Freedom House has long held the view that there is a correlation between human trafficking and despotic political regimes. If you read the latest world trafficking report by the US State Department and compare it with Freedom House’s most recent list, you’ll see what I mean.
The State Department’s report looks at the type and extent of trafficking activity, as well as the government response, in order to assess a country’s commitment to protecting human rights.
So, which country might we expect to be the most vigilant in ending modern day slavery?
Given the general relationship between regime type and human rights record, one would expect Switzerland, which has the highest score in political rights and civil liberties, to lead the field in the fight against this egregious human rights violation.
But ironically for a country so often represented as a Disneyland of liberty and whose influence in the world depends on this conception, Switzlerand is the only Western democracy (other than Iceland) that turns in a second-tier performance in the State Department’s rankings.
Which brings us to the question of integrity in foreign policy. This year’s report by the Obama administration is, among other things, part of an attempt to recover the lost integrity of US foreign policy. It is the first report to assess US anti-trafficking efforts alongside those of other countries.
If there is an Obama Doctrine, this is it. As the President laid out in the 2010 National Security Strategy:
“Our moral leadership is grounded principally in the power of our example, not through an effort to impose our system on other peoples. Yet over the years, some methods employed in pursuit of our security have compromised our fidelity to the values that we promote, and our leadership on their behalf.”
The message here is that a lack of fidelity to fundamental values– in other words, a lack of integrity — as in the more muscular liberalism of previous administrations, can undercut the effectiveness of a foreign policy. Integrity seems to resonate with the Obama administration. While integrity is, in the first place, a relationship to oneself, it is also inescapably social. What one ‘is’ — and thus what it means to be faithful to oneself and one’s values — lies just as much in the eyes of others as one’s own.
A foreign policy which holds integrity as its first virtue is always conducive to the national interest, as it respects the self, the other, and the common. Call it practicing ‘statesmanship,’ or acting with ‘ethical competence.’ In Clinton’s words, looking inwards and correcting one’s own peccancies strengthens one’s diplomatic position.
There is no low-hanging fruit in international politics. So, if they want to do themselves a favor, Swiss foreign policy mandarins should spend less of their time wondering whether Voodoo rituals are used to control trafficking victims, as one of their reports has it, and more on how to give their foreign policy some backbone.