Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ed Markey, Longtime Supporter of Net Neutrality and Consumer Privacy

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By Emma Niles

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., started fighting for net neutrality before many in Washington even knew what it was. In 2006, he authored the first Network Neutrality Act, which died in Congress. He sponsored the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, a piece of net neutrality legislation that never made it past the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has supported the fight for broadband technology to be classified as a utility. And earlier this week, he also contested a Republican piece of legislation aimed at reducing consumer protections.
Senate Joint Resolution 34, which passed the Senate on Thursday, aims to eliminate Obama-era privacy regulations. If passed by the House, it will allow internet service providers (ISPs) to sell user data to third-party companies without consumers’ permission.
Markey argued vehemently against the resolution on the Senate floor shortly before it passed Thursday. “ISP will no longer stand for ‘Internet Service Provider,’” he declared, “it will stand for ‘Information Sold for Profit.’” Watch his full appeal in the clip below:

Markey took to Twitter throughout the week to criticize the rollback and tweeted his disappointment when the resolution passed 50-48:

In the age of President Trump, internet privacy and net neutrality are more important than ever, and yet the Senate resolution has received very little media coverage.
Perhaps many in Congress still don’t fully grasp the importance of net neutrality because it’s a technical issue that’s not always easy to understand. For example, when Ajit Pai, the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair, faced a Senate confirmation hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., brought up the issue of net neutrality—but was only able to explain it through a “convoluted” metaphor, according to The Verge, involving neighbors wanting to build themselves a bridge but then having to share it equally with hordes.
Markey has criticized Pai for taking steps to limit low-income Americans’ access to broadband services and for rescinding other consumer protection regulations.
“It is clear that net neutrality is public enemy number one for Chairman Pai,” Markey said in a press release in February. “Instead of siding with big corporations, Chairman Pai and the FCC should explore how to fully enforce the Open Internet Order and ensure a free and open internet for everyone.”
As for internet privacy, he added in a February press call: “This battle is going to be historic, and at the end of the day, the American people are going to want their privacy protected. This is something that goes right to the heart of the 21st century. Right to the heart of the relationship between Americans and the internet.”
Markey’s congressional experience no doubt puts him in a position to understand more than most the heightened importance of protecting an open internet and consumer privacy now that Trump is in office. Markey is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and also sits on two subcommittees: Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security; and Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. In fact, before becoming a senator in 2013, Markey spent 20 years as the chair or as a ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
Markey’s advocacy on these issues dates to the 1990s as a House member, according to Slate. “[H]e was a leader in pushing the provision of the 1992 Cable Act that made it possible for commercially viable direct-broadcast satellite companies (Direct TV, etc.) to compete with cable companies,” it writes, noting that he also played “a key role” in passing the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Just in the past month, Markey has spoken up about protecting funding for the FCC’s E-Rate program, introduced a bill to expand internet access in developing countries and introduced a bill to limit unwanted robocalls.
“The Republican war on the free and open internet has arrived,” Markey stated after the Senate passed Joint Resolution 34 this week, “and I will continue to fight so that the few and powerful do not control the internet.”
For his decades-long defense of consumer privacy rights and his recent outspokenness on net neutrality and the FCC, Sen. Ed Markey is our Truthdigger of the Week.

