Hi gang. I’m currently doing some thinking about the psychology of altruism in strategic affairs, and am in the hunt for good examples. There are heaps of examples of altruism at the tactical level – laying down of lives for comrades, or even for complete strangers on the battlefield.
All sorts of group processes play a part in shaping such behaviours, and these combined with an apparent evolved trait for reciprocal altruism can encourage indivduals to accept suicidal risk.
But at the strategic level, with group policymaking involved, and the fate of nations hanging in the balance, there is less reason to suppose that states will abandon self-interest and weigh into someone else’s battle with poor odds. IR theory, of the rationalist stripe anyway, doesn’t have much time for altruism. Co-operation happens, yes, but it’s always conditional, with scope for deception and mutual recrimmination of the tit-for-tat variety. It’s a nasty, self-help world out there, no?
Or do you know otherwise….? Let me know.