However fine a symbol of cosmopolitan sympathies they may be, human rights are not yet connected in the U.S. electorate's mind to a set of foreign policy guidelines. As a symbol, therefore, they remain available for appropriation by advocates of almost any position. The contributors to this volume share the conviction that it is possible to anticipate, however provisionally, the human rights consequences of today's foreign policy projects and their associated grand strategies. This essay is a nascent effort to clarify the substance, purposes, and sources of the doctrines and strategies that have been competing for dominance over U.S. foreign policy.
During the 12 years between the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the foreign policy of the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations lacked an overriding theme, possibly because it lacked an organizing Manichaean focal point. Themes were indeed debated by politicians and commentators, usually in dyadic terms: unilateralism v. multilateralism, humanitarian intervention v. national self-restraint, realism v. idealism, coercive v. persuasive diplomacy, and the West v. the rest. There were also values like human rights and democracy airily invoked but ambiguously and controversially expressed in the quotidian details of policy.
September 11 and the subsequent war on terrorism provide a new, thoroughly Manichaean policy template with implications for domestic as well as foreign affairs. But within that template the existing dyads and values continue to color debate. Should we organize coalitions of the willing or act through the United Nations? Should we ethically sanitize any government that aspires to join the war on our side or seek ideological coherence among our allies? Should we succor failed and failing states or simply quarantine them and deter export of their pathologies? And what restraints should human rights impose on our means? In short, September 11 does not absolve us from dealing with old issues. The context has arguably changed; the traditional divisions within the community of foreign policy analysts and practitioners have not.