Congress Is Missing in Action as Trump Escalates War in Syria Amid Russia Probe

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By Mike Ludwig

As a House committee held the first congressional hearing on the Trump campaign's alleged ties with Russia this week, Republicans loyal to Trump tried to shift the focus to recent leaks surrounding it, as well as efforts to gather intelligence on Trump's transition team under the outgoing administration. Other conservatives are distancing themselves from Trump, perhaps in case FBI Director James Comey's investigation bares fruit. Democrats, meanwhile, took advantage of a fresh opportunity to place Trump as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the headlines as possible.
At the same time, in northern Syria, US warplanes and artillery units launched strikes against the Islamic State to cover for helicopters ferrying Syrian fighters and their US military advisors behind enemy lines. The operation has set the stage for a long and presumably bloody siege of Raqqa, the Islamic State's self-proclaimed capital. At least 33 people were killed when an airstrike by the US-lead coalition hit a school where civilians were hiding from the fighting, according to The Guardian. The number of US troops in Syria as grown from a couple hundred to at least 1,000 over the past few weeks.
"This represents a very serious escalation, and so far the media really isn’t reporting on it," said James Carden, the head editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord. Carden describes the group, a committee of academics, business leaders and former dignitaries, as essentially "pro-détente."
The US has launched hundreds of deadly airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Yemen in recent months, but putting boots on the ground in Syria signals a new level of participation in a war that Russia is also fighting. The Syrian government's ambassador to the United Nations claimed recent US military actions constitute an "illegitimate" invasion.
Russia entered the conflict in 2011 to defend Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad against rebel uprisings that were initially supported by the Obama administration, but Russia and the US have found a common enemy in the Islamic State during the ensuing years of violence and chaos. The US and Russian militaries are operating close to one another in Syria -- sometimes too close for comfort -- but they have not agreed to work together, although Trump has entertained the idea.
"You have a dangerous situation in Syria, where the [US and Russia] are operating in close proximity. Also, you also have a situation in the Baltics and the Ukraine, where the Russians and NATO troops are also nose to nose," Carden said. "This is an exceedingly dangerous moment."
Anti-War Congress Members Challenge Escalation
A handful of progressive Democrats and one Republican in Congress are demanding a halt to the military escalation in Syria. They introduced legislation this week that would prohibit the Defense Department from putting more boots on the ground without congressional approval. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) issued a statement declaring that the "executive branch has waged endless war in the Middle East with no meaningful oversight from Congress." President Trump's "decision to drag us deeper into this quagmire," she said, "endangers our troops and long-term national security."
Lee and her antiwar allies made a few headlines, but most of the news media and the rest of Congress couldn't be bothered. Under the Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war -- but Congress has not made such a declaration since World War II, despite the multiple wars the US has fought since then. As demonstrated by former President George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq, war powers have migrated alarmingly toward the executive branch, while Congress repeatedly signs blank checks to keep the wars going.
As for the current executive branch, Trump seems to remain certain that he can do and say whatever he wants, despite his rather public habit of ignoring basic facts. As he told Time magazine this week, "I'm the president, and you're not."
Members of Carden's organization include former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Jeff Matlock, one of the last US ambassadors to the Soviet Union, along with a number of academics and a few corporate CEOs. The group says cooperative efforts between the US and Russia over arms control and nuclear nonproliferation have been deteriorating since 2014, when western powers began a face-off with Russia over the future of the Ukraine. Now, they are "deeply concerned" about a new and "potentially even more dangerous" Cold War with Russia, and the current goings-on in Washington are not making them feel any better.
Carden and Stephen F. Cohen, a member of the committee and professor of Russian Studies at New York University and Princeton, are spreading their message in the pages of The Nation, where Cohen is a contributing editor. They warn that "neo-McCarthyism" threatens a longstanding détente with Russia, and war could be the result. Carden likened the House intelligence committee's hearing on the FBI to "political theater" for a partisan audience and urged lawmakers to address the situation in Syria instead.
Putin has proven his views to be in line with those of Trump and Trump's allies in a number of ways. His oligarchic practices, dismal human rights record, and policies attacking the rights of women, LGBT people and Muslims -- not to mention his recent endorsement of Marine Le Pen for the French presidency -- have demonstrated as much.
However, many have jumped to the conclusion that Putin is directly to blame for Trump's presidency (and thus, his extreme right-wing agenda and xenophobic crackdown Muslims and immigrants), placing a laser focus on Russia during this precarious time.
The results of the FBI's counterintelligence investigation remain important to many. Voters want to know whether Trump operatives colluded with the Russians during the election, and whether there is hard evidence that DNC email accounts were indeed hacked by Putin's cyber henchmen -- rather than leaked from the inside, as some analysts have suggested. Yet there's no full consensus on how these allegations should be approached.  Some critics are calling for an independent investigation.
Will Democrats Hammer Trump on Ethics?
Others wonder why -- given Trump's ludicrous and harmful behavior on many fronts -- leading Democrats have made Russia their focus. Ethics advocates have provided plenty of ammunition to undermine the White House, but efforts to hold Trump accountable for ethics violations have fallen by the wayside.
Last month, activist attorneys laid out their case for impeaching Trump, arguing that a long list of Trump's business interests violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the president from receiving "gifts" and other benefits from foreign countries. All Congress needs to do, they said, is take their argument and run with it. In January, legal advocacy organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit against Trump on similar grounds after he refused to completely divest from his business holdings.
"So, the rule is that [the president] can’t take payment from a foreign government, and the biggest tenant in Trump Tower is a Chinese bank owned by a foreign government," said CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz, referring to one of Trump's several alleged violations of the emoluments clause. "That's an undeniable thing that is happening right now -- the Chinese government is renting space from Donald Trump."
On March 8, CREW and other watchdog groups asked Pareet Bharara, then a star US Attorney in New York, to investigate the allegations made in the complaint. Trump abruptly asked Bharara to resign two days later -- but Bharara wouldn't budge, forcing the president to fire him. Reports indicate that the president had originally asked Bharara (who had been appointed by former President Barack Obama) to stay in the position, but Trump changed his mind within days.
Trump's conflicts of interest continue to make headlines, but Democrats have not taken decisive action on this front. Perhaps leading Democrats don't think CREW has a strong enough case against Trump, and casting the president as a Cold War traitor is a better way to dismantle his credibility and clog up Congress so the Republican majority can't advance its legislative agenda. Maybe the Democrats are simply looking to amass all the ammo they can get, and they will return to Trump's business holdings if Comey's investigation of the Trump campaign comes up cold.
While politicians in Washington place their bets on Trump's alleged Russia connections, our soldiers are on the ground in war-torn Syria, with US and Russian warplanes sharing the skies overhead. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose career as an oil baron brought him close to Russia, forced NATO to reschedule a meeting because he planned to skip it and meet with China and the Russians instead. In the vacuum left by the Obama administration, which -- while vocally criticizing Russia's gruesome human rights record -- quietly sought to cooperate with Moscow on efforts like nuclear nonproliferation, there is no coherent policy towards Russia emerging in Washington.
What we do know is that the US is still at war in the Middle East, where the language of our foreign policy is violence. Unfortunately, most of our leaders would rather talk about anything else. 

