Democracy advocates assume higher profile


Photo Credit: U.S. Holocaust Museum

The likely new U.S. secretary of state “has long been clear about the importance of promoting democracy and human rights” in U.S. foreign policy, observers suggest.

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Antony Blinken (right) as secretary of state, according to multiple people familiar with the Biden team’s planning, The AP reports:

Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden…. Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

“Democracy is in retreat around the world,” Blinken told The Associated Press in September, insisting that the challenge would be addressed by a new administration.

Biden also is planning to announce Linda Thomas-Greenfield [right, a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)] as his nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, giving a former career Foreign Service officer and African American woman one of the most high-profile diplomatic posts in government, according to three people familiar with the decision, The Washington Post reports.

Mr. Biden will also restore the post to cabinet-level status, giving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield, a seat on his National Security Council, The Times adds.

“Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s experience on the international stage commands deserved respect from all corners of the world,” said Congressmember Karen Bass (left, D-CA), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa. “She brings 35 years of foreign service experience to the role, including overseeing the Bureau of African Affairs during the Obama administration and serving as Director General of the Foreign Service, in which she led a team in charge of the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce.”

If confirmed, Blinken will front Biden’s vows to revitalize American global leadership, strengthen strained U.S. alliances, and champion democracy and human rights worldwide, says Newsweek, noting that has warned of authoritarian regimes trying to magnify political polarization.

“There’s a democratic recession and autocracies from Russia to China are trying to exploit our difficulties,” he told CBS News.

While some found his views opaque, others stress that he has long been clear about the importance of promoting democracy and human rights in American foreign policy, The Financial Times adds:

He advocated military action against Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons in 2013 — a path that Mr Obama did not follow — and applauded Mr Trump for striking Syria after the regime used sarin gas on citizens in 2017. Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, said Mr Blinken and other Democrats created a group called the “Phoenix Initiative” to debate whether the party needed a more robust national security approach after John Kerry lost to George W Bush in the 2004 election. He said that when the group held debates, Mr Blinken was also a strong proponent of using US power for good and advocating for human rights. “I was very struck that he was passionate about that,” he said.


In recent interviews he has acknowledged the mistakes and regrets of the Obama era, The Guardian reports: 

On the decision not to intervene in any significant way in Syria (a decision Blinken opposed), he told CBS News: “We failed to prevent a horrific loss of life. We failed to prevent massive displacement … something I will take with me for the rest of my days.”…. Those who know Blinken well insist that his commitment to human rights is genuine and rooted in experience. He is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor, Samuel Pisar, who lived through Auschwitz and Dachau and other camps and who went on to become a lawyer, writer and adviser to John F Kennedy. 

“He is somebody within the Obama administration and the Biden team who really understands the role that promoting and protecting human rights can play as advantageous to US policy,” said Rob Berschinski, who worked alongside Blinken as deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

Source: Asia Research Center

In a recent Intelligence Matters podcast, Mr Blinken said the US had to rebuild alliances to tackle the “democratic recession” that let “autocracies from Russia to China . . . exploit our difficulties”.

“Srebrenica stands as a stark reminder that there are evil people prepared to kill without conscience or mercy if the world stands aside. We must again ask ourselves how such an act… how this genocide… could have taken place in our time. We must again acknowledge that the world failed to act… failed to prevent the slaughter of innocents of Srebrenica.  A slaughter which President Obama has called ‘a stain on our collective conscience’.”

With these words, Blinken, then Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President, recalled the murder of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in broad daylight in Europe, at a forum – Fifteen Years Later: Forward or Backward in the Balkans?“ – co-organized by the NED and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to reflect on the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica.

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