Thursday, November 22, 2007

Realpolitik and Morality

Devilstower has an article today over at DailyKos titled "Schizophrenia as a National Doctrine." He discusses the emergence of modern diplomacy as diplomats ceased to represent "affronted honor" or "the lust of individual rulers." What we then see is supposedly rational pursuit of a nation's interests.

As he puts it:
The trouble with the "realism" in realpolitik, is that it's little but an acceptance of cynicism. Under the disguise of being realistic, governments can not only refuse to be swayed by honor, but can justify any action at all. Practitioners of realpolitik sadly shake their heads and discard the idea of morality as a force in international relations. It's an invitation to view the world as a mechanical system free of human obligations, a series of nodes connected by rubber bands of power, the importance of each limited only by it's ability to pull.

Devilstower puts forth a troubling illustration of Ted Koppel's comments on earlier days in Iran: the Shah, the demonstrators, and the interests of the United States. All of this is great material for our reflection in an era when the repercussions of power are all we talk about and what is right and moral fades into the background (if it makes an appearance at all).

We know that legislating morality doesn't really work. But neither does ignoring it and allowing an atmosphere to develop where it no longer arises as an issue.

Devilstower writes: "To cure the national schizophrenia we must accept that human rights and democracy are not separable from our national interest."
Is that unrealistic politics? One thing is for sure, it's untried politics. And after the results of a century of realpolitik, anything has to be better than a policy that's committed us to calculated cruelty and produced nothing but failure.
Imagine what it would be like for the United States to be an honorable nation once again.

It takes a lot of imagining. And will take a lot of work.

Do not weary in doing what is good.

Check out the entire article.
--the BB
Photo of the Shah's family courtesy of PBS

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