Do our moral obligations stop at the water's edge? Do individual citizens in the affluent nations have moral obligations to the disadvantaged millions of the Third World? Can one nation wrong another? What is the proper role of natural or human rights in foreign policy? Should states aim only at enhancing their national interest or should their pursuit of national interest be constrained by moral norms?
These and related questions suggest that at least some moral principles might apply across national boundaries. But what are these principles and upon whom are they binding? Do they apply only to individuals in interpersonal relations, or do they also apply to the conduct of such institutions as the state? For example, are states morally required to sacrifice their national interest in order to meet the demands of morality?
In this chapter, we will explore questions concerning the role of morality in international affairs. Does morality even have any significant role in the international arena? The political realists answer that it does not. Let us begin by considering their views.