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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Morality and Foreign Policy

As we explain in our chapter on foreign policy and national security, there has always been a strain  of moralism in American foreign policy (think of Wilson and the Fourteen Points).  But it has not always been a dominant strain in public opinion.  Pew reports:
Supporters of a U.S.-led military strike against Syria have largely framed the issue as a matter of protecting global security by enforcing international law. Speaking Friday at the G-20 summit in Russia,President Obama stressed that the international norm against using chemical weapons must be maintained if that and other norms are to have any meaning.
But proponents of taking military action also have sought to cast the move as a moral imperative. “This is not the time to be spectators to a slaughter,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. “Neither our country nor our conscience can afford the cost of silence.” In his comments on Friday, Obama implicitly compared the debate over Syria to international inaction during the Rwandan genocide.
While the data from different surveys taken at different times varies, Americans generally are less willing to support foreign policies on moral or humanitarian grounds than when they are cast as directly benefiting the United States or its allies.