American Dream, Global Nightmare: The Dilemma of U.S. Human Rights Policy

American Dream, Global Nightmare: The Dilemma of U.S. Human Rights Policy

American Dream, Global Nightmare: The Dilemma of U.S. Human Rights Policy

American Dream, Global Nightmare: The Dilemma of U.S. Human Rights Policy

Excerpt

There are those who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American Dream.

Archibald MacLeish

Human rights—like God, Mother, and Country—claim proverbial reverence among Americans. The average citizen sees the U. S. Bill of Rights as an article of faith at home and an item for emulation abroad.

The main question is thus not whether most Americans applaud stress on human rights in U. S. foreign policy. It is what they are ready to do about it. The perennial questions that have plagued the attempted marriage of morality and American diplomacy persist. Whose morality, and at what cost to whom?

Most Americans are solid in their general support for human rights, but soft on specifics. And with some good reason.

Many do not understand what their own government means by "human rights." The term often assumes a chameleon cast, changing color with the advent of each new administration. You were pink if you touted the cause in the 1950s and yellow, without the guts for higher office, if you criticized violation of human rights in Biafra, Bangladesh, or Vietnam in the 1960s. In the 1970s, advocacy of human rights was in the Bicentennial spirit of red, white, and blue, and true to the proclaimed tradition of the Republic. In the 1980s, the hue may be less bold, colored by growing appreciation for the cost and complexity of commitment to human rights.

It is not clear what American "tradition" implies or how it applies. Is Henry Kissinger correct that promotion of human rights is a crusade that exposes the "impotence" of American policy? Or is Jimmy Carter closer to the mark in calling human rights the "soul of our policy"? Do Americans have any business pushing liberal democracy in poor na-

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