1. The traditional international relations “Realist” framework ((“What’s The Realist Explanation for America’s Syria Intervention?” by Noah Millman at The American Conservative.)) presumes that a finally determinative complex of interests congeal on the nation-state level exclusively and permanently, and that all such nation-state interests function in roughly the same way. The nation-state is, however, a contingent historical form that displaced, though did not fully extinguish, other modes of social-political organization, and is also susceptible to historical-evolutionary change.
2. As a matter of the history of the primacy of the nation-state political formation, since roughly 1945 at the very latest, any realism conceived on the basis of a global state of nature intermittently ordered by national spheres of influence and by unevenly enforced traditions of international law – a global state of nature in which each nation-state acted as an ideally free pseudo-individual – has been obsolete. History’s greatest exponents of that finally unsustainable and self-contradictory worldview, the hyper-nationalist and hyper-statist nation-states of Imperial Way Japan and Third Reich Germany, were soundly defeated by the United Nations, an embodiment of the transnational possibility, or emergent global interest, that took the form of a military alliance under Anglo-American sponsorship before the name was handed off to a new institution that conforms to, but is not itself politically or administratively equivalent to, the new global state or global state system. ((As we have discussed on several occasions, the idea of a “United Nations” was arguably a conceptual innovation of the prophets of Judaic monotheism before it occurred to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, though in other regards is and has always been the abiding or underlying or natural concept of human life on Earth – see, e.g., “…and many nations shall join themselves to the Eternal in that day.”))
3. We live in the age of a concretely emerging global interest and global state under a neo-imperial framework whose concept and therefore whose main functional modes are different from those of the nation-state, but no less “real” – unless nuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, orbital satellites, the mass media including the internet, exponential population growth, accelerated migration, ecosystem destruction, transnational resource and supply chains, stateless people and non-state actors, and so on, are not “real.”
4. The United States of America, by process of geographical and historical election, and by related ideological pre-disposition, plays a unique role in the administration of the global state interest, a role seemingly little understood by many whose occupations and pre-occupations are explaining, arguing about, and, in some places, denying it. ((See response to Millman, along familiar lines, in “Realism and National Interests” by Daniel Larison, also at TAC.)) We seem to have found that the system that works best or at all, in other words practically, is the one in which the nation-state geographically least suited to occupation and for related reasons best suited to power projection – the United States of America – fulfills the role of global hegemon or neo-hegemon, or neo-imperial power, under an equilibrium of nation-state and global-state imperatives. The latter, as “responsibilities,” are partially and unevenly shared with weak, possibly nascent, possibly hollow formal as well as ad hoc international institutions that also provide venues for less well-suited candidates for world chieftain to join forces and adequately (collectively-survivably), if not completely peaceably, establish rough accountability and restraint. The resultant overall world-picture, frozen at any of its moments, will be bloody, complicated, uneven, contradictory, difficult, and, we might even say, absolutely impossible, since it is or would be the equivalent of the administration of all of human history, including future history, as represented in real time, but the only alternative to the system that we, as in Homo sapiens sapiens, have known is an international (or pre-national) state of nature or war of all against all, already often very remarkably savage and destructive even under pre-modern technological and economic conditions, reasonably judged intolerably dangerous under modern ones.
5. The truly Realist, or simply real, explanation (possibly but not necessarily justification) for U.S. intervention in Syria, as in Libya, and before in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Kuwait, Lebanon, Vietnam, Korea, and so on, must be derived in relation to the global neo-imperial interest. Each of these actual interventions represents a typical exception or breakdown of the global state system which, however, remains by other arguably objective or material and real-comparative measures relatively peaceful, cooperative, successful, and highly functional.
6. Because the nation-state is far from having disappeared, but still dominates the minds and life-experiences of people and of peoples at or from a relatively high level of abstraction (or on the level of unconscious presumption), to view the world-state objectively and impartially remains as difficult for most observers as it does for us to leave behind other abiding determinants of identity: religion, culture, class, gender, race (or ethnicity), region, family, occupation, and so on. These other modes of identity formation or individual and collective self-conception are also quite real, in the sense of really operating in the real lives of real people. For any given individual at any time, any one of these self-concepts may seem or be much more real than “country” or, at the next higher levels of “real” abstraction, “species” or “world.” The true realism of a unitary global state will also be that of a state of all interrelated identity states/states of identity.
7. Unitary global order and a universal non-state or pseudo-state of conflict and chaos appear to approach each other asymptotically – or apocalyptically. ((See prior note #2.))