Nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, not answering the call for help in Rwanda, allowing Germany to take over Czechoslovakia, supporting the creation of the state of Israel, giving out loans (with interest) to developing countries, and the creation of the United Nations are all forms of international interference and cooperation amongst states. When looking at these examples and many more, it begs the question, does morality play a role in international affairs of a state? George Kennan, a prominent Skeptic, would argue that in international politics “other criteria, sadder, more limited, more practical, must be allowed to prevail.”
In this essay, I will first present the Skeptic argument that morality either plays no role or gives way to prudential reasons that serve the self interest of the state. During that I will give a brief explanation of Skepticism as a theory of morality in international relations. Following that I will explore ethics in the Morality of States and Cosmopolitan schools of thought in comparison to Skepticism.
Skepticism, often known as realism, is one of the oldest perspectives to observe ethics in international relations. The basic premise of international skepticism is that states are selfish actors and when necessary, a state should act in its self-interested over any moral proclamation. (Forde, 8) This belief is derived from the ancient belief that humans are naturally evil, evolving into the more modern form stating that humans are naturally selfish actors. (Donnelly, 20)
To compare states with individuals, you open up the gates for questions, like how can a state be compared to an individual, and if they are comparable, then don’t we see examples of individuals acting morally? The best way to tackle this is to look at what Hobbes has to say about the state of nature. In the state of nature, we are virtually always in a state of war, constantly competing for resources and acting in our self interest. To improve ones chances of survival, they would make alliances, and societies to ensure that they are safe from other rival 3groups. These societies would then form into hierarchical civilizations leading to the modern state where laws and rules can not only be made but enforced to make peace and order is kept within the state. (Forde, 15)
In the international arena, there is no hierarchical rule to keep states in line or behaved; meaning that the international system is constantly in anarchy, aka the state of nature. This lack of rule enforcement puts states in a constant state of war, in a constant state where they need to stay on guard and in a tactical advantage otherwise the safety and well being of their state will be in jeopardy. In this scenario, the state’s number one priority is to protect itself and act in its self interest when need be, despite if it would typically be deemed immoral. (Donnelly 20)
Machiavelli would go so far that it is within every right...