A Crisis of Ethical Leadership

2018/7/1 20:25:23

The behavior of many Western democracies' leaders could do as much damage to the international order as the ongoing migration crisis or even a trade war. Beyond the cruelty of their policies, they risk strengthening governments like those in China and Russia, as it makes them seen reasonable, even reliable.











By NINA L. KHRUSHCHEVA*, June 28, 2018:


MOSCOW – “The wise man builds bridges; the fool builds walls.” That was the sentiment splashed all over Chinese editorial pages last week, when the United States imposed 25% tariffs on some $50 billion of Chinese goods. Unfortunately, that isolationist approach extends beyond US trade policy in ways that are not just foolish, but also unethical – and they are depleting what is left of the West’s moral authority.

When it comes to trade, China of course immediately retaliated with its own tariffs on $50 billion of US imports, just as Canada, the European Union, and Mexico are retaliating for US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Such disputes, if they continue to escalate, will hurt people all over the world – not least US consumers, businesses, and workers.

Worse, in recent months, US President Donald Trump has ordered a zero-tolerance immigration policy that treats all adults crossing the border illegally – a misdemeanor – as if they were violent criminals. That has meant referring even asylum seekers for prosecution, and, most controversially, taking away their children to be detained separately. More than 2,300 minors have been placed in shelters.

Succumbing to political pressure, Trump signed an executive order stating that parents and children would be detained together. But that order itself may be illegal; while a federal court considers the issue, prosecutions will continue, and there is no plan in place for reuniting families that have already been divided.

The Trump administration’s policy of separating families has faced heavy criticism, including from unexpected places. Laura Bush – the wife of George W. Bush, the president responsible for the inhumane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – condemned the policy. The images of separated children were, she argued, “eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for US citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history.”

Trump’s own wife Melania said, via a spokesperson, that she “hates to see” children separated from their families. Even China – which reportedly has as many as 1,500 political prisoners – chimed in. And no sooner had America made itself vulnerable to lecturing by such countries than Trump withdrew the US from the United Nations Human Rights Council.



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*Nina L. Khrushcheva, the author of Imagining NabokovRussia Between Art and Politics and The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind, is Professor of International Affairs and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at The New School and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute.


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