What are you looking for?

Schmidli, William Michael

Schmidli, William Michael

Individual Fellow

Human Rights, Democracy Promotion, and U.S. Interventionism in the late Cold War

Research Question

Why did democracy promotion emerge as the centerpiece of the U.S. human rights policy during the 1980s? What was the relationship between human rights and U.S. political and economic interventionism?

Project Description

Focusing on the multi-faceted conflict in the 1980s between the United States and Nicaragua, this project examines how the Ronald Reagan administration used the discourse of democracy promotion—as the centerpiece of the administration’s human rights policy—to justify interventionist policies abroad. By the end of the decade, a distinctive form of U.S. political and economic interventionism—pursued through civil society or proxy warfare and rooted in the neoliberal imperatives of U.S.-led globalization—had emerged as a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, with significant implications for post-Cold War international relations.

Selected Publications

W. M. Schmidli, “Rockin’ to Free the World?: Amnesty International’s Benefit Concert Tours, 1986-88” Diplomatic History (2021),

W. M. Schmidli and Robert Pee, eds., The Reagan Administration, the Cold War, and the Transition to Democracy Promotion (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019),

W. M. Schmidli, The Fate of Freedom Elsewhere: Human Rights and U.S. Cold War Policy toward Argentina (Cornell University Press, 2013).