To Die For: National Interests and Strategic Uncertainties


© 2000 P. H. Liotta

From Parameters, Summer 2000, pp. 46-57.

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"We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow." -- Lord Palmerston, 1848

"Individual countries must gradually abandon a foreign policy category that, so far, has usually been critical to their thinking: the category of `national interests.' `National interests' are more likely to divide us than bring us together."[1] -- Czech President Václav Havel, 1999

What represents a national interest? If one were to follow the conflicting counsel (separated by almost a century and a half) of the two leaders in the above epigraphs, it might seem that national interests both define the identity and purpose of a nation and threaten the stability and order of the international system. To some extent, both views are correct.

Lord Palmerston, though a firm believer in constitutional liberalism, was a reckless and domineering figure who assured the stability of 19th-century Europe, yet would be considered nothing less than a tyrant in today's world order. Václav Havel, a dissident playwright who spent much of the Cold War working in a beer factory in what was once Czechoslovakia, helped bring down the Berlin Wall and became president of his nation during the difficult decade that followed 1989. Both Palmerston and Havel represent the tensions between the classical realist and liberal perspectives; such perspectives have helped define the contending views that shape the debate over national interest in the 21st century. Understanding and appreciating these alternate perspectives is crucial.

The purpose of this essay is not simply to challenge the narrow focus of realist-based conceptions of national interest. Nor is my purpose solely to imply that traditional national interests are completely irrelevant. The bottom line, after all, remains unchanged: what a nation wants and what its citizens are willing to go to war over--and to die for--remain unchanged as fundamental interests. But what may well be changing is the notion that of all the issues of security, issues of military security matter most.

Security is about more than protecting the country from external threats; security includes economic security, environmental security, and human security.[2] (Indeed, human security--viewed as emerging from the conditions of daily life and accounting for the basic necessities of food, shelter, employment, health, safety--is, officially or not, part of the dynamic when we speak of creating conditions for a "favorable world order."[3]) Thus, military forces may well be used for more than simply protecting a nation and its people from traditional threat-based challenges.

As the security environment evolves and as relationships between states and regions grow and become increasingly linked in complex interdependence, so too will the understanding, application, and relevance of national interests.

The Irrelevance of National Interests?

Some interest scholars have forcefully argued that there can be no agreement among Americans themselves about what constitutes the national interest. Peter Trubowitz, in a recent study meant to define the meaning of American national interests, came to the conclusion that those "who assume that America has a discernible national interest whose defense should determine its relations with other nations are unable to explain the persistent failure to achieve domestic consensus on international objectives."[4] Others, such as historian Martin van Creveld, have become cynical about the utility of interest:

To say that peoples go to war for their "interests," and that "interest" comprises whatever any society considers good and useful for itself, is as self-evident as it is trite. Saying so means that we regard our particular modern combination of might and right as eternally valid instead of taking it for what it really is, a historical phenomenon with a clear beginning and presumably an end. Even if we do assume that men are always motivated by their interests, there are no good grounds for assuming that the things that are bundled together under this rubric will necessarily be the same in the future as they are today. . . . The logic of strategy itself requires that the opponent's motives be understood, since on this rests any prospect of success in war. If, in the process, the notion of interest has to be thrown overboard, then so be it.[5]

In contrast, Joseph Nye argues that the national interest is a set of shared priorities that can help set relations with the world; such priorities are broader than strategic interests and can--and often do--include issues of human rights and democracy. According to Nye, "a democratic definition of the national interest does not accept the difference between a morality-based and an interest-based foreign policy."[6] While the American people are largely neither willing to be neo-isolationist nor desirous to become the world's primacist police, it is true that principles as well as power constitute the idea of the national interest. It is as if the ghosts of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are in constant tension, defining who we are as a people and the purposes for which we are willing to bleed, or at least to commit our means to secure achievable ends.

