Honestly, we had to read it twice to believe it. These are the words actually spoken by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to university students in the United Kingdom at the Cambridge Union earlier this month.
Speaking about our relationship with China, Speaker Pelosi enumerated “… their military aggression in the South China Sea, with their continuation of genocide with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, with their violation of the cultural religious priority of Tibet, with their suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and other parts of China as well, they are just getting worse in terms of suppression and freedom of speech.”
Clear. Unflinching. To the point. Good.
But then these words came from America’s most powerful elected official on Capitol Hill, “having said all of that … we have to work together on climate. Climate is an overriding issue.”
Was this a one-off politically correct pablum for a progressive UK crowd?
Here’s former US Secretary of State, ex-presidential candidate, and current U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry. He told a Bloombergreporter a few days ago that the forced labor in China’s production of solar panels wasn’t as important as climate change.
Earlier this year, Kerry also dismissed advocacy for China’s genocide victims as “not my lane.”
Obama’s Iran deal negotiator—a deal which also expressly excluded human rights considerations, among other things—then waxed philosophical on Bloomberg, that “life is always full of tough choices in the relationship between nations.”
He’s wrong. We aren’t talking about tough choices here but the degrading of human rights, of basic human dignity, from US Foreign Policy.
When a nation’s foreign policy is freed from a moral GPS, and without any coherent foreign policy doctrine, there are all sorts of initiatives to fill the void.
Take “The Squad.” It’s no secret that they are anti-Semites who oppose Israel. But to underscore their hatred, earlier this month they succeeded at removing funding for the Jewish State’s Iron Dome from the House version of a spending bill. This is the Iron Dome that saved an untold number of Israeli Jews, Druze, and Arab civilians. It helped avoid a wider conflict that would have caused death and destruction on a horrific scale in the Holy Land. Its technology helps protect many of our allies. The very next day another amendment to the spending bill was introduced providing direct support to Iraqi Shia militias affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
It can be argued that Foreign Policy is always messy, no matter who occupies the Oval Office. Point taken. But as faith leaders, our focus is neither guns nor butter but on relying and building on the fundamental decency of the American People to continue to have our nation lead in the struggle for human rights.
We are sorry that today’s “leaders” haven’t taken a page from the game plan of the late US Secretary of State George Shultz.
In his day the key opponent of our nation was the Soviet Union. Back then, U.S. administrations—Democratic and Republican—struggled to avoid a possible nuclear Armageddon. The stakes were as high as one could imagine.
All our European allies, the United Nations, and anti-nuclear activists the world over cautioned the US to not take on Moscow on any other issue but to avoid a nuclear holocaust. It was the same argument we are also hearing today regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But with three million Soviet Jews suffering behind the Iron Curtain, the victims of cultural genocide, and millions of other Soviet citizens suffering under the yoke of the so-called “workers’ paradise,” Secretary of State George Shultz decided to combine the two existential issues in all his contacts with his Russian counterparts.
When he did so, he meant business, too. There were no throwaway lines, talking points and carefully crafted readouts from diplomatic meetings to satiate activists. Shultz intertwined the two. In fact, Schultz’s “first diplomatic achievement with the Soviets—largely unknown to the public—was on an issue of human rights” during the Reagan administration. He had negotiated the secret release of persecuted Christians who had sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He showed that “American foreign policy is the strongest when it combines realism and human rights.”
President Biden’s administration should choose the same course in forging a policy vis-a-vis China (and also Iran).
When he does, we will hear different rhetoric out of the United Nations and it will be a signal to freedom-loving people everywhere that the U.S. has not and will never sacrifice the cause of human dignity on the altar of reduced carbon emissions.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and head of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Rev. Johnnie Moore is the President of The Congress of Christian Leaders and two-time appointee to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. They are authors of “The Next Jihad.”