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Uses of Power in Politics, Essay Example

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Essay

The exercising of power by one political entity against another is always a controversial policy decision, in so far as there is an element of hegemony in this approach: the will of one political entity, to paraphrase Clausewitz, is being imposed upon the will of another, so as to make the latter conform to the former. When one thinks of power in this context, military force often comes first to mind: however, one can also include economic sanctions, diplomatic policies, and other such aspects of grand strategies as representative of how power may be used in politics.

The controversial aspect of such power policy is immediately ethical: is any imposition of the will on the other de facto unethical, i.e., violating the sovereignty of the political entity upon who such power is exercised? Such an argument seems untenable when we think about certain conflicts, such as those defined by the concept of ius ad bellum, or just war: if one concedes the possibility of a just war, then there are possible ethical utilizations of power. For example, the Second World War is often seen as such an example of just war. The use of power here is deemed just, since the politics of Nazi Germany were informed by policies of genocide. The use of power thus becomes an ethical intervention.

In contrast, of course not all displays of political power in terms of military force can be classified as ethical: consider, for example, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Whereas the public rhetoric of the U.S. government tried to paint this intervention as in the interests of humanitarian and democratic ideologies, the large world-wide protests, unheard of in human history, clearly showed that the public considered this to be an unethical use of power in politics.

Accordingly, ethical and unethical usages of power entirely depend upon the ethical framework we use to analyze particular cases. Politics can exist without an ethics: for example, politically inspired atrocities occur throughout human history. But to accurately judge such policies, a robust ethical theory is needed, thus making ethics crucial to the thought of political science as a whole in its objective scientific sense.

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