Administration officials always try to spin the president’s words and deeds to put them in a favorable light, but this is ridiculous:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 22, 2017
No one believes this about this trip or the Trump administration’s foreign policy in general. Trump and his advisers have made closer relations with bad regional clients and combating terrorism their top priorities, and Trump made sure to say nothing at all about how the Saudis or other despotic clients treat their people or the people of neighboring countries. Trump supports the Saudi-led coalition’s atrocious war on Yemen even more eagerly than his predecessor did (and Obama practically gave them carte blanche), and any government that does that clearly isn’t concerned about defending human rights or alleviating humanitarian disasters. If we judge the U.S. by its actions under both Obama and Trump, we have to conclude that our government is much more interested in keeping despotic clients happy and “on side” than it is in opposing their indiscriminate killing of civilians and their creation of a man-made famine.
These are the wrong policies for the U.S. for all the reasons I have stated for over two years, but it is telling that they cannot be openly defended by members of the administration. So we are treated to the fantasy that the “entire trip is about human rights” when so far it has been a show of indifference to the suffering of innocent people, especially those in Yemen that are being killed and starved to death by the president’s recent hosts and their allies.
There are always practical limits to what the U.S. can do and how much influence our government has, and there are always trade-offs to be made in foreign policy, but what we see with the Trump administration’s dealings with the Saudis and other regional clients is something much less defensible. They make no attempt to rein in or challenge the clients’ abusive behavior at any point, and instead just pretend that the abuses aren’t even happening and then celebrate war criminals for their leadership and vision. To top it off, administration officials claim that the same war criminals they helping to arm to teeth are part of a coalition dedicated to protecting human rights. That’s certainly not a principled policy by any definition I recognize, and it doesn’t actually advance any U.S. interests, either.