This is not to say that employment of the traditional military, economic, and political instruments of power ought to continue in the ad hoc manner in which they were applied during the 1990s. Regarding the military instrument in particular, Henry Kissinger noted in late 1999, with particular reference to the Kosovo engagement, "I am uneasy with the readiness with which the military instrument is being used as the key solution for humanitarian crises."[7] Yet this potential weakness also emphasizes an extraordinary American strength at the beginning of the 21st century:

There are few countries or crises that can threaten American vital interests. Yet our "sole superpower" status means the US will continue to use its influence, and perhaps its military forces, to save lives, right wrongs, and keep the peace. . . . We are in an era in which US interventions may be seen as important but not vital. In such instances, US leaders, supported by public opinion, may be willing to use military force for humanitarian reasons.[8]

Setting Power and Priorities: The Hierarchy of Interests

Interests are a starting point, not an end state. At its simplest understanding, the national interest demands the willingness of a state to uphold its morals and national values with the commitment of its blood, treasure, time, and energy, to achieve sometimes specific and sometimes inspecific ends. National interests reflect the identity of a people--their geography, culture, political sympathies, social consensus, as well as their levels of economic prosperity and demographic makeup. Thus, national interests are little more than a broad set of often abstract guidelines that allow a nation to function the way it believes it best should function. National interests also answer the fundamental but essential question: "What are we willing to die for?"

Hans J. Morgenthau, the classic realist thinker, saw two levels of national interest, the vital and the secondary.[9] Vital interests assure a state its security, its freedom and independence, protection of its institutions, and enshrinement of its values. Vital interests also negate compromise and represent issues over which the state is willing to wage war. Secondary interests are more difficult to define but do involve compromise and negotiation.

But how a nation identifies with such vital and secondary interests has to do with the kind of national identity--or polity, as Aristotle termed it--a people want to assume for themselves. This identity can also change over time. America, for example, is no longer the isolationist nation it once prided itself on being--and has not been isolationist since the 1940s. In 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt jointly proclaimed the liberal principles that would guide the post-World War II settlement when they issued the Atlantic Charter. In 1944, representatives at the Bretton Woods conference established the core principles for economic order that are embodied today in the World Trade Organization; that same year, political leaders at Dumbarton Oaks presented aspects of a vision for future order in their proposals for a United Nations.

What America became committed to in the postwar order were a broader internationalist conception of vital interests that were in many ways antithetical to the isolationist preference favored by the founders of the American Republic. George Washington's farewell address revealed a preference for national interests for America that seems oddly out of place in today's environment: "Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns."[10] If anything, Europe's interests--both as a result of common histories and struggles--are now core to American interests.

Moreover, domestic concerns also shape foreign policy applications. Realist arguments that presume clear distinctions exist between internal (domestic) and external (strategic) national interests are, at best, flawed.[11] The truth is more honestly reflected in the blurred distinction between internal and external interests.[12]

Core Strategic Interests and Interests of Significant Value

At their most basic and abstract level, US national interests in the contemporary world are simple to describe: to assure the security and prosperity of the American people in the global environment. What matters most, perhaps, about this claim is the phrase "in the global environment." Also important is the notion of what constitutes a nation's power; in the contemporary environment, it seems that a nation's "soft power" (the ability to attract through cultural and ideological appeal) is at least as important as a nation's "hard power" (a country's economic and military ability to buy and to compel).[13] The identity of power and its distribution have become multidimensional, its structures inherently more complex, and states themselves more permeable.[14]

The ability to distinguish core strategic interests from significant interests that might require the US to commit its blood, treasure, time, and energy to achieve objectives is almost never easy. Indeed, the misrepresentation of what constitutes a national interest may well embody the central strategic dilemma the United States faces in this next century. It was no accident that political scientist Arnold Wolfers, five decades ago, referred to the concepts of "national security" and "national interest" as "ambiguous symbols."[15]

More frequently than is often admitted, policymakers cannot know exactly how a potential crisis may affect the real national interest. Even seemingly objective and clear threats are difficult to sort through. The connection between Iraq's 1991 invasion of Kuwait and Serbia's refusal to sign the 1999 Rambouillet agreement may involve a difficult chain of causes and events that must be dealt with in relation to the idea of "interest":

Different people see different risks and dangers. And priorities vary: reasonable people can disagree, for example, about how much insurance to buy against remote threats and whether to do so before pursuing other values (such as human rights). In a democracy, such political struggles over the exact definition of national interests--and how to pursue them--are both inevitable and healthy. Foreign-policy experts can help clarify causation and tradeoffs in particular cases, but experts alone cannot decide. Nor should they. The national interest is too important to leave solely to the geopoliticians. Elected officials must play the key role.[16]

The following three-tiered approach to assessment of interests as a basis of action for policymakers, strategists, and force planners is meant to illustrate this necessarily complex process. The first tier resembles Donald Neuchterlein's hierarchy of intensity and applicability.[17] This "sliding interests matrix" (see Figure 1, below) suggests that nominal issues under the rubric of "favorable world order" (support for human rights, sovereignty versus individual liberties of the citizen, and controlling or preventing intrastate conflict) can also have direct implications for core strategic interests.

