Human Rights and U. S. Foreign Policy: Congress Reconsidered

Human Rights and U. S. Foreign Policy: Congress Reconsidered

Human Rights and U. S. Foreign Policy: Congress Reconsidered

Human Rights and U. S. Foreign Policy: Congress Reconsidered

Excerpt

International human rights can be studied from many different perspectives. The prevalent approach in the United States has been the legal one. Professors of law have been prominent in the study of human rights, and courses dealing with human rights issues are found primarily in law schools. While many legal scholars are active in the political process and understand it well, many studies overemphasize legal obligations, rules, theories, and structure while undervaluing considerations of power and policy. The first objective of this book is to correct that imbalance. The place of human rights in U.S. foreign policy depends mainly on considerations of power and policy and only tangentially on law. In the interplay of politics and law, politics is the more determinative factor. Little is ever done merely because a legal rule requires action, and almost never is anything done merely because a court orders it.

Moreover, many studies of human rights that attempted to place the issues in their proper political context have focused either on international developments (e.g., the United Nations and regional organizations) or on foreign policy as conducted by the executive (e.g., Carter's policy, Reagan's policy). Yet it was Congress, not the Carter administration, that put international human rights back on the foreign policy agenda of the United States. And it was primarily Congress that prevented the Reagan administration from taking the subject off the foreign policy agenda in 1981, as it evidently wished to do. But Congress has been little studied in connection with human rights in U.S. foreign policy. The second objective of this book is to correct that imbalance also.

The third objective of this book is to summarize what Congress has done on human rights in foreign policy from 1973, when a House subcommittee began to put the subject on the contemporary foreign policy agenda, to 1984 and the end of the first Reagan administration. (Events from 1984 to the time of writing in mid-1987 are referred to in passing.) This objective, having to do with descriptive information, is new . . .

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