JUANITA DZIFA SENANU-AMEVINDNK514COPENHAGEN UNIVERSITYMSC POLITICAL SCIENCE- Geopolitics,Democracy Promotion, or Cultural Identity?AUTUMN SEMSTER, 2017 Table of contentIntroduction……………..3Insight intoNational Interest……………4-5NationalInterest and Realism…………..5-7 Criticisms andresponse7-8Conclusion….
9Bibliography….10 DOES THE NATIONAL INTEREST CHANGE OVERTIME? TO WHAT EXTENT DOES IT OR DOES IT NOT?IntroductionForeign policy is a crucial aspect of the domestic and external spheresof a state (Walter 2008). States cannot be ‘islands’; one way or the other,they will need to interact with another state to survive. In their quest tointeract with and form other relations with fellow states, they need toformulate policies to guide them. This, in International Relation is referredto as a state’s Foreign Policy. This policy is formulated strategically withthe current condition and aims of the home country in mind.
Thus, thesepolicies seek to win over the countries they interact with. Presidents of theUnited States decide to engage in military intervention abroad for domesticfactors (Dueck 2014). For every Foreign Policy a country makes, it considersits own interest; the national interest. Foreign Policy is summarised by ValerieHudson as…’The strategy or approach chosen bythe national government to achieve its goals in its relations with external entities.
This includes decisions to do nothing’ (Hudson 2008). “National interests are permanent conditionswhich provide policy makers with a rational guide to their tasks: they arefixed, politically bipartisan and always transcend changes in government” (Burchill, 2005, p. 36). This quoteclearly sets the tone of the thesis of this paper which is that the nationalinterest does not change over time. For an effective elaboration and a clearerview of the stated thesis, the paper has been segmented into five sections. Havingalready defined national interest, the first and obviously the introductorysection begins with an overview of the concept and briefly explains nationalinterest in the eyes of Political Realism, here-in-after referred to as Realism.
The second section discusses in detail the arguments making up the thesis of mypaper. The third section of this paper will identify a few of the dissentingviews on this thesis put forward by liberals and constructivists. In the lastparagraphs, the penultimate section of the paper re-echoes its stance byresponding to the few dissenting views of liberals and constructivists. By wayof conclusion, the fifth and last section of this paper summarizes the stanceof this paper in one paragraph. Insight into ‘National Interest’National interest is generally viewed as the behaviour of states rootedin the pursuit, protection and promotion of certain interests based on theassessment of the current situation. In international politics, every country’sforeign policy is driven by what it perceives to be its national interest. Accordingto Hans Morgenthau, ‘The meaning ofnational interest is survival-the protection of physical, political andcultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states’ The national interest is an often debated and slippery concept that isused to both describe and prescribe and justify foreign policy.
It has beenused by statesmen and scholars since the 17th century to describethe aspirations and goals of sovereign entities in the international arena. Thenational interest is a controversial and an ambiguous term that has nouniversal definition but primarily serves as the “language of state action” (Weldes, 1999, p. 2).The national interest is a concept used by political actors to whip support fortheir policies and to shape political behaviour.
Thus, the national interest isused to explain, justify, oppose or propose policies and actions against otherstates. Analytically it is used to measure the adequacy of past, present andfuture foreign policies of states (Burchill, 2005). As already noted above, the national interest is a nebulous term ininternational politics. Hence, for an in-depth examination of the questionunder discussion, there is the need to employ the assumptions of aninternational political theory that can help explain the elements of nationalinterest. An international political theory primarily explainsinternational-political outcomes, analyses concepts such as national interest, andclarifies the economic and foreign policies of states (Waltz, 1979). There are severalInternational theories, they include, liberalism, social constructivism,Marxism, post-colonial theory etc.