 Figure 1. The Sliding Interests Matrix.

Issues such as "favorable world order" or "promotion of values" can enter the realm of vital, core strategic interests more often than commonly thought.[18] When a situation becomes so significant that policymakers are unwilling to compromise, the issue--no matter how seemingly peripheral or secondary--has now become a core strategic interest. Witness Kosovo, for example: NATO nations, by effectively declaring war against Yugoslavia on 24 March 1999, were acting both in the "self-interest" of NATO and European security and, equally, in support of human rights and individual freedoms.

The intervention marked a watershed event that suggested human beings are indeed more important than the state:

This is probably the first war that has not been waged in the name of "national interests," but rather in the name of principles and values. If one can say of any war that it is ethical, or that it is being waged for ethical reasons, then it is true of this war. Kosovo [unlike Kuwait] has no oil fields to be coveted; no member nation in the alliance has any territorial demands; Milosevic does not threaten the territorial integrity of any member of the alliance. And yet the alliance is at war. It is fighting out of concern for the fate of others. It is fighting because no decent person can stand by and watch the systematic, state-directed murder of other people. It cannot tolerate such a thing. It cannot fail to provide assistance if it is within its power to do. . . . This war places human rights above the rights of state.[19]

Václav Havel's declaration here of human rights as predominant over state rights is itself an expression of moral value as national interest. And although some believed there emerged from the war in Kosovo a so-called "Clinton Doctrine," in which the world community would have an obligation to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide whenever able, the mandate itself seemed far from certain.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was far less sanguine when speaking a few days after the President first pronounced support for the new doctrine: "Some hope . . . that Kosovo will be a precedent for similar interventions around the globe. I would caution against such sweeping conclusions. Every circumstance is unique. Decisions on the use of force will be made . . . on a case-by-case basis."[20] National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, a month later, complicated the case for humanitarian intervention by suggesting (in the specific case of East Timor) that the United States should "weigh its national interests" in a country before deciding to use military power.

"Case-by-caseism" and humanitarian intervention anytime/anywhere, nonetheless, prove equally problematic. And the above examples, rather than trying to imply the vacillation of decisionmakers, only suggest how difficult it is initially to distinguish between core strategic and significant value interests (or what others have termed "vital" and "secondary" interests).

Thus, aside from determining a first-tier order that provides the decisionmaker a useful, systematic means to think about interests, there should be a second tier for assessing how aspects of such interest will affect policy decision, implementation, and overall strategy. Figure 2 is meant to illustrate this difficulty.[21]

Figure 2. National Interest Taxonomy.

Two pertinent examples of how focus, influence, importance, and attention to interests develop over time can be drawn from American involvement in the Balkans during the 1990s. In 1994, as Bosnia-Herzegovina descended into complete chaos and Great Britain and the United States came to loggerheads over whether or not NATO should intervene in the former Yugoslavia, President Clinton declared that "Europe must bear most of the responsibility for solving" problems in the Balkans.[22] By 1995, the President declared that former Yugoslavia, within Central Europe, was "a region of the world that is vital to our national interests."[23] During the intervening months between these two statements, events themselves did not change so much as the American perspective on the need for intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Put another way, American interests had moved from not only significant interest to core strategic (or, from "secondary" to "vital") but also from a general to a specific focus.

This second-tier "taxonomy of interest" can also point to some difficult recognitions (and seeming weaknesses) in applying strict categorizations of interests in all specific instances. The United States, for example, felt the sting of the "Kosovo effect" in late 1999 when Russian decisionmakers informed the Clinton Administration that they were following the example of NATO intervention in the Balkans. Declaring the interest need to protect both sovereign Russian territory as well as the "human rights" of Russian citizens, the Russians unleashed their airpower to systematically destroy the capital of Chechnya and the outlying region, leaving tens of thousands of refugees and a ruined Chechnyan infrastructure. Although perhaps apocryphal, one Russian diplomat is said to have asked a US State Department official what the difference between Kosovo and Chechnya was, and to have received the reply: "You [Russians] had nuclear weapons."[24] Similarly, in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, the Indian defense minister, when asked what single lesson he had learned from the "international community" intervention against Iraq, responded: "Don't fight the United States unless you have nuclear weapons."[25]

