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The Four-Step Guide to Securing an Internship

March 27, 2011

The question posed by Think-tank X:

Which books do you consider influential in developing your own political philosophy?

1.) Instead of jumping right in and listing influential works that might be diametrically opposed to the position of the organization, work backwards by first determining the agenda of the organization. Determine the political philosophy of the agency that you would like to work with by consulting the agency’s mission statement and objectives. This give you a better understanding of how you should present your argument and the position that you should take when answering the question and writing up your cover letter.

From what I’ve garnered from Think-tank X’s mission statement and political objectives, it adheres to a libertarian ideology and is committed to spreading individual liberty, placing a limit on governments and it believe in free markets a la Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

2.) If the agency has a sub-field, or you would like to work for a specific department within the agency, say, foreign policy, find out the name of the chair of that department and read proposals and papers that he has written to get a better understanding of the department’s position on certain issues.

Since I desire to work for the foreign policy department in Think-tank X, I decided to research the works of Scholar X who is an expert in that field, in order to get a better understanding of the department’s foreign policy position.

According to Scholar X’s articles on US foreign policy (particularly on the topic security interests), he adheres to the noninterventionist position and argues that wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are inhumane (because of the grotesque loss of American and Iraqi lives) and unjustified on various grounds. According to Scholar X’s position, the US government should be constrained and learn humility because it cannot, and should not impose liberty, stability and democracy on another country.

From his articles, I have distilled the foreign policy position – that of non-intervention – as succinctly elaborated above.

3.) The trick then is to find out what are some influential works that would support this libertarian (most libertarians believe in non-intervention)/non-intervention view on war.

The arguments presented by Scholar X on how the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were unjust, I argue, takes influence from Locke and his position on the state of nature versus the state of war, as I will elaborate below:

Briefly, Locke argued that the state of nature was one in which people were bound by reason and lived together. The state of nature was a state of liberty whereby people are at liberty to pursue their interests, free from interference. In contrast to Hobbes’ argument that the state of nature was a state of war, Locke distinguished the state of nature from the state of war. According to Locke, the state of war is one in which people disrupt another’s liberty and natural rights by exerting force. According to Locke, peace ought to be the norm and that people should refrain from taking another’s property. While Locke seems not to believe in war, it should be noted that Locke believed that war is justified if there is evidence of aggression by another state. After all, Locke did argue that ‘I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction…’ Hence, it does seem that, according to Locke, a war is only justified if there is an external aggression. It is therefore illegitimate to employ force/war against another the use of force was not first undertaken.

According to Scholar X’s article, the ability and aggressive intentions of the leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were downplayed, hence, this annuls the justification for war on Locke’s terms – that a war is justified when there is a threat of external aggression.

Furthermore, according to Locke, and the homestead principle, property is an a priori right. Locke indicated that ‘Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” Hence, the logic is that, an initiation of war against another nation and its properties is tantamount to an aggression against another individual, something Locke was against.

4.) Having distilled the policy position of Think-tank X and Scholar X, I can then list Locke’s Two Treatises of Government as an influential work and explicate the reason for why I believe it is important in shaping my foreign-policy position – that of non-intervention.


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