All these theories account for worldpolitics and explain various ideas in international relations but in differentways. However, the most important international theory that provides almost aperfect discussion on national interest is Realism. In International Relations, Realism is definedas “A tradition of analysis thatstresses the imperatives states face to pursue a power politics of the nationalinterest” (Burchill, et al., 2005, p. 30). Realism portrays National interest as a key concept which when defined in terms of power setspolitics apart as an independent realm of action and makes a theory of politicsthinkable.
Realists define the national interest in terms of strategic andeconomic potentials because international politics is understood to be astruggle for power among states. Realism argues that national interest containstwo elements, one that is logically required and in that sense necessary, andone that is variable and determined by circumstances (Burchill, 2005, p. 36). National Interest in the light of RealismIn thesucceeding paragraphs, the paper contextualises the concept of NationalInterest and makes a better sense of the question by drawing on the assumptionof all the varieties of realism to substantiate the stance that the nationalinterest does not change over time.Firstand foremost, the desire to possess and utilize power is an unchanging interestof states. It is the view of realists and this paper that states are ledby human beings who have an innate desire for power and seek to enjoy anadvantage over others and to avoid domination by others. As states are units in the internationalsystem, they always compete for power and dominance over each other; theydesire to stay at the ‘top’.
Thus, while some states seek power to prey on oneanother, others also strive to gain power at all times to ensure that otherstates do not exploit them. This makes the struggle for power an all-timeinterest to be pursued because ‘States are almost always better off with morerather than less power. In short, states do not become status quo powers untilthey completely dominate the system’ (Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 31). This paper againargues that, in an anarchic international system of independent states with nocentral authority to guarantee their safety, security remains an unchangingnational interest: to all intents and purposes, security is a never-changingnational interest of countries because the international arena is a self-helpsystem with continual fear among states. In international politics states viewthemselves as vulnerable and their peers as potential threats, and for thisreason, security remains an all-time priority on the agenda of states. And whenevernecessary, states adopt diplomacy, balance power, form alliances and even go towar against other countries to defend and maintain their security. This paperagrees with realists that the international system is uncertain and as a result’The character of international politics changes as nationalinterdependence tightens or loosens.
Yet even as relations vary, states have totake care of themselves as best they can in an anarchic environment’ (Waltz, 2000, p. 18). Thus, thesecurity of the state may be endangered by aggressive behaviour of others as aresult, states strive as much as they can to look out for means to “deter and,if need be, fend off an attack by others” (Frankel, 1970, p. 48).
Secondly,the national interest of states, I am convinced, is permanent because everystate strives at all times to maintain its sovereignty once it is attained.Maintaining one’s territorial integrity and the autonomy of the domesticpolitical order remains a permanent national interest of states in the sensethat, recognition by their peers and intergovernmental organizationslike the United Nations is only extended to entities with territory and formaljuridical autonomy. This paper together with realists maintain that in the current international system, sovereignautonomy and self-determination are core values.
Thepaper is not in dispute of the fact that states pursue some basic socialvalues, including, freedom, order, justice, and welfare. But in the pursuit ofthese values they always make the protection of their existence their numberone priority. Josef Stalin, a former head of state of the Soviet Union put thepoint well during a war scare in 1927 when he posited that: “We can and mustbuild socialism in the Soviet Union but in order to do so we first of all haveto exist” (Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 38). In the words ofMearsheimer, “Survival dominates other motives because, once a state isconquered, it is unlikely to be in a position to pursue other aims” (2001, p. 30).Further to the above, the interests of states to protect specificnational assets, such as strategic maritime routes, port access, and naturalresources is permanent and do not change with transient governments. This paperstrongly contends that every country has some assets that others desire andwill want to have control over.
In order to prevent the scrambling of suchstrategic assets and resources, states make it their permanent nationalinterests to secure them for their citizens. It must be stated that suchnational interests are not open to political reinterpretation (Burchill, 2005, p. 27).It is very much justified therefore, to argue that “The idea of interest isindeed of the essence of politics and is unaffected by the circumstances oftime and place” (Morgenthau, 1985, p. 10).Moreover,the pursuit of economic prosperity remains an unchanging national interest ofstates.
