Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy: Prevarications and Evasions, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy

Prevarications and Evasions, 1st Edition

By Clair Apodaca


200 pages

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Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy provides a comprehensive historical overview and analysis of the complex and often vexing problem of understanding the formation of U.S. human rights policy.

The proper place of human rights and fundamental freedoms in U.S. foreign policy has long been debated among scholars, politicians, and the American public. Clair Apodaca argues that the history of U.S.human rights policy unfolds as a series of prevarications that are the result of presidential preferences, along with the conflict and cooperation among bureaucratic actors.

Through a series of chapters devoted to U.S. presidential administrations from Richard Nixon to the present, she delivers a comprehensive historical, social, and cultural context to understand the development and implementation of U.S. human rights policy. For each administration, she pays close attention to how ideology, bureaucratic politics, lobbying, and competition affect the inclusion or exclusion of human rights in the economic and military aid allocation decisions of the United States. She further demonstrates that from the inception of U.S. human rights policy, presidents have attempted to tell only part of the truth or to reformulate the truth by redefining the meaning of the terms "human rights," "democracy," or "torture," for example. In this way, human rights policy has been about prevarication.

Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy is a key text for students, which will appeal to all readers who will find a historically informed, argument driven account of the erratic evolution of U.S. human rights policy since the Nixon Administration.


"This incisive book offers an accessible and informative history of the political machinery behind US human rights policy. In these precarious times for world politics and the United States' role in them, this is critical reading for those wanting to understand the trajectory of US human rights policy. A long and varied trajectory—sometimes cyclical and sometimes oscillating—that Apodaca carefully charts from the eras of Nixon to Trump."Phillip M. Ayoub, Associate Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs, Occidental College

"Clair Apodaca’s new book, Human Rights and US Foreign Policy, offers an unsparing dissection of the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy under every president from Nixon forward. Presidents of both parties come in for justified, and well documented, criticism. The book argues that presidents have employed "prevarication" -- ambiguity, secrecy, misdirection, and deceit – as a means of avoiding or even degrading human rights principles in U.S. foreign policy. It is not just a story of presidents: Apodaca carefully assesses the actions (and inactions) of Congress and the administrative agencies as well. Though her critiques of the American record are incisive, Apodaca argues in the concluding chapter that human rights, despite recent challenges, will remain an important element of U.S. foreign policy. If you care about foreign policy or human rights, read this book." Wayne Sandholtz, John A. McCone Chair in International Relations, University of Southern California

"Human Rights and US Foreign Policy: Prevarications and Evasions is a must-read for scholars of human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Clair Apodaca’s ambitious research shows the trajectory of U.S. human rights foreign policy over the past 50 years, paying particular attention to how abiding questions about human rights have persisted across issue areas, between branches of government and over nine presidential administrations. This thoughtful and highly engaging research will encourage readers to reflect on the past half-century of U.S. human rights foreign policy and contemplate the future of human rights and the U.S.’s role therein." Courtney Hillebrecht, Samuel Clark Waugh Professor of International Relations, Associate Professor of Political Science

"This comprehensive history of U.S. human rights policy "follows the money" to offer a fresh and sober analysis of the perpetual struggle between architects of national security and advocates of democratic aspirations. Apodaca's text will be a welcome guide to students of human rights, American politics, and international relations." Alison Brysk, Mellichamp Professor of Global Governance, University of California, Santa Barbara

Table of Contents

1. The Battlefield of Foreign Aid as Foreign Policy

2. U.S. Human Rights Policy during the Cold War: A Historical Overview

3. U.S. Human Rights Policy in the Post-Cold War Era: A Decade of Lost Opportunities

4. The Prevaricator in Chief: George W. Bush (2001-2009)

5. The Prevaricator of Change: Barak Obama (2009-2017)

6. A Prevaricator who old the Truth: Donald Trump

7. The Future of United States Human Rights Policy

About the Author

Clair Apodaca (Ph.D., Purdue University, 1996) is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech University.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Human Rights

The Routledge Human Rights series publishes high quality and cross-disciplinary scholarship on topics of key importance in human rights today. In a world where human rights are both celebrated and contested, this series is committed to create stronger links between disciplines and explore new methodological and theoretical approaches in human rights research. Aimed towards both scholars and human rights professionals, the series strives to provide both critical analysis and policy-oriented research in an accessible form. The series welcomes work on specific human rights issues as well as on cross-cutting themes and institutional perspectives.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Human Rights