Minnesota’s freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American former refugee, has proved time and time again that she deserves her spot on Congress’s foreign affairs committee, but a new op-ed is the clearest distillation of her politics yet. And folks? It’s good.
Progressive foreign policy, for years, has been tough to nail down, but in the Washington Post, Omar puts forward a brief set of positions and hard truths that her own party and the political establishment have ignored.
Much of Omar’s essay grapples with the implications of using military force in other countries. While it’s hard to imagine Omar would resist being labeled as “anti-war,” she doesn’t present America’s role abroad in that kind of dichotomy. Instead, she argues, we should mold our foreign policy around the lessons learned—by military leaders and the people they have harmed—from decades of war.
Per the Post:
I believe in an inclusive foreign policy — one that centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world, one that brings our troops home and truly makes military action a last resort. This is a vision that centers on the experiences of the people directly affected by conflict, that takes into account the long-term effects of U.S. engagement in war and that is sincere about our values regardless of short-term political convenience.
What does this look like? It turns out, it looks very different from false doves like Tulsi Gabbard, who advocates against regime-change wars but has previously supported aggressive application of force overseas through drones and airstrikes to combat terrorism, the failings of which Omar has already pointed out. Instead, Omar argues that U.S. pressure should be applied evenly to combat injustice, not selectively to pursue cynical, selfish gains. In doing so, she outlines a worldview that pushes America to support human rights without devolving into support for dictators in any country, despite their past relationship to establishment foreign policy (emphasis mine):
Valuing human rights also means applying the same standards to our friends and our enemies. We do not have the credibility to support those fighting for human rights in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua if we do not also support those fighting for human rights in Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil. Our criticisms of oppression and regional instability caused by Iran are not legitimate if we do not hold Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to the same standards.
And we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to repression in Saudi Arabia — a country that is consistently ranked among the worst of the worst human rights offenders. Whether it is the murder of dissenters such as Jamal Khashoggi or war crimes against civilian populations in Yemen, we must hold all of our allies to the same international standards as our enemies.
And yes, Omar also confronts our relationship with Israel, the hot-button issue that has consumed the news cycle around her for weeks. She advocates clearly for an egalitarian and democratic two-state solution, providing a homeland for both Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist, without letting the Israeli government off the hook for the continual system of apartheid it enforces to this day. It’s a damn good thing we have her on the Foreign Affairs Committee, which would do well to listen to her going forward.