James Miller Center: President Jimmy Carter: University of Notre Dame 1977 Commencement: The Human Rights Foreign Policy
This speech by President Carter in 1977 was not only huge, but I think the best speech he’s ever given. And perhaps the best speech that any president has ever given when it comes to human rights and freedom. Making human rights an official part of American foreign policy and that the goal of the Carter Administration would be to promote human rights around the world. And that foreign aid would be one of those tools to do that. Which means to me at least that he wanted a foreign policy that would stop backing and subsidizing unilateralist authoritarian dictators.
This is really important, because the Soviet Union was making a big play to promote communism and their brand of authoritarianism around the world. They wanted to do that in Ethiopia, which already had an authoritarian government and they invaded Afghanistan that had a moderate monarchy. And while Russia is promoting their idea of authoritarianism around the world, here you have the leader of the free world, the leader of the most powerful and important liberal democracy in the world in Jimmy Carter, coming back and saying that human rights is what we should be talking about and what the world needs.
I would’ve liked to of seen more of this in his President Carter’s foreign policy and make foreign aid a tool in promoting human rights, freedom and economic development in developing countries. And saying that the United States is no longer going to subsidize dictators and other authoritarians. And say if you want our assistance that assistance is going towards the benefit of your country. You’re not going have a Marxist economy and you’re free up your own people to be able to take control of their own lives. And no longer arrest people and hold them without trial. Or arrest people simply for speaking out against the government.
That foreign aid, has to be used for things like infrastructure, health care, education, economic development, foreign trade. And not be used simply to keep an authoritarian regime that doesn’t know how to manage a command and control Marxist economy in power. Because America wouldn’t like the regime that replaced the current regime that is in power. And where President Carter comes up short here, even though he had a lot of foreign policy accomplishments as I laid out last week, is that he kept in place the United States policy of subsidizing so-called moderate dictators in order to keep worst regimes from coming to power. Like with the Shah of Iran, which came back to bite him and America, well in the ass to be direct about it in 1979.
President George W. Bush’s administration, made democracy the goal in their second term for the developing world and countries that live under dictatorships. I’m a Democrat and obviously I believe in democracy, but democracy by itself shouldn’t be the end goal. Authoritarians, come to power through democracy all the time. The Nazis in Germany in the 1930s, the best example of this. What should be the goal here is human rights and freedom for countries that don’t have those things. And where America can help here is by promoting freedom and human rights. You don’t do that by invading and occupying countries simply because you don’t like the current government. But you can do that through foreign aid and trade. And saying we’ll help you if that help benefits the people and doesn’t just keep the current regime in power.