Menu Close

6.5 National Interest, Security Dilemma

National Interest

Que. Discuss Morgenthau’s theory of National interest and to what extent it is appropriate to suggest that national interest is pseudo theory?

International politics is dominated by the realist school of thought. According to Morgenthau, the father of realism, national interest is the prime motivation of foreign policies. National interest is a highly dynamic concept. Power is a means to secure the national interest. National interest itself can be described in terms of power.

Morgenthau has categorized national interest into two types.
1) Core national interest.  2) Variable national interest.
Core national interest are fundamental, do not change and hence countries show continuity in foreign policy.
Variable interest are the reasons to see continuity with change in foreign policies.

Scholars like Robinson has given following classification of national interest.
1) Primary  2) Secondary  3) Permanent  4) Variable  5) General and 6) Specific.
He has also given the ways in which countries protect their national interests. Balance of power, deterrence, diplomacy, international law and organizations, propaganda, intelligence, ideology, incentives.  // You can write on your own also.

Indian version: Sixfold policy and fourfold policy.

Though national interest is a core concept, yet it is called as pseudo theory. The prime reason is that it is highly subjective concept. National interest as a concept has been criticized by Marxist scholars. The first theoretical analysis of the national interest from Marxist perspective is done by Charles Beard. In the words of Charles Beard ‘If citizens have to support the government which prosecutes them, soldiers are to die for it, foreign policies have to confirm to it, what better term it can be other than national interest’.

National interest is a pseudo theory, was first declared by Raymond Aron. He called national interest pseudo because that it is vague, subjective, meaning changes according to the context. Ambiguity in the concept hinders the formulation of the acceptable theory of national interest.

Joseph Frankel – any search for the theory of national interest is useless, it is used in variety of ways for variety of purposes, there is no single meaning and content.

Burchill Scott – despite wide use of the concept, theory lacks any substance.

According to Mohammad Younus national interest is a means to promote the interest of elites. In his book published on the theory of national interest, he has shown how army in Pakistan describes its interests as ‘national interest’.

Security Dilemma

Que. Write short note on concept of security dilemma.

One of the core concept of realism, which is based on the Westphalian world order. The concept of security dilemma has been developed by following scholars.
1] John Herz has used the Hobbesian theory of state of nature to develop security dilemma, a vicious cycle of insecurity which makes power politics a permanent feature.
2] Robert Jervis has developed ‘offence defence theory’ to explain severity of security dilemma.
3] Social constructivists believe that security dilemma is because anarchy is interpreted in a specific way. They suggest that communications can address security dilemma.
4] George Sorenson has given the concept of insecurity dilemma. Insecurity dilemma suggests that in 21st century, nations suffer from internal security threats. Reasons – rise of ethnic movements, non state actors, failed states, civil wars.
5] Prof. Amitabh Acharya also believe that security dilemma may not be a relevant concept for third world states.
// Things are very general, You should know name of scholars.

Claim you copy NOW!

Hegemonic Stability Theory

Scholars: Robert Gilpin, Charles Kindleberger.

What is the theme?
Justification of hegemony. Why hegemony is justified? To maintain peace and order in international society. It is based on the assumption that the peace requires some ‘global policeman’ i.e. some state which can establish 1_Rule of law – By establishing the norms. It basically means establishing liberal international order.  2_That actors should have willingness and capacity to ensure that other actors observe the norms. It should be in a position to punish those who destroy the liberal world order. There are two qualities of hegemon. 1) Capacity.  2) Willingness. e.g. Till 2nd WW US did not have willingness though it had capacity.
Examples of hegemon. Up till 2nd WW Great Britain (Pax Britannica). After 2nd WW – USA (Pax Americana). The term Pax denotes dictated peace.

Span of hegemony. Normally hegemony continues for 100 years. After which it starts declining. Why? Hegemon overstretch, free riders take the advantage. Why countries will accept the hegemon? Hegemon provides order and security. Why hegemon would accept to become hegemon? Since hegemon dictates the rules, hegemon is going to benefit by the system. Thus hegemony denotes leadership.
Hegemonic stability theory is a realist theory which accepts the liberal international order. The realist theory of hegemony is different from the Gramscian theory. Gramscian theory looks ideology and culture as the basis of hegemony. Realist theory include military and economic power.

Role of transnational actors

Types of actors:
1_State actors. 
2_International actors – UN.
3_Transnational actors – e.g. NGOs, MNCs, Terrorist organizations.

