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Does hypocrisy matter? The case of US foreign policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 May 2006

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US foreign policy is hypocritical in various ways, as this article demonstrates in the course of an extensive empirical review. The question is whether such hypocrisy provides grounds for opposing US interventions abroad, in particular those which might yield locally desirable outcomes at an acceptable human cost. This article examines the question from the standpoint of a non-pacifist liberal universalism and concludes (on consequentialist grounds) that the hypocritical character of US foreign policy cannot constitute sufficient grounds for rejecting all US interventions. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy of the US remains noteworthy and deserving of criticism even in such cases because of the wider damage hypocritical behaviour can do. Moreover, US foreign policy hypocrisy sometimes sets in motion reactions that confound the benign purposes of particular interventions and so undermine the case for them. Such an effect is at work in the case of recent US intervention in the Middle East.

Research Article
2006 British International Studies Association