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American Diplomats Struggle to Defend Democracy Abroad Amid Crises at Home

  • June 06, 2020

“Career ambassadors and officials overseas have had to grapple with a lot of hard questions,” he added. “‘How the heck do I explain the excesses in some security forces’ response to peaceful protesters? Worse yet, can I even stomach a defense of the despicable comments by my commander in chief?’”

The United States inadvertently leads by example in a new way: providing homegrown images of antigovernment protests that inspire dissenting citizens overseas. Unrest in America appears to have galvanized antigovernment or pro-equality protests in countries like Iraq, New Zealand and Russia.

Some American embassies have decided to publicly embrace the contradictions.

“We will not try to hide our painful struggle, and instead believe that honest public debate will help us emerge better and stronger,” the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, said in a statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, announced, “Law enforcement officials must be held accountable in every country.”

Alex L. Wang, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who has advocated an independent judiciary in China, said the crises in the United States meant American officials had less credibility to single out abusive behavior elsewhere. “It looks hypocritical when they criticize acts of violence against Hong Kong protesters, even as they call for violence against peaceful protesters at home,” he said.

“The right answer,” he added, “is not for the U.S. to stand down as to rights violations abroad, but to uphold rights at home as well.”

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