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The international standing of the United States has taken a seri­ous hit over the past four years. Former U.S. President Don­ald Trump's strident "America first" foreign policy is partly to blame, but so are his attacks on democracy and human rights, both internationally and domestically. Abroad, Trump set the cause of hu­man rights back by embracing authoritarians and alienating democratic allies. At home, he launched an assault on the electoral process, en­couraged a failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and systematically undermined civil rights protections, leaving his successor to grapple with multiple, overlapping human rights crises. As if that were not enough, a host of other problems await, from the pandemic to increas­ing competition with China and the overall decline of American power. Some pundits have argued that faced with this five-alarm fire, Pres­ident Joe Eiden cannot afford to focus on human rights at the expense of more pressing domestic and global matters. In fact, the reverse is true. U.S. soft power and national security have always rested in part on the country's commitment to human rights and democracy. If Washington wants to recover lost ground, it cannot afford to ignore this crucial dimension of American power.


Shattuck, John, and Kathryn Sikkink. "Practice What You Preach." Foreign Affairs 100.3 (May/June 2021): 150-160.