It is the contention of this paper that countries perpetually pursueeconomic prosperity to enhance the welfare of their citizenry. States securethe allegiance of their citizens by catering for their economic interest. Thepursuit of such economic fortunes is again an all-time interest of statesbecause they use the acquired wealth to equip and empower their military forceswhich in turn enhances their defence capabilities Mearsheimer, furtherelaborate this position by arguing that, “greater economic prosperityinvariably means greater wealth, which has significant implications forsecurity, because wealth is the foundation of military power” (Mearsheimer, 2001, p.
38). CriticismsBy way of discussing some dissenting views, the paper first considers thecontention by Liberals that the national interest of states changes over timebecause states co-operate to create a market society as a means to promotedevelopment and economic growth. Liberals assert that free trade and marketforces overwhelm social relations and change political actions culminating inthe change of the national interest of states (Burchill, 2005, p. 131).For instance, they argue that previously, many states protected theirindustries. However, in today’s world, all of such countries have gotten rid oftheir protectionist policies to allow for free trade.Another criticism of the position of this paper is one advanced by Constructivistthat national interests are determined through social interaction and as aresult they change as the experiences of social interactions vary over time. Incontrary to the thesis of this paper, Constructivists assert that the nationalinterest of states change over time due to the fact that such interests areinfluenced by the social ideas of the day and as such, are regularly shaped andreshaped through socialisation.
According to Constructivist, shared ideas,beliefs and values greatly impact on social and political action. Thus, tothem, social values and ideas shape both the social identities of politicalactors and, in turn, the interests they express (Burchill, 2005, p. 193).Last on this score is the view by Constructivist that state interests areshaped by internationally shared norms and values that structure and givemeaning to international political life. Constructivists like Martha Finmorecontend that the national interests of states are defined in the context ofinternational norms and understandings about what is good and appropriate.According to these Constructivists, normative context influences the behaviourof decision-makers and of the mass publics who may choose and constrain thosedecision makers. The normative context also changes over time, and as thesenorms and values change, they create co-ordinated shifts in state interests andbehaviour across the system.
Thus, countries adjust themselves to accept newnorms and values that may be set by international organisations and through interactionswith other states (Burchill, 2005).In a response to the above criticisms, this paper asserts that, the nationalinterest of states does not change over time, rather the approaches chosen bystates to maintain these interests are varied constantly depending on thestructure and the prevailing-situations of the international system. Criticspoint to the creation of institutions and established norms as some of thethings that influence states to change their national interests.
However, it isthe position of this paper that these institutions only serve as the mediathrough which powerful states project their national interests. Realistsagree that states sometimes operate through institutions and benefit from doingso. Nonetheless, it must be understood that powerful states create and shapeinstitutions so that they can maintain or increase their share of world power.A clear instance is the veto power wielded by the permanent members of theUnited Nations Security Council who were the victors of the Second World Warand founding fathers of the United Nations. The point must be stressed thatpowerful states like the U.
S usually get their way around issues they considerimportant through international institutions. In times that they are not ableto secure their interests, they ignore the institution and do what they deem tobe in their own national interest (Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 216).
Again, by way of answering critics, it is important to state that, solong as states possess unequal power, national interest remains a permanentgoal in the sense that states that have attained certain heights on the worldstage will always make it a point to maintain their status in the internationalsystem while the have-nots will also continue to struggle to attain theirdesired status. Carr and other Realists argue that some states are better offthan others and these countries will always defend and sustain their privilegedposition whiles the have-nots, will struggle to change that situation. (Jackson & Sørensen, 2012, p. 39).ConclusionIn short, this paper admits that economic co-operation, social valuesand international norms and other circumstances in the international system could affect thedirection of the national interest of states. However, these factors do notchange the national interest of countries. These assertions and manyothers made by Constructivist and Liberals are problematic and inadequate toreverse the position of this paper because both theories acknowledge the stateas an important actor in international politics.
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