In my weekly column for World Politics Review, I explain how vaccine nationalism in developed countries and the United States' departure from Afghanistan, both of which are guided by nationalist logic, reveal the hypocrisy of paying rhetorical homage to universal principles.
At first glance, the tenacity of vaccine nationalism and the shambolic U.S. departure from Afghanistan appear to be completely unrelated. And yet they both expose the moral costs of a world dominated by sovereign states that consistently place narrow national interest above the ethical imperative of alleviating the suffering of strangers.
This is hardly a news flash. The question of how governments should square their duties to their own citizens with their obligations to those in other countries is an inherent and recurrent ethical quandary in international relations. It is at the heart of debates over humanitarian intervention, foreign aid, human rights policy, the global digital divide and much more. It is becoming more acute, however, as the world becomes more integrated politically, economically, technologically, ecologically and epidemiologically. As interdependence grows, we increasingly speak the language of cosmopolitanism. But when the chips are down, we remain nationalists at heart.