In foreign policy, results matter most

We all agree that both pragmatism and principle are in play in determining foreign policy (Balancing pragmatism and principle; July 7).

How much of each to draw on is the conversation among "suppliers" of foreign policy. This is the backend stuff, things that are done behind the scenes.

I wonder how the "consumers" of foreign policy would take these into account.

When someone supplies an item to the marketplace, it is no use explaining to the consumers that his rent has increased and, as a result, he is forced to raise his price.

Consumers will determine for themselves what the most cost effective solution is and pursue it.

No supplier can expect a customer to do business with him out of compassion for his difficulties.

I suppose that, in foreign policy, a very loose analogy can be made.

What considerations were made in arriving at a particular policy formulation will count for very little for those who are at the receiving end, especially if those policies are not favourable to them.

In engineering, we sometimes come across engineers who say, "we cannot go beyond the laws of physics".

It means that they have reached some kind of unbreachable limit. They are trying to impress on their audience that it is not that they are not trying hard to engineer a solution; there isn't one.

We can say that they are "blaming" the laws of physics, but people generally do understand their predicament.

In foreign policy, we don't have laws that are so unpliable as the laws of physics. The closest might be certain principles.

If a foreign policy was cited as principled, does it have the effect of "blaming" the principles? As in the making of any decision, taking personal responsibility for that decision should be fundamental.

No principle should be made to bear the onus of it.

Lim Chiew Sen