The Ethics of Avoiding Conflict with China
Online Exclusive from the Ethics & International Affairs Website
March 16, 2014
Whenever possible, the ethical statesman operating within the parameters of the current international order should "seek a way out of conflict within the constraints of the Westphalian system," noted Stanley Hoffmann in his 1987 Morgenthau Memorial Lecture at Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.1 Correspondingly, one can argue that policymakers should act from a related ethical obligation not simply to seek a way out from conflict but, whenever possible, take the steps that might avoid precipitating a conflict in the first place, creating the conditions for diplomacy which, as Hans Morgenthau observed, is the only "way to moderate power and pursue peace."2
This question becomes much more salient when considering the rise of China, its desire to revise both the regional as well global order (largely created and sustained by the United States over the last 60 years) to accommodate its interests and its new status, and the countervailing desire of the United States to preserve the status quo.
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1 Stanley Hoffmann, The Political Ethics of International Relations, Seventh Annual Morgenthau Lecture on Ethics and Foreign Policy, delivered May 22, 1987 (New York: Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, 1988), p. 11.
2 Anthony F. Lang, Jr., "Phronesis, Morgenthau and Diplomacy," E-International Relations, November 7, 2013, at http://www.e-ir.info/2013/11/07/phronesis-morgenthau-and-diplomacy/.