Special-Interest Lobbies - Ideological lobbies of the late twentieth century

Vietnam Antiwar Movement The anti–nuclear bomb campaign, along with the civil rights movement, signaled the emergence of new and powerful ideological tendencies in the United States. The war in Vietnam in the 1960s and into the 1970s resulted in a steadily intensifying national debate and an antiwar movement of unprecedented scope and intensity. If the antiwar movement failed to conform to some of the more recognizable criteria of a lobby, its ultimate impact on American politics, on the organization of Congress, and on Americans' attitudes toward their government nevertheless precipitated an unprecedented engagement of the people with their government on foreign affairs issues that permanently changed the geography of foreign policy decision making.

The antiwar movement began on college campuses in the spring of 1965 with "teach-ins" and spread spontaneously later that year. Well-established peace groups like the SANE and traditional religious pacifist groups took up the movement. The November 1965 March on Washington brought together the largest antiwar protest seen in Washington in the postwar years and led to hearings on Vietnam before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 1966. In 1967 the movement spread beyond the traditional arms control and pacifist groups to new specialized coalitions of activists from recently radicalized portions of the population. The new groups included Another Mother for Peace, Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, and the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War.

As the war continued, its domestic consequences included the shattering of the American consensus on foreign policy, skepticism about the veracity of the government, and a conviction of the need to petition the government directly and confrontationally. Antiwar demonstrations, although largely made up of middle-class and better-educated Americans, became increasingly strident and radical. In April 1967, 50,000 people in San Francisco gathered to protest the war and 200,000 demonstrated in New York. The October 1967 March on Washington drew 100,000 demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial and 50,000 in a march on the embattled Pentagon.

President Richard M. Nixon's efforts to "Vietnamize" the war in Southeast Asia were frustratingly slow in bringing an end to the fighting. Continued bombing and new incursions outside Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia regenerated the antiwar movement. There were nationwide demonstrations in October 1969, along with mail campaigns aimed at Congress. Massive demonstrations in Washington in November 1969 included candle-carrying demonstrators circling the White House, which was protected behind a barricade of buses, and the massing of 325,000 marchers on the Mall. The demonstrations persisted into 1971 and 1972 as the war continued. The conflict ended formally in January 1973 after protracted negotiations in Paris, with the last U.S. personnel leaving Vietnam in 1975.

Frustrated at its inability to end American military involvement in Southeast Asia, Congress from 1973 to 1975 undertook a series of legislative actions focused on the president's war powers. These measures were aimed at limiting the initiative of the president in foreign affairs by insisting on congressional involvement in decisions concerning not only U.S. military engagement in other countries but in the rendering of military and economic assistance. The efforts of the anti–Vietnam War movement to halt American involvement in Vietnam thus served as the catalyst for a revolution in foreign policymaking. Moreover, the horrendous excesses of the Vietnam War aroused the sensibilities of the American people and confirmed their new attentiveness to humanitarian, social, and even environmental issues. This gave rise to the emergence of new and powerful foreign affairs lobbies based on previously unheard interest groups and constituencies.

Environmental Lobby For Americans concerned about foreign policy, the anti–Vietnam War movement provided the model of how to influence and lobby policymakers. The environmental movement was one of the earliest outgrowths of the Vietnam experience. Millions were estimated to have participated in local activities during the first Earth Day, held in April 1970. Beginning that year the movement's more radical adherents employed the anticorporate rhetoric and civil-disobedience tactics developed by the Vietnam-era demonstrators. The mass action and confrontational model adopted by environmental advocates intersected with controversial foreign affairs issues in the 1990s to draw attention to the anti-environmental consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the decisions in support of economic globalization made at meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999 and the World Bank in Washington, D.C., in 2000.

Human Rights Lobby In the first decades after the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the issue of human rights was overshadowed by the Cold War. The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group founded in 1943, developed a reputation for lobbying activity on behalf of domestic civil rights and a humane foreign policy. It took a leading role in marshaling liberal political lobbies regarding the protection of human rights in the regional conflicts in Latin America. But the human rights lobby did not become important until the early 1970s. It was sparked in part by the civil rights movement of the 1960s but also by the fact that a major change occurred during the 1970s in the way American foreign policy was pursued. In that decade Congress acquired much more influence in the formulation of foreign policy. That was made possible particularly by the War Powers Act in 1973 but also by new measures for oversight of CIA operations, including creation of the permanent Joint Committee on Intelligence in 1976 and passage of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which regulated arms sales abroad.

Of signal importance was the revision in 1975 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include a provision for congressional supervision of the application of human rights standards in decisions about economic assistance. The revision, called the Harkin Amendment, forbade for the first time the provision of assistance to "any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations on internationally recognized human rights" unless the president determined that such aid would "directly benefit needy people" in the country.

Soon after the revision of the Foreign Assistance Act, human rights lobbies—much to the dismay of both the Ford and Carter administrations—began to intensify their efforts to halt or curb assistance to countries such as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Uganda, and Ethiopia, whose governments were consistent human rights violators. The liberal human rights lobbying groups were soon matched by conservative human rights lobbies seeking to halt assistance to left-wing regimes in such countries as Angola and Mozambique. The Nixon and Ford administrations, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the State Department sought to dissuade Congress with warnings of the negative impact that the withdrawal of aid would have on important relationships. The lobbyists could not persuade Congress to end or significantly scale back assistance to such strategically important nations as South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Philippines, even though their human rights records were poor. Human rights organizations did, however, become a primary source of legislative initiatives concerning U.S. policy on human rights issues in matters before the multilateral development banks, the International Monetary Fund, and the Export-Import Bank.

