This page has been prepared as a supplemental resource to the article “Is the New U.S. National Security Strategy a Step Backward on Democracy and Human Rights?” Gareth Fowler, a Carnegie junior fellow, compiled the quotes.

Democracy

  • “The United States was born of a desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and a conviction that unaccountable political power is tyranny.” (p. 1)
  • “America, with our allies and partners, defeated fascism, imperialism, and Soviet communism and eliminated any doubts about the power and durability of republican democracy when it is sustained by a free, proud, and unified people.” (p. 2)
  • “The United States consolidated its military victories with political and economic triumphs built on market economies and fair trade, democratic principles, and shared security partnerships.” (p. 2)
  • “Rival actors use propaganda and other means to try to discredit democracy. They advance anti-Western views and spread false information to create divisions among ourselves, our allies, and our partners.” (p. 3)
  • “America’s commitment to liberty, democracy, and the rule of law serves as an inspiration for those living under tyranny.” (p. 4)
  • “A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation.” (p. 14)
  • “These [rivalries with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Jihadists, and transnational criminal organizations] are fundamentally political contests between those who favor repressive systems and those who favor free societies.” (p. 25)
  • “America’s competitors weaponize information to attack the values and institutions that underpin free societies, while shielding themselves from outside information.” (p. 34)
  • “Today’s challenges to free societies are just as serious, but more diverse. State and non-state actors project influence and advance their objectives by exploiting information, democratic media freedoms, and international institutions. Repressive leaders often collaborate to subvert free societies and corrupt multilateral organizations.” (p. 37)
  • “Around the world, nations and individuals admire what America stands for. We treat people equally and value and uphold the rule of law. We have a democratic system that allows the best ideas to flourish.” (p. 37)
  • “The United States offers partnership to those who share our aspirations for freedom and prosperity. We lead by example. ‘The world has its eye upon America,’ Alexander Hamilton once observed. ‘­The noble struggle we have made in the cause of liberty, has occasioned a kind of revolution in human sentiment. The influence of our example has penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism.’” (p. 37)
  • “We encourage those who want to join our community of like-minded democratic states and improve the condition of their peoples.” (pp. 37–38)
  • “A geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order is taking place in the Indo-Pacific region.” (p. 45)
  • “A strong and free Europe is of vital importance to the United States. We are bound together by our shared commitment to the principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” (p. 47)
  • “Stable, friendly, and prosperous states in the Western Hemisphere enhance our security and benefit our economy. Democratic states connected by shared values and economic interests will reduce the violence, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration that threaten our common security, and will limit opportunities for adversaries to operate from areas of close proximity to us.” (p. 51)
  • “Today, this region [the Western Hemisphere] stands on the cusp of prosperity and peace, built upon democracy and the rule of law.” (p. 51)
  • “The [Western] hemisphere’s democratic states have a shared interest in confronting threats to their sovereignty.” (p. 51)
  • “We look forward to the day when the people of Cuba and Venezuela can enjoy freedom and the benefits of shared prosperity, and we encourage other free states in the hemisphere to support this shared endeavor.” (p. 51)
  • “People across the [African] continent are demanding government accountability and less corruption, and are opposing autocratic trends. ­The number of stable African nations has grown since the independence era as numerous countries have emerged from devastating conflicts and undergone democratic transitions.” (p. 52)
  • “The National Security Strategy celebrates and protects what we hold dear—individual liberty, the rule of law, a democratic system of government, tolerance, and opportunity for all. By knowing ourselves and what we stand for, we clarify what we must defend and we establish guiding principles for our actions.” (p. 55)

