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In his seminal work Reasons and Persons, the philosopher Derek Parfit outlines the notion of an indirectly self-defeating theory. To do so, he asks us to consider the self-interest theory of rationality, which he calls S. S tells us that what is rational to do is whatever makes our lives better in the long run. However, there are many circumstances in which one would better fulfill the goal of S by not adhering to S.

Consider this from a virtue standpoint, one of cultivating an S-like character. One may ultimately be better off in the long run if one makes an effort to form reciprocal relationships, contribute to groups, etc., which one would not have done if one evaluated the rationality of decisions on the basis of their own benefit. If someone who does not cultivate an S-like character ultimately better fulfills the requirements of S than someone with an S-like character, then S is indirectly self-defeating.

Now, it occurred to me that this could apply to nation-states and their foreign policy. Suppose we have a world with 50 aggressive nations and 50 non-aggressive nations that, in an attempt to promote peace, are not militarily very strong. They do this because they wish to eliminate, or at least reduce as much as possible, war in the world. However, if these nations are incapable and/or unwilling to defend themselves from nations with less internationally-oriented goals in mind, they would rapidly fall to the aggressive nations, or at the very least would become drastically less influential on the world stage, allowing the more traditionally aggressive nations to run amok, which would include fighting among themselves.

Let us call international peace theory (or international war-minimalization if you want to be really precise) P. We can see that in a world such as the one described above P's goal of "least possible war" is best fulfilled by nations which do not cultivate a wholly P-like character - nations that are not aggressive in the same manner as the "aggressive nations," but possess strong national defense capacities. We'll call this approach P'. While this situation might never cultivate a 100% realization of P (which would be a utopian pipe dream anyway), the situation in which internationally-minded, peace-desiring (on a global scale)/war-reduction-desiring nations possess a strong military capacity P' better fulfills the goal of P than one where such nations engage in anti-militarism-in-the-name-of-peace, which is normal P. Standard P could thus be said to be indirectly self-defeating, and while this does not necessitate it's rejection (as there is no logical impossibility present), it does in my view provide a very strong reason to prefer P' (militarized internationalist states).
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