Leon Blevins, dressed as Uncle Sam, salutes other attendees during the 'End Family Detention' event PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images

A Crisis of Ethical Leadership

The behavior of many Western democracies' leaders could do as much damage to the international order as the ongoing migration crisis or even a trade war. Beyond the cruelty of their policies, they risk strengthening governments like those in China and Russia, as it makes them seen reasonable, even reliable.

MOSCOW – “The wise man builds bridges; the fool builds walls.” That was the sentiment splashed all over Chinese editorial pages last week, when the United States imposed 25% tariffs on some $50 billion of Chinese goods. Unfortunately, that isolationist approach extends beyond US trade policy in ways that are not just foolish, but also unethical – and they are depleting what is left of the West’s moral authority.

When it comes to trade, China of course immediately retaliated with its own tariffs on $50 billion of US imports, just as Canada, the European Union, and Mexico are retaliating for US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Such disputes, if they continue to escalate, will hurt people all over the world – not least US consumers, businesses, and workers.

Worse, in recent months, US President Donald Trump has ordered a zero-tolerance immigration policy that treats all adults crossing the border illegally – a misdemeanor – as if they were violent criminals. That has meant referring even asylum seekers for prosecution, and, most controversially, taking away their children to be detained separately. More than 2,300 minors have been placed in shelters.

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