Is There a National Interest?

Lawrence Davidson

in Foreign Policy, Inc.

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780813125244
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135021 | DOI:
Is There a National Interest?

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Although the notion of national interest can become problematic because of the existence of well-organized interest groups that effectively privatize foreign policy relative to their areas of interest, there are several schools of thought that operate on the assumption that national interest is a real phenomenon that shapes international relations. The realists believe that the system of international relations could work correctly if national leaders suspend all biases and personal interests and allow themselves to be driven to seek power and to act violently by the pure motives of national security and survival. On the other hand, idealists believe that ethical standards of behavior are applicable to international relations and that foreign policy should be used to spread the concepts of democracy, human rights, and the like. Meanwhile, neoconservatives believe that America can realize its national interests by reshaping the world in its own image through such means as regime change and preemptive war. While these schools agree that national interest is basically about maintaining the country's military and economic security, they disagree about the best strategy to achieve this. What seems clear though is that national interest is an eventual end product of the efforts of competing domestic groups to shape foreign policy in line with their aspirations.

Keywords: national interest; American foreign policy; international relations; interest groups; realists; idealists; neoconservatives

Chapter.  5785 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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