Such contentious responses to the application of American power in support of American interests prove useful in appreciating the complexity of national interests under strategic uncertainty. Distinguishing how such second-tier categories of interest consequence conflict with initial first-tier interest assessments further sharpen the recognition that interests are not always in harmony, policy decisions are difficult and often nuanced, and strategy can, at times, seem hypocritical. While we do not hesitate to impose economic sanctions against Myanmar for its atrocious human rights record, we refrain from similar sanctions against the People's Republic of China for obvious reasons: Our economic prosperity interests (of core strategic importance, specific focus, and enduring influence) would almost always predominate over "lesser" interests (of significant value importance, general focus, and uncertain duration).

In an ideal world, support for human rights would not conflict with "absolute" interests that Americans would be willing to die for. In Iraq in 1991, rightly or wrongly, Americans were willing to accept to up to 10,000 casualties, but would not have been willing to accept as many casualties in stemming the wide-scale genocide of the Tutsi population by Hutus (with over 500,000 deaths) in 1994 for one specific reason: Americans are reluctant to accept casualties, or even to intervene, when their only foreign policy goals are "unreciprocated humanitarian interests."[26]

Finally, a useful third-tier approach to addressing potential interests, strategic impact, and decision should include a methodology for assessing the relationship of factors that will affect the relative position of first-tier selected interests. This methodology is simple and logical, and can also reveal how seemingly "lesser" interests can quickly affect "core" interests. A North Korean invasion of South Korean territory, for instance, requires little consideration of how an event will affect core strategic interests. Yet Eritrea's continuing disputes with Ethiopia, Chechnya's perpetual struggles within the Russian Federation, Islamic revolutionary movements within Central Asia, the inability of the Colombian government to prevent the growing power of both the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) or the Ejército de Liberacíon Nacional (ELN), or the systematic abuse of citizens by a government, all require a far more difficult logic chain to determining US action or inaction. (See Figure 3.)[27]

Figure 3. A Methodology for Chain Reactions.

Understanding levels of importance, the relationship between specific and general aspects of this perceived importance, and how a potential chain of linked events might lead to a "reaction" that will affect core strategic interests should help better determine whether or not an issue requires action for the sake of interest. The necessary choices a decisionmaker could face might include the following: How plausible are postulated outcomes? How long is the chain of interrelated events? How far removed are these events from core strategic interests? How, specifically, will the issue affect obvious (and not so obvious) relationships to which the United States is committed? If the United States does not act on a specific issue, what are plausible second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-order consequences? Ultimately, addressing these consequences against potential interests is essential. The three-tiered approach attempts to provide a more balanced methodology for a complex process.

Sorting through Interests

At best, the most general set of criteria for which the "traditional" instruments of power support national interests might be expressed in this way:[28]

. Militarily, to assure American territorial integrity and support for alliances to which we are committed; to safeguard American citizens against intimidation or attack; and to bolster American external interests in concert with political and economic interests, while fostering a nonbelligerent engagement with other states, regions, and alliances.

. Politically, to support and preserve American values of freedom, individual rights, the rule of law, democratic institutions, and the principles of constitutional liberalism.

. Economically, to sustain individual and societal prosperity through principles of economic reforms, macroeconomic coordination, and free-market practice tempered by agreed-to rules of labor, environmental, and regional/international standardization.

As Robert Blackwill notes, nonetheless, the issue of human rights--as one example--connects "directly to US vital and important national security interests/core national objectives."[29] A national interest may therefore constitute much more than traditional, narrow realist understandings.

Consider, as an example, the declared interest of "defense of the homeland." Under a schema of liberal internationalism, military forces, both as an instrument of national power and in support of other cooperative security endeavors, support defense of the homeland by supporting American interests abroad. American power, as part of a democratic security community, promotes "defense of the homeland" through force presence and involvement outside America's borders. Thus, in order to ensure American territorial integrity, forces often will be deployed in instances that will not satisfy, at first glance, the narrow categories of "survival" or protection of territorial interest criteria. As one contrarian Naval War College professor put it: "American armed forces support American interests by always `playing away games.'"