Human Rights

  • “While these challenges [Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea] differ in nature and magnitude, they are fundamentally contests between those who value human dignity and freedom and those who oppress individuals and enforce uniformity.” (p. 3)
  • “In accordance with the protection of civil liberties and privacy, the U.S. Government will expand collaboration with the private sector so that we can better detect and attribute [cyber] attacks.” (p. 13)
  • “The scourge of the world today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate all principles of free and civilized states. . . . North Korea is ruled as a ruthless dictatorship without regard for human dignity.” (p. 26)
  • “We will continue to champion American values and offer encouragement to those struggling for human dignity in their societies. There can be no moral equivalency between nations that uphold the rule of law, empower women, and respect individual rights and those that brutalize and suppress their people. Through our words and deeds, America demonstrates a positive alternative to political and religious despotism.” (p. 38)
  • “The extraordinary trajectory of the United States from a group of colonies to a thriving, industrialized, sovereign republic—the world’s lone superpower—is a testimony to the strength of the idea on which our Nation is founded, namely that each of our citizens is born free and equal under the law. America’s core principles, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, are secured by the Bill of Rights, which proclaims our respect for fundamental individual liberties beginning with the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, and assembly. Liberty, free enterprise, equal justice under the law, and the dignity of every human life are central to who we are as a people.” (p. 41)
  • “Governments that respect the rights of their citizens remain the best vehicle for prosperity, human happiness, and peace. In contrast, governments that routinely abuse the rights of their citizens do not play constructive roles in the world. For example, governments that fail to treat women equally do not allow their societies to reach their potential.” (p. 41)
  • “No nation can unilaterally alleviate all human suffering, but just because we cannot help everyone does not mean that we should stop trying to help anyone. For much of the world, America’s liberties are inspirational, and the United States will always stand with those who seek freedom. We will remain a beacon of liberty and opportunity around the world.” (p. 41)
  • “The United States also remains committed to supporting and advancing religious freedom—America’s first freedom. Our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God to every person and a fundamental right for our flourishing society.” (p. 41)
  • “We support, with our words and actions, those who live under oppressive regimes and who seek freedom, individual dignity, and the rule of law. We are under no obligation to offer the benefits of our free and prosperous community to repressive regimes and human rights abusers. We may use diplomacy, sanctions, and other tools to isolate states and leaders who threaten our interests and whose actions run contrary to our values. We will not remain silent in the face of evil. We will hold perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities accountable.” (p. 42)
  • “Societies that empower women to participate fully in civic and economic life are more prosperous and peaceful. We will support efforts to advance women’s equality, protect the rights of women and girls, and promote women and youth empowerment programs.” (p. 42)
  • “We will advocate on behalf of religious freedom and threatened minorities. Religious minorities continue to be victims of violence. We will place a priority on protecting these groups and will continue working with regional partners to protect minority communities from attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage.” (p. 42)
  • “We will support efforts to counter violent ideologies and increase respect for the dignity of individuals [in the Middle East].” (p. 49)

Accountable Governance

  • “And we are a nation of laws, because the rule of law is the shield that protects the individual from government corruption and abuse of power, allows families to live without fear, and permits markets to thrive.” (p. 2)
  • “As it [the internet] evolves, the government and private sector must design systems that incorporate prevention, protection, and resiliency from the start, not as an afterthought. We must do so in a way that respects free markets, private competition, and the limited but important role of government in enforcing the rule of law.” (p. 13)
  • “Using our economic and diplomatic tools, the United States will continue to target corrupt foreign officials and work with countries to improve their ability to fight corruption so U.S. companies can compete fairly in transparent business climates.” (p. 20)
  • “The United States will promote a development model that partners with countries that want progress, consistent with their culture, based on free market principles, fair and reciprocal trade, private sector activity, and rule of law.” (pp. 38–39)
  • “The United States will use diplomacy and assistance to encourage states to make choices that improve governance, rule of law, and sustainable development. We already do this through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which selects countries that are committed to reform and then monitors and evaluates their projects.” (p. 39)
  • “The United States must use its diplomatic, economic, and military tools simultaneously when assisting aspiring partners. We will place a priority on economic support that achieves local and macroeconomic stability, helps build capable security forces, and strengthens the rule of law.” (p. 40)
  • “Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation. We will redouble our commitment to established alliances and partnerships, while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law.” (pp. 46–47)
  • “We will build upon local efforts [in the Western Hemisphere] and encourage cultures of lawfulness to reduce crime and corruption, including by supporting local efforts to professionalize police and other security forces; strengthen the rule of law and undertake judicial reform; and improve information sharing to target criminals and corrupt leaders and disrupt illicit trafficking.” (p. 51)
  • “We will encourage reform, working with promising [African] nations to promote effective governance, improve the rule of law, and develop institutions accountable and responsive to citizens.” (p. 52)
  • “We will continue to respond to humanitarian needs while also working with committed [African] governments and regional organizations to address the root causes of human suffering. If necessary, we are prepared to sanction government officials and institutions that prey on their citizens and commit atrocities. When there is no alternative, we will suspend aid rather than see it exploited by corrupt elites.” (p. 52)

