The candidates for the U.S. Presidency will be debating their foreign policy positions on Monday. Will there be much talk of promoting international human rights? Likely not.
Some may argue that’s ironic, given the importance of America’s use of “soft power” and ability to achieve its strategic interests by promoting human rights in diplomacy. Others may argue that human rights issues are secondary to, or follow from, establishing basic security, protecting borders, and ridding the world of criminals and terrorists. Still others may argue, on both sides of the ideological side, that the U.S. should have no role in promoting human rights lest it been seen as interventionist, neo-colonial, and hypocritical.
The blogosphere and Twitterverse is abuzz with questions that scholars and experts wish could be asked, but won’t be. For example, Foreign Policy magazine posted a list of 50 questions that readers and FP experts would like the candidates to answer. They’re tough and get to the crux of America’s foremost foreign policy and domestic security challenges. But only a few international human rights issues are raised, i.e. torture, targeted killings, human rights in the Middle East, repression in Russia, and the crisis in Sudan.
I also encourage you to read Sarah’s post and your classmates’ comments about the role that the U.S. should play in international transitional justice, particularly as victims’ rights to justice, truth, and a remedy are so important in post-conflict and post-authoritarian societies. Her post is in response to the U.S. adding those accused by the ICC to the “Rewards for Justice” program.
Since the candidates might dodge these issues, let’s put in our own two cents! Feel free to respond to these questions now, during, or after the debate and particularly if interesting HR and justice issues come up tonight.
1) What kinds of human rights issues should the U.S. promote in its foreign policy?
2) How would you convince the candidates that human rights and international/transitional justice issues should figure prominently in foreign policy? Is it a moral responsibility? Are there strategic advantages to doing so?
3) Should U.S. foreign policy continue to support international justice selectively, and under what circumstances? Or universally?
4) Civil society groups in the U.S. are central to the transnational diffusion of human rights and justice. Should the promotion of human rights and justice be left to civil society and not the ideological whims and strategic interests of those in power?