Second, the changing international order may also mitigate the influence of individual states to shape events. The notion that the state is best suited to determine--or even to protect--economic prosperity may be a bit of a stretch in an age of globalization. The enormous growth in private capital flows alone reinforces this truth. Jessica Mathews rightly emphasizes that markets--not governments--are setting the de facto rules of the new world order; governments most often only have the appearance of free choice when making economic rules.[30] States that ignore the new rule sets of market competition (enhanced by rapid progress in information and communications technology) will witness a severe impact on their own "economic prosperity" core strategic interest: loss of foreign capital, technology, and domestic jobs. While true that cooperating states play a significant role in developing rules of trade standards and restrictions--such as through the international medium of the World Trade Organization--states may not be the ultimate guarantors of individual prosperity. Transparency, openness--the free market--must be allowed to play a hand as well.

As for the issue of promoting a "favorable world order" as national interest, adherence to this principle without careful orchestration of other contingencies and a recognition of second- and third-order consequences could result in hegemony without achievement. The claim that the United States is the "indispensable nation," implying perhaps that some other nations are "dispensable," points to how one state can go too far in its estimation of self-worth. In a new age of cooperative endeavors and liberal internationalism, compromise as much as compellance will likely form the true landscape of the security environment.

Moreover, whether one agrees with the concept or not, there should be some recognition of how "human security" has entered the arena of state, nongovernmental, and international organizational thinking. In an age when nontraditional threats such as terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and ethnic conflicts are linked to security challenges such as population growth, environmental decline, denial of human rights, lack of development and poverty rates that foster economic stagnation, social instability, and state collapse, it ought to become obvious that a new set of traditional problems has emerged. These problems require fundamental rethinking of interests.

Finally, ideas still matter. Ideas are something Americans are still willing to die for. Perhaps ever since the Spanish-American War of 1898, for instance, which propelled the United States into an experiment with empire that still colors America's relationship with the world, Americans have agreed, far more often than not, that national interests encompass prosperity, democracy, and security.[31] And, as historian John Lewis Gaddis rightly argues, the Cold War itself was fought as much over the struggle of ideology (liberalism versus communism) as over security competition.[32] According to Gaddis, perhaps the greatest mistake the United States and Soviet Union made during the Cold War was to define the contest between them--with its potential to wreak the greatest havoc in history--as one of military might, when the struggle itself was over moral, cultural, and ideological strengths. Values, in other words, can become, in specific circumstance, a core strategic interest.

The national interest, admittedly, is a slippery concept. Yet how one views, consistently focuses on, and consistently acts upon such interest will prove the true demonstration of larger "grand" strategic perspectives. As regards the application of interests that have been argued for in this essay, Václav Havel may well be correct in insisting that modern democratic states are defined as much by qualities such as respect for human rights and individual liberties, by the equality their citizens enjoy, by the existence of a civil society, as by a state's self-interest and its ability to protect and enforce its own survival interests. As Havel would have it, the ultimate survival at stake is "universal civic equality and the rule of law . . . a global civil society."[33] Just as Cold War strategists built a nuclear triad--a three-pronged support for national security through sea-, ground-, and air-launched weapons--so too American national interests must rest on the support of three foundations--prosperity, democracy, and security--as fundamental to the conduct of strategy and the execution of policy.[34] One cannot exist without the others.


The author would like to thank Andrew Ross and Timothy Somes at the US Naval War College for their insightful comments on an earlier draft of this essay.

1. Václav Havel, "Kosovo and the End of the Nation-State," an address delivered to the Canadian Senate and House of Commons in Ottawa on 29 April and reprinted in The New York Review of Books, 10 June 1999, pp. 4-5.

2. See Theodore H. Moran, American Economic Policy and National Security (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993); and Joseph J. Romm, Defining National Security: The Nonmilitary Aspects (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993).

3. One of the most powerful arguments for this dynamic of human security can be found in Michael Renner's "Transforming Security," in State of the World: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), pp. 115-31.

4. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., "Redefining the National Interest," Foreign Affairs, 78 (July-August 1999), 23.

5. Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War (New York: Free Press, 1991), p. 217.

6. Nye, "Redefining the National Interest," pp. 23-24.

7. The Economist, "Where Do American Interests Lie?" 18 September 1999, p. 30.

8. Phillip S. Meilinger, "Beware of the `Ground Nuts,'" Chicago Tribune, 21 July 1999, Internet,, accessed 22 July 1999.

9. Hans J. Morgenthau, The Impasse of American Foreign Policy (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1962), p. 191.

