Newspaper Article - Harvard Gazette

What Makes for a Moral Foreign Policy?

  • Christina Pazzanese
| Jan. 21, 2020

Joseph Nye's new book rates the efforts of presidents from FDR to Trump

As his trial begins in the U.S. Senate, the impeachment of President Trump is, at its heart, a question about ethics. Was it proper for the president to withhold U.S. military aid to a strategic foreign ally to leverage its cooperation in an effort that could undercut a political rival? In a new book, "Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump," Joseph S. Nye Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), examines the role that ethics played in the foreign policies of every U.S. president since World War II. In evaluating each on the moral soundness of their intentions, their results, and the means they used to achieve those results, Nye makes a case for the enduring relevance of American exceptionalism in the 21st century.

Joseph S. Nye Jr.

GAZETTE: What prompted your interest in looking at foreign policy through a moral lens?

NYE: I used to teach a course here at the Kennedy School on ethics and foreign policy and so it has been on my mind. But obviously, the Trump administration has brought a lot of that to the fore in terms of the questions of: Should presidents ever tell lies? To what extent should they risk American lives? And to what extent should they take into account human rights in other countries? These are issues which have become a lot more salient as a result of some of the controversial decisions of the Trump administration....

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