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CJ Werleman

The US is becoming a pariah state

The US is finding itself increasingly isolated on the international stage [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 May, 2018

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Comment: The United States' ill-conceived and diabolically executed 'war on terror' began the rapid erosion of the idea of the US as a stabilising force, writes CJ Werleman.
A pariah state is a nation considered an outcast by large chunk of the international community, and more specifically, one that stubbornly and proudly defies global calls to comply with international laws, norms and institutions.

While much has been made of the United States' declining moral authority, one that has been accelerated into a rapid descent under the Trump White House, it's now fair to conclude that the US is now officially a pariah state, based at least in part on its actions at the United Nations in the past week.

Last Friday, the UN held a special meeting to discuss the "deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory," calling on member states to support an independent enquiry into Israel's use of indiscriminate and illegitimate deadly force against unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza during the past six weeks.

Twenty-nine countries, representing an overwhelming majority, voted to urgently set up an "independent, international commission of inquiry" to investigate credible claims against recent violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Israeli regime.

The United States, however, was one of only two countries to vote against an independent enquiry, which seeks not to target Israel, but rather human rights violations. Given the fact Israel has suffered zero casualties since the Great Return March began in early April, credible claims against Israel's use of disproportionate force should appear obvious to all.

Worse - US ambassador Nikki Haley lauded Israel at the UN for showing "restraint" in Gaza; one day after Israeli soldiers killed 61 protesters inside the besieged and encaged Palestinian enclave, and the day after the Trump administration sanctified Israel's illegal annexation of Jerusalem by moving the US embassy to the Holy city.

In praising anti-democratic dictators and strongmen, Trump has given the United States an authoritarian veneer

While previous US administrations have done little to pressure Israel into complying with international law, or even halting the construction of settlements, former US presidents have urged Israel to show restraint during times of increased tension and violence. No US president before Trump has acquiesced to Israeli demands to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

The Trump administration, however, has shown it's unwilling to even give lip service to the liberal democratic ideals the United States has proselytised to the world since President Woodrow Wilson gave inspiration to the League of Nations a century ago, including the right to individual freedom, rule of law, and to self-determination.

However imperfect global institutions have been in preventing war, genocide or rise of anti-democratic regimes, they have done their best, given the anarchical state of the international system, to pivot on notions of human rights, individual liberty, and rule of law as their organising principles.

"Until now, the US has been a kind of a guarantor in that pact," observes Peter Greste, a veteran foreign correspondent who was imprisoned for 400 days by President Sisi's regime for the 'crime' of attempting to cover Egyptian politics with a "professionally balanced approach".

Under Trump, however, the US has untied itself from these global norms and institutions, and instead finds itself praising regimes and dictators who violently suppress pro-democracy and national liberation movements, trample on basic human rights, and also deny freedom of speech and a free press.

Trump has lauded Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for sponsoring and encouraging the extrajudicial murder of drug users and dealers, which has claimed more than 12,000 lives; expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule; and praised Egyptian dictator Sisi for doing a "fantastic job".

In praising anti-democratic dictators and strongmen, Trump has given the United States an authoritarian veneer, one not helped by his appointment of those who share his advocacy for torture, including Mike Pompeo as the country's top diplomat, and Gina Haspel as top spy. This is the face of the nation the rest of the world now sees.

A 2013 global poll found that the rest of the world considers the United States to be the greatest threat to global peace

Beyond that, Trump has destroyed the ideals that have underpinned the American multicultural experiment, which until now were established on the bedrock of tolerance and acceptance. Instead, Trump has revitalised nativist and anti-immigrant sentiments not seen in the western democratic orbit since the great wars on the European continent in the middle of the previous century.

While American ideals have been far more successful on paper than in practice, with the United States often operating in contradiction to the values it espouses, it established itself as the world's moral leader during the second half of the 21st century.

Read more: New US sanctions will make Iranians sicker

"The Berlin Wall didn't come down because people were responding to American howitzers," said Joseph Nye, a former senior US State Department official, told
The New York Times. "It came down under hammers and bulldozers wielded by people whose minds had been affected by the ideas of the West."

Moreover, US hegemony helped to maintain peace in North Asia, preventing a war between Japan and China, and another between China and the Soviet Union, while its commitment to regional security guarantees maintained peace on the blood soaked European continent, and ushered the longest uninterrupted period of global prosperity.

The United States' ill-conceived and diabolically executed "war on terror," however, began the rapid erosion of the idea the US could operate as a stabilising role in the international community. Its illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 not only set the entire Middle East in flames, but also reenergised the global jihadist movement and gave birth to Islamic State.

The US has now been sabotaged by an administration that rewards authoritarianism at the expense of individual liberty

A 2013 global poll found that the rest of the world considers the United States to be the greatest threat to global peace. In other words, the international community considers the US to be the number one threat to global security, a perception that is only exacerbated by Trump's decision to walk away from a multilateral nuclear disarmament agreement the US had championed, otherwise known as the Iran deal.

Significantly, European leaders have begun to untie themselves from the US in response to the Trump reneging on US commitments.

"We have sent a message to our Iranian friends that as long as they are sticking to the [nuclear] agreement the Europeans will... fulfill their commitment. And they said the same thing on the other side," Arias Canete, European Commissioner for energy and climate, told reporters.

More so than ever before, the United States finds itself increasingly isolated from its allies, it's word and commitments to peace and disarmament no longer trusted.

The United States' unique moral standing in the world was earned after helping defeat freedom-crushing totalitarianism in the previous century, and for its assistance in rebuilding a post-war Europe and Japan. It has now been sabotaged by a US administration that rewards authoritarianism at the expense of individual liberty and international law; puts political self-interest before national interest; and chaos and conflict before peace and stability.

Under the Trump administration, the US has not only lost its moral authority but also has gained the unenviable status of a pariah state.

Palestinians are protesting being denied freedom of movement and the right of their displaced families to return to their Palestinian homeland. They're also protesting the inhumane living conditions forced upon by them by the state of Israel, conditions that deny them access to healthcare, clean drinking water, fishing lanes and a future.

When I interviewed Basim Naim, former Palestinian health minister, I asked him what he thought about the UN assessing Gaza to be "unlivable" by the year 2020. "What are they talking about?" Naim replied. "It's unlivable now."

That's what Palestinians are protesting, and for that they're being shot and killed by a merciless Israeli military, while the United States government refuses to condemn Israel's unjustifiably excessive use of violence.


CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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