Best columns: International
When you can’t check your despot
What if Donald Trump were president of Uganda? asked Arthur Larok. In the U.S., where the Constitution provides a robust system of checks on presidential power, Trump is finding he can achieve little that he promised. His executive order banning immigrants from certain Muslim countries has been blocked in the courts twice, his proposed border wall is stuck in budget negotiations, and his health-care plan collapsed because his own party wouldn’t support it. In Uganda, Trump “would be a lot more successful.” That Women’s March after his election? It would never have happened, because in Uganda “security forces occupy all spaces of protests before the protests begin.” His executive orders? They’d be the law of the land, because he could simply bribe the judges. And “some Chinese contractor” would already be at work on the wall. Ugandans look at Trump’s troubles and marvel. Here, “it is nearly impossible to oppose” anything President Yoweri Museveni does, partly because of corruption and partly because we lack a separation of powers. And unlike with Trump, there’s no chance of voting him out in four years: Museveni has been in power 31 years and counting. Americans may grumble about creeping authoritarianism, but they don’t know how lucky they are.
U.S. ditches centuries of precedent
Asharq al-Awsat (U.K.)
Letting Americans sue Saudi Arabia over 9/11 is a disastrous mistake, said Salman al-Dossary. Families of 850 people who died and another 1,500 who were injured “on the ill-fated day” have filed a federal lawsuit against the kingdom, claiming that Saudi Arabia provided financial, practical, and material support to al Qaida for years leading up to the attacks. The suit was made possible by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), a U.S. law that specifically allows Americans to sue foreign governments. The kingdom doesn’t fear the verdict. Although 15 of the 19 attackers were from Saudi Arabia, “for almost two decades, no judiciary body or U.S. intelligence” has found proof of Saudi government involvement in the attacks. And al Qaida itself has declared the Saudi government to be its biggest enemy, and even tried to assassinate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Still, the kingdom strongly opposes JASTA, because the law “muddles all relations shared by the international community.” Countries relate to one another “based on principles of equality and sovereign immunity.” Remove that immunity, and we’ll see “a mushroom effect” of litigation all over the world, including against U.S. soldiers. The U.S. surely does not want “such a mess.”