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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

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Human rights -- United States, Human rights advocacy, Donald Trump (1946- ) -- Political and social views, United States -- Foreign relations -- 21st century


In January 1941, with the prospect looming of US involvement in another European war, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke of America’s purpose in the world: to protect and promote “four freedoms.” FDR drew a clear link between US security and the fulfillment of human rights at home. “Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all of our fellow men within our gates, so our national policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all nations, large and small.”

In another speech he underscored the point: “unless there is [human] security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

Among the extraordinary backward steps Donald Trump is taking to transform America, none is more shameful than his calculated trampling on human rights at home and abroad. To my mind, the two are interrelated: A government that does not respect the human rights of its own citizens will also show no respect for human rights in other countries—and will work with other governments that seek to repress their citizens’ rights. Moreover, a government that fails to promote human rights in its own backyard will lack credibility should it criticize others’ repression of human rights.


Originally appeared in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Volume 16, Issue 14, Number 5. May be accessed at

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