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United States National Interests in a Changing World

United States National Interests in a Changing World

Donald E. Nuechterlein
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    United States National Interests in a Changing World
    Book Description:

    Although the termnational interesthas long been used in reference to the foreign policy goals of nations, there has been no generally agreed upon definition of the concept; as a result, Donald E. Nuechterlein contends, there has been a tendency for foreign policy to be determined by institutional prejudice and past policy rather than by a systematic assessment of national interests. By what criterion does a President decide that a given interest is or is not vital-that is, whether he must contemplate defending it by force if other measures fail?

    In this study Nuechterlein offers a new conceptual framework for the analysis of foreign policy decisions; resting on more precise definitions and distinguishing among the degrees of interest that the United States perceives in the range of foreign policy issues it faces. He also deals with the constitutional problem of checks and balances between the Presidency and Congress in setting the goals of foreign policy, and the influence of private interest groups and the media on the definition of national interest. Underlining the need for constant reassessment of priorities in a rapidly changing international environment, Nuechterlein illustrates his analysis by drawing on the American experience in foreign affairs since World War II.

    A case study of the American involvement in Southeast Asia describes how six presidents, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, viewed United States interests there and the conclusions each drew in terms of policy tools to defend those interests in Vietnam. Finally, he assesses what the future vital interests of the United States are likely to be in light of the shifting balance of world power, and the growing importance of international economics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6410-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 The Concept of National Interest
    (pp. 1-29)

    The termnational interesthas long been used by statesmen and scholars to describe the foreign-policy goals of nation-states. Charles Beard, inThe Idea of National Interest,traced the evolution of the phrase from the first nation-states down to the twentieth century and described the historical interests of the United States in essentially economic terms. Walter Lippmann, inU.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic,sought to define United States defense interests in the post–World War II period, drawing on the isolationist experience of the interwar period.

    Although the concept of national interest is not new, there has long...

  5. 2 Criteria for Determining Vital Interests
    (pp. 30-56)

    Perhaps the most pressing need in United States foreign-policy formulation in the 1970’s is to define as precisely as possible the criteria to be used in determining what are vital national interests. This is not the same as describing what these vital interests are, or seem to be, or should be; rather, it is the process of asking fundamental questions about what kind of role the United States wishes to play in the world in the final quarter of the twentieth century and what price it is willing to pay to achieve that role.¹ Few scholars and fewer statesmen have...

  6. 3 Roles of the President and Congress in Determining Interests
    (pp. 57-79)

    The question of who should have the primary responsibility for determining United States national interests has been debated from the beginnings of the Republic. The founding fathers grappled with this problem in much the same manner they debated other questions related to the powers to be accorded the President, which should go to Congress and the courts, and which should be retained by the states. As on many other issues, Hamilton and Madison were the spokesmen for two opposite views: Hamilton argued that in foreign affairs the President must be given great latitude in determining vital national interests because it...

  7. 4 Roles of Private Interest Groups and Mass Media
    (pp. 80-109)

    Assessing the influence of private organizations and opinion leaders in the formulation of national interests is far more difficult than studying the constitutional responsibilities of the President and Congress. James Rosenau, in his studyPublic Opinion and Foreign Policy,draws a distinction between what he calls the “flow of influence” and the “flow of opinion.” He points out that scholars have had considerable difficulty in assessing the amount of influence individuals and groups have on policy formulation because of the problems involved in trying to measure such influence.¹ Yet few observers doubt that the influence of the public on major...

  8. 5 Foreign Policy Tools in Support of National Interests
    (pp. 110-136)

    Our discussion has centered so far on the development of a conceptual framework for defining national interests more accurately, and on assessing the influence that the President, Congress, and private-interest groups exert in the process of determining the degree of interest, or the stake, the United States has in various international issues. Now we turn to the instruments or tools of policy that the President has at his disposal to support national interests, and here we come to the key question of how policy tools may be made the handmaiden of national interests rather than determinants of interests, as has...

  9. 6 Changing Perceptions of United States Interests in Southeast Asia: A Case Study
    (pp. 137-170)

    No problem in the post–World War II period has vexed American presidents and policy-makers more than the seemingly simple question: How important to our national interests is the area in Southeast Asia known as Indochina? Prior to World War II the United States had practically no interests in this region because it was part of the French colonial empire and cut off from trade and commerce with this country. The Philippines constituted the farthest westward security interest of the United States in the Pacific, and even this interest dated only from the turn of the century when President McKinley...

  10. 7 The Shifting Balance of World Power and United States National Interests
    (pp. 171-194)

    The latter half of 1971 and the first half of 1972 proved to be a period of momentous change in the United States’ perception of its national interests and in its formulation of foreign policy. The most striking example of the “new look” in this changed perception of interests was President Nixon’s announcement in July 1971 that Henry Kissinger, his Assistant for National Security Affairs, had concluded a secret visit to Peking and that the President himself would visit Mainland China early in 1972. This shift of policy toward Peking was followed in September by Washington’s acquiescence in the admission...

    (pp. 195-200)

    This study of United States national interests in the 1970’s would not be complete without taking note of two important developments early in 1973 that underscored the significance of earlier events and suggested an even tougher stand by President Nixon in defending American interests abroad than was apparent in his first administration. These were: (1) the way in which American involvement in the Vietnam War was finally ended, and (2) Washington’s pressure on its major trading partners to adopt further currency realignments and trade policies favorable to the United States.

    In Vietnam, a negotiated settlement was finally reached, recognizing South...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 201-203)