I spent a good part of yesterday at a conference on what can be done about Iran and, as ever, some of the more interesting discussions happened during lunch or coffee breaks. A conversation with a leading analyst of the international scene turned to Mali and our ridiculous involvement. He summed the situation up rather well:
"It seems that the policy is to become involved in a third country only if we have absolutely no economic or defence interest in doing so. Anything else appears dirty to this government."
This, I presume, is what they mean by ethical foreign policy: never look to your own interests. Of course, first we might have to sort out what those interests are and that would involve strategic thinking and some notion of what our foreign policy is or ought to be.
France, one may add, does not share that attitude, no matter how much they harrump about American imperialism. Any French government over the years would consider that former French colonies (even if they were that for a short period only) remain in the French sphere of interest and, therefore, French bombs (well, American bombs all too often) can fall on them and French troops of various description can invade them. It might be for reasons of human rights or to salvage priceless manuscripts in Timbuktu or it may be simply because the situation is messy enough for people to ignore French involvement as is the case in Côte d’Ivoire.