American Foreign Policy: Human Rights And Democratization

1797 words - 7 pages

The foundation for America was built upon ideas that valued the importance of the individual; individual choice, rights and contributions. Therefore, it can be said that human rights and democracy have a long history in the United States. Thus, it is easy to understand how these concepts have shaped American foreign policy throughout history and why they remain important elements today. Although consideration for these elements has not always been consistent in foreign policy in lieu of criticism it is vital to gain insight into the challenges of balancing national interest with conventions of morality. Furthermore, whilst surveying perceived errors in policy with regard to human rights, one must consider the implications for the nation had the opposite method been employed. This raises the question of how leadership determines both the risks and benefits for the country when shaping policy that highlights human rights and/or furthers democracy. Needless to say, it is impossible to craft foreign policy that consistently embodies all moral and ethical values as well as the best interest for the nation. However, those factors that elicit accusations of hypocrisy are often precisely the policies which will enable the U.S. to gain the advantage toward eventually achieving those more idealistic goals.
Why are human rights & democracy important issues in American foreign policy? There is no simple answer to this question; rather it is a combination of factors that define the importance of these issues. Foremost, at least in the international sense, is the United Nation’s Universal Human Rights Declaration from 1948 which is considered a universally accepted idea of human rights, especially in the aspect of a nation or its leaders violating the rights of their people. Second, as previously mentioned, human rights and democracy represent core American values. Additionally, the ascension of the United States as a super power imposed certain responsibilities to take on a role as a global policing force. Although the U.S. has been subject to relentless criticism both upon exercising this policing role as well as upon abstaining from it; nevertheless, the international expectation was arguably for the former. For example, in 1993 when American troops were abruptly pulled out from the mission in Somalia; further genocidal horrors continued in Somalia and the year after in Rwanda and later in 1999 in Sierra Leone all without a military response from the U.S. Quite simply: “we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t”. Furthermore, there are 2 other components that complicate the interests of human rights in policy and those are economic interests and security. Although those 2 interests are of foremost importance to national interest, they do not necessarily contradict the goals of protecting human rights abroad. It can be said that in the long run, a favorable condition of both human rights and democracy in other countries greatly enhances...

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