Bypassing realists and idealists, President Obama has staked out a boldly pragmatic approach to human rights. Critics depict the policy shift as “the downfall of human rights” and a set of “empty promises.” The problem is not with Obama’s embrace of pragmatism, or his rejection of ideology, to advance human rights. The problem is in the emphasis: human rights pragmatism should not privilege external inducements over vital on-the-ground domestic realities.

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