The Unethical Outcome of 'ethical' Foreign Policy

Tom Casier

At an early stage of the Syrian war the West made the departure of Assad a firm condition for negotiations. This was presented as an ethical approach. The outcome of this stance, however, may have been highly unethical as it has arguably made substantial negotiations at that stage impossible, while Assad today is likely to stay in power after all.This paper makes a distinction between ethical framing (not actual motivations) and unethical outcomes in the EU's foreign policy. 'Unethical' is not approached here as an objective category, but is understood as contradicting stated ethical objectives. Longer term effects of EU 'ethical' foreign policy are assessed in light of the actual outcomes. It is argued that a substantial part of foreign policy impact is neither intended nor controlled, but subject to a variety of unanticipated factors. The paper studies the policy choices made when the EU is confronted with unintended consequences of its policies, considering a spectrum from reinforcing to mitigating unintended outcomes. Finally the paper links the idea of unintended consequences to literature on norm contestation, seeking to understand how undesired outcomes may reinforce the opposition against norm promotion.The analysis contributes to critical debates on normative power, to literature on power and intentionality and on norm contestation.





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