Foreign policy is messy--and also incredibly interesting. Every day, decisionmakers must formulate and modify the US’s stance towards states like Russia, China, Germany, Iran, Syria, and Israel and tackle cross-cutting issues that touch on human rights, climate change, poverty, human insecurity, nuclear arms proliferation, and economic collapse. In Contemporary American Foreign Policy: Influences, Challenges, and Opportunities, authors Richard Mansbach (Iowa State University) and Kirsten Taylor (Berry College) examine modern foreign policy problems from a variety of angles, not just through the lens of a so-called “national interest.” In each chapter, they focus on today’s most pressing contemporary challenges, exploring their origins and backgrounds. They systematically shed light on the competing forces that influence them, outline the various policy options available to decisionmakers for addressing them, and explore the potential consequences of those policies. Throughout, they also look at foreign policy at all levels: international, society, government, “role”-specific, and individual.

Democracy and Human Rights Legitimate Objectives of American Policy?

Democracy and Human Rights: Legitimate Objectives of American Policy?

President Barack Obama signs the Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in December 2002.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

American values and interests are in constant tension regarding human rights. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights showcase U.S. values and the nation’s commitment to universal human rights, including democracy, but American foreign policies do not always reflect these values. “Americans don’t see it this way, but the country with the most puzzling human rights record in the world is their own.”1 A human rights expert observed that although Washington led efforts to promote the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), since then ...

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