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Human Rights Concerning the American Foreign Policy

Global human rights challenges are vital to the United States staff of public affairs, AID officers, and officers of Foreign Service. Human rights always have played a part in foreign policy because the United States was built under a constitution and laws that declared individual liberty and freedom. The government was not required to identify what it represented on the global stage until the United States was among the world’s superpowers following World War II. Human rights were not formally established as a prominent aspect of the United States’ foreign policy formation until towards the end of the 1970s when FDR spoke about the fundamental freedoms. John F Kennedy addressed them during his inauguration speech. Human rights, according to Jimmy Carter, are a “central concern” in foreign policy (Carleton 205).

On the other hand, President Carter did not come up with the notion behind the human rights strategy. It began with Congress, which was prompted by the citizens, including human rights organizations, lawyers’ associations, religious organizations, labor groups, academics, and scientists. After the War In Vietnam, Cambodia’s secret bombing, the Mylai civilians killed by American military forces, the Watergate controversy, and disconcerting revelations regarding US economic and military support for authoritarian regimes in the Asia, America, and other places around the world in the 1970s, numerous Americans believed the US must have attained an ethical low point (Blanton 657.

Thus, the 1970s human rights program was a response toward a foreign policy that was essentially lacking ethical considerations. Henry Kissinger’s realpolitik plan did not incorporate any considerations regarding human rights. After he was approved as state secretary, he claimed that it was hazardous for them to consider the domestic policies of other countries across the globe a major priority of the United States’ foreign policy (Nayar 813). He claimed that human rights issues will harm bilateral ties with US friends and allies.

While privately addressing military relations under the Pinochet dictatorship, he publicly reprimanded the Chile US Ambassador for bringing up the incarceration and abuse of political adversaries. Congress, on the other hand, had a different perspective. According to Nayar in 1974, a House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee held proceedings and published a report referred to as “human rights in the world community: A Demand for US Governance (813).” The article proposed that the State Department prioritize rights of the people through external policy, noting that the current mindset had forced the US to embrace governments that commit torture and openly violate practically all human rights provisions proclaimed by the international community.

It advocated for strong private diplomacy, explicit declarations, active human rights promotions at the UN and other global conventions, and the limitation of economic and military aid to regimes that habitually commit crimes against humanity based on practical, legal, and moral reasons. Congress then passed legislation requiring human rights assessments from all countries receiving US support, as well as prohibiting economic and military assistance to countries that persistently violate human rights only if humanitarian assistance or national security reasons justified it. Regarding human rights reasons, Congress also suggested the establishment of a human rights institution within the government department and announced decreases in military funding to Uruguay, Chile, and South Korea.

According to Carleton what separated Jimmy Carter from his successors was his affirmation of the humanitarian strategy authorized by Congress but also his subsequent attempts to make advocacy of human rights a vital feature of America’s foreign policy (813). The following were the reasons: Promoting freedom on a global scale was consistent with American values and thus would benefit the country. Carter maintained that the growth of social equality as well as civil rights around the world would improve US security. President Carter likewise argued that a policy of human rights would restore America’s moral standing, emphasizing that the United States risked incurring a high price if it became associated with tyranny.

Another major justification for the strategy is that the US possessed a legal duty and authority to advance human rights under international humanitarian law. In fact, through a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Carter demolished the domestic sovereignty argument by stating that no participant of the UN could assert that maltreatment of its own people was entirely its responsibility. Another viewpoint had been that human freedoms goals might be pursued effectively alongside various foreign policy goals (Schmitz 133). Carter dismissed Kissinger’s connection argument, which claimed that advancing human rights will still imperil additional foreign policy objectives. Through its bilateral ties, the US, he added, would push for the goals of human rights alongside economic, military, and political purposes.

Human Rights Policy Tools

In order to apply the strategies of human rights, the following means are implemented: primarily, active private diplomacy. During their bilateral negotiations with various governments, US authorities began to develop significant violations of human rights as well as high-profile personal cases on a persistent basis. Hundreds of reports had been submitted, with President Carter’s Administration centralized on nations whereby the US possessed financial and also military links; nevertheless, the Helsinki procedure with the previous Soviet Union led to numerous submissions with also the Soviet state (Carleton 205). Under the Reagan era, the concentration switched primarily towards the Soviet empire, and other states considered rivals; however, it later expanded to incorporate governments with which America had aid links. During the Clinton administration, elections and democracy took center stage in diplomacy, as well as the Human Rights Bureau was renamed the Department of Human Rights, Labor, and Democracy. In the Bush II years have set a strong emphasis on promoting freedom and democracy across the Middle East through public and private diplomacy.

