Thinking Citizen Blog — Is It Time to Stand Up for Human Rights?

John Muresianu
4 min readFeb 1, 2021


Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’s Topic: is it time to stand up for human rights?

How “practical” and “realistic” should Biden be? What is the appropriate response to the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong and the suppression of Muslims in Xinjiang province? What does “standing with the people of Hong Kong” (NYT) mean? What military plans for the defense of Taiwan would you make (if any)? And what about human rights abuses in Russia and Iran? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

“DISSIDENTS FIRST: a foreign policy doctrine for the Biden Administration (Bret Stephens, NYT)

1. “A dissident is to a dictatorship what a bald fact is to an edifice of lies, the revelation of which causes the whole thing to crumble.” Really?

2. “What can bring dictatorships down is a credible domestic opposition that galvanizes public indignation through acts of exposure, mockery and heroic defiance.”

3. “International pressure alone was not sufficient to bring down the apartheid government in South Africa. It took Nelson Mandela. Economic decay alone was not sufficient to bring down the Communist regimes in Poland and Czechoslovakia. It took Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. The Soviet Union might be standing today had it not been for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky.”

NB: “Should China want U.S. tariffs eased? Negotiable — but not while Lai faces trial and Tohti is in prison. Would Russia like to see U.S. sanctions eased on Kremlin-favored oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska? Conceivable — but not while Navalny is under arrest and has to fear for his life. Would Iran like to resume nuclear negotiations? Then let Sotoudeh, Alinejad and every other political case in Evin Prison go.”


1. “Our nation repeatedly falls shy of its highest ideals, but the power of those ideals to inspire subjugated people everywhere, and the good that can be accomplished when America brings pressure against despotic regimes, must not be underestimated.”

2. “Words of solidarity from a US president can be a potent source of hope to those struggling for freedom. In his 2004 bestseller, “The Case for Democracy” former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky described the electrifying effect of Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire speech” on prisoners inside the Soviet gulag: “Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan’s ‘provocation’ quickly spread through the prison,” Sharansky recounted.

3. “The dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth — a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.”

NB: “The Trump administration showed little interest in either stengthening democracy or defending human rights. The same was true of the Obama administration which downplayed resistance to repression as a foreign policy goal. As Biden assumes the reins of power, he can break that pattern, and raise his voice in support of those who battle against the lies and brutality of authoritarianism.”


1. ‘The concept of human rights is the mother’s milk of the international community. Problem is, these days human rights come in more flavors than coffee and soft drinks.”

2. “Would you like the Asian, Islamic, indigenous, economic, European, or US version?”

3. “And how would you like your human rights served: with sanctions, regime change, corporate window dressing, or good old-fashioned moral suasion?”

NB: Do sanctions work? “The best analogy I always use is to think about it as batting averages, where even a really, really good baseball hitter is more likely than not going to get out. And the same is true of sanctions. Even the best sanctions have at best a 50/50 shot of working.” David Drezner, Tufts Professor, author of “The Paradox of Sanctions”


As President, anything you decide could be a death sentence for thousands, perhaps more, tomorrow and in the years to come. What a frightening responsibility!

PS: The bottom photo is of Alexei Navalny, the middle of Lech Walesa, I can not imagine anyone not being able to identify the top one.

Opinion | Hong Kong Crackdown Is an Early Test for Biden

Opinion | Dissidents First: A Foreign Policy Doctrine for the Biden Administration

Think Again: Human Rights

Economic sanctions

International sanctions

Do Sanctions Work? : The Indicator from Planet Money

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought. The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.