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William F. Schulz, ed. The Future of Human Rights: U.S. Policy for a New Era. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights Series. Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. 288 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8122-4111-2. Reviewed by Brad Simpson (Assistant Professor of History and International Affairs, Princeton University) Published on H-Human-Rights (March, 2009) Commissioned by Rebecca K. Root The As-Yet-Unseen Era of Human Rights in U.S. Foreign Policy On his first day as president of the United States, Barack Obama signed three executive orders and issued a presidential directive ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; suspending trials for terrorist suspects under the widely criticized military commissions system; and bringing all U.S. interrogations of detainees in line with the U.S. Army Field Manual, which bars the use of torture, threats, coercion, and physical abuse. Human rights groups hailed the decisions, which implicitly acknowledged the extraordinary damage that the Bush administration's policies in the so-called war on terror have inflicted on U.S. interests and the cause of human rights more generally. Yet, as William F. Schulz's edited collection _The Future of Human Rights_ suggests, merely rolling back the last eight years of abusive practices and policies will not confer global leadership on human rights issues on the United States. Rather, the Obama administration must fundamentally reconceptualize the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy in ways that no administration, Democratic or Republican, has yet sought to do since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948. The fourteen essays in this volume are organized topically, written by human rights practitioners, legal scholars, and former Clinton administration policymakers. Each traces the major policy and legal issues surrounding a particular human rights area or process--detention and interrogation practices; economic sanctions; humanitarian intervention; democracy promotion; economic, social, and cultural rights; religious freedom; immigrant and refugee rights; women's rights; labor rights; etc. Each also critiques past policies and provides the Obama administration and other policymakers with a lengthy "to do" list for moving forward, generally involving an end to current abuses, the embrace of international standards and cooperation, and further institutionalization of human rights practices. This is a book geared toward policymakers and nongovernmental organization (NGOs) activists and not historians, and will most likely find a home in courses on contemporary human rights, international law, and international relations. While treating the 1990s as if it represented the distant and seemingly sunny past, the book nevertheless raises important questions about the recent history of human rights that bear further investigation. Schulz, former director of Amnesty International USA and a fellow at the Center for American Progress, provides an overview in which he argues that American neoconservatives since the 1990s have advocated a particular brand of human rights exceptionalism rooted in a "natural law theory of rights," rejection of international standards and institutions, and belief that the United States alone can create the international conditions for security and justice (p. 8). Yet historians of human rights, such as Paul Gordon Lauren (_The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen_ ), Liz Borgwardt (_A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights_ ), and others, have noted that similar conceptions animated early opposition to U.S. ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as virtually every subsequent covenant and convention. The more glaring departure from past human rights practices, as John Shattuck and Elisa Massamino point out in their chapters on national security and counterterrorism, lie in Washington's explicit embrace of torture and rejection of international humanitarian law, lines that U.S. administrations during the Cold War were reluctant to cross for fear of endangering U.S. soldiers captured by Soviet or other Communist armies. The essays here are unfailingly presentist, providing detailed explorations of contemporary human rights policy areas where the United States has rejected international standards or failed to provide global leadership. It is perhaps unfair to critique a policy-oriented book for not being written for an audience of historians, but two points are in order. A longer term perspective would illustrate the deeply rooted skepticism of and opposition to a fuller embrace of human rights, stretching back over decades, among a broad crosscurrent of both Democrats and Republicans in Washington. Though most of the authors hearken back to the 1990s as a relative golden age of human rights, they also note that the Clinton administration proved similarly resistant to demands by NGOs and the international community that the United States accept the coequal status of the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); incorporate labor rights into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade pacts; or press corporations operating abroad to respect and improve worker rights. The new administration is unlikely to tack back further in the direction of human rights than its Democratic predecessor, and has already embraced some of the Bush administration's more objectionable policies as the Pentagon, Justice Department, and other agencies defend their expanded power and institutional prerogatives. More useful from this perspective is the chapter by Eric Schwartz, a former National Security Council (NSC) staff person under President Bill Clinton, who traces the NSC's evolving structure for decision making regarding human rights and democracy, and suggests ways that the Obama administration could further institutionalize and even incentivize human rights advocacy within executive branch agencies, such as the State Department and the US Agency for International Development. Personnel, however, also matter. Recent reports that Michael Posner, head of Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights), is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's choice for assistant secretary of state for Democracy and Human Rights and Labor offer one hopeful sign amid abundant evidence of continuity. Second, a broader perspective would more fully describe the role that social movements, religious organizations, students, foundations, human rights NGOs, and others, working with Congress and occasionally sympathetic executive branch officials have played (and could play in the future) in pressing previous administrations to shift their positions on particular human rights practices. Recent Supreme Court and federal court rulings, for example, allowing U.S. corporations, such as Exxon-Mobil, Chiquita, and Mobil, to be sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act for human rights abuses committed abroad represent the culmination of decades of consumer, labor, and human rights activism that have created new norms now being acknowledged by judicial bodies and, reluctantly, sometimes by the executive branch. Similar dynamics underlie expanded domestic and international advocacy on behalf of women's rights, religious freedom, genocide prevention, and other human rights issues in recent decades. The volume's focus on human rights practices and processes obscures one glaring omission--any detailed discussion of the relationship between U.S. military power and assistance and human rights abuses. January 20, 2008, marked Obama's inauguration not just as the first African American president of the United States but also as the world's leading arms dealer (the United States completed thirty-two billion dollars in foreign military sales agreements in 2007); military trainer (with much of this aid flowing to conflict zones in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia where human rights abuses are rampant); and military landlord, overseeing a network of more than 700 military bases in over 130 countries. The first wave of NGO and congressional human rights activists in the 1970s, focusing on torture by and U.S. military assistance to human rights abusing regimes, viewed progress on this front as indispensably linked to a wide array of other human rights challenges--including many discussed above. The history of recent human rights activism and successes, and opposition to them by both conservatives and liberals still wedded to the idea of American exceptionalism, suggests that the Obama administration and forces deeply entrenched in Congress, executive branch agencies, the business community, and the Pentagon will resist many of the eminently sensible prescriptive suggestions offered by the authors of this collection; and that the rest of the world will have good reason to doubt the sincerity of the U.S. commitment to international human rights standards and practices. Citation: Brad Simpson. Review of Schulz, William F., ed., _The Future of Human Rights: U.S. Policy for a New Era._. H-Human-Rights, H-Net Reviews. March, 2009. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=23545 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.