Nowhere were the post-1970 efforts of American human rights lobbies more vigorous than in the area of U.S. relations with Latin America. The human rights groups filled an information vacuum, providing sympathetic policymakers with information not accessible from government agencies. More importantly, in the 1970s ideologically liberal human rights groups developed more sophisticated, broadly based, and effective lobbying techniques. The Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) made U.S. support for repressive regimes in Latin America a major foreign policy issue. The ADA took the lead in opposing the oppressive regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in the mid-1970s by persuading Congress to limit assistance to that nation. The human rights lobby incited congressional action that ended military training for Argentina by exposing the brutality of the Argentine regime. In the 1980s the human rights lobby and its concerns about regimes with bad human rights records mobilized public opinion and contributed significantly to congressional action restraining President Ronald Reagan's policies for military and covert operations in Central America. To hamper opponents of military intervention, the Internal Revenue Service went so far as to challenge the tax-exempt status of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), one of the main opponents of Central American policy.

While American business lobbies avoided taking a public stance against human rights lobbies, especially in the case of Latin America, they cultivated U.S. government support for regimes accused of repressive conduct and human rights violations. International Telephone and Telegraph was remarkably successful in promoting U.S. hostility to the Marxist government of Chile in the early 1970s. The successor right-wing government of Pinochet, in contrast, was supported by the business lobby.

Such key organizations as the Business Roundtable ensured that their members had personal meetings on foreign affairs issues with members of Congress and high-ranking executive branch officials, including the president. U.S. business interests in Latin America worked through organizations such as the Council of the Americas, a nonprofit association supported by more than two hundred corporations doing business in Latin America, and the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America. Neither organization opposed U.S. expressions of concern about human rights violations but sought to encourage the U.S. government to avoid actions that would disrupt normal lending policies of international financial institutions.

Amnesty International, which opened an office in Washington in 1976, and the International Commission of Jurists, based in Geneva, Switzerland, did not lobby Congress or the executive branch on human rights, but the authoritative information on human rights violations that these organizations provided made human rights lobbies more effective in Congress. In addition, the persistent lobbying by American groups of State Department officials responsible for human rights policy made the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission the stalwart defender of human rights in nations around the world through the remainder of the twentieth century.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s, Congress and the Clinton administration responded to a rising tide of lobbying on behalf of the victims, mostly Jewish, of fascist regimes in Europe, particularly Nazi Germany. The collapse of communism allowed for the revisiting of the unfinished history of the Holocaust era and a search for some final restitution to victims of Nazi aggression and genocide. In the United States, as in some European nations, Jewish organizations mobilized government support for a campaign against Switzerland, whose banks were alleged to hold the accounts of thousands of heirless victims of Nazi concentration camps. The U.S. and British governments took the lead in organizing an international effort to identify and recover what remained of monetary assets and gold looted by the Nazi regime. The lobbying effort expanded to other kinds of properties stolen from European Jews, such as art, insurance, and communal properties. By the end of the century it had extended its reach to the search for compensation for slave labor in Nazi Germany.

Anti-Apartheid Lobby The founding of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 and Trans Africa in 1978 provided a focus for a remarkably effective lobby for African issues, particularly initiatives aimed at thwarting and overturning the apartheid policies of the white-minority government in South Africa. A coalition of anti-apartheid groups gathered under the umbrella of the Free South Africa Movement stirred public awareness of the consequences of South Africa's racist policies. These organizations provided information, not forthcoming from the executive branch of the U.S. government, for the debate over American policy toward Africa and the white-minority governments in Africa, particularly South Africa. They rallied around the socalled Sullivan Principles, formulated in the late 1970s by the Reverend Leon Sullivan and expressing basic requirements for the equal treatment of black workers in South Africa and for improving living conditions outside the workplace. These organizations lobbied members of Congress and, more effectively, the major corporations doing business in South Africa, which were persuaded to adopt the principles.

This remarkable effort to refashion American foreign policy by an alliance of black activists, corporations, and some members of Congress went forward in the absence of direction from the president and the State Department. The alliance decisively influenced the 1985 passage in Congress, over President Reagan's veto, of legislation imposing economic sanctions on South Africa and a ban on major investments in and exports to that country. This was the first time since 1973—when Congress overrode President Nixon's veto of the War Powers Act—that Congress overrode a presidential veto on a foreign affairs issue. Secretary of State George Shultz, who preferred a more restrained and studied effort to change South Africa's policies, deplored the action by Congress as a true erosion of the president's ability to conduct foreign policy.

Women's Issues and Lobbies The vigorous involvement by women in the antibomb and anti–Vietnam War campaigns in the 1960s launched a new and powerful assertiveness by women in foreign affairs issues. This involvement coincided with the rapid evolution of the feminist movement. Observers have noted that no new domestic interest group rose more rapidly during the 1970s than organized feminism. One persistent demand of women's organizations from that time forward was the appointment of more women to government positions. The Coalition for Women's Appointments, representing more than fifty women's organizations, made the first-ever independent effort by women's groups to lobby for the appointment of women to major posts.

The number of appointments of women to policymaking positions in the foreign affairs community slowly grew during the rest of the century but scarcely kept up with the rapidly strengthening international movement for women's rights. World conferences on women were convened at Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, and Nairobi in 1985, and women's rights were high on the agendas of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, and the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. Thousands of American women, most often organized in hundreds of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), supported the advancement of women's issues in these and other international meetings and organizations. These women vigorously lobbied the U.S. government, particularly the State Department and the White House, beginning with the Carter presidency. The foreign affairs bureaucracy responded by appointing women to represent the United States on women's issues before the UN and other international organizations and to provide American leadership to international movements for women's rights.

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