The tragedy of September 11, 2001 has led to a substantial redirection of U.S. foreign policy. This chapter explores the consequences of these changes for U.S. international human rights and democratization policies. Anti-terrorism has provoked a one-dimensional ideological campaign that has marginalized human rights in much the same way as, although somewhat less intensely than, the crusade against communism did during the Cold War.
The chapter begins by charting the gradual emergence of human rights as an interest of American foreign policy during the second half of the Cold War—at first as a matter of considerable controversy, but by the late 1980s as a concern with widespread bipartisan support. The decline of serious security threats that accompanied the end of the Cold War led to the growing prominence of international human rights in U.S. foreign policy in the 1990s. Against this baseline, and a long-established pattern of growing attention to human rights, this chapter explores the substantial retrenchment that has occurred as a result of the American reaction to September 11.
There has been no conscious and overt decision to downgrade the place of human rights in U.S. foreign policy. If anything, the Bush administration now talks more of human rights and democracy as foreign policy objectives than it did prior to September 11. Nonetheless, the overriding emphasis on combating terrorism has shifted (always limited) attention and resources away from human rights. It has also enabled deeply rooted tendencies toward unilateralism and the demonization of enemies. As a result, the space in U.S. foreign policy for human rights and democracy has been significantly reduced—not by design, but no less surely, and with quite unfortunate consequences for the international struggle to realize human rights.
Assessing the impact of September 11 requires a baseline of comparison. The preceding dozen years witnessed a significant increase in the prioritization of democracy and human rights objectives. In addition, the 1990s saw the devel-