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Editorial from the Dallas Morning News
President Joe Biden’s address to G-7 leaders at the virtual Munich Security Conference last month made it clear there has been a fundamental change in American policy, and that now the U.S. “will work closely with our European Union partners and the capitals across the continent — from Rome to Riga — to meet the range of shared challenges we face.”
With the growing power of dictators and authoritarians in countries like China, Russia, North Korea, Myanmar, Syria, Iran, Turkey and Venezuela, and the rise of “illiberal democracy” in European countries such as Hungary and Poland, U.S. leadership is needed now more than ever. As Biden said in his address, the U.S. will once again be “pushing back against those who would monopolize and normalize repression.”
First and foremost, the U.S. can do this by maintaining the world’s most advanced fighting forces, keeping them deployed where needed, and making sure friend and foe alike — from Europe to the Middle East, Africa to Asia — know we will honor our alliances and partnerships, no matter the cost.
An early test may come in prioritizing the release of unlawfully or wrongfully detained Americans abroad. And here, the Biden administration should build on the work of the Trump administration. In former President Donald Trump’s four years in office, more than 50 U.S. citizens were released from 22 countries.
The Biden administration has pledged to continue those efforts while improving transparency and better communicating with the families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad. In acknowledgment of the prior administration’s successes, Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, was asked to stay on.
According to the Foley Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for the freedom of Americans wrongfully detained abroad, there are currently 45 “publicly” known hostage or detainee cases in 11 countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
On Feb. 15, the Biden administration endorsed, along with 57 other nations and the European Union, a Canadian initiative called the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, denouncing the practice of states arbitrarily detaining foreign nationals for the purpose of political leverage.
If that seems a tad idealistic, it also would be a positive step away from transactional foreign policies that undercut our credibility and, in the long run, make it harder to counteract the spread of tyranny abroad. Working to end unlawful detention would promote freedom and the rule of law around the globe and thereby serve American interests while also living up to our founding principles.