SMALL STATES - Our series exploring how the UN and others can better serve these countries →

Healing America and Restoring Its Standing in the World: An A to Z Guide


Eleanor Roosevelt, the United States warrior behind the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. What will it take for the US to restore its image as a democracy in the world? The writer offers an alphabetical list. FOTOSEARCH GETTY IMAGES

The world watched on Jan. 6, 2021, as thousands of the most extreme supporters of President Donald Trump marched on the United States Capitol after hearing his rallying cry to “fight” and “take back” the country. Inside the Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over a joint session of Congress to certify the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election in which the incumbent lost to Joseph Biden by more than seven million popular votes and 70 electoral votes.

As Voltaire wisely said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” Compounding his many attacks on the rule of law, President Trump armed those who attended his rally with an arsenal of false, unsubstantiated allegations against the freeness and fairness of the 2020 US election whose legitimacy and accuracy had been confirmed in more than 60 court cases as well as by the Democratic and Republican leaders of all 50 states.

The nation and the rest of the world were shocked as the angry mob — some of whom were wearing white supremacist and anti-Semitic slogans; most of whom were flying Trump banners and confederate flags; and a few of whom were carrying guns and other weapons — attacked the Capitol; threatened the American lawmakers there; chanted their intention to “hang Mike Pence” and declared their plan to “shoot” the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; brutally killed a Capitol Police officer; and injured many others.

Don't miss a  story,  Subscribe to PassBlue

By attacking the institutions of American government and interrupting the US constitutional process, the mob betrayed the values of American democracy and the principle of the peaceful transfer of power.

The first victory against the insurrection came in the early morning of Jan. 7, 2021, when the joint session was resumed and Pence, defying the wishes of President Trump, certified the results of the Electoral College, thereby declaring Joseph Biden the president-elect and Kamala Harris vice-president elect.

The second victory came a week later, on Jan. 13, when the House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump for inciting the insurrection, making him the first American president to be impeached twice.

It will be for the US state and federal prosecutors to determine which charges to bring and against whom. It will be up to the American people to unite their divided nation and to heal their wounded democracy. After the absurdities and atrocities of the last four years, however, it is for the rest of us to imagine what it will take to restore America’s credibility among the free and democratic nations of the world.

Here are 26 possible steps to achieve that goal:

Assembling senior Republican leaders, including Pence, at President Biden’s inauguration

Bringing messages of unity from former Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton and Obama to the American people

Censuring the senators and representatives who still deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election

Deploring the systemic racism and excessive use of force against Black and Hispanic citizens

Ensuring accountability for all persons who incited or participated in the insurrection

Freeing the children detained at the US-Mexico border and reuniting them with their families

Giving effect to the results of statehood referendums in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

Holding a bipartisan hearing on ending racial injustice in the US state and federal criminal justice system

Implementing the Abraham Accords in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions

Joining allies to prevent and respond to cyber and other threats to democratic elections

Keeping its obligation under the United Nations Charter not to use force other than in self-defense

Lifting the US sanctions on the prosecutor and other officials of the International Criminal Court

Making full and timely payments of the US’ assessed contributions to the UN

Narrowing the definition of combatants to comply with international humanitarian law

Owning the US’ past and present failings to live up to its self-proclaimed aspirations

Prohibiting products from the Chinese detention camps in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region

Quelling concerns regarding the US’ commitment to its NATO allies

Rejoining the Iran deal, the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization

Seeking to regain a seat in the UN Human Rights Council and closing Guantánamo

Tossing out the “flurry of 11th hour” foreign policy “landmines” planted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Upholding the international status of Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory

Vowing to fulfill US treaty obligations toward the Native American tribes and their sovereign lands

Withdrawing the executive orders and proclamations forming the US Muslim travel ban

Xenially welcoming refugees and immigrants in keeping with its legacy as a nation of immigrants

Yearning to bend the arc of history toward freedom and justice for all

Zealously defending the US Constitution and the rule of international law

By taking these steps, with a measure of hope and a modicum of humility, the US can heal itself and restore its standing among the nations of the world.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Mona Ali Khalil is an internationally recognized public international lawyer with 30 years of UN and other experience, including as a former senior legal officer in the UN and the IAEA, with expertise in peacekeeping, peace enforcement, disarmament and counterterrorism. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in international relations from Harvard University and a master’s in foreign service and a J.D. from Georgetown University. She is the founder and director of MAK LAW INTERNATIONAL and an affiliate of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict. She has co-authored several publications, including the UN Security Council Conflict Management Handbook; Reinvigorating the United Nations; Protection of Civilians and the upcoming Empowering the UN Security Council: Reforms to Address Modern Threats.



We would love your thoughts. Please comment:

Healing America and Restoring Its Standing in the World: An A to Z Guide
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Norrie Kurtz
Norrie Kurtz
3 years ago

Kudos. Wonderfully creative list of curative objectives. Especially loved “xenially”; can’t wait to use it!

Robert Cox
Robert Cox
3 years ago

Did anyone call the “protesters” who “overthrew” the Ukrainian government criminals and condemn them? Oh, but Ukraine was a “good” coup? The “removal from office” of Evo Morales and imposition of the Inez coup was another “good” coup? Apparently, both of those coups were “aided and abetted” by USA and its allies. The sanctions and economic destruction of Venezuela is another “good” economic war being waged with USA sanction. Aaron Mate, of The Grayzone website has interviewed a woman who is UN Rapporteur on Syria. USA sanctions in Syria are starving people to death. Those are “good-ole-USA-Sanctions/Economic Warfare”, too??? Relish the END of USA Disaster Democracy.

Tanya Mango
Tanya Mango
3 years ago

Great article and one that President elect Biden should use to rectify the mess Trump left behind. Mona, you always were the third eye, the voice of reason of intellect.

Jean Neuprez
Jean Neuprez
3 years ago

This alphabetical list of to-do things is excellent, clear, obvious to most of us, and much more than mere wishful thinking. Only comment: at the letter X, why use a new, intriguing word which is not in the dictionnary… Xenially ???

3 years ago
Reply to  Jean Neuprez

Xenial: From ancient Greek: “hospitality”; relations of hospitality between states or between a person and a state.

Dali ten Hove
Dali ten Hove
3 years ago

As reassuring as it may feel that the USA could heal and reassume its standing in the world if only this and that policy area were tweaked, I fear the ‘rot’ in America that led to the events at the Capitol goes much deeper and requires more severe invasive surgery. The Republican Party relies on fear-mongering as its principal strategy to gain and maintain power. That radicalises the population, splits off factless alternative realities, makes for increasingly far-right elected representatives, and turns politics into a zero-sum quest for power at any cost. The USA won’t heal, only temporarily plaster things over, till the GOP’s deep-seated incentive structures fundamentally shift — it’s frankly difficult to imagine how.

Related Posts


Global Connections Television - The only talk show of its kind in the world

Subscribe to PassBlue


Don't miss a story

Subscribe now to send the smartest news

on the UN directly to your inbox.

We respect your privacy and take protecting it seriously