10. Henry Steele Commager and Milton Cantor, eds., Documents of American History (10th ed.; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988), I, 174.

11. W. David Clinton, "Defining the National Interest," The Two Faces of National Interest (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 54-55.

12. The "Input-Output Model" used in the Policy Making Implementation course at the Naval War College demonstrates this tension. Further, some "myths" about American willingness have arisen partly out of response to domestic concerns; regarding the unwillingness of the military to accept casualties, for example, there is a significant amount of contrary material to support the argument that Americans will accept significant casualties when convinced it is in the national interest. See, for example, Nye, "Redefining the National Interest," p. 32.

13. Specifically, "soft power" focuses on attraction rather than coercion. It works by convincing other states and actors to follow, by agreeing to common norms and institutions that produce desired behavior. Through the use of soft power, a state can make its power legitimate without the often more costly expenditure of traditional economic or military resources. See Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 1990).

14. Joseph S. Nye, Jr., "What New World Order?" Foreign Affairs, 71 (Spring 1992), 88.

15. Arnold Wolfers, "`National Security' as Ambiguous Symbol," Political Science Quarterly, 67 (December 1952), 481-502.

16. Nye, "Redefining the National Interest," p. 23.

17. Donald E. Neuchterlein, America Overcommitted: United States National Interests in the 1980s (Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky, 1985), p. 15. Neuchterlein also presents this matrix in a subsequent book titled America Recommitted: United States National Interests in a Restructured World (Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky, 1991).

18. While I am aware that Neuchterlein admits to the possibility of "promotion-of-values" as possibly becoming a vital stake interest, he tends to focus on military security, realist-based conceptions of interest, and level of commitment in providing examples in his work.

19. Havel, p. 5.

20. Ivo H. Daalder and Michael E. O'Hanlon, "Unlearning the Lessons of Kosovo," Foreign Policy, No. 116 (Fall 1999), p. 129.

21. In Figure 2, with the exception of the "influence" interest proposed here, these interest types have been adapted from Hans Morgenthau in works that include "Another Great Debate: The National Interest of the United States," American Political Science Review, 46 (1952), 973; "Alliances in Theory and Practice," in Alliance Policy in the Cold War, ed. Arnold Wolfers (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 203; and A New Foreign Policy for the United States (New York: Praeger, 1969).

22. William Jefferson Clinton, A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement (Washington: GPO, 1994), p. 3.

23. William Jefferson Clinton, "Implementing the Bosnian Peace Agreement: Let Us Lead," Vital Speeches of the Day, 15 December 1995, p. 130. Emphasis added.

24. The Economist, "Where Do American Interests Lie?" 18 September 1999, p. 29.

25. Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs, 72 (Summer 1993), 46.

26. Nye, "Redefining the National Interest," p 32.

27. Figure 3 is partially adapted from Robert D. Blackwill's "A Taxonomy for Defining US National Security Interests in the 1990s and Beyond," in Europe in Global Change: Strategies and Options for Europe, ed. Werner Weidenfeld and Josef Janning (Gütersloh, Germany: Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers, 1993), p. 105. Blackwill, however, focuses perhaps too narrowly on "threat" assessment in his focus on national interests.

28. Partially adapted from Blackwill, p. 105.

29. Blackwill, p. 108.

30. Jessica Mathews, "Power Shift," Foreign Affairs,76 (January-February 1997), 57.

31. H. W. Brands, "The Idea of the National Interest," Diplomatic History, 23 (Spring 1999), 261.

32. See, in particular, Chapter 10, "The New Cold War History," in John Lewis Gaddis, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 281-95. Two other worthwhile earlier pieces that illustrate how Gaddis came to rethink his own understanding of the Cold War include the monograph How Relevant Was U.S. Strategy in Winning the Cold War? (Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies Institute, 1992) and the essay "The Cold War, the Long Peace, and the Future," Diplomatic History, 16 (Summer 1992), 232-46.

33. Havel, p. 4.

34. Brand, p. 261.

Lieutenant Colonel P. H. Liotta, USAF, is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College and served previously as a Fulbright Fellow in the former Yugoslavia and attaché to the Hellenic Republic. His tenth book, Dismembering the State: The Death of Yugoslavia and Why It Matters, is forthcoming from Lexington.

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Reviewed 9 May 2000. Please send comments or corrections to