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Human rights as a key to security

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From a speech by the former US deputy secretary of state at the recent commencement at Bates College.m Human rights is not a means to comfort our enemies by harassing our friends. Rather it is a strategy to identify America with the cause of human freedom, and to advance it wherever and however we can.

This is not a simple policy to carry out. Tactics have to be tailored to specific circumstances.

We must design for each case a strategy with the best chance of working and with attention to other important American interests, including security needs.

But for all of its complications, a human rights policy is one of profound importance to our long-term interests in the world. It is not secondary to containing the Soviet Union, but essential to it.

Open political systems have a great practical advantage. They can absorb and reflect popular aspirations. In closed systems, grievances are likely to find expression in other ways -- in radical politics and violent acts.

Similarly, governments that concern themselves with the economic security of their people will themselves be more secure. Unquestionably, communism and terrorism are enemies of order. But we deceive ourselves if we think human misery is not as great an enemy, for it gives the others places to flourish.

A strong human rights policy enhances our security. Stables societies makes stronger, better allies.

Of course, we cannot say that our influence will always make a difference, or that a human rights strategy will prevent turmoil. But surely it is preferable to exert what influence we can for peaceful, constructive change, even as we stand ready for military action when our vital interests are threatened and there is no other choice.


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