Obama vs. Trump—how do they fare in human rights & foreign policy?

At the beginning of Trump’s presidency, human rights groups and various media agencies echoed a similar rhetoric that Trump was a threat to human rights. Yet, with the passing of time, however, we may better judge by analyzing history. Whilst Obama’s tenure is over, Trump’s full-on first year in office has left us with a lot to review. Here we compare the two presidents on three pressing foreign policy issues of the 21st century.

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1. China

In 1999, when Bill Clinton was president and Hillary Clinton was First Lady, the Chinese Communist Party began a nationwide genocide of one of China’s most popular forms of qigong, Falun Gong. As the 70 million to 100 million adherents that followed the meditation practice’s tenets of “Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance” were systematically detained, tortured, and killed by the Chinese regime, the United States stayed silent.


Whilst the Clintons did nothing and turned a blind eye to this issue, all of the subsequent presidents did too—except Trump.

OBAMA: As the Chinese regime was systematically eradicating that 8 percent of its population through the most brutal means possible—live organ harvesting—the Obama administration put human rights on the back burner. Despite numerous and repeated pleas for Obama to take action on this grave issue, neither Obama nor his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said one word of support for Falun Gong.

TRUMP: In stark contrast, Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has directly criticized the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses. Tillerson released a statement on Aug. 15, 2017, mentioning: “In China, the government tortures, detains, and imprisons thousands for practicing their religious beliefs. Dozens of Falun Gong members have died in detention.”

Last year, President of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights Dr. Yang Sen-hong met with a U.S. State Department official, who mentioned that the Trump administration is compiling a list of human rights abusers with which to punish in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Dr. Yang relayed some important points from the meeting that were specific to the persecution of Falun Gong in an interview with Sound of Hope Radio.


“The official says that the U.S. State Department is doing a great deal of preparation right now,” relayed Dr. Yang. “He also brought up the situation of how Falun Gong is being persecuted very severely, in particular, the issue of ‘live organ harvesting.’ A great deal of Chinese officials are involved in the organ harvesting criminal syndicate to a greater or lesser extent.”

He confirmed that “U.S. lawmakers told us that the State Department is already compiling the list.”

In terms of this issue, there is much to anticipate in 2018. At the very least, we can see that Trump’s administration has got the wheels in motion.

2. North Korea

Over the decades, the world has learned how oppressive this regime has been to its starving population, but in light of their heightened threats to other nations, and nuclear tests, including that of anthrax-loaded intercontinental ballistic missiles, the North Korean issue has become one of the most prominent foreign policy issues of today.

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OBAMA: During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on April 11, 2013, Congressman Doug Lamborn, (R–Colo.) revealed credible intelligence from a Defense Intelligence Agency Report. The report revealed that North Korea had already developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of being mounted atop an ICBM. In light of this, the Obama administration downplayed the report, and withheld information on the magnitude of a North Korean threat. In doing so, North Korea was able to freely continue developing its nuclear arsenal. Perhaps the only point in Obama’s credit is his enacting of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, though it didn’t do much to deter the regime from its nuclear program.

©Getty Images | Scott Olson

According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “If the previous administration had done anything and dealt with North Korea, dealt with Iran, instead of sitting by and doing nothing, we wouldn’t have to clean up their mess now.”

TRUMP: In a powerful speech delivered to the United Nations on Sept. 19, 2017, Trump denounced North Korea for threatening other nations and starving to death millions of its own people.

“No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump stated. “It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime.”

©Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla

In the first time ever, the Chinese regime has turned against the smaller communist nation, and Party head Xi Jinping has openly agreed to cooperate with the United States on tackling the North Korea issue. The two nations have imposed tough sanctions on North Korea, restricting the sale of natural gas and oil. Not only did China confirm the impact of these newly imposed sanctions, but even North Korea’s state media admitted on Sept. 29 that the Trump-backed sanctions are causing a “colossal amount of damage.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence affirmed the United States’ commitment to work together with other nations on an “extreme pressure campaign” against North Korea.

©Getty Images | Aaron P. Bernstein

“We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Japan, the people of South Korea, and our allies and partners across the region until we achieve the global objective of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Pence stated in his speech in Japan.

Judging from the solid progress in cooperation with other nations, the Trump administration has proven that this is not a foreign policy issue they’ll sidestep, but tackle head on.

In an April update, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to finally denuclearize after Trump’s extreme pressure campaign, which saw South Korean president Moon Jae-in saying, “Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize.” Following that statement, 18 House lawmakers nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for “bringing North Korea to the negotiating table,” uniting the international community, including China, and taking solid steps for peace in not only the Korean Peninsula, but also “to bring peace to the world.”


At the end of 2015, Obama received a 34 percent approval rating for his handling of ISIS and the conflict in Syria and Iran, per an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey. Whereas a Jan. 8–10 poll conducted by NPR/PBS/Marist reveals a 48 percent approval rating of the Trump administration’s handling of ISIS.

©Getty Images | Thomas Coex

OBAMA: In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Obama claims, “There isn’t a president who’s taken more terrorists off the field than me, over the last seven-and-a-half years.” He also stated he’s committed to “ending the war in Iraq responsibly.”

In spite of this, if we review the aftermath of the Obama administration’s intervention in Iraq, the whole region became destabilized, and that’s when ISIS was founded.

In light of this, Trump referred to Obama as the “founder of ISIS.” His controversial remark is in reference to how the former president removed U.S. troops from Iraq following years of bloody crisis, and the region was left without governance.

“I would not have been in Iraq if I were president. That was a horrible mistake. One of the worst mistakes in the history of our country, we destabilized the Middle East. We’ve been paying the price for it for years. But he was the founder, absolutely the founder,” said Trump, in an interview with CNBC.

TRUMP: At the Value Voters Summit on Oct. 13, 2017, Trump stated, “We’ve done more against ISIS in nine months than the previous administration has done during its whole administration—by far, by far.”

Trump’s decision to expand the military’s authority in the fight against ISIS has seen solid success, including forcing ISIS out of their self-declared capitals of Raqqa and Mosul. In partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces, the city of Raqqah was liberated from ISIS control. Moreover, air strikes on terrorist recruiting and training grounds in Yemen have wiped out “dozens of ISIS members,” according to an Oct. 16 report by Pentagon’s DoD News.

Under the Trump administration, red tape on the battlefield has been removed, and the establishing of a mission of annihilating ISIS has been made clear. Pence is quoted as saying, “thanks to the president’s leadership, ISIS is on the run.”