How active should the United States government be in addressing violations of human rights in other countries? At what point, if any, does concern for human rights turn into ethnocentrism by failing to respect the distinctive norms, values, and customs of another culture?

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Individuals in all nations possess certain human rights. This notion has a long history and can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. The Magna Carta (1215) in England was perhaps the earliest attempt to specify rights due to individuals in what became the West.

Human rights were crucial to the founding of the United States with its Declaration of Independence: it reads,

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

In view of its historical background, it is not surprising that the United States has sometimes attempted to address human rights violations in other countries. However, the US has been inconsistent in its policies. Jimmy Carter was the first president to make human rights a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Carter's critics accused him of being too idealistic. Carter's successor, President Ronald Reagan, was not concerned with human rights; Reagan supported ruthless and repressive regimes in Central America.

As of 2020, the United States is no longer regarded as the main defender of human rights. Its damaged reputation in this regard stems partly from the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump has praised dictators throughout the world. For example, he has ignored egregious human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has slaughtered civilians in Yemen, killed and dismembered an American journalist in Turkey, and imprisoned and tortured Saudi females who had campaigned for the right to drive. Trump has ignored all of these abuses and continues to lavish praise on the kingdom's rulers. Most major Western nations—except for Germany—have followed Trump's lead on this issue.

I believe the US should consistently apply Carter's policy on the issue of human rights. Human rights are more important than trade, finance, or arms sales. The US should be the champion of human rights; the example it sets on this issue is of paramount importance for people all over the world.

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