I was talking with a friend yesterday who was considering a vacation trip to Germany.
“Maybe you’ll get to see Angela Merkel,” I said, “the leader of the free world.”
My friend understood. We all do. Donald Trump, the candidate who ran on an “America First” policy has revised it to an “America Only” policy, except when it comes to other autocrats and dictators, to whom he has little trouble sucking up. He may have little use for Merkel or Macron or some dude from Montenegro, but he’s right at home with Theresa May (“If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere,” she said last year) and with Salman bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
Despite all the vitriol he heaped on Muslim countries during the campaign and which he continued, he’s okay with Saudi Arabia, where, for instance
Waleed Abu al-Khair, serving 15-year prison sentence for his peaceful criticism on social media of human rights abuses,
Raif Badawi, lshed 50 times on January 9, 2015, as part of his 2014 sentence for setting up a liberal website (Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld Badawi’s sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.),
and a gay man sentenced to three years in prison and 100,000 Saudi Riyals (US$70,800) for using social media “in order to practice homosexuality,”
Again that’s Saudi Arabia where
children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if there are physical signs of puberty,
penal codes are vague and one can be arrested for “breaking allegiance with the ruler” or “trying to distort the reputation of the kingdom,”
there is no time limit for detainees who are not charged,
women may not obtain a passport, marry, travel, or access higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son,
women remain banned from driving vehicles (In December 2014, authorities arrested two Saudi women who drove a car to the United Arab Emirates-Saudi Arabia border and detained them for 73 days before releasing them without charge.),
two-thousand people a day were deported early this year,
and domestic workers, predominantly women, face a range of abuses including overwork, forced confinement, non-payment of wages, food deprivation, and psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Workers who attempt to report employer abuses sometimes face prosecution based on counterclaims of theft, “black magic,” or “sorcery”.
This is Trump’s dream kingdom—no wonder he loves it there and they love him.
But now it has become clear that Angela Merkel and the rest of Europe, those countries not controlled by dictators—the ones who have advanced to the 21st century—discern the writing on the wall and have conceded that they are on their own: aid from the United States and, even more important, any kind of shared objectives or moral courage can no longer be anticipated.
Americans used to complain that the the United States was the policeman of the world: these days we’re not even a crossing guard.