President Carter's early avowal of human rights as the lynch-pin of his Administration's foreign policy drew its share of...

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AMERICAN DREAM/GLOBAL NIGHTMARE: The Dilemma of U.S. Human Rights Policy

President Carter's early avowal of human rights as the lynch-pin of his Administration's foreign policy drew its share of cynical smirks, and the mess of U.S. global relations certainly doesn't help convince his critics. Vogelgesang, a Foreign Service officer, thinks Carter had the right idea; but she maintains that the policy is too complex--too entangled in domestic roots and consequences--to be implemented overnight. In the cases of Nicaragua, the USSR, and Cambodia, she points out, domestic political forces conflict with human-rights considerations, resulting in an uneven, or non-existent, application of the new golden rule. Among the domestic consequences is the problem of living up to the standards we set for others. This gets complicated, because Vogelgesang takes as her human-rights measure the UN Declaration on Human Rights, which includes references to living standards and education--areas in which, depending upon interpretation, the U.S. might fall short. But Vogelgesang thinks it's ultimately in our own interest to pursue a human-rights policy, since it will help us live up to our own ideals; and it might even be cheaper and more effective than propping up dictators. Yet, the ambiguities of the ""basic human needs"" approach remain, and Vogelgesang can only offer suggestions for balancing human-rights concerns with other foreign policy interests. Her call for a case-by-case approach--on the assumption that different countries are at different historical stages--only highlights the confusion, since a natural human right must by definition stand outside history. The problem isn't a dilemma, but fundamental confusion--only marginally helped by her exploration.

Pub Date: April 28, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980