Government hypocrisy is the political art to espouse the highest of aims and principles while engaging in the lowest of deals and in breaking the same principles.
The operation of double standards in diplomacy is so commonplace as to fail to attract criticism. There are numerous instances of a government denouncing an oppressive regime or unwarranted invasion, only to be followed by the reopening of friendly relations or a foreign intervention of its own under a different name. Complete silence on human rights violations is a second tactic, and a third variation is to give less vocal criticism of neighbouring atrocities than those in more distant countries. Egypt indirectly accused the USA of applying double standards after its missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in 1993, noting that it had not taken military action to defend Muslims in Bosnia from attack.
Western countries have long used double standards in relation to their strategic allies and trading partners, notably Israel and South Africa, and more recently the supply of weapons of mass destruction by Germany and Switzerland. Within countries such as the USA, there had been a double standard up to 1954 in connection with the notion that all men were equal, and subsequently in the denial of civil rights to black Americans until 1964 and 1967.
In relation to environmental issues, the USA criticizes Brazil on the shameless destruction of its tropical rainforests, while less than one quarter of Hawaii's original forests remain and most of the tropical forest of Puerto Rico has also been cleared. In 1993, Britain and France drew up a secret hit list of air and water pollution laws imposed by the European Community that they wished to repeal. The British government hypocritically claimed at the same time that it intended to meet EC pollution standards as soon as possible.
International NGO frustration over the government hypocrisy in the areas of social and environmental welfare came to a head at the 1995 Social Summit in Copenhagen. The broadly-based consensus document, the Copenhagen Alternative Declaration, rejected the official declaration agreed to by their governments on the ground that its embrace of the neo-liberal economic system of growth, free markets, and free trade contradicted its professed commitment to eliminating poverty, unemployment and social disintegration.
Just as the American government is gearing up to introduce further legal constraints on cigarette smoking in public places, the Congress House and Senate still have no policy on smoking, effectively leaving members free to smoke where they want in the public buildings. The British government has similarly invented excuses not to ban tobacco advertising.