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Thread: National Interest vs. National Values

  1. #1
    Senior Member scrapinpeg's Avatar
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    National Interest vs. National Values

    Let's say you're in charge of your country's foreign policy.

    Let's say there's an action you could take that appears to be the best action to protect your country's national interests. But at the same time, that action goes against your country's national values.

    How would you proceed, and why?
    Freedom of speech makes it easier to spot the idiots.

  2. #2
    Senior Member jessicasimpson's Avatar
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    Your being a little vague. Do you mean like if I was head of germany and I could boost the economy by taking away and turning over to the state all property and wealth from a certain ethnic group? No, I don't think I would go forward with that idea.
    "There is a fine line between clever and stupid" David St. Hubbins

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    Unconfirmed introspective's Avatar
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    That's a good question, What are "national values" for one thing. Are you referring to shared moral/ethical values that have been established if so, we need to list them.

    What are "national interests" - that should be spelled out.

    Some examples:
    the value is 'life' have we policies to protect life and would it be in our interests [usually money?] to do away with nuclear energy or nuclear wastes or nuclear whatever that may endanger life?

    We have already been asking to do away with those things; but it is in other peoples' 'interests' to keep these things. So we as a nation keep running up against the some block: how to convince big business to play ball with regular Americans.

    It's a question of : Now I don't want it; Now I want it: The question I come up with are Americans capricious? Do we have the same sort of Moral/ethical stick-to-itness that we need in order to create a better future? So, if we look at Oil. Can we, in the interests of National Interests say "we must cut back on gasoline consumption" or "we must use gas coupons" during this war, can we knuckle down? Can we give up a manicure?
    It always seems to be the same people who are willing to forego luxury for the sake of many who refuse to play ball.


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    It depends.

    If we were defending our country from Hitler and that action required us to attack on a Sunday, when the bulk of America is in church, I would be OK with it.

    On the other hand, if I needed to topple a democratic government and establish a ruthless leader to increase our GDP by $100, I wouldn't do it.

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    Senior Member scrapinpeg's Avatar
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    Of course the question had to be posed without any specifics, because what is unpalatable to one nation's values may be unremarkable to another's and we have many countries represented on the forum.

    But let me pose the question a little more carefully...


    Let's say there is an action that your country could take, directly affecting the government or people of another country. Could be bad for them, could be good for them, doesn't matter. The point is, it's a foreign policy decision.

    This action that you could take has a very good chance of significantly advancing important national interests of your country. It could be economic, social, security, or whatever. The point is, the benefit to your country is real and significant.

    The action that you could take, however, is something that your national character finds abhorrent. It's something that is simply not done. Different countries have different cultural standards, so depending where you are it could be almost anything. The point is, it very much goes against your national values.

    Do you do it? Which is more important? Do you act contrary to your values if it's best for your country, or do you honor your values even if it means weakening or harming your country?
    Freedom of speech makes it easier to spot the idiots.

  6. #6
    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scrapinpeg View Post
    Of course the question had to be posed without any specifics, because what is unpalatable to one nation's values may be unremarkable to another's and we have many countries represented on the forum.

    But let me pose the question a little more carefully...


    Let's say there is an action that your country could take, directly affecting the government or people of another country. Could be bad for them, could be good for them, doesn't matter. The point is, it's a foreign policy decision.

    This action that you could take has a very good chance of significantly advancing important national interests of your country. It could be economic, social, security, or whatever. The point is, the benefit to your country is real and significant.

    The action that you could take, however, is something that your national character finds abhorrent. It's something that is simply not done. Different countries have different cultural standards, so depending where you are it could be almost anything. The point is, it very much goes against your national values.

    Do you do it? Which is more important? Do you act contrary to your values if it's best for your country, or do you honor your values even if it means weakening or harming your country?
    I'll play ball, but not without some caveats (below).

    No. I don't make the move that contradicts my country's "values" - then what does my country stand for? I'm sure there are possibilities out there that my country's values support and that can help my country as well - if not necessarily to as great an immediate extent.

    Caveats:

    1) A country's "values" are ever shifting, and may not be clearly defined within any given setting or time. For instance: once americans valued personal liberty over personal safety and cheap gas - now (mindbogglingly enough) that does not seem to be the case for the bulk of Americans.

    2) Any situation situation could conceivably both support and contradict a country's values. Ex: A democratically elected government of England declares the Welsh to be sub human and institutes a pogrom against them. My country's value for sovreignty of representative government clashes with value of equality of all people - and England is offering exclusive access to rich N. Sea Oil fields if we stay clear - a clear incentive.

