What is the purpose of a state? I believe this is an important question, and one which many in the West, sadly, seem to be unaware of.
States came into existence to help protect and further the interests of the people over which it presided. The leaders of states, or whatever polity may exist, were usually skilled in warfare in order to protect the resources of the state and its people and to be able to appropriate the resources of other states (and their people) for the leader’s state and its people. States also existed to preserve internal harmony and stability by dictating the people’s duties and dealing with internal issues (crime, creation of law, executing and enforcing law, punishment, deterrence, etc.).
The point is that the state came into existence to serve the interests of the state and its people for the advancement and maintenance of the people thereof.
As such, a cardinal rule had always been that states are in competition with each other.
With the advent of the modern world, especially due to the modern international state system which was erected by the rules and institutions perpetuated and erected by the West (especially The United States), the level of competition decreased or rather was transferred to another arena: trade and economy. To rephrase a bit, the current international state system, which The United States essentially erected, changed the rules to allow for less competition and more cooperation. But the goal was not to create the sort of feel-good fuzzy-wuzzy international state system that some envision as the world’s moral imperative.
In fact, let us take a look at these international regimes that have come into being. Why do states become involved in them? Will there be some penalty if Grenada or The United Kingdom did not join? No. But the simple fact is that by joining, states can further their interests in another form. States do exploit these international regimes in order to further their interests. An excellent example is France and The European Union: France uses its membership in the EU to protect its industries from foreign encroachment and competition. This goes against the purported purpose of the EU but then it would be naive to suppose that states joined to help each other: each state joins to further its own interests alongside with or at the expense of other states’ interests. Today, states do not really care whether another state’s interests are harmed (which is novel as before the US-established international state system, competition was a zero-sum game) but that, no matter what, the state’s interests are furthered.
As such, it would be considered a major failure if the state harmed the state’s interests or was not most zealous in furthering them. The international state system did not come into being and does not exist to perpetuate world peace or prosperity: it exists and remains to help each state benefit itself. The very fact that is allows states to do this without having to do it solely by war is in itself a remarkable achievement.
Thanks to the fact that states do not have to worry about being annihilated as part of another state’s rightful pursuit of its interests, states have begun pursuing a plan of persuading other states to yield to its interests in interest of the common good. Now, no state actually believes this rhetoric. It makes for excellent soundbites that seem to entrench the state as one pursuing global good while the state is actually pursuing and securing only its own interests, while guilting other states to considering yielding their interests. Listen to France, England, Germany, and the rest. They talk the talk but certainly don’t walk the walk. They’re not interested in the common good: they’re only interested in their own good. Consider the Kyoto Protocol. Almost everyone that signed it summarily set it aside. They signed it for the rhetorical benefits but, in pursuit of its own interests, ignored it. And they did this because they could get away with it.
We should not take such rhetoric seriously. We Americans are not very adept at or used to rhetorical double-talk. If a leader says something, we expect him to follow through or we’ll always remind him of how he lied. People in other states know that politics is a game of lies.
But, more importantly, it would be a major mistake to assume that the international community has our best interests in its heart. No. They want to exploit us for their interests, and they don’t care a whit about our interests. Nothing good has ever come from trusting the international community.
Because, in reality, the way we’re supposed to deal with the international community, as a unit and individually with each of its members, is to exploit it and serve it and ignore it exactly as it suits our interests. Any other goal or methodology would be a betrayal of the state of its people.
The good news for people who want to cooperate with members of the international community is that there is plenty of room for cooperation and mutual assistance. But there’s a limit to everything. States should look for ways to assist where doing so is mutually beneficial. In the current international state system, there is no requirement or obligation to obtain the approve of the international community for anything. Other states don’t seek it, so why should we?
Our politicians would do best by focusing on American interests rather than focusing on the irrelevant and useless opinions of international actors. International players don’t matter; American interests do.
So, when you consider the rhetoric of our politicians, see who will further American interests the most, and beware of anyone who places undue emphasis on international actors. Such a person who obsesses about the rest of the world will sacrifice American interests, hurting American interests, and thereby betray the very purpose the American state exists.
I hope to harp on this continuously.