Diplomatic Amorality

Somewhere along the way, it has become accepted that in representing a state, normal rules are suspended. Under the catch-all moral permission of droit d’etat, officials acting in the name of the state, even law-abiding democracies like Britain or the U.S., are entitled to forsake normal moral inhibitions, like those against killing or causing harm to others. If such actions are justified by the needs of the state, not only are they excused, they are explicitly available. Indeed, the good diplomat is told to reject the softheaded morality of ordinary people if he is to practice his trade as it must be practiced–realpolitik. If death and the suffering of others are the result, this is a necessary price of protecting our own.

I have not come by this criticism by way of academic study or historical research. I know this because once I did it. I helped do harm to innocent others, with the explicit moral cover of the state, safe in the knowledge that I would never be held to account. With the comfort of impunity, I once committed violence in the name of the state.

— former British diplomat, Carne Ross, in his book, The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century (2011). Ross resigned in 2004, after giving secret evidence about how the British government had exaggerated the case for invading Iraq and ignored available alternatives to war. See his website here.

As an ordinary person trying to end and prevent war,  I Declare World Peace.


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