    3) If my country values isolationism than ANY overseas opportunity would come into conflict with other values.
    "I cannot ensure success, I can only endeavor to deserve it" - Capt. John Paul Jones

  7. #7
    Unconfirmed introspective's Avatar
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    Okay lets talk turkey

    Wales did suffer a setback with the arrest and imprisonment of two notorius criminals in the mid 1960;s. - Their names are so unspeakable, we don't speak of them.

    That said, they are both gone to their respective places in the cosmos and I don't think we need to worry about them anymore. Which is why we tended to avoid Wales, but Tom Jones and Bert Reynolds brought up the image of that beleagured nation for a short while.

    The connection between 'doing something for national interests' such as promoting a campaign against a group of people and enforcing it through police actions is a fear that some people have because of the challenges one faced in Europe during the reign of Hitler and Stalin. But those people are long gone. In the European and American Continents and I daresay, the Baltic Nations, certain freedoms have been safeguarded. Though some individuals may have some basic disagreements with some groups, by and large, every group as over time managed to blend in together overcoming differences to make a difference in cultures.

    One example is the Black Panther group. A political group which emerged in the 1960's in reaction to the civil rights movement. Many people felt 'frightened' by the power and aggession behind it, but, it was always tempered by moderate African Americans and those people involved in the arts and culture. Over the years, we all realize the necessity of such groups; as we see the Weathermen [the White counterpart of the Panthers]. The Weathermen being anti-government anti-establishment and so forth. However, these two groups brought about the end of the Vietnam war and some like Abby Hofman wrote a silly book called Steal this Book. [I actually bought it hoping to join the radical left or was it right]

    But to truly stand up for liberty, one must be prepared to fight, die, or at the very least, starve for it. [though I am putting weight back on] Dash it all!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by scrapinpeg View Post

    Let's say there's an action you could take that appears to be the best action to protect your country's national interests. But at the same time, that action goes against your country's national values.
    There is not really any way to separate these - after all actions taken through the cold war were/are justified on the basis that they protected western values by preventing the spread of antithetical values.

    Or was the american funded reconstruction in Germany and Japan an exercise in national values or national self interest? Either case could be advanced - thinking purely of the major emphasis.

    Of course all judgments are firmly based on hindsight. Given the current situation the historical actions of western governments in Iraq, Iran and Egypt look like an indictment of pragmatic foreign policy. We do not however have the benefit of knowing what would have happened had democratic governments been supported rather than opposed in those countries.

    The judgement of whether which approach is 'better' is only possible a posteri.
    au revoir

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dave's Avatar
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    This really comes down to what price you are prepared to sell your principles for. To save your own life, maybe not, but to save the lives of others around you that's different. It is a hard decision to make, to sacrifice the lives of others to keep to your ideals, even if those that you are sacrificing agree with you.

    It is all very well saying that you will die to preserve liberty but how does that sit with locking up people without trial to protect others. If you stand by your morals people will abuse them to get what they want.

    Try watching "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (Possibly called something different in the US) a film that was filmed during the second world but whose release was delayed till after the war. This was partly because it implied that Britain should fight dirty in order to beat the Nazis thereby giving up her moral high ground to overcome the greater evil.

  10. #10
    Unconfirmed introspective's Avatar
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    Foreign Policy

    I wish I could be in charge of foreign policy in the middle east. I am flabbergasted at the arrest, trial and 'guilty' verdict of 5 nurses and 1 doctor. It boggles the mind. It's very disturbing. I don't believe for a minute that those people had anything to do with 'infecting' 400 children with HIV. I reallly wish they would release them as soon as possible. It is disturbing because we wish to become closer allies with people from around the world. The usa took steps to release pow's languishing in a false prison and hopefully to send them home. On the other hand, I don't think anyone should be 'visiting' countries that are experiencing civil unrest. It complicates things tremendously. No matter how honest and caring those people were, it was simply too dangerous. I would just send them home.

    Standard procedures during conflicts was to keep out of countries during wartime and let their respective militaries and diplomats solve these crisis.

    I am also hopeful that our new UN Secretary will help in the coming years solve the many difficulties that abound. More of 'my own foreign policy' - as armchair diplomat: I would like to see the roles of UN Soldiers change a bit. I don't know how, but I feel they are usually placed in awkward positions.

    How do you all feel about UN Soldiers and the problem that exists with regard to the nurses from Bulgaria?

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