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The Concept of the National Interest

" In its most offensive form, this tendency was epitomized by aggressive 19th century expansion at the expense of other nations such as the Mexican War which was justified on the grounds that it was the manifest destiny of America to free the inhabitants of New Spain from less civilized regimes. Another good example was Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which emphasized that the American national interest in World War I was not founded on the nationalistic and security concerns but rather on collective security and open international arrangements and cooperation and on the principle of ethnic self-determination. Other examples include American faith in disarmament treaties and the extraordinary importance placed by Franklin Roosevelt on the formation of the United Nations after World War II. According to Viotti and Kauppi, one school of thought, the pluralists, "see the possibility of cooperation and accommodation . . . and [believe] the spread of democratic ideals will have a pacifying effect on people and states."

The realists and the universalists also disagree over the degree to which ethical or moral considerations should shape the national interest. According to Craig and George, "there is a long history of controversy over the question whether and how moral principles should apply in foreign policy." Extreme realists, followers of realpolitik, ignore them. The universalists, such as human rights enthusiasts, tend to accord them primacy. Morgenthau was leery of ideological anti-communist fervor in post-war American foreign policy. He warned against "the delusion of universalism" but he agreed that while "man is an animal longing for power, . . . he is also a creature with a moral purpose."

Democracy and the National Interest

National interests are of an abiding nature. Morgenthau acknowledged "the kind of interest determining political action in a particular period depends upon the potential and cultural context wit...

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The Concept of the National Interest. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:17, August 17, 2017, from
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