Realpolitik: A Polished Name for Political Immorality

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The moral pattern of politics has degenerated very often over the past six decades or so. Then, politicians and people’s representatives were primarily picked out for their governance skills, civil commitment, moral principles, and human values before other qualities. In earlier times, the cost for election pledge-breaking, ill-advised lawmaking, and political falsehood was a package of degradation and rejection. Then, impeachment and exclusion were the penalties for political wrongdoing or immorality. However, these days, same political misdeeds are considered minor slipups and thus pardoned and sidelined or justified with false excuses—let alone being falsified and praised in many societies.

Nowadays, political morality has become a matter of personal opinion rather than being configured in accordance with the general ethics and human conscience. Humanistic consideration in the political judgment process is now envisioned as an attribute for political impracticality and churchliness. Actually, many influential heads of state, political leaders as well as most politicians name their manipulation and marginalization of the ethical principles of right and wrong as practical politics or realpolitik.

The main reason for their realpolitik pattern is neither practical nor political, but to maintain power and serve some political party or regime. Realpolitik or practical politics is now welcomed as a paradigm of pragmatism and prudence. While Realpolitik (a German term first used in 1914 for practical politics) is based solely on material factors and interests without ethical objectives or regard to human ideals.

In the world of realpolitik, waging of ruinous punitive wars, military incursions, annexing territories of bordering countries and other belligerences are excusable to most politicians and analysts as long as they are executed in the name of fighting foreign evil forces, or to extirpate alleged WMDs, or to ensure ethnic privileges for compatriots. While, the fact is that none of these crushing aggressions and hostilities were meant to free a nation from totalitarianism, or to put an end to genocide or ethnic cleansing—like in WWII, or to promote democracy and human development thereof.

Calling to mind that most of these warfare activities were camouflaged with one democratic label or another, and false security reasons. Yet, the real motives behind these warlike operations were to maintain transnational ascendance, circumvent rising rivals, protect long-enjoyed economic advantages, and ensure the flow and control of overseas resources.

In the world of realpolitik, assassination of political rivals, usage of chemical weapons on civilians, bombarding of residential areas and slaughtering of tens of thousands of innocent people by the Syrian regime and its paramilitary Shiite radical groups, like Hezbollah, Iraqi al-Abbas brigade, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, are bearable inasmuch as they serve the national security concerns of one world power or another.

Likewise, conducting waves of terror attacks, abduction of women and nuns, snatching and raping of schoolgirls, or killing of unlike clerics by extremist militant groups, like Boko Haram, ISIS, and other radical militants are just news headlines and subjects of condemnation speeches as long as they come to pass in far-off countries and not in the first world—since suchlike terror activities do not fall under the U.S. International Terrorism Act!

On top of that, combating poverty and illiteracy, providing affordable healthcare and education to the underprivileged is now re-conceptualized as a national shortcoming issue and communal responsibility. Since, in realpolitik, the rich economies, like the G-20, for instance, have more important national advancement priorities and different sociopolitical agendas.

Given that pitiless passivity, it is naïve to name clean-living political leaders when more than one-hundred-forty heads of state ignore that around eighty percent of their country’s citizens work and live to serve the wealthy twenty percent, at best. It is unreasonable to suppose that there are leading international personages and global leaders who still consider global humanistic dimensions in their decision-making process. Since almost all disregard the fact that one-third of the world population (2.4 billion) live under $2.40 a day.

Actually, the general impression among the masses and nonpartisan analysts across this global village is that our present world leaders are incompetent to maintain peace, provide development, or honor human values. They see Obama as a blabby hesitant U.S. president, Putin an opportunist outlaw communist tsar, Cameron an inexperienced British PM, Mr. Holland a soft and confused French president, Xi Jinping an exploitative Chinese trade emperor, and Ban Ki-Moon a folkloric head of international press corps—let alone other pathetic G-20 heavyweights.

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This worldwide decline in the political morality and competency of most (not to say all) governing politicians stems from several irregular governmental settings. The first commonly shared political malpractice is the manipulation of right and wrong. In large part, this is mainly because there is no one predominant moral concept or global authority to judge what is right or wrong.

To put differently, the issue is about the basis through which right and wrong are assessed, and by which standards wrongfulness is adjudged. In theory, there is a general concord that the UN Human Rights Charter is the global moral reference, which defines the general code of ethics and human values of our modern times. However, in real terms, most nations uphold dissimilar descriptions of morality and ethical codes, not to discuss their contrasting comprehension of right and wrong.

It is surrealistic to deny that what is wrong to some is not right to others, and vice versa. What civil liberty and human rights symbolize in some parts of the world, could signify insubordination and vice in other parts. What terrorism and suicidal attacks mean to most nations, could mean Jihad and martyrdom to the few, and so on.

Under the current world settings, it is realistic to say that this unfortunate root problem seems far from being fully resolved in the near future. Besides making peace and generating development, our world needs to have universal educative initiatives and foresighted civil cooperation processes that can bring these societal and cultural openings closer to the natural virtues of mankind.

