What is being an agent for positive influence in the world (promoting compassion/human rights/economic development/alleviating hunger and poverty), and what is coercing other countries to behave in a way that you like and feel comfortable with?
When is it ok be expedient in your dealings with other countries (for example, securing access to oil to allow your country to continue to function), and when is it not (for example, securing exclusive access to foreign oil by any means necessary to allow your country’s eco-unfriendly unsustainable way of functioning to continue)?
Is it better to give up any sort of claims to “noble” aims (eg, human rights, democracy, alleviating poverty) and simply transact based on mutual interest?
What is ignoring gross crimes against humanity, and what is minding your own business?
Can you attract foreign income and expertise without opening your country to exploitation and belittling your local culture and way of life?
Perhaps the real answer to any of these questions is that every national community needs to make their own collective decision about this: how far they’re willing to go for what interests, what and how much they are willing to ignore. Or perhaps everyone just needs to wake up/own up to the fact that every move in international politics is motivated by a mix of both expedient and value-based objectives.
Perhaps we need to learn to say and hear statements such as “Yes, even though I don’t favor military force and invasion, I support it in this instance because it’s saving lives from genocide,” or “No, I don’t support this offer of conditional aid, no matter how much economic development or human rights it’s designed to promote, because I don’t support any form of coercive action.”
I just think it’s disingenuous not to realize that both promoting human rights/economic development through military invention/conditional aid and invading/trading with foreign countries for access to resources are coercive actions in pursuit of material objectives. The means are always questionable, to be weighed against the objectives. And given that, the objectives aren’t always worth it, or always not worth it.
Human rights? Great. Poverty alleviation? Awesome. Continued functioning and/or survival? Imperative. How far do you think you should go?