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Concept of the National Interest in Foreign Policy

This research paper discuss why the concept of the national interest in the study and conduct of foreign policy arouses controversy. Its thesis is that throughout American history definitions of the national interest have varied reflecting very different approaches to foreign affairs and the tensions between foreign and domestic policy in the context of American democracy. After the end of the Cold War it has become more rather than less difficult to define the national interest and to translate it into coherent foreign policy objectives.

In his discussion of the national interest, international relations theorist Waltz states "to say that a state seeks its own preservation or pursues its national interest becomes interesting only if we can figure out what the national interest requires a country to do." This essay examines what various theorists and practitioners of international relations have suggested is encompassed by the term 'national interest' and the schools of thought they represent. Those schools are roughly grouped into the realist or neo-realist or universalist or pluralist categories. The special difficulties of defining national interests within a democratic form of government and the political context of the American experiment in representative government are also addressed in this analysis. Finally, traditional ways of defining the national interest are challenged by the new environment in which f


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Concept of the National Interest in Foreign Policy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:19, April 01, 2015, from