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

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Just Politics: Human Rights and the Foreign Policy of Great Powers
By C. William Walldorf, Jr.
Cornell University Press, 2008
248 pp. $39.95
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Democratic great powers have, on occasion, terminated strategic partnerships with illiberal states that were judged to be violating human rights norms. The United Kingdom ended its protection of the Ottoman Empire and Portugal in the late nineteenth century, and the United States canceled its military and economic assistance pledges during the height of the Cold War to partners such as Argentina, Chile, South Africa, and Turkey. In each case, realpolitik incentives for security ties seem to have been trumped by wider public worries about humanitarian abuses. These episodes provide the backdrop for this fascinating account of how leading democratic states struggle over conflicts between hard-nosed strategic calculations and liberal democratic and humanitarian norms. Walldorf argues that it is in the legislative bodies of democratic states that ferment over human rights is concentrated; executive officials, even those sympathetic to idealistic liberal aspirations, tend to embrace a traditional realist orientation. Walldorf also finds that strategic termination is most likely when nongovernmental activist groups and assertive congressional coalitions rally together in the face of particularly offensive illiberal behavior by an allied partner and is accomplished by ending or restricting foreign and military assistance. This book joins a growing body of work that illuminates the role of human rights in foreign policy.