The Corps Adjutant (a thoroughly Good Egg who I have some very interesting conversations with) sent me the following block of text via WhatsApp this morning. I have no idea where it comes from, and haven't yet been able to ask as he's driving the Colonel hither and yon about the country today.
It's about morality in relation to government and international relations.
This seemed to be the appropriate place for it, though it probably warrants a thread of its own.
Morgenthau, Machiavelli and Thucydides, all realist scholars, maintain that there are two forms of morality which cannot be mixed. The private sphere which constitutes the domestic and personal, and the public which could be argued as the international (Jackson, Moller, & Sorensen, 2019, p. 79). Therefore, if one is to present a discussion regarding the possibility of a state’s existential moral duties, one must understand the implications of what it means to make ‘moral judgments’ within the international system. To employ power, whether hard or soft, in regions that are outside the sovereignty of the state requires significant resources. Be implication then, are moral duties considered as activities that are in the best interests of the state? Or, as sceptics might suggest, is morality inconsequential.
In the domestic arena, morality (norms) may be argued as a defining character of a state, in partnership, and conflict, with law and power (Macmillan & Linklater, 1995, p. 47). Morality becomes a more fluid concept when you introduce the multitude of perspectives, lack of central authority and distribution of power in the international system; therefore, who is to say that it is our moral judgment that is moral? (Beitz, 1979). Although Beitz (1979:18) would later suggest that the most reasonable morality is the one that takes precedence. In contrast, Carr offers that it is only the powerful that can afford that luxury (Beardsworth, 2001, pp. 187-8). He concludes that to be able to act morally, one must be able to export morality and impress it upon others, to set the international and accepted norm. The export of norms, or culture, might thus be referred to as something like ‘Americanisation’, or perhaps its more common nomenclature; ‘Globalisation’. Thus, weak states are likely to find their morality overridden by the powerful.
Realists would contest the usefulness of, and thus imply imposition against, morality in international relations. Scholars such as Mearsheimer and Carr are, “against any moral or moral-legal form of exceptionalism or universalism shaping international politics” (Beardsworth, 2001, p. 53). Their view is that moral judgments can lead to greater violence and damage than if one assessed a problem logically. The protracted interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan provide an arguable example. Thus, morality tends to find itself best suited within the frame of theorising by liberals and normative scholars, such as Kant (1724 – 1804) and Singer (1985). The key difference between the sceptics and supporters is a defining argument for whether or not states have moral duties external to their borders. The Realists would argue that morality is largely constraining factor when compared with the value of power, despite Machiavelli (1469-1527) advocating that princes should “not deviate from what is good, if possible”. Liberals might find justification for the need to export democracy and the associated moral norms, or protect human rights (Singer, 1985); theories such as the democratic peace thesis allow for this line of thinking.
This essay agrees with Beardsworth (2001), that it is the powerful who have the indulgence of morality. Simultaneously accepting that exportation of morality is in the interests of the state, therefore a duty; however, it is also a limiting factor for allowing the state to pursue its interest carte blanc. To do so blindly may lead to greater ruin that to undertake a more measured approach.
This age thinks better of a gilded fool / Than of a threadbare saint in Wisdom's school - Thomas Dekker c1598