National identity vs. national interest


    Dr. Clarita Carlos of UP and a member of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations expressed her disdain for nation states, the creation of which started with the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th century. These states have become perennial pests with their periodic quarreling over turf, religion, trade, etc. Worse still nations are multiplying like amoeba, which may be increasingly more difficult to house them in that NY headquarters over time. Indeed at the latest count, some 145 nation-states have been created since 1816 driven by nationalist elements and encouraged by the French and American revolutions.

    Her proposition supports the opposition voiced by many sectors against the attempt of our Muslim brothers in Mindanao to erect yet another “bangsa” or nation in an island first occupied by our indigenous ancestors. The IPs rather than the Muslim can truly claim the first nation status.

    For my part, I rejoiced that the hegemony of the Holy Roman Empire lorded over by autocratic European monarchs was degraded by the treaty. I also welcomed the arrival on the scene of Jean Baptiste Colbert French Minister of Finance of King Louis XIV of France, the granddad of political economy which reshaped the architecture of European politics and created a template which gave birth to North and South American democracies and indeed of the New World.

    I rejoiced at the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire “where the sun never sets” the defeat of the conquistadores that gave rise to the nation states of Latin America, the Balkanization of Eastern Europe, post-World War decolonization which spawned many nations now delinked from the commercial exploitation by the First World and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    At home, I welcomed the statement of President Manuel Quezon that he would rather see this country “run like hell by Filipinos than heaven by Americans,” (he surely got his wish). Actually, the Americans did not run this country like heaven if you consider, how they tricked Aguinaldo, perpetrated the Balangiga Massacre, used water treatment as an instrument of torture, “civilized” us with the Krag – all these to accomplish the “manifest destiny” of President McKinley. But that was water under the bridge.

    Since then this country has eschewed the so-called “special relations” with the US, thrown out her military bases, even as we concluded a more respectable Mutual Defense and Visiting Forces Agreements with a country that we share important values. Today a few million Filipinos, which include members of my family have pledge allegiance to the U.S. “in pursuit of the American dream,” even as hundreds of our countrymen line up daily in front of the U.S. Embassy hoping for a U.S. visa.

    Today the world has embraced regionalism, multilateralism and other forms of solidarity. The vertical economic and political integration of colonial days is now replaced by horizontal integration. The European model, the template for economic and political integration has not however killed protectionism and political systems that range from left to right of its member countries. British economic liberalism has not rescued the citizens of socialist member countries from the demands of the social market economics of their populist governments. Nations continue to be divided along ideological lines and competing development paradigms.

    In the Asean alone, it is doubtful whether Vietnam will give up its socialism or Myanmar the dictatorship of the military junta. The great divide in our part of the world is also ethnic, cultural and religious. Kashmir will never join India and a lot of blood was spilled in the effort to integrate the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Christian Aceh fought the Muslim Indonesians and Tibet will never bow to China, etc. This will be a stumbling block to integration. Nation states have therefore been set up to provide the necessary firewall to separate the clash of civilizations.

    Today political scientists are split between “constructivists” and “realists.” The former give much importance to national pride, identity or consciousness while the realist gives a premium on interest. At home, the division is between the economic nationalist or protectionists and free-traders who favor an open economy. The former while not exactly favoring state-owned enterprises of the Chinese model favor infant industries surrounded by tariff walls and generous fiscal incentives while the latter favor global trade linkages and trans-nationalism.

    State-centric adherents of International Political Economy (IPE) reject a belief popular among many scholars, public officials, and commentators that economic and technological forces have eclipsed the nation-state and are creating a global world economy in which political boundaries and national governments are no longer important. While it may be true that economic and technological forces are continuously reshaping international affairs and influencing the behavior of states in our shrinking world with its highly integrated global economy, countries continue to use their power and to implement policies to channel economic forces in ways that favor their own national economic interests These national economic interests include the quest for a favorable balance of trade and payments and control over monetary and fiscal affairs that are in consonance with the rising expectations of its citizenry and its quest for higher productivity incomes and employment – in short, for a better life.

    In the last quarter of the twentieth century, nation states have come under attack from within and from without; both transnational economic forces and ethnic nationalism were tearing at its economic and political foundation but these trends only work at creating more countries rather than less.

    In sum, nation-states were created to meet specific needs – to provide economic and political security and to achieve other desired goals; in return, citizens preserve the territorial integrity of the nation state, obey its laws and support it through taxes.

    The big question is should identity be a more important consideration than interest in the life of a nation? As a political-economist my problem is an accurate definition of “identity” and the qualitative and quantitative measurement of “interest.”

    This is an important consideration if this country is to pursue an independent foreign policy as mandated by the Constitution!


    Please follow our commenting guidelines.


    1. I think your question sounds like, “What is the difference between the opposite sides of the same coin?”

    2. Americans use water boarding, but please don’t focus solely on the US. It is hyoocritical to accuse the US and turn a blind eye to the atrocities perpetrated by China, Russia, Iran, and many muslim countries run by extremists. Haven’t you heard how North Korea conducts executions? Being eaten alive by a pack of hungry dogs or torn apart by AA guns! Or how ISIS crucifies Christians and executes gays by dropping them off buildings! Let’s not be blinded by our hatred for America guys, America right now is in a bad state, but the rest of the world is much much worse, 100x worse even!

    3. Gloria M. Kuizon on

      Where can we find the article by Dr. Clarita Carlos that Mr. Romero mentions in his first sentence?

    4. Water treatment was the term used by the American soldiers when they invaded the Philippines (Philippine-American War 1899-1902), nowadays they call it water boarding ang they still use it to torture enmies.