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Just Politics

Human Rights and the Foreign Policy of Great Powers

C. William Jr. Walldorf

Publication Year: 2008

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.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-8


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Writing a book does a lot to one’s own humanity. In my case, I have been personally stretched and challenged through the comments and encouragement of many colleagues, family members, and friends along the way. Most of the contributions that led to this book, I owe to them. Any mistakes, I claim for my own. ...

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Introduction: Human Rights and Foreign Policy

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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. ...

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[1] Humanitarianism and Commitment Termination

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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. ...

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[2] Suffering Christians in British-Ottoman Relations

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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. ...

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[3] Torture and Summary Execution in U.S.–Latin American Relations

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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 ...

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[4] Apartheid in U.S.–South African Relations

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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. ...

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[5] Human Rights and Vital Security

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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. ...

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[6] The Implications of Enforced Humanitarian Norms

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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, ...


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pp. 185-220


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pp. 221-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780801459924
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446337

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1
Series Title: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs