Morality And American Foreign Policy

In This Review

Morality And American Foreign Policy

By Robert W. McElroy
Princeton University Press, 1992
194 pp. $24.95
Purchase

Sarajevo. Today. Whatever the political-military calculations regarding the complexities of armed intervention, many feel there is a moral obligation to stop the bloodshed. In a world of realpolitik do moral norms play a role? They can and should, claims the author, who earned one doctorate in political science from Stanford and another in ethics from the Gregorian University in Rome. In three case studies-the U.S. decision to send famine relief to the Soviet Union in 1921, Nixon's 1969 decision to destroy stockpiles of biological weapons and to press for a chemical arms agreement, and Carter's decision to return control of the Panama Canal-moral considerations are said to have played the key role. But not so in a fourth case-the bombing of Dresden in 1945, which underscored the limits of moral norms. In this intelligent and sensitive work McElroy posits a number of explanations for the differences, ranging from the role of individual leadership (as with Herbert Hoover in 1921) to the degree a state's security is threatened.