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The Morality of Amorality in Foreign Policy

When it comes to morality, diplomats are usually seen as cold and calculating. Machiavelli and Metternich are synonymous with the ruthless pursuit of interest verging on dishonesty. Sir Henry Wootton, Queen Elizabeth's Ambassador to Venice and Bohemia, described his profession as being made up of honest gentlemen sent abroad to lie for their countries. But good reasons exist for diplomacy's amoral tradition; paradoxically, this tradition embodies important moral values.

Many of us, despite our great respect for the US, react against phrases like "Axis of Evil" not because the countries listed do not present serious challenges, but because of the difficulties that follow from mixing foreign policy and morality. "Evil" is a religious term, not a foreign policy principle.