Fragile States

  • “[T]hey [Jihadists and transnational criminal organizations] thrive under conditions of state weakness and prey on the vulnerable as they accelerate the breakdown of rules to create havens from which to plan and launch attacks on the United States, our allies, and our partners.” (p. 10)
  • “Time and territory allow jihadist terrorists to plot, so we will act against sanctuaries and prevent their reemergence, before they can threaten the U.S. homeland.” (p. 11)
  • “TCOs [Transnational Criminal Organizations] are motivated by profit, power, and political influence. They exploit weak governance and enable other national security threats, including terrorist organizations.” (p. 12)
  • “Diplomacy is indispensable to identify and implement solutions to conflicts in unstable regions of the world short of military involvement. . . . Authoritarian states are eager to replace the United States where the United States withdraws our diplomats and closes our outposts.” (p. 33)
  • “The United States will urge states where radicalism thrives to take greater responsibility for countering violent messaging and promoting tolerant and pluralistic worldviews.” (p. 35)
  • “These aspiring partners include states that are fragile, recovering from conflict, and seeking a path forward to sustainable security and economic growth. Stable, prosperous, and friendly states enhance American security and boost U.S. economic opportunities.” (p. 38)
  • “Some of the greatest triumphs of American statecraft resulted from helping fragile and developing countries become successful societies. These successes, in turn, created profitable markets for American businesses, allies to help achieve favorable regional balances of power, and coalition partners to share burdens and address a variety of problems around the world. Over time, the United States has helped create a network of states that advance our common interests and values.” (p. 38)
  • “Within this framework [using development assistance to support American interests], the United States will also assist fragile states to prevent threats to the U.S. homeland. Transnational threat organizations, such as jihadist terrorists and organized crime, often operate freely from fragile states and undermine sovereign governments. Failing states can destabilize entire regions.” (p. 39)
  • “We will give priority to strengthening states where state weaknesses or failure would magnify threats to the American homeland. For instance, engagement in Afghanistan seeks to prevent the reemergence of terrorist safe havens.” (pp. 39–40)
  • “Political problems are at the root of most state fragility. The United States will prioritize programs that empower reform-minded governments, people, and civil society. As the United States designs its efforts, inputs from local actors improve the likelihood of enduring solutions, reduce costs, and increase accountability to the American taxpayer.” (p. 40)
  • “In other regions of the world, instability and weak governance threaten U.S. interests. Some governments are unable to maintain security and meet the basic needs of their people, making their country and citizens vulnerable to predators. Terrorists and criminals thrive where governments are weak, corruption is rampant, and faith in government institutions is low. Strategic competitors often exploit rather than discourage corruption and state weakness to extract resources and exploit their populations.” (p. 45)
  • “Regions afflicted by instability and weak governments also offer opportunities to improve security, promote prosperity, and restore hope. Aspiring partner states across the developing world want to improve their societies, build transparent and effective governments, confront non-state threats, and strengthen their sovereignty. Many recognize the opportunities offered by market economies and political liberties and are eager for partnership with the United States and our allies. ­The United States will encourage aspiring partners as they undertake reforms and pursue their aspirations. States that prosper and nations that transition from recipients of development assistance to trading partners offer economic opportunities for American businesses. And stability reduces threats that target Americans at home.” (p. 45)
  • “For years, the interconnected problems of Iranian expansion, state collapse, jihadist ideology, socio-economic stagnation, and regional rivalries have convulsed the Middle East.” (p. 48)
  • “ISIS and al-Qa’ida thrive on instability and export violent jihad. Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding. . . . Rival states are filling vacuums created by state collapse and prolonged regional conflict.” (p. 49)
  • “Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies, and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence. Encouraging political stability and sustainable prosperity would contribute to dampening the conditions that fuel sectarian grievances.” (p. 49)
  • “We will continue to promote anti-corruption reform in Afghanistan to increase the legitimacy of its government and reduce the appeal of violent extremist organizations.” (p. 50)
  • “Transnational criminal organizations—including gangs and cartels—perpetuate violence and corruption, and threaten the stability of Central American states including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.” (p. 51)
  • “Despite this progress, many states face political turbulence and instability that spills into other regions. Corruption and weak governance threaten to undermine the political benefits that should emerge from new economic opportunities. Many African states are battlegrounds for violent extremism and jihadist terrorists.” (p. 52)
  • “Improved governance in these [African] states supports economic development and opportunities, diminishes the attraction of illegal migration, and reduces vulnerability to extremists, thereby reducing instability.” (p. 52)