Scores detained after defying Belarus protest ban

Police detain scores attempting to hold banned rally, days after president warns of foreign-backed plot to topple him.

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Authorities in Belarus have detained scores of people, including journalists, as protesters attempted to hold a banned rally in the capital, Minsk, amid rising public anger over falling living standards and an unpopular tax on the unemployed.
The planned demonstration was the latest in a wave of protests since February that pose the biggest challenge in years to President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state since 1994.
News agencies reported that protesters were taken away by riot police on Saturday, a day after authorities told organisers the event would be illegal.
Amnesty International said on its Russian-language Twitter account that dozens of people were grabbed off the street "indiscriminately". Several journalists were among those held, while some of those seized were beaten, according to reports.
The wide-scale detentions were also reported by Viasna, a human rights group, which also said that police had earlier raided its offices and briefly detained about 60 activists.
Opposition leader Vladimir Nekliayev, who was set to speak at the main protest, was also stopped at the border on Saturday morning on his way to Minsk, his wife told the AFP news agency.
Al Jazeera's Rory Challands, reporting from Minsk, said smaller groups of protesters gathered in other places around the city after the main demonstration was blocked by police. He added though, that police soon turned up at those gatherings as well.
Earlier this week, Lukashenko accused a "fifth column" of plotting to overthrow him with the help of foreign-backed fighters. On Friday, he built on this theme, saying "someone wants to blow up the situation, and they use our scumbags".
Belarus has been in recession for the past two years, suffering the knock-on effects of an economic downturn in Russia and a sharp fall in oil prices.
Uladzimir Matskevich, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that this hardship has brought thousands to the streets, including former Lukashenko supporters.
"The special thing about this year is that this protest wave has spread to small towns where unemployment is high and they are economically depressed," Matskevich said.
"In these places people used to support this regime. Now the situation has changed and the authorities got frightened," he added.
Protester Lubov Sankevich told Reuters news agency that he no longer supports Lukashenko.  
"I voted for him, but now I tell Lukashenko - leave," Sankevich said. "I'm afraid but how long we can be afraid? Why should I be afraid of prison if I'm already in prison?" 
A tax on those unemployed for six months, known as a law against "social parasites", was among the issues that first triggered the protests.
Lukashenko suspended the tax in light of the backlash, but the protests have continued.
Those against the tax say it is unfairly punishes people who are unable to find work.

