Damir Marusic reads between the lines of a new history of the human rights movement and comes to a disturbing conclusion: the movement's success has created a class of politicians who are recklessly idealistic in their advocacy of human rights:
It turns out, to our peril, that the human rights movement has been more successful than Aryeh Neier dares to imagine: In addition to a pundit class that continues to draw deeply from the well of comforting moral certainties and platitudes that are the movement’s greatest legacy, more than four decades’ worth of politicians and civil servants have come up through the system believing that America’s responsibility in the world is to actively promote and protect human rights everywhere it can, regardless of context. Those same politicians and civil servants no longer readily understand that the cold-blooded calculations and preparations required to prevent large and gruesome wars have any moral significance whatsoever. America’s foreign policy decision-making is far from dominated by the blinkered idealist set, but there are enough of them floating around to get the United States involved in counterproductive interventions (the war in Libya), empty grandstanding (the proposed Magnitsky bill against Russia), and potentially disruptive brinksmanship with a country that might one day evolve into an adversary (the Chen Guangcheng case).
That wisdom will ever demand that our leaders know the difference between championing human rights as a good in itself and wielding it as carefully as necessary as a cudgel against our adversaries. The older generation of human rights activists, like Robert Bernstein and, to a lesser extent, Aryeh Neier, seems to get this, at least in private. One can only hope that the next generation will get it too