The government and mass media use the phrase “in the national interest” as a ritual phrase to introduce almost every story about our involvement in affairs around the world. It has its variants as “the national security interests”
Here is a definition of our “national interests” from a 2000 report by The Commission on America’s National Interests1
SUMMARY OF US NATIONAL INTERESTS
Vital national interests are conditions that are strictly necessary to
safeguard and enhance Americans’ survival and well-being in a free
and secure nation.
Vital US national interests are to:
1. Prevent, deter, and reduce the threat of nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons attacks on the United States or its military
2. Ensure US allies’ survival and their active cooperation with the
US in shaping an international system in which we can thrive;
3. Prevent the emergence of hostile major powers or failed states
on US borders;
4. Ensure the viability and stability of major global systems
(trade, financial markets, supplies of energy, and the environ-
5. Establish productive relations, consistent with American
national interests, with nations that could become strategic
adversaries, China and Russia.
Instrumentally, these vital interests will be enhanced and pro-
tected by promoting singular US leadership, military and intelli-
gence capabilities, credibility (including a reputation for adherence
to clear US commitments and even-handedness in dealing with
other states), and strengthening critical international institutions—
particularly the US alliance system around the world.
And in the eyes of the Obama administration National Security Strategy (May 2010)2
To achieve the world we seek, the United States must apply our strategic approach in pursuit of four
enduring national interests:
• Security: The security of the United States, its citizens, and U.S. allies and partners.
• Prosperity: A strong, innovative, and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic
system that promotes opportunity and prosperity.
• Values: Respect for universal values at home and around the world.
• International Order: An international order advanced by U.S. leadership that promotes peace,
security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.