial dispute in the South China Sea... “We can do this one of two ways,” Mr. Tillerson said during the interview, seeming at times to speak directly to his Chinese counterparts. “We can do it cooperatively and collaboratively, or we can do it by taking actions and letting you react to that.”
Tools he might apply include tariffs, World Trade Organization actions, quotas and other mechanisms, he said.
.. “If I were a world leader—doesn’t matter who—I wouldn’t talk to Tillerson,” said Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing the public divide between the two men. “The president must feel that this person can do the work for him…this is not the case here. It’s becoming antagonistic.”
.. Mr. Trump has also disparaged his top diplomat, complaining that Mr. Tillerson doesn’t understand his “Make America Great” philosophy and has few original thoughts. “Totally establishment in his thinking,” he has told aides.
.. “I believe you solve a problem in Afghanistan not by just dealing with Afghanistan,” he said. “You solve it by solving a regional problem, and that’s the way we’re looking at the Middle East.”
.. said he spends the bulk of his time concentrating on North Korea, Iran, counterterrorism, China and Russia.
As Investigations Intensify, Israel Imagines Life After Netanyahu
A black curtain went up a few months ago near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Jerusalem’s leafy Balfour Street. It screened pesky protesters from Mr. Netanyahu’s view — and prevented the public from seeing lawyers and detectives come and go as criminal investigations of the prime minister intensified.
.. “For the first time, people are thinking that Netanyahu won’t be the prime minister next time around, whether elections take place in a few months’ time or a year and a half.”
.. experts say that Friday’s signing of a state’s witness agreement by Ari Harow, who served as Mr. Netanyahu’s chief of staff and directed his 2015 re-election campaign, could be a game changer.
.. In Case 1000, investigators are looking at whether Mr. Netanyahu offered favors in return for gifts of expensive cigars, pink Champagne and other goods from wealthy friends, including Arnon Milchan, the Israeli Hollywood producer.
.. Case 2000 involves back-room dealings with a local newspaper magnate. Mr. Netanyahu was recorded negotiating with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth for favorable coverage in exchange for curtailing the circulation of a free competitor, Israel Hayom.
.. Mr. Netanyahu has had abrasive relationships with some international leaders, including President Barack Obama, particularly over his championing of settlement expansion and his efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. President Trump’s victory came as a great relief to Mr. Netanyahu and his coalition — the most right wing in Israel’s history
.. Mr. Netanyahu has also built strong alliances with other leaders, including President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and has expanded Israel’s global reach based on its prowess in intelligence, counterterrorism and technology.
.. showcasing a combative, theatrical style of diplomacy.
.. inside Israel, he is credited with having maintained stability as Arab neighbors descended into chaos.
.. Mr. Netanyahu’s durability can be attributed at least in part to the fractured field of potential rivals.