Sri Lanka: Understanding Trump’s foreign policy

(Courtesy of Asian Tribune)

Who is Alice Wells who just visited Sri Lanka, met officials including the country’s president Maitripala Sirisena?

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Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Alice Wells

Does she represent Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda? Has Sri Lanka researched what the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda is?

Did Sri Lanka know that Alice Wells – acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, I reiterate –acting not confirmed by the US Senate, who was recalled from her ambassadorial position in Jordan by the Trump administration in June at King Abdullah’s request?

Does Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry aware that Alice Wells was working very closely with the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Under Secretary (Political) William J. Burns to develop the Obama administration policy agenda to pave the way for Sri Lanka to face international scrutiny for war crimes and accountability for its military action during the final phase of the Eelam War IV?

Does Sri Lanka know that it was Ms. Wells who assisted the Clinton State Department to coordinate with UN Office of Under-Secretary General to initiate Sri Lanka scrutiny in UNHRC, Geneva?

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Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Alice Wells (C), Ambassador of the United States to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Atul Keshap (2R) and Sri Lanka’s opposition leader R. Sampanthan (R) attend a candle light vigil for the minority Tamils missing since the end of the island’s drawn out Tamil separatist war in May 2009, in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on 30 August 2017.

For Sri Lanka’s information, Alice Wells returned to the United States in 2009 after completing her diplomatic assignments abroad and served in several high-profile staff positions.

Until 2011, she was executive assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns. Wells was then named executive assistant to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, working with her until 2012. At that time, she moved to the White House, becoming special assistant to the president. It was during this period that Washington initiated international scrutiny of war crimes, violation of international humanitarian law, and accountability for the military actions during the final phase of the war with Tamil Tigers etc.

The Asian Tribune has been raising questions connected to Sri Lanka’s humiliation before the international community initiated by the Obama’s White House special adviser and UN ambassador Samantha Power, Obama’s National Security adviser Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton State Department when the Rajapaksa administration had its reigns in Sri Lanka, and since the advent of the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe administration, questioning if its Ministry of Foreign Affairs commenced a study of the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda to get out of the UN agenda put in place by Obama-Clinton duo dismissing the intervention of global jurists in domestic affairs.

Asian Tribune can confidently say that there were only two Sri Lankan diplomats since the conclusion of the Eelam War IV in May 2009 who took utmost efforts to minimize or eliminate the Western agenda on Sri Lanka in Geneva: Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka and Tamara Kunanayakam.

Sri Lanka’s Sirisena-Wickremasinghe administration is yet to distance itself from the machinations of the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. If it does not understood that the State Department’s most recent visitor “acting” assistant secretary Wells doesn’t represent Trump’s global agenda, Sri Lanka has not comprehended the Trump administration’s true nature in regard to foreign dealings and what changes his secretary of State Rex Tillerson is making in his shop.

The Trump administration has not isolated itself from world affairs but has taken certain policy decisions with the knowledge of how previous American administrations used their foreign-policy tools to subjugate developing Third World nations such as Sri Lanka not to interfere in domestic affairs of other nations unless America’s national security and economic power is threatened.

Most recently as August 21 at the military base Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, President Donald Trump on the topic ‘Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia’ declared: “But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests. We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward.”

When asked about the implications of the ongoing purge – immediately following the abortive military coup in Turkey in 2015 – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump echoed: What right do we in the United States have to criticize the condition of human rights elsewhere?

Here’s Trump: “I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country. We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore. When you have all of the things that are happening in this country — we have other problems, and I think we have to focus on those problems. When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”

Trump, as the 45th president inaugurated on 20 January 2017, has not changed his position, and in fact, embedded the above sentiments into his foreign policy agenda.

Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson has led to the convening of the State Department’s Executive Steering Committee to draft new statements on the department’s purpose, mission and ambition as part of the overall reorganization of the State Department and USAID, revealed in an internal email that went out on July 28.

This internal email reveals the State Department’s draft statement on its purpose as: “We promote the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally.”

The State Department’s draft statement on its mission is: “Lead America’s foreign policy through global advocacy, action and assistance to shape a safer, more prosperous world.”

The department’s draft statement on its ambition is: “The American people thrive in a peaceful and interconnected world that is free, resilient and prosperous.”

The existing (fiscal year 2016 and before) State Department Mission Statement runs as follows: “The Department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people everywhere. This mission is shared with the USAID, ensuring we have a common path forward in partnership as we invest in the shared security and prosperity that will ultimately better prepare us for the challenges tomorrow.”

The significant difference is the deletion of justice and democracy.

On May 3, addressing the department staff, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared, “if we condition too heavily that others must adopt this (American) value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.”

In March, Secretary Tillerson was absent when the state department issues the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Worldwide. This was the first occasion the secretary of state was absent when the American administration’s human rights report was released.

In a another example, the State Department will soon eliminate the www.humanrights.gov website and move its contents to an alternate web address, www.state.gov the Asian Tribune is in a position to report.

If Sri Lanka has no capacity to understand this bit – this bit – that the Obama White House and Clinton State Department adopted a policy to humiliate Sri Lanka in the past, but this time, Sri Lanka is humiliating itself for reasons unknown to even erudite persons like Dayan Jayatilleka and Tamara Kunanayakam.

By Daya Gamage 

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