“The Most Deeply Honorable Form of Government Ever Devised by Man”: Reagan, Human Rights, and Democracy
This chapter highlights a defining paradox of American foreign policy in the 1980s. Although human rights and democracy debates had a heavy ideological cast and occasionally involved heated political rhetoric, this era was defined by political compromises that fostered a well-balanced US foreign policy. While the Reagan administration employed hawkish security measures, it was also kept in check by Congress, the news media, NGOs, and by an American public wary of direct military commitments and fearful of nuclear war. Activists and some legislators criticized the administration’s human rights and democracy policies, but the administration got most of what it wanted by defending partner governments while pressing them to reform. These compromises produced outcomes that were largely positive for American national interests.