Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Double-Edged Sword of Human Rights

Beating the human rights drum can be a great tool for garnering support for policy. After all, what sort of monster would not want to help the folks in Darfur? ...or Burma/Myanmar? ......or end the rule of a tyrant like Saddam Husein? Human rights give the accusor the moral high ground to criticize nations and governments without end and it is hard to argue against policy that plays the human rights card.

The problem is when human rights issues come around full circle. The United States is great at shining the light of moral responsibility on others, but rather poor in accepting blame for its own slip-ups. The recent rape case in Saudi Arabia is a good example. A 19-year-old girl was found sitting in a car with a man not related to her. A gang comes along and rapes both of them. The girl gets six months in prison and 200 lashes for her indiscretion. That's terrible, but does it affect the flow of oil?

Our saviors, the Democrats, are of course widely condeming Saudi Arabia for this. They get to wave the human rights sword around next as they seek office. However, will they condemn or sanction the Saudis once in power? Will the next president cease the flow of money into Saudi Arabia for human rights issues? Does anyone really care about the human rights situation in Arabia, or is it just good chatter?

Ultimately, leaders, institutions, and policy-makers need to either play the moral card uniformally, or not at all. Perhaps China could be our guide, as they do business for the sake of busines and leave morality out of things. In a perfect world, there would be atonement for such atrocities, but until then, nations will continue to do business as usual and use human rights issues as a tool of policy, not of morality.

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