Last month, two religious-freedom advocates debated how best to help those persecuted for their beliefs. Michael Horowitz, director of the Hudson Institute's Project for International Religious Liberty, urged public campaigns and punitive sanctions against repressive regimes. T. Jeremy Gunn, senior fellow for religion and human rights at Emory University, favored quiet diplomacy.
Robert Seiple, former U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom is a critic of the punitive approach. Seiple wrote an essay for ChristianityToday.com in which he contrasted the "public finger pointing" of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the "quiet diplomacy" of the State Department. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) created both the USCIRF and the ambassador's post. Felice Gaer, chair of the USCIRF, responded to Seiple's article prompting Christianity Today to invite two longtime religious-rights advocates to make their cases.
We posted Horowitz's response to Gunn's original essay yesterday. Today, Gunn responds to Horowitz.
Ibegan this exchange by identifying some positive steps the United States could take to promote religious freedom abroad. I also offered several examples to show that policies relying on denunciations and sanctions are usually unsuccessful. In response, Michael Horowitz—a longtime proponent of the denunciation and sanctions approach—says, remarkably, nothing.
Nor does Horowitz take up a serious discussion of which measures are most effective in promoting religious freedom abroad. Rather, he devotes his response to inventing opinions of others and then attacking these phantoms of his own creation. Let me offer just a few examples.
My opening article did not discuss Sudan in any depth. Horowitz, with no supporting evidence, preposterously responds that this is due to my "aversion to accountability." (Horowitz would rightly object if someone accused him of an "aversion to accountability" because he did not discuss genocide in Rwanda.)
In fact, I believe that Sudanese officials are among the world's worst ongoing abusers of human rights. They have, in my opinion, committed crimes against humanity and should be fully prosecuted by competent criminal tribunals. Their bombings of civilian populations, churches, and relief organizations are among the most cynical and brutal actions of any regime in the world today. The Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations all wrongly neglected Sudan.
He falsely claims that I believe in returning to a pre-IRFA world. The truth is that I have published several articles defending and supporting IRFA and have worked for and with the Office of International Religious Freedom since its inception.
Horowitz's related fixation on ferreting out allegedly suspect opinions of Ambassador Robert Seiple—rather than focusing on implementing effective policies—is further exemplified by his attempt to re-construe long-past conversations in which Horowitz was not even present.
In a surprising but welcome about-face, Horowitz abandons his earlier denunciations of diplomacy. Indeed, he now seeks some credit for the ongoing negotiations with Sudan as well as for American diplomacy in Kazakhstan.
Let me offer three short responses.
First, I am pleased that Horowitz, although belatedly, has finally recognized the value of diplomacy, even with countries that violently abuse human rights. Engaged, quiet diplomacy should never be confused with what he originally and wrongly called "silence and passivity."
Second, Horowitz indeed deserves credit for helping to create the momentum that led to the adoption of IRFA and for bringing increased attention to Sudan (although the value of an aroused public should not be confused with the merits of his recommendations).
Third, it is nevertheless important to note that although Horowitz helped launch efforts leading to the adoption of IRFA, the law as finally enacted squarely repudiates the sanctions-oriented approach he has long advocated.
Let me explain. Horowitz authored the original "Wolf-Specter bill" on persecution in 1997. It relied exclusively on denunciations and automatic sanctions, and eschewed any role for diplomacy. When the competing IRFA bill, which did advocate diplomacy, was introduced to replace Wolf-Specter in a House subcommittee and then the Senate, Horowitz was its most vituperative opponent.
If Horowitz has forgotten his original opposition to the IRFA provisions that are now important parts of the law, I would be happy to send him copies of his original memos. (Horowitz may, however, properly take credit for proposing a Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose role he conceived to be one of denouncing governments abroad and confronting the State Department at home.)
In short, I am delighted to learn that Horowitz now approves of State Department negotiations after having opposed them before, during, and after IRFA debates. I am, however, understandably reluctant to give him credi for the "promising" diplomacy he heretofore opposed.
Horowitz begins his response by admitting that it would indeed be "extreme" to accuse people, whose viewpoints differ from his, of being morally responsible for persecution—as I showed he did in his attack on Ambassador Seiple. He limply defends himself by suggesting his words were taken out of context, though, tellingly, he provides no context that makes my comment inaccurate.
I stand by my original statement that he made this "extreme" accusation, and urge all readers to reread his original assertion in its full and ignoble context. Although this is not the first time that Horowitz has loosely made such accusations, it apparently is the first time he has realized just how "extreme" his own rhetoric can be.
On one major point I completely agree with Horowitz. We do "have profound moral responsibility for the lives of those we seek to help." But because of this, we must focus on how best to be effective abroad—as I originally suggested—and avoid attacking phantoms at home.
Horowitz concludes his response by praising the virtues of an aroused public, but he ignores the danger of a public inflamed by half-truths and stereotypes. Promoting religious freedom demands people infused with diligence and insight rather than people aroused by bombast and belligerence.
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