British ethical foreign policy may be able to justify the intervention in Afghanistan but can it defend the invasion of Iraq?

The politics of ethical foreign policy: A responsibility to protect whom?

From European Journal of International Relations

With the 9/11 anniversary just a few days ago, plus the recent publication of Tony Blair’s autobiography, once again there is much public debate regarding the justification and achievements of the foreign policy implemented over the last decade leading to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This article recognizes how ethical foreign policy persists as a problem of international relations, especially regarding humanitarian intervention. The study finds Britain’s ethical framework, the ‘doctrine of international community’, which justifies interventions in Afghanistan, is undone by the anomalous, yet exemplary, invasion of Iraq.

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Abstract

Ethical foreign policy persists as a problem of international relations, especially regarding humanitarian intervention. However, despite apparent international upheavals, the debate about the ethics of humanitarian intervention has remained fundamentally unchanged. To escape the limits of this debate, this article deconstructs British claims to ethical foreign policy since 1997, reading these claims against themselves and against contemporary humanitarian intervention literature. It finds that Britain’s ethical framework, the ‘doctrine of international community’, which justifies interventions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, is undone by the anomalous, yet exemplary, invasion of Iraq. This demonstrates the politics of ethical foreign policy: first, that any intervention, no matter how ‘ethical’ or ‘right’, produces suffering and death; and, second, that we cannot know for sure whether we are doing the right thing by intervening. Embracing, rather than effacing, the political nature of ethical foreign policy opens up a more intellectually honest and positive potential future for relating to the foreign in a responsible manner.

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Article details:
Bulley, D. (2010). The politics of ethical foreign policy: A responsibility to protect whom? European Journal of International Relations, 16 (3), 441-461 DOI: 10.1177/1354066109350051

     
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