Declan Walsh, a writer for the New York Times, wrote a piece on Feb. 2 entitled, "Autocrats Steamroll Opponents With No Objections From U.S." The article was centered on the upcoming March elections in Egypt and the changing attitudes both in the U.S. and Europe surrounding the importance of human rights advocacy.
Walsh pointed to several autocratic leaders nationwide that held positions of power through corrupt means, such as limiting free press, rigging elections and instilling fear in the opposition. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is seeking a second term in March and faces little threat to securing the position.
Sisi is one of many political figures that has capitalized upon the rise of populism under President Donald Trump's administration, and also in European countries such as France, Germany and Britain.
An area of concern that Walsh notes is the lack of response to the abuse exhibited by autocratic leaders from Trump. It seems that rather than addressing the corruption abroad, Trump engages with leaders such as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years, and Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who recently won a reelection for a second term amid controversy surrounding the potential of rigged voting.
The silence on behalf of our president and his friendly engagements with these leaders, and of course with Vladimir Putin of Russia, reflects the troubling circumstances within our own nation. Trump pushes forward the message of “America First” such as he did at Davos and still has not appointed an Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights.
The president also continues to bolster a message that his administration is a victim of “fake news”, attempting to undermine news sources that do not report exclusively on the achievements of his administration.
In the wake of these events, it is the responsibility of the people to recognize how rhetoric and selective silence affects the United States both domestically and abroad. It is the duty of the people to question a government that is supposed to serve the people and value democracy, justice and liberty, yet supports foreign institutions that violate these central principles.
There is a difference between U.S. intervention and active dialogue surrounding corruption abroad. I ask all of us to consider how the actions of a president who associates with and has praised autocratic leaders reflects upon the values of our nation and what we, as involved citizens, are obliged to do to regarding it.