Commentary Magazine


A Word to Obama

The Foreign Policy Initiative, headed by my former Bush Administration colleague Jamie Fly — a rising figure in the foreign policy world — released a letter earlier today. Written to President Obama on the eve of his summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the letter expresses the belief that a positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia

requires a commitment by both countries to democracy and human rights and to urge you to reiterate that these values, which you have called universal, are inextricably linked to humane behavior at home and responsible behavior abroad. Furthermore, we ask you to meet with human rights, civil society, labor and opposition political party leaders while you are in Moscow …. We urge you to challenge Russian leaders about the lack of political and economic freedom in Russia.

The letter is signed by foreign policy experts and human rights advocates spanning a fairly wide spectrum, including people who have served in both Republican and Democratic Administrations. (Full disclosure: I am a signatory also.) It reiterates some of the arguments Obama made in his Cairo and Prague speeches about democracy and human rights and America’s commitment to both.

The hope of those who signed the letter is that Obama, having given eloquent voice to American principles, will now act on them. If he does so, the President will stand in the foreign policy tradition of the greatest leaders of his party, from Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman to John Kennedy.