1. conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.
2. moral quality or character.
3. virtue in sexual matters; chastity.
4. a doctrine or system of morals.
5. moral instruction; a moral lesson, precept, discourse, or utterance.
For purposes of this essay, I shall concentrate on #4.
1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.
2. founded on the fundamental principles of right conduct rather than on legalities, enactment, or custom: moral obligations.
So, morality is a system of morals. Morals are principles of ‘right conduct.’ Sufficiently vague for you? Yes, me too.
My last definition.
1. the science or art of political government.
2. the practice or profession of conducting political affairs.
3. political affairs: The advocated reforms have become embroiled in politics.
4. political methods or maneuvers: We could not approve of his politics in winning passage of the bill.
5. political principles or opinions: We avoided discussion of religion and politics. His politics are his own affair.
6. use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.
The question has been raised ‘what part, if any, do morals play in international politics?’
Many philosophers have defined the above term and given it life. However, what it basically boils down to is morality is determined by the individual or group based on their experiences, belief sets, and often the society of which they are a part.
This concept denotes that there is an objective right and wrong. Either your conduct complies with this objective right or wrong or it does not.
The two concepts above are channeled into practice through politics. Basically, a political ideology is a collection of rights and wrongs. Rights and wrongs are not necessarily applied to an individual, but in CN would be applied to a collection of such individuals, or an alliance.
So what place, if any, do morals have in international politics?
They are fundamental to the political discourse among alliances.
Each alliance has a set of morals. Under a moral relativism analysis, any such actions by the alliance are measured against that alliance’s code. Under a moral absolutism analysis, those morals (and political actions in furthering or implementing such morals) are measured against a ‘theoretical’ moral code with, in the mind of the Absolutist, applies to all equally. An example:
Absolutist: ‘Tech raiding is ALWAYS wrong.”
Relativist: “Tech raiding under certain circumstances is wrong.”
So there is a conflict between the two. In some circumstances, holders of the above ideologies will agree in form but not in substance. For instance, the Relativist may say ‘Tech raiding red is wrong.’ This tenet is probably based on the consequences, and not the substance of the act. The moral absolutist cares not for the consequences, it is the act itself that is inherently evil.
So how does this affect CN and why does it have a place?
Conflict, Not Just For Dinner Anymore.
Many see conflict as a bad thing. I posit that it is not inherently bad or good, but it is necessary. Political conflict can serve very useful purposes. In the above example, the conflict between the relativist and the absolutist will often entail an examination of the actions and thoughts underlying any particular moral code. It is important to see how various alliances deal with such discussions, and what ideology, if any is perceptible, that they ascribe to. Why? To determine if you agree wholeheartedly? No. I am not suggesting that disagreement as to a moral code, or political methods for enforcing that code, must be identical before there can be meaningful discourse (in fact, I would posit that such discrepancies are necessary, because if two alliances are in total agreement about everything, for purposes of a moral code and enforcement thereof, they cease being two separate alliances).
But what role it plays, and how it affects the alliance and individual nation is important.
Let’s say Alliance A has a moral code of ‘we honor our treaties no matter what.’ This would be an absolutist position, at least with regards to this topic (most alliances have ideologies that include absolutist and relativist tenets).
Why would this be important to know? And is that the type of alliance you want to deal with? Maybe.
If Alliance B signs and MDP with Alliance A, they should be able to count on Alliance A’s help should they get into a conflict. This would seem to be a good thing. However, Alliance B needs to keep several things in mind: ‘Who else is Alliance A treatied to?’ This could certainly lead to issues. Let’s say Alliance C, an MDP partner of Alliance A, is attacked by Alliance D. Alliance A, staying true to their moral code, declares on D.
Two variations: Alliance D attacks A. Well, if the MDP is just that, Alliance B has a choice to make. Alliance A has engaged in an offensive action. Therefore, the MDP isn’t triggered. Unless, of course, the wording of the treaty between A and C is ‘ an attack upon one is the same as an attack upon the other’ in which case, it would appear that B is now required to assist (the attack upon C is the same as an attack upon A, ergo an MDP may be triggered).
Alliance E attacks A because of an MDP between C and E. Now B is in a real quandary. A’s actions led directly to its being attacked by E, however, A did not directly attack E, unless that pesky 'an attack upon one is an attack upon all' wording is in there, because then A DID attack E by attacking C. Is such enough to trigger the standard MDP? Possibly, and here’s where the relativist and absolutist may digress.
B could clearly take the position, ‘hey A, you caused your own woes, we are not obligated to help.’ Why might B take such a position? Because B’s moral code may elevate security over blind honoring of treaties. Is B wrong in taking such a position?
The relativist could go either way. If B has a moral code that elevates honoring treaties above all else, their failure to do so would be a violation of their own code. However, if the reverse is true, then the relativist would say that B has stayed true to its moral code.
Do you want to sign a treaty with B now?
As to why you might want to do such a thing will be the starting point of the next installment of ‘morality in politics.’