The idea of states pursuing national interest can be the source of many problems. In America, this idea is the subject of debate by various groups and organizations.
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Currently, there are several scholarly materials that theorize the concept of national interest. Most of the theories that are forwarded on the subject of national interest tend to have similarities. The paper summarizes the subject of national interest, its theories, and the schools of thought behind this subject.
Realists agree that it is impossible to separate self-interest issues from national interest issues. According to realists, people always act by their interests and their levels of power. Realism argues that there is no difference between the interests of the individuals and those of states because states are made up of individuals.
This means that when politicians are pursuing the national interest, they will tend to ignore all ideological and theoretical interests of other countries. Realists point to the problem of individuals who are charged with the responsibility of pursuing national interest. These individuals can, at times, mistake their biased opinions with the reality of national interest.
An example of this conflict is the Vietnam War, where a policy maker’s interest was mistaken for the national interest. Realists also find the idea of applying moral principals when pursuing national interest unfeasible. According to realists, applying public emotions in matters of national interest is likely to be the source of problems.
The leading realist scholars are Hans Morgenthau and George Kennan. Morgenthau’s school of thought argues that it is possible to predict the behavior of nations in their pursuit of national interest. On the other hand, Kennan’s school of thought argues that a legal and moral approach when pursuing national interest is unyielding. However, the two scholars agree on the fundamental principles of realism.
The idealist school of thought presents ideas that oppose those of realists. Idealists dispute most of the assumptions that are made by realists concerning human nature.
For instance, idealists argue that human beings are fundamentally good and that it is possible to apply morality issues when pursuing national interest. Another fundamental principle of idealism is that it is possible to achieve international peace. Also, matters of national interest should be fused with ethics and democracy, according to idealists.
Idealists oppose the concept that global politics are dominated by anarchy. Idealists are of the view that it is possible to achieve peaceful co-existence among states.
Also, the ethical and emotional needs of the public should be considered as part of national interest issues. The principles of idealists are used by special interest groups all over the world. Groups that aim to promote peace, fight for human rights, eliminate hunger, and harmonize trade tend to favor idealists.
Neoconservatives are the third school of thought that aims at defining the best way of handling national interest. Neoconservatives are a blend of both idealist and realist schools of thought. The distinctive feature of neoconservatives is that they are against reliance on international organizations. Neoconservatives’ policies are aimed at fostering democracy but only within the boundaries of a particular state.
Some of the leading neoconservative scholars include Robert Kagan and William Kristol. For instance, Kagan is of the view that the country’s moral purposes are in harmony with its national interests. These ideas were bought into by President George W. Bush. Kagan’s main argument is that states should lead the way in formulating a ‘model world.’
The neoconservative’s ideology is often criticized because of its ‘unrealistic nature.’ Neoconservatives seek to lead the world and at the same time, adhere to the idealist principles. This means that sometimes the national interest would be ignored with the assumption that the arising problems would be fixed later. In overall, the neoconservative school of thought attracts the most criticism out of the three leading schools of thought, including idealism and realism.
One of the principles that are perpetuated by the three schools of thought is that national interest mostly applies to military power and economic security. A nation’s interest in its military and economical wellbeing is likely to put it in conflict with other states and organizations. Moreover, national interest is likely to be shaped by a state’s economic and military interests.
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It is argued that America’s national interest is a product of several historical events that affected the country’s military and economical interests. This argument disputes the totality of ‘national’ interest. Another argument is that national interest is just a product of politics. Therefore, the national interest is likely to change as the political environments change.
The ‘unnational’ nature of the national interest is also disputed using the argument that the economic needs of the country are the ones that shape national interest. The media, politicians, and scholars argue that the national interest is unchanging.
This argument is wanting because throughout history, several economic and military developments have contributed to major changes in the national interest. It is concluded that national interest is a concept that has two faces. One of these faces is the one that is theorized, and the other one is the one that is seen through government actions.