The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America
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The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America

by Peter Schwartz | May 2004

Why Is America Pursuing a Foreign Policy of “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Carrot”?

America’s foreign policy, Mr. Schwartz argues, is driven by the view that the pursuit of self-interest is morally tainted — that is, that if we wish to do what is right, we must sacrifice our interests for the sake of other nations. This is why we are so appeasingly apologetic when it comes to asserting our right to live free from the threat of force. It is why we are so hesitant in implementing our moral obligation to eliminate all such threats by military means. It is why we are failing in our war against terrorism.

In this uncompromising manifesto, the author calls for a radically different foreign policy — one based entirely on self-interest. Repudiating any dichotomy between the moral and the practical, he advocates a policy under which a nation’s interests are measured by only one standard: the individual liberty of its citizens. The architects of such a foreign policy would reject any duty to sacrifice the wealth and the lives of Americans to the needs of other countries. They would disclaim any obligation to seek international approval before deciding to use force to safeguard America. Instead they would intransigently uphold our self-interest — not as a matter of amoral expediency, as advocated by the impractical pragmatists and their school of realpolitik, but rather as a moral principle, a principle that is in keeping with America’s founding values.

About The Author

Peter Schwartz

Distinguished Fellow, Ayn Rand Institute