Sunday, March 06, 2005

U.S. and the theory of political realism

What is the theory behind nation-states using their power to bring about change in other countries? Certainly, politics is an intrinsic component that has played a prominent role in theory, if not in practice.

With this said, let us define political realism. Political realism is a theory of political philosophy that takes as its assumption that power is the primary end of political action, whether in the domestic or international arena.

On the domestic side, the theory asserts that the goal of politicians should be to strive to maximize their power via the inner workings of their political agenda and pre-set conditions within certain parameters; while on the international arena, nation-states should maximize their power via international relations with other nation-states. In short, politicians and nation-states should pursue power for their self-interest--right is might.

In its evolution, political realism re-incarnated in the form of social darwinism in which social and political growth is a struggle in which only the strongest or fittest cultures or polities would survive.

In a sense, the culture of each nation-state was inculcated via nationalist sentiments. This was later extended to include imperialist ambitions. Major nation-states have evolved through these stages: Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and the United States.

Social darwinians claim that some nations are born to rule over others (survival of the fittest);however, political realists focus on the need of ensuring that the politician, nation, culture, must ensure its own survival by securing its own needs and interests before it looks to the needs of others.

Furthermore, political realism maintains that because nation-states have no overriding world government that enforces a common code of rules, anarchy (not chaotic anarchy), is the only logical ethic whereby most nation-states will view its essence as being a-moral. (Hobbes, Leviathan) "Where there is no common Power, there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice... if there be no Power erected, or not great enough for our security, every man will and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art, for caution against all men."

Accordingly, without a supreme international power, nation-states view each other with fear and hostility and conflict, which is endemic to the system.

Theoretical backlash is also a common assumption, which broken down, implies that nation-states that assist other nation-states as an act of good-will, is easily refuted by pointing to some self-serving motive, the stronger nation seeking something in return. In this case, any attempt to introduce morality is futile.
If this is the case, then the above, identified as descriptive political realism, and the assumption of morality, is false.

However, if a nation-state assists another with no ulterior motive, then logically, this assumption is true and negates the soundness of descriptive realism.

Therefore, it is not a true or false description of international relations but is reduced to an arbitrary assumption, although assumptions can be tested against evidence.

What suppositions can we infer regarding the United States and its international relations? What propositions are implied?

Some apologists have said that the United States desires to rule as a world power; that as a world power, so too ought its government (in the banal name of democracy), control the activities of other nation-states-- overseeing the legality of their affairs and punishing those nations that break the laws. Why is this premise flawed? Because domestic analogy makes the presumption that relations between individuals and relations between nation-states are the same. We all know that this is not the case.

Furthermore, political realism does not factor in individuals and their interaction with their nation-state (or government). It has been said that relationships between individuals and their government is very different than those between nation-states, since individuals can hold beliefs and can suffer whereas states cannot.

Therefore, if the domestic analogy does not hold true, arguably, a different theory must be proposed to explain international affairs where each nation-state's citizenry is taken into account.

Political realists who are classified as a-moralists, realize that the morality of "upholding the national interest" is being twisted to assume that acting in one's own or one's nation's interest is immoral or amoral at best.

What view do you perceive the United States to emulate?


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