Ilhan Omar’s Human Rights Foreign Policy Doesn’t Focus on Human Rights
On her official House website, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar says in part, “I believe in an inclusive foreign policy — one that centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world.” She later adds, “Creating an inclusive foreign policy also means reconsidering harmful sanctions and other interventionist policies that interfere with democratically-elected governments.” Finally she writes, “ I also feel strongly that our foreign policy should reflect our domestic values…Once we fully implement these policies, we can begin to repair the harm that’s been done, restore America’s broken image, and rebuild in diplomatic relationships.”
With sentiments such as these, Omar has portrayed herself as a leading voice for a human rights-based foreign policy, but since beginning her term in office in 2018, a different foreign policy has emerged.
It started when she went to bat for Nicolas Maduro. In a House hearing on the Administration’s Venezuela policy, she essentially asked Elliot Abrams when he stopped beating his wife.
She’s gotten herself in trouble with anti-Semitic ramblings on hypnotism, dual loyalty, financial string-pulling, and the BDS movement. The ‘S’ in BDS, standing for “sanctions,” which Omar claims be counterproductive. Furthermore, in Venezuela, the sanctions target the regime, not entire economic sectors.
She was the only Democrat to vote against sanctions for Turkey in response to it’s invasion of Syria and war with the Kurds and voted present when it came to affirming the Armenian Genocide, justifying her vote with some Soviet-esque whataboutism.
A foreign policy that says human rights are an end in and of themselves is naive and taken to the extreme, dangerous, but it is intellectually defensible when its proponent is consistent. Proponents of a human rights-based foreign policy often criticize the United States and our allies, but that they recognize that does not require them to prop up Maduro, engage in anti-Semitism, or run interference for Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
If you spend more time criticizing our allies and defending our foes, it should be fair to ask if you really are committed to human rights or if there’s something else going on here.
Ultimately though, Omar’s actions show a contradiction in the above quotes. She opposes sanctions, unless of course they target Israel, on human rights abusers, because that prohibits us from focusing “on diplomatic solutions.” Hard to imagine your typical John Mearsheimer-esque realist disagreeing with that.