How Does Foreign Policy Impact Human Rights?
The term “foreign policy” conjures images of heads of state, military interventions and diplomats gathered in international meeting halls. We tend to think of foreign policy as making military and strategic decisions regarding our actions abroad and relationships with various other world powers. However, in his recent book, The Foreign Policy of John Rawls and Amartya Sen, College of General Studies lecturer Neal Leavitt argues that protecting the civilian populations of the world must center the foreign policy objectives of the world’s states. Specifically the human right to vote, receive health care and an education, and the right to employment should be the spotlight of any democracy’s foreign policy.
The focus of the book draws on the foreign policy writings of John Rawls (Leavitt’s political philosophy instructor at Harvard) and Amartya Sen. Leavitt believes the writings of these thinkers “provide insight and clarity into some of the most difficult problems confronting humanity” – including the problem of nuclear proliferation. Based on these writings, Leavitt proposes an interesting recommendation: By cutting military spending and redirecting the funds to development goals, “the core needs of more civilians can be better met while simultaneously advancing human security.” It’s an idealistic policy but Leavitt draws heavily on his philosophical background and many concepts in political science – including the concept of “the security dilemma” and the reality of “conflict spirals” – to illustrate why this type of foreign policy is beneficial.
Eileen Sweeney, professor of philosophy at Boston College says the book is “important reading for anyone trying to think both idealistically and realistically about the problems facing the peoples of the world today” and Boston University professor Tom Whalen recommends the book be “essential reading for all future U.S. Presidents” commenting on Leavitt’s ability to “make a strong case that moral considerations are ignored at our own peril when dealing with crises here at home and abroad.”