Journalists targeted

Saturday's crackdown was the culmination of the Belarussian authorities hardening their position on the protests.
Valentin Stefanovich, a rights activists, told Al Jazeera he believed the crackdown was meant to bring down the momentum of the protesters. 
"I suspect that the goal is to bring down the intensity of the rallies which we've seen during last month," Stefanovich said. 
On Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) joined 48 rights organisations in calling for Lukashenko to end the "detention and harassment of protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists and members of the country’s opposition party".
According to CPJ, at least 32 journalists have been detained or obstructed since the beginning of the month.
It is unclear as yet how the crackdown will affect relations with Belarus' neighbours.
Lukashenko has sought to improve ties with the West against the backdrop of cooling relations with Russia.
He has pardoned several political prisoners, spurring the European Union to lift sanctions against a country once described by the US as " Europe's last dictatorship". 

What America Stood For

"Where people are desperate, it is still America they count on, whether they love or scorn it, and America they blame when aid does not come."

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After Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election in November, a foreign ambassador accosted one of my deputies at the State Department, where from 2014 to early this year I served as the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor. “You must be so sad!” the man, a representative of a Central Asian government, said, grinning widely. “All this talk of elections being important, of democracy being important, and now look at you!  Now even your new president says there were 3 million illegal votes in your election! … You must all feel so stupid these days.”

Since then, the global club of autocrats has been crowing about Trump. Sudan’s dictator Omar al Bashir praised him for focusing “on the interests of the American citizen, as opposed to those who talk about democracy, human rights, and transparency.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei thanked him for showing “America’s true face” by trying to ban Muslim immigration. The Cambodian government justified attacks on journalists by saying Trump, too, recognizes that “news published by [international] media institutions does not reflect the real situation.”

Trump, as they’ve seen, takes no interest in pestering them about their domestic issues. They’ve heard him echo their propaganda that America is too crooked and corrupt to preach moral standards to others. This makes me sad. But something in the dictators’ delight also makes me a little proud—it’s an unintended tribute to what America has stood for, until very recently at least. Those cheering a hoped-for demise of the American idea remind us how much that idea has mattered to the world.

The desire to help those struggling abroad gain the freedoms enjoyed here at home has remained a uniquely unifying force in American politics. Over the years, Democratic internationalists have found common cause with Republican anti-communists, who’ve aligned with liberal Amnesty International volunteers, who’ve sided with conservative church groups sponsoring refugees and fighting human trafficking, behind the belief that the United States should promote something beyond its immediate self-interest.

Traditionally, U.S. presidents have used their farewell addresses to bolster this vision. Barack Obama said that America’s rivals will never “match our influence unless we give up what we stand for.” George W. Bush declared that “freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right.” Bill Clinton said that if history has “taught us anything, it is that we achieve our aims by defending our values and leading the forces of freedom and peace.” Ronald Reagan brought his presidency to a close with a story about a Vietnamese refugee, peering up from his boat at his rescuers on a U.S. aircraft carrier and calling out: “Hello American sailor. Hello freedom man.”

But through it all, the grim specter of “America First” has stalked the country. Its last, most notorious incarnation, the Charles Lindbergh-led movement to keep the United States out of World War II, was far from a fringe phenomenon. It had a seductive, twisted logic: While Hitler’s crimes were terrible, and Germany’s Jewish, British, Polish, and French victims understandably sought America’s help, the country’s responsibility was to itself, Lindbergh argued. Joining Europe’s eternal wars would not resolve them. Building up the military and defending the homeland, not wasting America’s strength abroad, would safeguard its freedom.

Americans overwhelmingly agreed with this reasoning until it was shattered—not by a more persuasive counter-argument, but by the horror of Pearl Harbor. Even then, before technology made distance near-obsolete, it became obvious that oceans alone would not protect America from far-away tyranny. So Americans went to war, not just for themselves, but for FDR’s Four Freedoms. American GIs took pride not just in winning battles, but in liberating death camps.

