Human Rights, Hypocrisy, and the Challenge of Crafting a Moral U.S. Foreign Policy

October 23, 2017 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the incoming chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

In her seminal 1979 essay in Commentary, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” the political scientist Jeane Kirkpatrick sharply criticized the Carter administration for abandoning or turning against pro-American authoritarian regimes out of a purported concern for human rights, while turning a blind eye to the far worse abuses of Communist, anti-American totalitarian regimes. Elliott Abrams, who has revisited some of these arguments in his new book, Realism and Democracy, discusses the context and impact of Kirkpatrick’s essay and its applicability to the policies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. (Interview by Jonathan Silver. Audio, 42 minutes.)

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