Ethics and Statecraft: The Moral Dimension of International Affairs

Ethics and Statecraft: The Moral Dimension of International Affairs

Ethics and Statecraft: The Moral Dimension of International Affairs

Ethics and Statecraft: The Moral Dimension of International Affairs


This unique text by a group of eminent scholars offers "a set of portraits of key leaders struggling with great moral issues in critical political settings." The use of political biographies to illustrate the exercise of statecraft during periods of war, in peacemaking, and in times of major change cuts to the heart of the role of ethics in the decision-making process and in international affairs. Good inter-disciplinary reading for courses in diplomatic history, ethics, international relations, political leadership, and political philosophy.


Joel H. Rosenthal

One of the first things one notices in the field of ethics and international affairs is the "level of analysis" problem. Shall we look at the international system as our target of analysis, the nation state, or the individual statesman? Naturally, all must be considered together, although it is reasonable to single out any one for alternative analysis. One way to deal with this problem is by using the conventions of history and biography. This approach allows for giving due weight to all three levels, while placing an emphasis on the individual and the role of conscience. There are few more compelling sources for the study of ethics and international affairs than the true stories and historical experiences of statesmen who made hard choices in reconciling principle and power. in the tradition of Aristotle and Plutarch, we can learn from example and from biography: one cannot deny the moral power of good stories.

The challenge for us is to make some sense of these stories, perhaps to extract some generalizations that may allow us to get beyond individual examples as a string of anecdotes. There is of course a legitimate question as to how theoretically rigorous one can be in this area: the theme of moral statesmanship is by its very nature not conducive to "scientific" study that would please natural scientists and social science quantifiers. Yet as this volume demonstrates, this theme is nevertheless thematically cogent and worthy of systematic study.

One of the objectives of this volume is to bridge the gap between the literature of moral judgment on specific events (e.g. the Holocaust, the Vietnam War), and the literature that assesses individual leaders. the literature of events enjoys the benefit of credible normative criteria such as . . .

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