The second critical reason revolves around the judicial process, judiciary’s role, and prerogatives. Except for a few legal and justice systems, there is a wide public acceptance that it is up to the state’s leadership and governing bodies to appoint judges, chief justices, and attorney generals. Despite all claims that these political appointments are carried out by some designed system of confirmation, the fact remains that higher judiciary councils have no say in the nomination or confirmation of the selected top judges of their countries.

This political appointment of the judgeship, however, often entails on most judges and attorney generals some leniency toward those who appointed them. And hence, most influential politicos are somewhat protected from being held accountable for their mischief-making and political transgression.

The third element that contributes much to this political decadence is the long absence of real fair chances for self-directed nonpartisan candidates to win an election, whether parliamentary or presidential, at which independent candidates are now so scarce. By and large, this electoral shortcoming is mostly owed to the adoption of a two-party system or two politically aligned fronts instead of having an open electoral system.

This uneven democratic arrangement creates unequal campaigning chances thus and so low probabilities of winning for free candidates in which they are forced to either do not enter the race or withdraw in due course. And, the result is that electorates are cornered to select one of two candidates nominated by these two political parties, which will drive most winning candidates to be more loyal to their political party than to whom they should represent: their fellow citizens.

Unfortunately, this chronic political twisting of the election process has overridden the rationale behind carrying out democratic elections: to speak for the wants and values of the people. Ironically, they do all that in the name of democracy and realpolitik.

Nonetheless, many people might conclude that this odd case is an exclusive resemblance of the judiciary systems and political settings of third-world countries. Actually, it is not. It is a broad ill practice that affects most governing systems in the third world as well as in advanced countries. The only difference, however, is in the severity and quality levels of the produced scenario of the case.

In all likelihood, people now tend not to believe the empty speeches and false promises of most heads of state and politicians.  To outfox that, most leading political figures hire highly-paid spin doctors and political propagandists to polish their images, mainly by formulating some justifications for the unethical practical politics of their bosses. Yet, thankfully, similar tactics now have little effect on the general public, since most people are more well-informed, up-to-date, and good political readers.

This continuous climb in political awareness among individuals and communities has intensified the call for political honesty and moralistic politics throughout the world. On that, the questionable political integrity of many nation-leaders, who play crucial roles in leading the world, has become a universal concern rather than a mere national issue.

It is very reasonable to see more calls for change here and there, especially when we remember that citizens are the rightful authority to judge the moral values and actions of their official representatives. The first step to achieve the required change is to reconsider our mode of choosing the politicians we entrust to manage our present and build the future of our children.

In all doctrines, real citizenship implies that people select their representatives according to their clearheaded moralistic qualities and transparent leadership, first of all. Bearing in mind that, real citizenship entails a moral obligation on people to denounce the cunning political practices and amoral decisions of their politicians on the national level as well as on the international one.

Otherwise, passive citizens should not wonder why economic recessions, social anger, extremism, and terror took hold of their peaceful life and civil norms; since immoral politicos will continue to “realpolitik” our lives forever.

An enlightened American politician once said:

“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

                                                 Thomas Jefferson



Mohammad S. Moussalli is a renowned Lebanese writer. He has a reputable journalistic record with well-known regional English newspapers, magazines and web-based gazettes. He holds a long list of esteemed published Op-Eds and online articles mostly centered on civil liberties, human rights, socioeconomic and sociopolitical issues.

Mr. Moussalli is a management consultant and former managing director with senior executive experience in the Middle East and Gulf region. He devises reorganization plans and restructuring schemes, and provides advice on business planning, administration, operations, pay and benefit scales, and other business issues.

Mr. Moussalli blogs at


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  1. Dear Mohammad:

    Thank you for such a real, vivid and authentic-fact-finding article.

    I have read this article twice or three times, mainly, I could not believe the simplicity of expressed words, flow of realistic ideas and opinions not to mention realistic phrases.

    Sometimes, I wonder why the composition of our society is so complex and co-descending: Dominant Powerful countries on top manipulating all others, followed by Power-seeking nascent counties, emulated by illiterate individuals who find pleasure and self gratitude in being immoral, unethical and disruptive.

    For example, resigning my post in 2009 was researched extensively still, I gained no rewards for appointing the culprit or perpetrator.

    I am still looking for a career while the wrong-doer had found a job probably at the same week or month he was put out of our company.

    I believe “…more political awareness…” will be blinded since a “hush, hush” policy is rampant.

    What is the norm for living standards nowadays?

    Civil wars, economic recessions and commotions will prevail.
    Political leaders are good at choosing the right words, we people who had elected them, desire to hear.
    Not only that, they are very skillful in Washing our brains: our only free exit strategy we own that puts us out of stress or depression, not to mention: 1) Media presence, 2)Social media or the Internet.

    But words should always stem from real and true actions: say what we mean and mean what we say.
    No qualms whatsoever.
    I wonder if we together will live enough to find a real and substantial change in society is taking place.
    Enough said

    Please dear Mohammad, keep writing and writing
    Many thanks to a wonderful job you accomplish: the voice inside of each and every free spirit and the light we see in front of our own eyes.

  2. Dear Karima,
    I cannot but to commend you for your honesty and integrity.
    All of what you said seems true, unfortunately. Simply,I add my voice to yours.
    Thank you for your kind words and comment. I appreciate that.
    Good luck

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