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Hillary Clinton's realpolitik
Why Clinton didn't lecture China on human rights in her first trip as secretary of state
 

Hillary Rodham Clinton is “a different kind of secretary of state for a different time,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. She went to Asia on her first official trip to visit countries whose help with the global economic crisis is, as she put it, “indispensable.” That need for cooperation justified her soft-pedaling of human-rights issues in China. Clinton's “nonconfrontational foreign policy” is a welcome change.

Clinton clearly believes “she is more realistic than her predecessor,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, but her conception of realpolitik is a bit “pinched.” Clinton’s “economic pragmatism” in China doesn't extend to our nearby ally Colombia. Democrats, President Obama included, opposed the free-trade agreement with Colombia “solely on human-rights grounds” because of attacks on labor leaders, proving that Democratic special interests trump all.

You have to admit that Clinton has a point, said Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. “Grandiloquent human-rights speeches that amount to nothing have been a hallmark of American foreign policy since at least 1956, when we didn't come to the aid of Hungarians taking part in a rebellion we helped incite. Fifty years of broken promises is quite enough, and if we're abandoning that habit now, good riddance.” Concrete policy changes will do more for human rights than empty talk.

Sure, there’s a “predictable rhythm both to U.S. protests and to Beijing’s responses,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. “That hardly makes them unimportant.” China might shrug off foreign input—on human rights and everything else. But Clinton’s silence will “demoralize thousands of democracy advocates in China, and it will cause many others around the world to wonder about the character of the new U.S. administration.”

 

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