Learning lessons from the Middle East: towards an ethical foreign policy

Learning lessons from the Middle East: towards an ethical foreign policy

A question of government accountability over Lebanon and Israel

This paper is an attempt to connect the armed conflict of the past month in Lebanon and Israel to the question of accountability of governments for their international engagements.

The authors argue that while successive Foreign Secretaries and Parliaments have given different weight to the concept of an ethical foreign policy, the recent events reinforce the need to bring the issue back into the debate and make progress on the definition of an ethical foreign policy that could be applied to situations of armed conflict.

The document argues that it will be important to move beyond the frequently supposed opposition of a realistic and pragmatic approach to ethically or principle led policy. However, it is not only necessary to focus on the goals and content of such a policy, but also on the process of making and overseeing foreign policy for it to be ethical.

Three points appear to be of primary importance:

  • first, all parties directly and indirectly involved in the conflict need to actually engage in a 'true conversation', that is, to listen to what others have to say. Observing the cease fire will support this, but is not enough in itself
  • second, the widespread political amnesia regarding the purpose of the UN and its Security Council must make way for greater recognition and support for its purpose and mandate to prevent conflict and make peace
  • third, governments who are involved in such crises, directly or indirectly, need to be held to account for the policies they implement. In the case of Lebanon the insistence by the governments of the USA and the UK on the necessity to sequence action by different parties to secure lasting solutions has in fact lead to a serious delay in agreeing a UN resolution and achieving a cease fire

[adapted from the author]

  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.