Ethics & International Affairs
What is the relationship between morality and policy? In the statecraft of international affairs, is it enough to develop effective policies, or should they be ethical policies as well? If so, what are the foundations of ethics in foreign policy, and how do ethical considerations apply in particular issues and situations? This course will examine the normative questions of international relations and challenge students to consider what those questions mean for our conduct as citizens and as aspiring policymakers. There are many vexing normative issues in international politics. When, if ever, is the use of force justified? Should one state impose its moral code on another? To what extent do normative considerations influence the way states behave? To what extent ought they? Is there a different standard of morality for individuals than for governments? What about non-governmental and transnational organizations? The course will begin with a consideration of various philosophical, religious, and psychological foundations for ethics. It will then explore how ethics might apply to a range of specific issues and circumstances, including war and pacifism, human rights and humanitarian intervention, foreign assistance and poverty, torture and detention, and the complex relationship of personal conscience, citizenship, and duties to the state. Readings will include philosophical and religious texts, issue case studies, and historical treatments, and class activities will include extensive discussions and simulations of various ethical dilemmas. The class will not offer easy answers, but will attempt to equip students for ethical reflection and action throughout their careers. It will also equip students to better understand the moral judgments that people from other traditions make, which is essential for functioning in a pluralistic policy world. This syllabus has a heavy – perhaps heavier than usual – reading load. Students are strongly encouraged to take the weekly reading assignments seriously in part because a substantial portion of your grade depends on class participation. More importantly, the books in particular have been selected because of their enduring value; they are books that, 5 or 10 or 15 years from now, you will (hopefully) be thankful to have read. Grading: Class participation and weekly Blackboard comments: 25% Paper One: 25% Paper Two: 50% Assignments: 1) Weekly comment on readings on a Canvas discussion board of 250-400 words each. These are due posted on Canvas each week on the Tuesday night before each class by 8:30 pm (except for Week One when no comment is due). These will not receive letter grades, but will count towards your class participation grade. These comments should offer your thoughts on the course readings for the week. Comments can address which readings you agreed or disagreed with and why, or what further questions the readings might have raised in your mind, or suggest particular angles you would like to discuss the next day in class, or perhaps can relate the readings to a contemporary policy issue. Note: These comments should not merely summarize the readings. 2) FIRST PAPER, Assignment: In 1940 the United States faced the moral dilemma of whether or not to provide food aid to starving French citizens in Nazi-occupied France. Prominent American political and religious leaders voiced strong opinions on both sides of the debate. You will be given copies of primary documents from the day arguing for either side. You will assume the role of a senior advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has asked for your assessment of the issue. Your assignment is to write a 5-7 page (double-spaced) memo to President Roosevelt that 1) fairly and accurately summarizes the positions of both sides, and 2) provides your own recommendation of whether or not the United States should provide food aid to the French. You should draw on the readings from this class and your own moral convictions, and persuade President Roosevelt why your opinion is the morally-correct course to follow. 3) FINAL PAPER, Assignment: Approximately two weeks before the due date, you will be given a selection of “ethical dilemmas.” You will select one of the scenarios and write a 10-12 page (double-spaced) policy memo addressing the ethical issue.