SAIS vs. Trump on Human Rights
BY FATIMA NANAVATI
SAIS students are now on the road to recovery after a shocking victory by Donald Trump in the recent United States presidential election. At a school focused on international affairs, it is no surprise that SAISers are well-informed on human rights issues. Various classes, extracurricular programs, guest speakers and honorable alumni have enlightened students on the subject from both domestic and international perspectives. In The SAIS Observer’s recent election survey, students expressed how they felt about some human rights issues that may be of concern in the near future, particularly with president-elect Trump’s unique methods of diplomacy and questionable temperament. Here is how SAISers’ views and Trump’s policies match up:
The U.S. should not be constrained by international law in fighting threats such as ISIS or the Assad regime:
SAIS: Disagree – The majority of students (75 percent) believe that, even though ISIS and Assad are frightening and catastrophic threats, the U.S. should still be bound by the rules of international law.
Trump: Agree – President-elect Trump has expressed his strong commitment to defeating ISIS, regardless of the extreme measure that may be required. He has previously advocated for “bombing the shit out of them” as well as crippling the wealth of the enemy by “taking oil back”.
The economic and geopolitical benefits of free trade agreements outweigh potential concerns relating to the environment, human rights and national sovereignty:
SAIS: Split – While 21.7 percent of students remained neutral on the topic, 35.4 percent agreed that the benefits granted from free trade agreements were more beneficial, while 42.9 percent believed that the other concerns were actually more important.
Trump: Split – Trump has stated that he is “for free trade,” however he has strongly advocated against the current state of various free trade agreements (i.e. NAFTA, TPP, PTA). He believes that the trade deficit warrants the renegotiation of trade agreements to make them tougher and fairer. However, he hasn’t expressed that the environment, human rights or national sovereignty were particular areas of concern when considering trade.
Human rights should play a significant role in U.S. foreign policy:
SAIS: Agree – Nearly 80 percent of students either agreed or strongly agreed that the U.S. should take human rights into account when dealing with foreign policy concerns.
Trump: Probably disagree – Trump has not exactly condemned the human rights violations of Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and often ignored reports of their brutal acts. He even exclaimed that Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sissi was “a fantastic guy.” So, it is not surprising that all of those evidently repressive regimes have welcomed Trump’s presidential victory. Although the U.S. human rights record is not perfect, it seems as though Trump’s continued support of such depraved leaders would only increase human rights violations around the world and may even prompt violations of his own when he is president.
The president should have the authority to unilaterally call airstrikes on people believed to be terrorists, even if they are U.S. citizens:
SAIS: Disagree – Although a fraction of students do believe that terrorist threats permit such action, nearly 80 percent of SAISers do not think that the president should be able to unilaterally launch airstrikes.
Trump: Probably agree – Donald Trump has never specifically stated that he wanted autonomous control over nuclear weapons, but he has continued to condone Russia’s violent actions in Syria and has committed to defeating terrorist threats “by all means necessary.” However, when speaking to a veterans group, Trump did voice some concern that current airstrikes may be killing the “wrong people” due to lack of precision.
Acts of torture such as waterboarding are never justified:
SAIS: Agree – Reports show that the U.S. has previously used such enhanced interrogation techniques when dealing with extremely dangerous threats, but nearly 70 percent of SAIS students do not believe that such acts of torture are ever warranted.
Trump: Disagree – In his own words, Trump has promised to bring waterboarding back into use and stated, “I like it a lot, I don’t think it’s tough enough.” He believes when dealing with extreme threats, such as ISIS, the U.S. should be able to “fight fire with fire” and would definitely approve of waterboarding as well as “more than that.” When later questioned about the effectiveness of torture methods he added, “If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.”