Multilateralism

  • “We recognize the invaluable advantages that our strong relationships with allies and partners deliver.” (p. 2)
  • “When America does lead, however, from a position of strength and confidence and in accordance with our interests and values, all benefit.” (p. 3)
  • “Diplomats must identify opportunities for commerce and cooperation, and facilitate the cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges that create the networks of current and future political, civil society, and educational leaders who will extend a free and prosperous world.” (p. 33)
  • “Relationships, developed over time, create trust and shared understanding that the United States calls upon when confronting security threats, responding to crises, and encouraging others to share the burden for tackling the world’s challenges. We must enable forward-deployed field work beyond the confines of diplomatic facilities, including partnering with military colleagues in conflict-affected states.” (p. 33)
  • “We will work with like-minded partners to build support for tools of economic diplomacy against shared threats. Multilateral economic pressure is often more effective because it limits the ability of targeted states to circumvent measures and conveys united resolve.” (p. 34)
  • “Local voices are most compelling and effective in ideological competitions. We must amplify credible voices and partner with them to advance alternatives to violent and hateful messages.” (p. 35)
  • “These achievements [post-WWII reconstruction and growth in Europe and East Asia] were products of patient partnerships with those who aspired to build prosperous societies and join the community of democratic states. They resulted in mutually beneficial relationships in which the United States helped states mobilize their own resources to achieve transitions to growth and stability. Working with these countries made the United States wealthier and more competitive. This progress illustrates how effective foreign assistance programs should reach their natural endpoint.” (p. 38)
  • “The United States must lead and engage in the multinational arrangements that shape many of the rules that affect U.S. interests and values. A competition for influence exists in these institutions. As we participate in them, we must protect American sovereignty and advance American interests and values.” (p. 40)
  • “Authoritarian actors have long recognized the power of multilateral bodies and have used them to advance their interests and limit the freedom of their own citizens. If the United States cedes leadership of these bodies to adversaries, opportunities to shape developments that are positive for the United States will be lost.” (p. 40)
  • “The United States will strive for outcomes in political and security forums that are consistent with U.S. interests and values—values which are shared by our allies and partners.” (p. 40)
  • “Sustaining favorable balances of power will require a strong commitment and close cooperation with allies and partners because allies and partners magnify U.S. power and extend U.S. influence. They share our interests and responsibility for resisting authoritarian trends, contesting radical ideologies, and deterring aggression.” (p. 45)
  • “The United States will deepen collaboration with our European allies and partners to confront forces threatening to undermine our common values, security interests, and shared vision.” (p. 48)
  • “By revitalizing partnerships with reform-minded nations and encouraging cooperation among partners in the region [Middle East], the United States can promote stability and a balance of power that favors U.S. interests.” (p. 49)
  • “We will strengthen partnerships, and form new ones, to help advance security through stability. Whenever possible, we will encourage gradual reforms.” (p. 49)