National interest refers to a country’s aspirations and objectives, which can be military, fiscal, or cultural in nature (Sunwoo, 2007). It is a basic principle in international affairs that explains the fundamental rationale for the actions of nation-states and political leaders in threatening international environments. Any country’s primary aim is to support its national interests, which are linked to stability, self-preservation, and the well-being of its people. A nation-state, on the other hand, is a term that refers to a state that has merged political and cultural institutions from which it derives its political authority to rule and obtain sovereign state status. In other words, a nation-state is the combination of a state and a nation (Pin-Fat, 2005).
One can identify a broad range of dangers in the use of national interest as a rationale for the nation-state behavior. One of such dangers is that it may increasingly be challenging for a nation-state to capture the needs of its citizens. That is because it may be difficult for a nation-state formed on the basis of a country’s national interest to provide simple and clear answers to its people regarding various government actions as well as invent slogans that effectively promote nationhood (Case, 2013). Additionally, national interest may not be the citizens’ most preferred choice of attaining the nation-state status, perhaps because of various compromises relating to the imperfect world. Besides, a country’s use of national interest as a means of gaining the nation-state status may produce even worse results that undermine the citizens’ interests (Case, 2013).
Another danger of the use of national interest as a rationale for nation-state behavior is that most citizens, who lack real experience and understanding of the impacts of political instability, find a country’s insistence on national interest as a precondition for nation-state status to sound like a justification of its authoritarianism (Pin-Fat, 2005). For instance, adopting the “America First” slogan may sound like America’s withdrawal or isolation from global affairs in an attempt to affirm its nation-state status through the expression of its national interest, which is not a fair characterization (Pin-Fat, 2005).
The use of national interest as a rationale for nation-state behavior may also lead to the eruption of unnecessary wars when country’s attempt to use military approaches for defending their national interests and proving the nation-states status (Sunwoo, 2007). The outcome of such conflicts may be disastrous, and the Second World War is a perfect example. Besides, wars resulting from the nation-state’s pursuance of national interests are often characterized by tensions and prolonged conflicts, which usually lead to the suffering of many innocent people becoming refugees or losing their lives (Sunwoo, 2007).
Additionally, while the concept of national interest has moral content, its use as a means of attaining the nation-state behavior may make it fail the test of morality. The welfare and the security of a country’s political body are essential, and political leaders should have moral obligations of promoting the country’s safety and well-being for the benefit of the citizens and the nation as a whole (Case, 2013). However, sometimes its diligent pursuit may breach higher moral responsibilities. In other words, the efforts to use national interest as a rationale for nation-states behavior may sometimes risk other people’s comfort and even cause the disaster in international affairs (Case, 2013).
It is, therefore, essential for countries to evaluate and accurately identify the objectives and motives of their citizens and other states when pursuing their national interests. Besides, when crafting foreign policies, nations should rely on expert judgment to overcome the common propensity of interpreting nation-state behaviors within the boundaries of self-interest.
Case, W. (2013). Defending borders: States and nation-states in the ASEAN 5. Trans: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia, 1(01), 45-62. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/trn.2012.3.
Pin-Fat, V. (2005). The metaphysics of the national interest and the ‘mysticism’ of the nation-state: Reading Hans J. Morgenthau. Review of International Studies, 31(02). http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s026021050500642x.
Sunwoo. (2007). Individual’s interest and national interest: Opposition or accordance? Studies in Philosophy East-West, 0(46), 241-262. http://dx.doi.org/10.15841/kspew.46.200712.241.