Earlier this month, I noted that “democracy” is not among “the three Ds” — “defense, development and diplomacy” — that Hillary Clinton says, in one of her stock speeches, animate the administration’s concept of global leadership. In other words, “democracy” does not even “medal” within its own letter.
The editors of the Washington Post have noticed this too. They have also noticed that Clinton appeared to change her tune in a speech at Georgetown Univeristy in which she laid out “the Obama administration’s human rights agenda for the 21st century.” Clinton said that the administration “like others before us, will promote, support, and defend democracy.” She also pledged to denounce abuses by other governments and support dissidents and civil society groups. She even mentioned a few concerns with human rights abuses in China and Russia.
But the Post’s editors find Cllnton’s speech fundamentally flawed on the issue of human rights. They have noticed that Clinton’s formulation of the administration’s human rights agenda sweeps too broadly. It covers not only political and personal freedom, but also freedom from “want of food [and] want of health. . . .”
As the Post’s editors explain:
Ms. Clinton’s lumping of economic and social “rights” with political and personal freedom was a standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked. In fact, as U.S. diplomats used to tirelessly respond, rights of liberty — for free expression and religion, for example — are unique in that they are both natural and universal; they will exist so long as governments do not suppress them. Health care, shelter and education are desirable social services, but they depend on resources that governments may or may not possess. These are fundamentally different goods, and one cannot substitute for another.
Clinton’s approach lends credibility to dictators who wish to follow the example of the Soviet bloc and invoke her overbroad formulation of human rights. More significantly, it provides cover for the Obama administration to let friendly but dictatorial nations off-the-hook by focusing on their economic progress, real or imaginary.
The Post points out that Clinton seems to be heading down just this road in her dealings with the Arab world. In a recent speech in Morocco, for example, her focus was on education, science and technology, and “entrepreneurish,” and she did not mention democracy. This is not surprising, since democracy — missing from the “three D’s” in her stock speech — is clearly an afterthought for Clinton, invoked perhaps to bring her talking points into line with Obama’s Oslo utterances.
Hillary Clinton isn’t much a Secretary of State, but she would have made an excellent Commissar.