The national interest is the conceptual foundation of international relations. Its relation to sovereignty is at once intimate and straightforward. If the state’s purpose is to protect its own society from external threats, then it must be sovereign. No higher authority can legitimately constrain the sovereign in its quest for selfpreservation. Indeed, a state acts irresponsibly if it sacrifices its own interests to the obligations of international law, or to the temptations of universal morality.1

To do so would be to place these goals above the obligations to the nation that it represents, thereby violating its contract with its people. The national interest is therefore a concept that justifies both the constitutional independence of the sovereign state, and implies a political relation binding the general will to the autonomy of the state. To pursue the national interest, the state must be independent not only from external obligations, but, in the words of George Kennan, also ‘from the demands emanating from the “rough and tumble” of [its own] society’.2