A second instrument is the use of public remarks, or “the power of words,” just like Carter described it. Public remarks are designed to clarify American perspectives, serve as a warning to foreign countries or as a moderating effect, and encourage as well as inspire local human rights advocates within the country. For instance, President George W. Bush publicly reprimanded Russia for arresting activists ahead of parliamentary elections in 2007. “I am extremely disturbed by the utilization of force… in order to stop such peaceful activities as well as to prevent certain activists of human rights and journalists from reporting them,” he added, urging Russia to respect freedoms of assembly and the press, expression, and due process (205)

However, with regards to Blanton, human rights assessments are still a vital tool for building a data source and communicating to foreign entities that their actions are being scrutinized and also that the results could be costly in terms of economic and political consequences (. Even though there was discussion of ending the reports at the Carter administration ending due to the complexities they produced, congress members and numerous Foreign Service personnel rushed to their support. The reports are still an important aspect of the US human rights strategy.

Symbolic gestures are the 3rd implement, after public as well as private diplomatic measures. All these could consist of whatsoever as far as a reduction in armed services connections within the nation-state is concerned to an American presidential letter to a rebel, such as Andrei Sakharov receiving a letter from President Carter, or even an ambassador’s hosting political opponents and dissidents at the household. President Bush’s honoring of the Dalai Lama with a Congressional Gold Medal is a great illustration of a gesture of support aimed toward China (Carleton 205).

Another tool is positive measures. America may provide financial assistance or supply technology or various products to countries striving to promote their records. Alternatively, the President can visit a nation through human rights acknowledgment breakthrough or under the basis that human regulations changes might be implemented. This approach is exemplified by President Bush’s current visit to Africa as well as the Millennium Challenge Account. The United States also began providing funds to countries for projects that promote political and civil liberties.

To distance Americans from official abuses or, in certain circumstances, gain more power with more radical political and diplomatic elements in the nation, the Carter Administration imposed sanctions, including cuts in military support and sales. Secretary Vance declared decreases in military aid to Argentina, Uruguay, and Ethiopia after shortly taking office. Nevertheless, national security reasons prevented sanctions in several other circumstances. There were reportedly new restrictions regarding the purchase of military equipment.


The first issue would be how to handle democracy and human rights without putting undue strain on relationships with regimes or jeopardizing American foreign policy goals. For instance, the Carter Administration was condemned for undermining its alliances in the fight against communism; specifically, human rights policies were believed to have aided the removal of the Iran Shah and also the establishment of a government unfriendly to the US. Although the claim is disputed, a policy of human rights might have an effect on a tenuous regime kept intact by a hidden army, with unpredictable results.

A second problem regarding human rights implementation is coping with opposing agendas, for instance, military, economic, and political objectives that clash with human rights activities. Considering the following examples, business and financial interests typically took primacy over resisting white minority racial policies in South Africa during the apartheid era. a. During the Reagan era, tactical reasons outweighed human rights issues in South Africa; thus, a “constructive engagement” strategy was implemented to enlist South Africa’s involvement in limiting Cuban and soviet supremacy in the region. In 1983 when violence occurred within South Africa, the public and Congress, in particular, were vocal in their opposition to the US’s disengagement from humanitarian issues (Nayar 813).

In the case of China during the Clinton administration, economic considerations took precedence over human rights advancements. Indeed, it was believed that China’s economic opening would eventually contribute to a more robust democracy as well as respect towards human rights across the country. Market changes, in other words, would result in political transformation as well as a more inclusive society (Weissbrodt 231). Some individuals still argue about this point; however, decades later, we observe a growing world power with limited political reform.

Criteria for a Successful Human Rights Strategy

Credibility is the first criterion. If a government does not respect human rights at home, it cannot actively enhance them abroad. When a government believes habeas corpus or anti-torture protections are incompatible with its global security, it becomes unable to persuade other states to uphold these rights. According to Nayar, a human rights strategy will also lose credibility when it is utilized as a justification for accomplishing alternative foreign policy objectives, such as justifying an attack of another nation, regime transition, or internal political aims (813). Credibility depicts a strategy that is established on actuality and doesn’t overstate or understate the matter for political aims.

Second, human rights promotion must be characterized as a country’s interest that reflects American principles and has implications for national security. Instead of identifying the policy through terms of religion or morality, it must be emphasized that authorities with open communities and respect for human rights have become better coalition partners and far less probable for being threats to worldwide security and peace. And that allying with oppressive governments is not part of long-term interests. Furthermore, human rights support should be portrayed as beneficial to foreign countries.

Third, the policy must be supported by the whole government. It can’t be a strategy of a single branch. Intelligence Community, USAID, Defense Department, the White House, Commerce Department, and State Department must engage and incorporate the policy within their general decision-making. It also entails employing leverage, such as economic, military sanctions or incentives, financial, or political, to assist the strategy, as well as determining where strategic as well as human rights objectives might be best combined (Weissbrodt 231).

