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Morality and Foreign Policy

197 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

Political Science & Political History

  Paperback / 9780807110072 / February 1982

Kenneth W. Thompson admits that moral pronouncements and human conduct are often widely separated, particularly in international events. In order to balance harmony and disharmony, world and self interests, nations observe moral principles less rigidly than do smaller communities. To understand how the separation between pronouncements and conduct widens in matters of foreign policy, Thompson candidly faces such issues as the harsh decisions that countries must make, the need for hypocrisy, and the resulting self-righteousness.

Morality and Foreign Policy looks at the assumptions and principles that underlie historic debates about the ethics of foreign policy. Tracing decisions in policy from the 1800s to he present, Thompson views his subject from an American perspective but also concentrates on diverse international contexts in which decisions are made.

Thompson cautiously maintains his balance on the fine wire between speaking up for America and embarking on an ideological crusade. He provides such examples from current events as the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and the East-West Cold War to show how easily one can fall on one side or the other. He contrasts the problem of order in America and the Third World and shows how the latter’s is weighted by a special urgency, protest, and antithesis to the democratic process.

For Kenneth Thompson, American moral reasoning is “a practical alternative to abstract moralism or hopeless cynicism,” and he holds up this principle as a challenge, not only to other countries but also to America itself.

Kenneth W. Thompson is director emeritus of the White Burkett Miller Center of Public Affairs, and J. Wilson Newman professor of government and foreign affairs. He served as director of the Miller Center from 1978 to 1998. He is the author of some twenty books and coauthor of another two dozen.

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