The war’s horrors spurred Washington to champion what is still known, somewhat clumsily, as the post-World War II liberal international order: a network of institutions and alliances founded on the idea that nations have obligations to each other, designed in principle, if not always in practice, to defend democratic ideals. The United States helped rebuild Germany and Japan as democracies so they could be pillars of this new order, backed decolonization in Africa and Asia, and persuaded the new United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Leading with its values gave the United States a sense of purpose in the Cold War. It won that struggle, in part, because it articulated aims that appealed to people on both sides of the Iron Curtain—independence for the Baltic States; freedom of choice for the Hungarians, Czechs, and Poles; and security guarantees to the Soviet Union that came with promises to respect human rights. Of course, America was selective, directing the rhetoric of freedom at its enemies, not its friends. What of its backing of dictators like Pinochet and the Shah of Iran, or its bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia, or its crimes of racism at home? But these wrongs provoked debate in part because they so clearly contradicted American ideals, and because Americans took their self-image seriously.

Over time, and especially as the exigencies of a bipolar world fell away, America adjusted its actions to fit that image more than the other way around. By the late 1980s, pressed by a growing international human rights movement, the United States had sanctioned apartheid-era South Africa and helped push from power both Chile’s Pinochet and the Philippines’s Ferdinand Marcos, a one-time ally. In the 1990s, human rights activists who had once denounced U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia and Central America began urging military action in Kurdistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo, to protect victims of mass violence.

The U.S. government began barring aid to foreign military units that had committed human rights abuses. It doled out grants to foreign civil society groups promoting democracy and human rights, even those critical of U.S. allies (like Egypt) and policies (like its use of landmines).  

By the time I joined the Obama administration in 2014, it was widely expected that the president of the United States would raise human rights concerns in just about every meeting with a foreign leader, and meet with activists in countries he visited. If a dissident was arrested, an opposition party banned, or an atrocity committed somewhere in the world, the State Department would almost certainly have something to say. My colleagues and I were proud of our role in encouraging democratic transitions in Burma and Sri Lanka; many of us anguished over our hesitations, from Rwanda in 1994, to Syria today. We argued constantly about the means of human rights promotion, but hardly ever about the ends.
For many of us in the administration, the Arab Spring reinforced both the difficulty and necessity of leading with our values. In the short run, working with authoritarian allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia was unavoidable. Yet we knew that every bet America had made on the stability of dictatorships in the Middle East had eventually come up short. Syria provided the ultimate demonstration: Few noticed when, in March of 2011, some children were jailed and tortured after spraying pro-democracy graffiti on a wall in a provincial town of this small, distant country. But then their government’s brutal response enabled the rise of the Islamic State and drove millions of refugees to Europe, sparking a populist backlash that upended the politics of the Western world. Surely the United States had an interest in those Syrian kids being able to speak without fear.

On top of that, we saw that sustaining the belief that America is not just a country but an idea kept it connected to every person on the planet who admires that idea. A transactional foreign policy is not what convinces people around the world to stand with America. What has bound together our closest alliances, convincing others to tolerate America’s overwhelming political and military dominance, is the sense that despite its flaws, it remains a country that generally uses its power for the common good, and views its fight as inseparable from the world’s fight.

Americans who came of age during the Iraq War might have a hard time believing anyone in the world actually views U.S. foreign policy in such a benevolent light. In many places, people don’t. But in the refugee camps and war zones that I’ve visited, I’ve never met anyone who told me they were angry at China or France or Russia for failing to help them. Where people are desperate, it is still America they count on, whether they love or scorn it, and America they blame when aid does not come. They know that the United States is the one country with both the power and predilection to stand up for them.

In 2012, I traveled to an opposition-held area in northern Syria, a rural, conservative part of the country where a hypothetical opinion poll probably would have shown an approval rating for America in the single digits. Yet in town after town, people surrounded me, demanding to know why the United States was not defending them from the Assad regime’s airstrikes. I told them about America’s losses in Iraq; I tried to explain our wariness of another Middle East war. They thought I was mad. Of course you can do something, they said—it’s your job. Barrel bombs have a way of curing people of their disdain for American exceptionalism.

