The "National Interest" Is a Bogus Concept

November 30, 2019

Whenever you hear a politician or some media pundit or talking head pronounce the words "national interest," beware! You are hearing or reading, or are about to hear or read, a bogus argument that is designed to make you support something that is good for the billionaire plutocracy and in most cases bad for ordinary people. The phrase "nationl interest" has no actual meaning; it is bogus phrase the purpose of which has always been to persuade the have-nots to support something that benefits the haves--at the expense of the have-nots.

Virtually all nations today, including of course the United States where I live, are things that are composed of people with diametrically opposite interests and values. Most of the people in any given nation value equality in the sense of no rich and no poor, and they value mutual aid (people helping each other instead of being pitted against each other to be made more easily controlled by a privileged ruling elite), and they value genuine democracy that enables the people with these widely shared values to actually and truly shape all of society by these values. But there are a small number of people in any given nation who value inequality (be it rich versus poor in a society that claims to be capitalist, or a privileged luxury-enjoying Communist Party elite versus ordinary people in a society that claims to be 'socialist' or 'communist' in which "all are equal but some are more equal than others," etc.) and fake democracy (domination of the many by the few) and, of course, pitting people against each other to divide-and-rule them.

The Bogus 'National Interest' Framework Prevents Us from Solving our Problems

The ruling elites of nations always defend their aims and interests as being the "national interest." The rulers always limit public discourse to the bogus framework of debating what best serves the "national interest." This framework is designed to obscure the key fact, that most people in a nation have values and interests that are the opposite of the values and interests of the ruling class.

This bogus "national interest" framework forces criticism of the ruling elite's various policies and actions (such as its war-making or austerity policies, etc.) to take the form of saying that the ruling elite is making a mistake, i.e., is doing something that doesn't actually serve our supposedly commonly shared (by rich and poor alike!) "national interest." In this framework, if one disagrees with some policy of the ruling class, then one should carefully explain to it (in a letter to the editor or an opinion piece in the newspaper or something similar) why its policy is mistaken, why it actually harms them instead of benefs them (and us, since we all supposedly share the same 'national interest.')

This bogus framework prevents anybody declaring that the controversial policy is NOT a mistake, that while it does indeed harm ordinary people it benefits the small ruling elite, that the ruling elite implements the policy because it knows it benefits from it, and that the problem is not simply a "mistaken" policy but the fact that power in society is held by a small ruling class that has bad values and interests that are harmful to ordinary people: that the solution is revolution to remove the ruling class from power.

This bogus framework makes people use the words "we" and "us" instead of the appropriate words, "they" and "them," to refer to the people who carry out oppressive policies such as war mongering and mass murder. It is impossible for a movement to remove from power the perpetrators of oppressive policies if that movement thinks the perpetrators are "we" and "us." One doesn't remove oneself from power! That has never been the way oppressors have been defeated. It would be as if the slaves in the 19th century U.S. slavery era had restricted themselves to thinking "How can we escape from ourselves?" Absurd!

Some Examples of How 'National Interest' Is Used to Obscure the Truth

U.S. support for Israel: The 'national interest' framework is accepted by many of the people who (very rightly!) oppose U.S. support for Israel. In this framework, these critics of the U.S. pro-Israel policy argue (as I wrote about here and here) that it is a foolish policy that actually harms, not benefits, the U.S. 'national interest.' These critics fail to grasp that the pro-Israel policy is a key pillar of the ruling class's strategy of social control of Americans as well as of people in the Middle East, as I explain in my "Why U.S. Billionaires Could Destroy the Israel Lobby, But Don't" and in this leaflet I co-authored: "Why Our Government Supports Israel's Government, and Why We Shouldn't." (pdf)

The Cold War: During the Cold War Americans were persuaded to tolerate the sacrifice of lives and fortune in the name of the "national interest"--defending "ourselves" from the Soviet Union's Communist threat. The reality was very different. Read my article, "The U.S. Armed the Soviet Union During the 'Cold War'" to see, in great detail with solid referenced sources, that the U.S. ruling class made the Soviet Union be the bogeyman enemy it needed with which to control Americans and make them agree to having much of the nation's wealth flow into the hands of the rich owners of the military industrial complex. There was never any 'national interest' that the military industrial complex was 'defending.' It was all about the American haves attacking the American have-nots.

World War II: As I wrote about in my book, "The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in WWII" and in a short article summarizing that book, "The 'Good War' Myth of World War II," the U.S. ruling class fought that war NOT primarily to defeat the fascists (whom U.S. rulers had supported in many ways before and also during the war) but rather in order to defeat the American working class which had become frighteningly--to the rulers!--revolutionary. The rulers of Germany and Japan and Great Britain had analogous reasons for fighting that war--to prevent working class revolution in their own nations as well as abroad. Fighting the fascists was merely the pretext for demanding that the domestic working class obey its ruling class, and for attacking revolutionary workers abroad. The supposed "national interest" in defeating fascism was a bogus idea designed to obtain the obedience of otherwise rebellious working class people at home and abroad to "their nation's" rulers.

An Egalitarian Revolutionary Movement Rejects "National Interest" Nonsense

An egalitarian revolutionary movement gains strength only to the extent that it clearly and explicitly rejects the "national interest" idea and declares that there is no such thing. The true interest of the vast majority of people in any nation is the same as the interest of the vast majority of people in any other nation, and is the opposite of the interest of oppressive ruling elites of all nations: to create an egalitarian world shaped by the values of no-rich-and-no-poor equality and mutual aid, as discussed in "What is an egalitarian revolution?"

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