Cri du Coeur: Trump the Wrecking Ball and how friends can help

OUR VALUES: Truth Integrity Decency Character Facts Science Law Freedom


Sometimes it feels like all the stars have gone out of the sky. Our lodestars. Those stars, which however tiny in the distance, throw off rays of hope. Visions of other possible realities. Of the world as it could conceivably be.

One of those lodestars is TRUTH. Most civilized men and women would like to live in a world built on truth, NOT LIES.

We have to mention TRUTH first, for without it nothing good is possible.

Over 70 years ago, after the second of two world wars in the 20th century, the nations of the world joined together in 1945 to form the United Nations, and to state in its Charter principles of international law and goals that would lead to the elimination of large-scale war.

For those with no experience of war, either as soldiers or as interested family members, friends, or observers, the goal of ending war has receded. In the U.S., in the 17th year of the endless war in Afghanistan, citizens have become inured to the ongoing warfare its government is engaged in, in Afghanistan as well as other countries.

The lodestar of peace has become but a pale and distant semblance of what it once was.

The prohibition of the use of force across international frontiers, as occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939, and Poland in 1939, and at Pearl Harbor in 1941 has lost its salience in the popular consciousness.

Mr. Trump wants the Group of 7 to readmit Russia. “Something happened,” he said, and they were kicked out in 2014.

Other lodestars once were U.S. governments and presidents who favored policies aimed at promoting democracy and human rights in foreign countries. The U.S., it was assumed, would always be strong in these areas.

Now we are faced by a situation in which the U.S. government has been seized by a group of authoritarians and would-be authoritarians, who take delight in crashing their wrecking ball against most of the steps forward we have made since World War II.

Our president is a brilliant reality show host and producer, and with his mastery of the media a brillant national politician.  But he is totally clueless when it comes to matters of policy substance. This is particularly true in the area of foreign affairs.

He does not appear to have heard of international law. “Something happened” in 2014 which led to Russia being kicked our of the Group of 7. If you were to ask him, away from his advisers, what that “something” was, he probably couldn’t tell you. Or even if he mentioned the Russian invasion of the Crimea, he probably couldn’t explain why that was important.

A lodestar Mr. Trump is not.

So here we are. Mr. Trump’s wrecking ball is being aimed at the institutions and policies which generations of Americans, and allies, have held dear. He seems to take particular pleasure in tearing things down, without offering to build anything to take the place of what he has destroyed.

The most maddening aspect of all of this is that he appears to be impervious to facts, and reason. Climate change is but one example.

This is what the world faces. About the only hope is that somehow other democracies and those fighting for democracy around the world will stand up to Mr. Trump, and fight hard for those values and institutions which, until a short time ago, we all held in common.

On the world stage, the torch of freedom has now passed from American hands.  Other countries need to pick it up,  and lead the battle for international law, human rights, and a sane world based on international cooperation through multilateral organizations, and the battle for truth and science and law.  Others might usefully remember that more than half of the United States  still holds these values, and shares many of their own reactions to Mr. Trump.

One thing is clear: Trump is real, and a real threat to the liberal and democratic values and institutions of the West, and other countries which follow or aspire to follow a similar path.

America’s democratic friends can provide no greater service than to stand up for the values in which they believe, which are still shared by large numbers and probably a majority of Americans.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.