Even where people hate American policies, there is a notion of America that transcends that hatred: the idea of a country where people can be who they are and say what they think; where they are basically treated fairly, whatever their race or religion; where the justice system is not corrupt; where the powerful obey the law and are punished when they don’t; where refugees and immigrants can become as much a part of society as the descendants of its first settlers. When America is blamed for compromising this ideal, it is because the world counts on the country to live up to it. This is a burden but also a blessing.

And over time, the values America stands for have become embedded in the daily business of international relations all over the world. Today, not only American leaders, but the UN secretary general, urge Russia to stop killing civilians in Syria. The UN Security Council discusses political prison camps in North Korea. The European Union gives awards to Chinese dissidents. At global gatherings, nations affirm the Western vision of a global internet that no government can censor or control. The G-20 tries to stop kleptocrats from hiding their money in Western banks. The Organization of American States censures Venezuela for abandoning democracy. The African Union documents war crimes in Sudan.

This has been a great success of American diplomacy. But if you are an authoritarian ruler of iron grip and fragile legitimacy like, say, Vladimir Putin, it is also dangerous. In every capital of diplomacy and finance, you hear talk of universal values and norms. You see the same ideas migrating onto placards held by protestors ousting strongmen from Libya to Ukraine. You fear that your own people will get the same idea.

If you’re a dictator, how do you rebut a message with such broad appeal? During the Cold War, you could trot out communism or anti-imperialism as alternatives, but today few people will believe your obviously corrupt system is better than the rule of law and democracy championed by the West. So you appeal to cynicism rather than idealism. You say that the so-called democracies of the world are just as craven and corrupt as anyone, but less honest about it; that every country kills its enemies; that all media is propaganda; that morality is just a weapon some countries use to beat up others; that in this contest, there is no objective truth, just subjective opinion, no right or wrong, just winners and losers.

And then, miracle of miracles, a man who makes your argument for you becomes president of the United States. He alleges that elections in America are “rigged,” that its government “kills plenty of people” just like Russia’s, that its “press is the enemy of the people,” that its intelligence agencies peddle fake news, that it really does reject Muslims after all, even those who risked their lives for Americans in foreign wars.

This new American president gives key government tasks to his family. He places military officers above civilians (as an Egyptian diplomat said to one of my colleagues after the election: “You are just like us now, reporting to generals!”)You realize, to your delight, that you can make business deals with his sons, rent conference rooms in his hotels, even put his future national security adviser on your payroll. What an incredible opportunity this presents, not only to buy influence, but to show that America is no better than any other country, that the world’s policeman is not only off the beat but on the take.

Of course, you hope this new American president will do something for you (that he’ll lift sanctions if you’re Putin, or resume selling you arms if you’re the king of Bahrain or Saudi Arabia). But even if that doesn’t happen immediately, you know America’s moral influence depends on the strength and appeal of its own democracy. The main reason you welcome Trump is that his words disparage American democracy and his actions discredit it.

If you’re an authoritarian leader, you can also rest assured that Trump’s America Firstism will, by definition, inspire no one outside America. It will give no one in your country a reason to look up to and align with the United States. Your people will hear from the American president exactly what they hear from you: America protects its interests; other countries protect theirs. There are no universal values. Everything is transactional.

Can America’s leadership of and for a free world ever be restored? Fewer and fewer people today lived through World War II and the Cold War, experiences that persuaded past generations to support such a role for the United States. So a pessimist might say that today’s America Firsters can be defeated only as their forebears were—by a new conflict or calamity that will scare them straight.

An optimist might say it won’t come to that, that Trump himself won’t matter so long as the adults around him are allowed to run the show. But foreign policy is, as much as anything, how America explains itself to the world—the story its words and actions tell. The president is the country’s chief storyteller. America’s friends won’t be able to unhear Trump’s debasement of its ideals. Its adversaries won’t want to. Putin would retweet him (if that were Putin’s thing).

For now, those of us who wish to save the rules- and values-based international order will have to take it upon ourselves to do so. It won’t help to churn out op-eds and think tank papers urging Trump to do this or that. We won’t change Trump. But we can try to make sure he doesn’t change America. We can try to preserve the power of America’s example, even as we work, over time, to restore the exemplary use of its power.

