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Henry Farrell in Foreign Affairs: Trump's No Hypocrite

June 01, 2017 by Andrew Young

This week, Network member Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore shared a new piece in Foreign Affairs on whether or not President Trump’s inconsistencies in word and action should be classified as hypocrisy. Farrell and Finnemore argue that while there are no shortage of past tweets and other public statements that contradict more recent statements and actions from the president, in many ways, Trump has dispensed with the type of traditional diplomatic hypocrisy that steadies the liberal world order:

“The problem is that hypocrisy is as crucial to international politics as to personal relations. Blunt pursuit of self-interest is rarely appealing to others. American leaders used to push the self-serving myth that U.S. interests and the world’s interests were mostly the same, and that America was the one indispensable nation. Now, Trump has driven a highly visible wedge between American interests and the world’s. Making America Great Again might be an attractive slogan to a large minority of American voters, but it is unlikely to attract non-Americans, who fear that Trump wants to make America and himself great at their expense, something that, in turn, will make greatness harder to achieve.

…[A]rtful hypocrisy has been one of the United States’ most important tools for building an international liberal order centered on the values of rule of law, free markets, free speech, and democracy. When America’s behavior deviates from the liberal values that it suggests everyone else should follow, hypocrisy has provided the lubricant that prevents the gears of this order from seizing up. Pretense and convenience on both sides has allowed the United States to continue pretending that it is behaving well, and the country’s allies to pretend that they do not notice its bad behavior.

Trump’s mixture of crude rhetoric and political incompetence threatens to upset both sides of this implicit bargain. In contrast to the earlier administrations that supported the brutal actions of Latin American juntas or blocked the reappointment of a WTO judge who made inconvenient rulings, the Trump administration does not even pay lip service to the global liberal order. The George W. Bush administration at least nodded toward human rights norms when it made contorted legal arguments that waterboarding is not torture. And when the Barack Obama administration declined to intervene in Syria and relied on drone strikes as a tool of counterterrorism policy, international criticism was muted because it seemed at least plausible that Obama was doing his best to make difficult ethical and security tradeoffs.”

Read more here.