This retrospective case study examines U.K. foreign policy under the first Labour government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair. After considering the context of Labour's election victory and the government's general foreign policy objectives, the authors evaluate what is meant by an ethical foreign policy.
The study focuses on two particular policy problems and relates these to key ethical themes. First, the contract to sell Hawk jets to Indonesia forced the Labour government either to renege on an agreement with Indonesia (jeopardizing its relations with the world's fourth most populous state, as well as causing it to lose export earnings) or else to honor the contract (strengthening the Indonesian armed forces, who have been widely condemned for committing gross human rights violations).
Second, the decision to use force—with NATO allies—against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia raised the ultimate dilemma for those who seek to put human rights at the heart of foreign policy: Can force be pressed into service for good ends, and if so, at what cost?
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