U.S. redefining its purpose to the World: Promoting Democracy dropped

(By Courtesy of Asiantribune)

If nations in the developing Third World – Sri Lanka included – had closely monitored the shaping of the foreign policy of the Trump administration in the United States, they would have noticed a significant and clear departure from many previous administrations in regard to America’s eternally cherished issues such as the promotion of democracy and human rights, rule of law and good governance.

For over fifty decades, all American administrations used these issues to intervene in the internal affairs of Third World nations, influencing to promote policy stances that are linked to America’s standing in the world, its national security and economic safeguards. Most Third World developing nations – including Sri Lanka – had no option but to succumb to American pressure on these issues, mostly with utter reluctance.

The Asian Tribune has carried, since the Tiger terrorism was militarily defeated in Sri Lanka in 2009, how Sri Lanka was humiliated by some of the Western powers, especially the Obama administration, using the United Nations and its agencies such as UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in Geneva forcing accountability of how the counter terrorism within the territorial borders of Sri Lanka was executed to defeat the Tamil Tiger movement which was declared by the FBI as the worst international terrorist organization way surpassing even Al Qaeda.

In recent times, when the UNHRC wanted the execution of the counter-terrorism operation in Sri Lanka scrutinized by a tribunal with the participation of international jurist, Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksha was hailed a hero for denouncing such moves. He was, in fact, exposing how Sri Lanka was humiliated.

Sri Lanka’s domestic policies and foreign-policy dealings were fashioned to coincide with Washington’s policy directives since the defeat of the Tigers in 2009.

If Sri Lanka had closely monitored the campaign rhetoric of candidate Donald Trump and policy statements of the Trump administration, it would have commenced re-shaping its domestic and foreign policy to suit domestic requirements clearly moving away from Obama-Clinton administered directives that made Sri Lanka a captive nation of the West.

The Asian Tribune, in this Political Assessment, endeavors to analyze and highlight the direction the Trump administration has focused – in its foreign policy approaches – since its inauguration on January 20 in an attempt to help Sri Lanka understand the importance of moving away from that ‘captive mentality’ and the humiliating position to reshape its domestic and foreign policy approaches capitalizing the fast changing atmosphere in Washington to regain its sovereignty and independence.

Sri Lanka, undoubtedly, needs to recuperate its democratic institutions to consolidate the checks and balances which are of great help to maintain acceptable human rights practices and rule of law.  Washington’s redefining of its purpose to the world under the Trump administration has created a conducive atmosphere for Sri Lanka to re-adjust its domestic policies to regain the sovereignty it considerably lost during the previous U.S. administration. It was evident that the Clinton-State Department influenced the Office of Under-Secretary General (Political) at the United Nations to use Geneva’s UNHRC as a tool to globalize Sri Lanka’s domestic counter-terrorist campaign. It was clearly seen the role Samantha Power, Obama’s UN ambassador and his closest foreign policy advocate on human rights, war crimes and genocide, played to bring foreign jurists to sit on judgment of the manner in which Sri Lanka executed its counter-terrorist campaign to defeat the Tamil Tigers. Washington was dictating terms, through UNHRC, to Sri Lanka, a humiliation this small South Asian nation faced. Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksha’s recent outburst was the reflection of this utter humiliation.

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.

The Asian Tribune previously reported in these columns that the Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ), popularly known as War Crimes Office, under the U.S. Department of State, operative since 1997, is scheduled to be closed, as a single bureau, and will be annexed to the Office of Under-Secretariat of Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights as a secondary unit.

As a preliminary step to the closure of the Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ), in early July, its leader Todd Buchwald, has been moved to a job in the department’s legal affairs unit.

The GCJ regularly briefs Congress on international justice issues. For example, the Conference Report (H. Conf. Rep. No. 112-331) accompanying the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2012 directed the Secretary of State to submit reports “detailing what steps have been taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and international bodies to thoroughly and credibly investigate war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law during the internal armed conflict, and evaluating the adequacy of steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to hold perpetrators accountable.”  GCJ led an extensive review of diplomatic, open source, and other reporting, and conducted meetings with foreign governments, international organizations, and NGOs to gather information of alleged atrocities.

The GCJ, headed by Ambassador Stephen Rapp submitted two reports to the U.S. Congress, one “Crimes against Humanity in Sri Lanka” on October 21, 2009, and the other, a follow-up report on the same subject and what measures Sri Lanka had taken since the war was concluded, reached Congress on August 11, 2010. Data to both these reports were provided by the Foreign Service officers at the American embassy in Colombo.

The State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) commenced an investigation of the operation of the American embassy in Colombo, and the investigative report covered a period from September 2009 through the following September of 2010.

The two GCJ reports on Sri Lanka were within the period the OIG covered.

The OIG report dismissed the reporting capabilities of the FSOs in the Political Section of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Sri Lanka noting, “the section chief in his role for the first time while the second officer is in his first political tour. The remaining two reporting positions are filled with professional associates who have never done similar work or received training. The current section head did not receive training for first-time section chiefs and, as a result, lacks vital perspective on both his management and reporting responsibilities.”

It has been reported to the Asian Tribune that the Trump administration has taken note of ambiguous reports produced by the state department on several countries – which included Sri Lanka – as an attempt to unfairly interfere in domestic affairs of those nations.

This scrutiny by 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.

The Asian Tribune highlights the draft State Department Mission Statement in contrast to the existing one as it sends a signal about the Trump administration’s priorities and intentions to foreign governments and people around the world.

It is important that Sri Lanka note this foreign policy trajectory of the Trump administration. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Trump made clear that democracy promotion would not be a feature of his foreign policy. “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow,” Mr. Trump said.

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.

The Asian Tribune highlights this trajectory of the Trump administration for Sri Lanka to take the opportunity to re-calibrate its domestic policy and foreign policy approaches, move away from the UNHRC clutches, review its relations with major Western powers – especially the United States – establish a close rapport with those who are advocating this new U.S. approach to the world, and use this significant development when having discourses with American diplomats in Colombo shedding the ‘captive mentality’ into which Sri Lanka entered since the LTTE defeat in 2009 due to Western pressure.

By Daya Gamage

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