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Letter: Human rights to die for?

YOUR LEADING article ("Mythical, ethical", 8 August) reveals the contradiction at the heart of any claim to conduct foreign policy according to ethical principles. If, as you say, the protection of human rights is an imperative, ie, of the form "Thou shalt not violate any person's human rights", how ought the imperative be upheld?

Would, for instance, "sending in a battalion of foreign legionnaires to sort out the mess" conform to ethical principles? Ought one to kill some human beings in order to enforce others' human rights? Eric Roll, one-time adviser to the British government and academic political economist, gave a timely reminder in 1938. He wrote: "To try to be virtuous in a world inhabited by so many who were without virtue was to court ruin." He was commenting on Machiavelli.


Inverurie, Aberdeenshire