United States National Interests

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The national interests of the United States could be considered to consist of the nation’s mission, values, and goals. These goals can be either economic, militaristic or social. The economic goals of the United States are to promote the economic growth and vitality of the nation. The military goals of the United States are to protect the nation from threats. The social or cultural goals of the United States would be to promote the ideals of the United States both within and outside of the nation. However at times the actions of the United States have not coincided with the national interests of the nation. Interventions in foreign countries will be examined to determine whether these actions have served to promote the national interests of the United States. 

In the 1990s the United States was involved in a number of foreign intervention in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Kosovo. The involvement in these countries had mixed results for both the United States and the countries involved. United States intervention in Somalia had negative consequences for the nation. The United States sent in a large number of military troops to assist Somalia during a tumultuous civil war however the abrupt withdrawal of the troops resulted in chaos for the nation. The United States also had limited involvement in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. This involvement also resulted in a quick withdrawal from the nation. The United States involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo was more successful than the efforts that were made in Africa. The United States was credited with ending the conflict and ensuring peace within the nation. Despite the failures and successes of these involvements the United States should not have become involved in these conflicts. These interventions did not serve to improve the national interests of the United States. The purpose of becoming involved in these conflicts was also unclear. A possible cause may have been to establish a national security agenda as Rice (2000) identified how the United States no longer had a clear national agenda. “The United States has found it exceedingly difficult to define its national interest in the absence of Soviet power. That we do not know how to think about what follows the US-Soviet confrontation is clear from the continued references to the post-Cold War period” (Rice, 2000 79).Rather the interventions resulted in resources being taken away from the needs of United States citizens to foreign interests that were not beneficial for the nation.

Recent interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have also proved detrimental to the national interests of the United States. These conflicts not only drained the United States of much-needed resources but also threatened the national security of the nation. The focus in Afghanistan and Iraq was meant to be directed towards targeting Al Qaeda and other terrorists who may pose a threat to United States national security. However the military presence of the United States in these nations has created discontent and provided terrorists with other reasons for targeting the United States. The use of drone attacks within these nations that have harmed civilians has also played a part in increasing unrest in the Middle East. The Iraq war also served another purpose of establishing the United States as a superpower. “Respected analysts on both the left and the right are beginning to refer to American empire approvingly as the dominant narrative of the twenty-first century. And the military victory in Iraq seems only to have confirmed the new world order” (Nye, 2003 82). Despite the government’s insistence that the national interest in the Iraq war was to protect the United States from other attacks however the actual interests can be seen as being based on economics. The abundance of oil in Iraq could have been a possible motive for pursuing these interests. 

The Iraq conflict demonstrates how the United States trade policy has been geared towards serving the national interests of the nation. The United States engages in trades with other nations that benefit our nation rather than the other nations we trade with. “All of these steps have reinforced the concern that America is pursuing a unilateralist rather than a globally cooperative foreign policy” (Bergsten, 2002 81). In order to transition from the role of a superpower to a partner in the global marketplace, the United States needs to begin trading and providing aid with those nations that would benefit from the relationship the most. This would include developing nations or nations that are struggling to come back from crippling austerity measures. Through engaging in interventions that provide financial rather than military support the United States can provide assistance to countries that need it without sacrificing military resources.

While the financial support can be easier to provide than military intervention there is a limit to the generosity of the United States. This has increasingly become the case after 9/11 as Tarnoff (2005) discusses in his analysis of foreign aid. “Foreign assistance is a fundamental component of the international affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Since the end of the Cold War, many have proposed significant changes” (Tarnoff, 2005 np). These significant changes have involved proposing a limited involvement in foreign assistance. This change can be seen as more towards isolationist policies in an effort to protect national interests. The isolationist viewpoint has coincided with a recession that hit the nation hard. Policymakers have been urged by their constituents to focus on United States domestic rather than international interests. However this is a difficult line to juggle as the current globally interconnected time we live in does not allow the United States to ignore international concerns. The United States does not live in a vacuum and what occurs in foreign nations will have an impact on the United States. Through establishing policies that both benefit the United States and foreign nations, the country can preserve its national interests while at the same time promoting struggling nations.


Bergsten, C. F. (2002). Renaissance for US Trade Policy, A. Foreign Aff., 81, 86.

Nye Jr, J. S. (2003). US power and strategy after Iraq. Foreign Aff., 82, 60

Rice, C. (2000). Promoting the national interest. Foreign Aff., 79, 45.

Tarnoff, C. (2005, January). Foreign aid: An introductory overview of US programs and policy. Library of Congress Washington DC Congressional Research Service.