Human Rights and Foreign Policy: What the Kurds Learned (Case Study #15)

(1992)

January 1, 1992

This case study presents a hypothetical dialogue between an assortment of senior officials from the State, Treasury, and Defense departments and the CIA, together with several members of the National Security Council staff. The author creatively highlights how the Bush administration, in emphasizing limits in its approach to post-Gulf War Iraq, reverted to the position that "a serious human rights policy is inconsistent with diplomacy."

The Shi'ite-Kurd situation in postwar Iraq revealed the inconclusiveness of U.S. thinking about human rights, sovereignty, intervention, and realism. The initial reluctance to intervene on behalf of the oppressed Iraqis illustrated the administration's natural inclination to abide by a strict realist interpretation, an interpretation that values the balance of power over individual human rights concerns and emphasizes the nonintervention principle over humanitarian considerations.

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