Fourth, the strategy must be based on reality. It is impossible to exaggerate the United States’ ability to restructure, democratize, and transform countries into tiny Americas. When initiatives become overenthusiastic or overstated, the Administration is forced to withdraw. After declaring during his inauguration speech that the United States’ commitment to human rights would’ve been “absolute,” Jimmy Carter would then have to resign. President Bush was also forced to retreat from his exaggerated ambition of promoting democracy towards the Arab Middle East, let alone his inaugural commitment to put an end to tyranny worldwide. A realistic strategy will likewise urge a wide variety of entities to participate, including other governments, particularly an alliance of regional and multilateral organizations, democracies, corporations, and NGOs (Blanton 660).

Climate change has ramifications for economic and social rights across every corner of the globe, resulting in increased conflicts, involuntary migration, as well as refugee movements. Government responses will impact the freedoms of health, nourishment, and life. The United States, as the globe’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, should take the lead in promoting global measures to both prevent climate change as well as assist people in adjusting to its effects. The United States must re-join the Paris Agreement under the next government. It should take or strive to pass bold steps to promote the agreement’s aims by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases considerably and quickly through a shift to cleaner energy (Nayar 813).

Fifth, a productive human rights strategy must strive to achieve a balance between human rights as well as democratic interests. Without parallel backing for the corporations that ensure democracy function – an independent press, the legal system, and a dynamic and engaged civil society – inflated confidence in elections could be mistaken. Sixth, a good human rights plan will strive to achieve a balance between humanitarian and human rights objectives. Economic penalties, incorporating those imposed based on the rights of humans, should be weighed carefully against the possible implications. Like in South Africa, will they promote desired change, or would they exacerbate population nutrition and health, just like in Iraq prior to the 2003 battle? Should there be any conditions attached to providing food help to an authoritarian government? What if international assistance allows the government to shift foodstuffs to political allies, freeing up funds towards defense objectives, like in North Korea’s case? (813)

Seventh, a policy of human rights should strive to handle human rights crises, such as inhumane acts or genocide, by promoting genuine security in reality. To that aim, assertive foreign diplomacy is required to sustain the deployment of humanitarian aid in the nation as well as the presence of police and peacekeepers to safeguard people. Medicine, shelter, food, public statements as well as criminal courts would not be sufficient. According to Weissbrodt the World Summit Outcome Document, signed by approximately 190 countries in 2005, supports a global (R2P) Responsibility to Protect. Suppose countries are unable or unwilling to defend their own people from genocide, human rights violations, war crimes, as well as ethnic cleansing (231). A strategy of human rights should encourage better R2P implementation.

Eighth, during this era of internal disputes, including civil wars, programs regarding human rights must aim to engage non-state entities and also authorities more successfully to ensure that they may be held responsible. Although offering validity to insurgent organizations involves inherent danger, more effective methods of coping with and regulating these groups are required.

Ninth, the human rights approach should be comprehensive enough to encompass workers, children, and women’s rights, all of which the United States has made progress in. Some argue that the strategy should incorporate social, cultural, and economic rights in addition to political and civil liberties. Finally, because changes do not occur overnight, a successful human rights strategy will necessitate commitment and persistence. Real progress needs solid connections to individuals and groups within the nation’s involved and continuous usage of trade tools, most notably speaking to governments.

Therefore, the President must reaffirm his commitment to global cooperation and prioritize human rights in his administration’s foreign engagement. The United States should resume full participation in the UN Human Rights Council’s work and return money to the United Nations demographic Fund as well as the UN Works and Relief Agency. It must cease its removal from the (WHO) World Health Organization and join partners in promoting global health programs free of destructive anti-reproductive rights agenda and policies (Nayar 813). As the globe comes to grips with the pandemic of Covid-19, the President must make sure that US-financed research is distributed in other countries and guide the United States toward globally affordable vaccine procurement plans.

To sum up, The United States is not only appreciated and known across the world due to its strong military and economic capabilities. It is the country’s democratic culture and devotion to human rights. What characterizes America is the Bill of Rights and Constitution, segregation and slavery abolition, the advocacy for women’s equal rights, the campaign to eradicate minority and racial injustice, and the protection of the press, civil freedoms, and free speech. It ought to symbolize this identification as it interacts with universal administrations and nations. This strength as well as nature of the civil rights program, and the determination and proficiency of its foreign service to implement it, which determines if it’s adequately represented.

Work Cited

Blanton, Shannon Lindsey. “Foreign policy in transition? Human rights, democracy, and US arms exports.” International Studies Quarterly 49.4 (2005): 647-667.

Carleton, David, and Michael Stohl. “The foreign policy of human rights: Rhetoric and reality from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.” Hum. Rts. Q. 7 (1985): 205.

Nayar, M. G. “Human Rights: The United Nations and United States Foreign Policy: Introduction.” Harv. Int’l. LJ 19 (1978): 813.

Schmitz, David F., and Vanessa Walker. “Jimmy Carter and the foreign policy of human rights: The development of a post–cold war foreign policy.” Diplomatic History 28.1 (2004): 113-143.

Weissbrodt, David. “Human rights legislation and US foreign policy.” Ga. J. Int’l & Comp. L. 7 (1977): 231.


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