Of Doves & Serpents – The West’s Foreign Policy Moral Shortcomings in Ukraine & Beyond

The artist that created this image no doubt meant it to be a rebuke of Putin’s recent actions in Ukraine. But I see it as an unintended ironic representation of our (the West’s) moral and strategic shortcomings in east/west relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Immanuel Kant, referencing Matthew 10:16 in his seminal essayTo Perpetual Peace touches on the proper relationship between politics and morality in the following way; “Politics says, “Be ye wise as serpents,” to which morality adds (as a limiting condition), “and innocent as doves.”

The West prides itself on being guided by certain valid moral principles. But we haven’t always acted in a manner consistent with a duty to abide by them. We are like a dove that defecates on the heads of our adversaries and expects them to fall in line.

We have identified good ends and publicize them well but have secretly (and not so secretly) acted in a manner that will achieve the opposite. The recent Ukraine situation is case in point. This is not to say that all the blame for recent tragedies is solely the West’s fault; nothing so complex can be explained in such a simple way. But we must look at the big picture when analyzing such affairs and focus on that which we have the most control; our own motivations and actions.

Kant called the reflection on our own actions towards a preferred ends to ensure they are in line with our duty to uphold the moral law the “sharpening stone of virtue.” I think this is accurate, and true courage is facing perceived dangers in this manner, not in sacrificing our principles for the illusion of short-term gain. In Matthew 6:33 it is said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and (your needs) will be given to you as well.” Kant again applies such wisdom to the subject of international relations in pursuit of real peace, “Seek first the kingdom of pure practical reason and its righteousness, and your end (the blessing of perpetual peace) will come to you itself.”

Do not be afraid to stand firm with the principles of Right.

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