Just Politics

Just Politics: Human Rights and the Foreign Policy of Great Powers

C. William Walldorf
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Just Politics
    Book Description:

    Many foreign policy analysts assume that elite policymakers in liberal democracies consistently ignore humanitarian norms when these norms interfere with commercial and strategic interests. Today's endorsement by Western governments of repressive regimes in countries from Kazakhstan to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the name of fighting terror only reinforces this opinion. In Just Politics, C. William Walldorf Jr. challenges this conventional wisdom, arguing that human rights concerns have often led democratic great powers to sever vital strategic partnerships even when it has not been in their interest to do so.

    Walldorf sets out his case in detailed studies of British alliance relationships with the Ottoman Empire and Portugal in the nineteenth century and of U.S. partnerships with numerous countries-ranging from South Africa, Turkey, Greece and El Salvador to Nicaragua, Chile, and Argentina-during the Cold War. He finds that illiberal behavior by partner states, varying degrees of pressure by nonstate actors, and legislative activism account for the decisions by democracies to terminate strategic partnerships for human rights reasons.

    To demonstrate the central influence of humanitarian considerations and domestic politics in the most vital of strategic moments of great-power foreign policy, Walldorf argues that Western governments can and must integrate human rights into their foreign policies. Failure to take humanitarian concerns into account, he contends, will only damage their long-term strategic objectives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5992-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Human Rights and Foreign Policy
    (pp. 1-7)

    The conventional wisdom in international relations is that human rights matter little, if at all, in the foreign policy of great powers, especially when that policy involves strategic endeavors like the war on terror. U.S. behavior since 9/11 seems to reflect this belief. In addition to its own abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Washington appears to be overtly endorsing the inhumanity of partner regimes in countries ranging from Kazakhstan and Pakistan to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. These relationships are underwritten by a series of military and economic assistance commitments by which the United States has provided billions of...

  5. [1] Humanitarianism and Commitment Termination
    (pp. 8-41)

    Democratic states sometimes terminate commitments to strategic partners. Why does this occur? In my effort to answer this question, I specifically draw on three approaches to international politics: realism, institutionalism, and humanitarian norms—this being a hybrid liberal-constructivist framework. Each approach presents unique explanations of commitment termination. The first two—realism and institutionalism—reflect the conventional wisdom discussed in the prior chapter. I also discuss the methodology of the project and the logic of using case studies from the specific core British and U.S. security commitments at hand.

    A humanitarian norms explanation of commitment termination combines elements of both constructivist...

  6. [2] Suffering Christians in British-Ottoman Relations
    (pp. 42-73)

    Throughout most of the nineteenth century, Russia stood as a leading strategic challenger to Great Britain’s foreign policy goals. For Britain, this competition revolved around India, the center of its global empire. In this context, the Balkans and the broader issue of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire took on special meaning for London. The vast territory controlled by the Ottoman Empire was perceived as a crucial strategic buffer against Russian efforts to expand southward and hinder London’s access to India. The Ottoman-controlled Balkans represented the geostrategic core in this respect for Britain. St. Petersburg had considerable leverage in the...

  7. [3] Torture and Summary Execution in U.S.–Latin American Relations
    (pp. 74-111)

    Guided by the goal of avoiding “another Cuba,” the foreign policy experts in the United States moved Latin America to the top of the list in Cold War planning after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Security assistance (military grants, sales, and training) became the primary tool in Washington’s arsenal for achieving this end.¹ This chapter grants primary attention to four of the largest aid recipients—Chile, Nicaragua, Peru, and Argentina—in the two decades following the Cuban Revolution. The first three of these states were among the earliest signatories of military assistance accords, or Mutual Defense Assistance Agreements (MDAAs), with the...

  8. [4] Apartheid in U.S.–South African Relations
    (pp. 112-143)

    Cold War perceptions dominated patterns of U.S. engagement in postwar southern Africa. Not surprisingly, U.S. pledges of trade privileges, economic aid, and export promotion assistance to countries in the region came with expectations. These included the responsibility to use assistance for agreed-upon development goals and projects as well as more general expectations of loyalty to Washington’s strategic objectives against the Soviet Union. Castro’s Cuba, Sandinista Nicaragua, and Marxist regimes in Angola and Ethiopia knew all too well the cost of challenging the United States on this point: all witnessed full or nearly full termination of economic aid by Washington as...

  9. [5] Human Rights and Vital Security
    (pp. 144-163)

    This chapter focuses on humanitarian norms in cases where partners are believed to be especially vital, contrasting decisions by the United States to terminate aid to Turkey, Guatemala, and El Salvador with Washington’s preservation of military assistance to South Korea, the Philippines, and Greece. Many of these latter cases are mentioned by critics as evidence that human rights matter little in great power politics. This chapter demonstrates, though, that under the conditions discussed in chapter 1, humanitarian norms played a critical role in all of these vital relationships. Above all else, the importance of both liberalizing developments and the nature...

  10. [6] The Implications of Enforced Humanitarian Norms
    (pp. 164-184)

    Most international relations scholars assume that human rights matter very little in the foreign policy of great powers. This book demonstrates that such assessments are too pessimistic. The prominence of humanitarian concerns in the strategic commitments of Great Britain and the United States, two of the greatest powers in history, serves as the main body of evidence to support this claim.

    In the cases of core British and U.S. strategic commitments assessed in this book, humanitarian norms better account for outcomes than two prominent alternatives, realism and domestic institutionalism. Table 6.1 offers a picture of the evidence that confirms this...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 185-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-229)