Limits and Morality: The Emergence of Human Rights in America's Post-Vietnam Foreign Policy, 1968-1981 Open Access

Renouard, Joe (2008)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/hd76s022w?locale=en
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Abstract

This study explains the emergence and institutionalization of human rights in American foreign policy in the "long 1970s" (1968-1981). I see the rise of human rights in the U.S. as a phenomenon that resulted from four major factors: 1) The Vietnam War and the social changes of the 1960s, 2) détente, 3) the ethnic revival, and 4) executive-legislative conflict. These factors occurred alongside other domestic currents, including broad recognition of limits to American power, a resurgent conservatism, and new congressional assertiveness. The international context was also significant. American policies were heavily influenced by world events and trends, such as the crackdown on dissident activity in Eastern Europe, Soviet emigration policies, authoritarianism in Latin America, and rising nationalism. The non-government influence - including the role of NGOs, public opinion, lobbies, voters, and the news media - was also important at certain points.

The narrative shows a period of nascent interest (c. 1968-72) followed by a time of rising expectations and growing institutionalization (c. 1973-78). This was then followed by a phase of diminishing expectations as advocates realized the difficulties of policy implementation (c. 1978-81). Yet although this last period saw a return to the containment doctrine and a concomitant decline in human rights rhetoric, the efforts of the mid-1970s had institutionalized the movement. The major political actors of the 1980s could not ignore the new congressional requirements or the increased public awareness of international rights violations.

Three major themes emerge in the telling of this story. First, political opportunism drove much of the period's political activism. Second, political figures promoted several competing versions of morality. In response to Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's perceived amorality, liberals and conservatives alike used human rights policies and rhetoric to claim the moral high ground. A third important theme is the influence of ethnic interest groups at a time in which traditional party coalitions were fracturing. Among the human rights issues publicized by American "ethnics" were the troubles in Northern Ireland, civil liberties in Poland, freedom of emigration for Soviet Jews, and decolonization in Africa.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction and Literature Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Chapter 2: Vietnam, the Nixon Administration, and the New Moral Order, 1968-74 . . . . 53

Chapter 3: The Ethnic Dimension of Human Rights in American Foreign Policy, 1968-74 . . . 104

Chapter 4: Foreign Aid, Hearings, and Legislation: The Congressional Challenge, 1970-76 . . .179

Chapter 5: The Limits of Morality: The Strange Career of the Genocide Convention . . . . . . 237

Chapter 6: The Limits of Morality II: The U.N. and Economic Rights. . . . . . . . . . . . 279

Chapter 7: The Movement at its Peak: The 1976 Election and the Carter Years . . . . . 331

Chapter 8: Human Rights and Transatlantic Relations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401

Epilogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 438

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 447

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