Transnational actors are non-state actors having operations beyond borders. Do transnational actors have role in international politics? Matter of debate. 1_Realists – realism is a state centric view. For them even terrorist organizations are proxies. 2_Liberals, Marxists, Feminists do recognize the role but there is a difference of opinion. 3_Liberals see the positive role in bringing development. 4_Marxists look at MNCs as exploiters. 5_Feminists also consider MNCs as exploiters. Why there is a role of non-state actors? 1_Growth of society centric word. 2_Growth of interdependence. Which models recognize the role of non-state actors? Cobweb model, Complex interdependence, 3D chess board model.

Analysis of the role of MNCs.

1_Realists do not recognize their role. Liberals appreciate their role but consider it as a relatively recent phenomenon.
2_Marxists criticize realist approach. When realists do not recognize MNCs as actors, they are actually diverting our attentions from the activities of MNCs. Similarly liberals promote false consciousness. MNCs have resulted into the continuation of drain of wealth, development of underdevelopment. MNCs did not adopt sustainable development approach. Sometimes MNCs carry forward the interest of their states and sometimes states carryforward the interest of their MNCs. MNCs have contributed towards the failure of democracies by sabotage, they have toppled the democratically elected governments in Latin America, Middle East and installed puppet regimes. Now even developing countries like India and China are having their own MNCs, which may not follow sustainable path in Africa and Latin American countries, resulting into huge resentment. MNCs are extremely powerful force, the budget of some of the MNCs is bigger than the GDP of many smaller countries. Marxists trace the role of MNCs since 17th century. East India Company can be seen as an example, which established its own empire.

Realists do not give importance, liberals recognize them as positive agents. Even UN charter recognize the role of NGOs as consultative bodies attached to ECOSOC. (Art 72 of UN charter). Like MNCs even the annual budget of some of the transnational NGOs is many time bigger than the GDP of many smaller countries.
According to Marxists, even their role is not new. Along with East India Company came Christian missionaries. The role of missionaries was to build the soft power. NGOs and MNCs work in close nexus. MNCs channelize the corporate responsibility fund to these NGOs.
Along with MNCs, NGOs have been accused of attempting regime change. Recently Russia has ousted USAID from its territory.

The Most Important Book for PSIR

Terrorist Organizations.
There is a role of terrorist organizations in the first world war which started with the assassination of the Prince of Austria by Serbian extremists. Since the creation of Israel and failure of Arab nations in direct war, there has been the growth of terrorist organizations attempting proxy war. PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) was initially a terrorist organization. Initially middle east was affected by these asymmetrical actors but now it has become a global phenomenon. Sponsoring terrorism is a part of foreign policy of many countries. Noam Chomsky calls USA as the first terrorist state in the world.

John Lewis Gaddis predicted the bigger role of asymmetrical actors in post cold war world order as he suggested that USA has killed the Python (USSR) but has given rise to numerous poisonous snakes. How does he describes security scenario for USA in a post cold war world order? More challenging because security threat has become diffused and thus more difficult to control.

Test Your Knowledge!

1] Who is considered as the Father of Realism?
a) Woodrow Wilson
b) Morgenthau
c) Mearsheimer
d) Robinson

Show Answer

Ans: b) Morgenthau

2] Who said it first, that ‘national interest is a pseudo theory’?
a) Raymond Aron
b) Mohammad Younus
c) Robinson
d) Herman Kahn

Show Answer

Ans: a) Raymond Aron

3] According to Mohammad Younus, National Interests is means to promote interests of
a) State
b) Poor people
c) Elites
d) None of the above

Show Answer

Ans: c) Elites

4] Who among the following developed Offence-Defence theory to explain the severity of security dilemma?
a) George Sorenson
b) Amitabh Acharya
c) Robert Jervis
d) Robinson

Show Answer

Ans: c) Robert Jervis

5] Who among the following called the US as the First Terrorist State in the world?
a) Noam Chomsky
b) Amitabh Acharya
c) John Lewis
d) Herman Kahn

Show Answer

Ans: a) Noam Chomsky

6] Which of the following models recognize the role of Non-state actors?
a) Cobweb Model
b) 3D Chess Board
c) Complex Interdependence
d) All of the above

Show Answer

Ans: d) All of the above

Start your PSIR journey today

Posted in PSIR 2A

Related Posts

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Was having some doubt in Shubhra Ma’am’s notes, came here for help only to find that word by word her notes are written here…. Although this website is helpful many times.

Yash Chauhan

Where is Barry Buzan concept

Kiran K

It is given ‘Security’ page


Security dilemma, in political science, a situation in which actions taken by a state to increase its own security cause reactions from other states, which in turn lead to a decrease rather than an increase in the original state’s security.