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Two-Minute Take: Link Between Freedom and This Week's Top Headlines

Bush Institute's Lindsay Lloyd points out a common thread in the top news headlines this week, including the escalating conflict between the United States and Iran.

Article by Lindsay Lloyd January 3, 2020 //   3 minute read
Iraqi anti-government protesters celebrate outside their protest tents in Baghdad's Tahrir Square following news of the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards top commander Qasem Soleimani, January 3, 2020. (AFP via Getty Images)

As 2020 begins, it seems that most of the headlines from around the world are grim. An assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, reportedly backed by Iran, followed by the U.S. assassination of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian military official. Chinese repression and reeducation camps designed to subdue the Uighur population, a group of Muslims living in the far northwest of the country. Sometimes violent protests and violent reactions from the authorities in Chinese-controlled Hong Kong. North Korea ramps up its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction while more than 20 million of its citizens suffer. Deprivation and repression in Venezuela. A lack of justice and accountability for the murder of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, assassinated in a Saudi consulate.

The common thread in these stories is the lack of freedom. When societies are free and democratic, they govern more justly. Free societies permit dissent, freedom of religion, speech, and the press. They generally respect the rule of law.

The absence of freedom seen in places like Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia leads to the opposite – repression, intolerance, and authoritarian regimes that rule with impunity. Freedom House has charted 13 years of decline in freedom around the world.

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While America cannot be the world’s policeman, history teaches us that when America leads with policies that promote freedom and human rights, the world is a better place. Next week, the Bush Institute's Human Freedom Initiative will release a new paper, Choose Freedom: Revitalizing American Support for Democracy and Human Rights in the 21st Century, making the case that American support for human rights and democracy needs to be given greater prominence in our foreign policy.

For decades, American presidents of both parties have recognized that not only is democracy and human rights support consistent with our values, but also in our national interest. Whether supporting Soviet dissidents, standing with South Africans to end Apartheid, or helping to build a fragile new democracy in Tunisia, the United States has historically stood with the oppressed against their oppressors. While America’s record is far from flawless, we have helped millions around the world to build freer societies.

The new Bush Institute paper, written by Human Freedom Fellow Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, makes the case that it’s time to update and reinvigorate our policies to put the United States squarely on the side of those struggling for freedom.

The world will be a safer, better and freer place when we stand by our values.