Surely Lebow is incorrect in thinking that regional or international systems never display such characteristics; it enters often, I should judge, into their warp and woof. Perhaps I misunderstand his terminology, but the whole thrust of modern international relations can easily be conceptualized as a continual argument over how best to tame and regulate, educate and enlighten, appetite and spirit, which in international affairs involves interest, spirit, and reason in every diplomatic negotiation. Sometimes the more rational course succeeds, sometimes it fails, but these elements, by his own demonstration, are always in play (just as are, usually, competing conceptions of what reason dictates). “Appetite and spirit are universal drives whose expression varies across cultures and epochs. Reason is also universal, and the degree to which it constrains and educates appetite and spirit varies enormously within as well as across cultures.” (28-29) Very well said, but it supports the conclusion that reason has had its victories as well as its defeats. What else is a useful and properly drawn piece of legislation, a wise judicial decision, the artful negotiation of a peace treaty? The very important question from Federalist No. 1—“whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice”—is not one invariably answered in the negative, at whatever level of human affairs we wish to consider.
The concept of interest, when it was introduced into the political lexicon by Renaissance theorists, covered a far wider domain than simply the pursuit of material well-being, bound up as it was with the concept of state interest, of which recognition, respect, and standing were surely a part. So it appeared in the vast literature of reason of state. Remarkably, Guicciardini emphasized that people should always keep their own best interests at heart, but condemned those who thought that such interests always lay "in some monetary advantage, rather than in honour and in knowing how to preserve one's reputation and good name." He used it, in other words, in a sense opposite to that of Lebow.
When the concept of interest was narrowed to the pursuit of wealth, as by the eighteenth century it was by many thinkers, it came to be associated with a set of qualities—predictability, honesty, constancy, good faith and reciprocity—that formed part of “the political argument for capitalism before its triumph,” as Albert Hirschman expressed it in his classic study of The Passions and the Interests (Princeton, 1977). As Hirschman went on to show, the heroic ideal, with its associated ideas of glory, underwent severe criticism in the 17th century: "All the heroic virtues were shown to be forms of mere self-preservation by Hobbes, of self-love by La Rochefoucauld, of vanity and of frantic escape from real self-knowledge by Pascal. The heroic passions were portrayed as demeaning by Racine after having been denounced as foolish, if not demented, by Cervantes" (p. 11). Such writers scarcely denied the prominence of this spirit; their emphasis was on its perniciousness. In a long and roundabout intellectual development, by the eighteenth century thinkers were pointing to the possibiility of a more pleasant and profitable mode of interaction, founded on reciprocity and mutual interest, that held promise of a better pattern of relations among men and nations that would tame glory seeking and associated manifestations of an untractable spirit. Attesting to his own submerged liberalism and the attractions of an interest based paradigm, Lebow himself argues that this was a great achievement.
American intervention in Iraq [in 2003] cannot be explained with reference to material well-being or security. We must look to spirit-based explanations that stress anger and the desire to exploit America's comparative advantage in military power to prevent or deter future challenges to its hegemony. (32-33)