The tension between America’s ideals and its reality is acute today, but not new.  When, as a U.S. diplomat, I asked other governments to respect human rights, they would often throw problems in the United States back in my face.

“You tortured people in Guantanamo. Your police in Ferguson, Missouri was racist. Your CIA spied on our emails.” I would reply: “Yes, we make mistakes in America. But you know this because our free press tells you. And look at how we correct them: Our Supreme Court ordered our president to heed the Guantanamo prisoners’ rights. Our independent Justice Department reformed the Ferguson police department. Our Congress restrained mass surveillance.”

America will always be the country that elected Trump, and the world won’t soon forget it. But Americans will still have a good story to tell if they can point to how their courts, their elected lawmakers, their civil society—liberals and conservatives, both—rallied to defend the Constitution, confront corruption, make refugees feel welcome, and express generosity to those in need around the world. The checks and balances in America’s system—its antibodies—have always been its best argument. If they pass the Trump test, the argument can emerge stronger.

Internationalist Republicans will have a particularly heavy responsibility here. Even if they support Trump politically, they’ll need to join with Democrats to protect civil liberties and the integrity of American democracy, and serve as an alternative voice of America. On the Hill, they can bolster America’s anti-corruption and ethics laws and the institutions that enforce them. They can protect the parts of the State Department budget essential for advancing American values, including funding for civil society groups in closed societies.

That includes supporting funding for the United Nations, given that the new Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid al Raad, are among the few global leaders today willing to speak up for the values the United States traditionally defends.
Democrats like me will also bear a burden. While President Obama believed the United States should stand up and sacrifice for the freedom and well-being of others, in the final years of his presidency, he was more inclined to speak to his base about the limits of American influence than its potential. It’s fine to say “don’t do stupid shit,” but as a slogan to inspire Americans to stand up for global freedom, security, and prosperity, it’s a far cry from “bear any burden.”

Trump’s alleged entanglement with Putin will clarify the stakes for many young progressives mobilizing against him. But Democratic leaders and activists will still need to mount a conscious effort to persuade their base that the answer to America First should be to put American ideals first, at home and abroad. Trump has ceded the traditional Republican ground of American patriotism and exceptionalism. Democrats should seize it.

If an internationalist president succeeds Trump, another question is whether the rest of the world will tolerate the United States reclaiming its traditional leadership role. The answer depends in part on how much damage Trump does in the interim. But I think the demand for America defending norms and values won’t go away. Even some governments that think Trump’s America First policy is a good deal for them may start to miss America’s presence.

As Trump’s proposed budget cuts suggest, an America that doesn’t care about freedom and human rights may care about little else. Few governments around the world will like the implications. Ethiopia, for example, might want fewer U.S. statements about its political prisoners, but it sure as hell wants America to support its economic development, and peacekeeping and refugees in its region. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants fewer lectures about extrajudicial killings, but if a typhoon hits his country, the U.S. Navy had better show up. The Gulf monarchies are counting on U.S. help to stabilize Iraq and Syria after ISIS is gone. Sometimes, they even prod Washington to speak out for human rights—when the victims are Muslims in Burma, Sri Lanka, or Kosovo, that is.

Just before leaving the State Department, I met the Central Asian ambassador who had gloated to my deputy a few weeks before. I conceded that given Trump’s statements, it might be now harder for the State Department to talk to his government about its internal problems. But I added:  “Let’s be honest: Your small country is not that important. Much of what you count on America to do—like defend your sovereignty against Russia—we do, not because it directly benefits our people, but because we care about larger principles. What you like most about our foreign policy comes from the same place in our hearts as the conversations about repression and corruption that you don’t like. So I’m curious: How do you feel about the turn in our politics? Aren’t you a bit worried?” He admitted he was.

I'm worried, too. But I'm also a little bit hopeful. Trump has shown that even in America, the values of liberal democracy cannot be taken for granted. They must be defended, if not by the leader of America, than by the leadership of Americans themselves. Maybe, in the end, he will be the crisis that the country, and the world, need to relearn the virtues he disdains, and the essential role of the United States in defending them.