In his 1795 pamphlet entitled "Perpetual Peace. A Philosophical Sketch" (“Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf”), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) believed he had found antidotes to international wars exposing them in a philosophical-political program that had for ultimate goal the establishment of a global confederation. In the opinion of the great philosopher of Königsberg, the creation of a worldwide confederation of nations would have forever averted war. At the end of the essay, under the appendix heading "On the discrepancy between morality and politics towards perpetual peace", he lists three political strategies – or, in Kant's words, "sophistical standards". Kant believed that these strategies followed the rules of a ruthless Machiavellian reason of state that eventually did not allow the achievement of a clear and transparent international coexistence, threatening the occurrence of general peace. The stratagems are the following:
1) Fac et excusa: It is convenient to seize the favorable opportunity for an arbitrary taking of possession both of a right of the State over its own people and of a right over another neighboring folk. Through a “fait accompli”, the justification would occur much easier and violence would be masked with greater happiness than in the case of looking for pervious convincing reasons and waiting for the objections of the counterpart.
2) Si fecisti, nega: It is opportune to deny the proper blame for all things that happened and occurred, arguing that the blame is to find in other persons or forces.
3) Divide et impera: For Kant, this principle could have two aspect. The internal aspect within the State occurs when strategists try to divide the leaders of the people, and bringing them into conflict with the people in order to gain their own legitimacy to become rulers. The external aspect within the foreign relations considers the production of international crises and discords led to the appearance of a joyful third actor that benefits from the rivals’ divisions and can carry forward the gradual subjugation of other States under the guise of an assistance to the weakest.
Kant describes the reason of state as the will of the great powers deriving from the increase of their power regardless of the manner through which this growth was achieved.
Like many other philosophers, Kant investigates the issues that descend from the traditional and endless difficulty given by the relation between ethics and politics. His philosophical conclusion is that politics should be subordinated to ethics and that there should be no substantial distinction between the moral sphere and the political one. Morality consists, in Kantian terms, in the set of unconditionally imperative laws, and thus governors must rule according to morality itself, lest they be unlawful. It is therefore impossible to rule ignoring moral unconditionally imperative norms, and who does it exchanges ethics – made of categorical imperatives – with a particularistic prudential doctrine based on hypothetical imperatives aimed at the pursue of several goals for the purpose of personal utility. Indeed, Kant rejects utilitarian morality, which is closely linked to the Machiavellian and post-Machiavellian interpretation of reason of state conceived as the doctrine by which the end justifies the means.
Kant distinguishes the “political moralist” from the “moral politician”: the former, who he disapproves, forges his own morality aligning it with national interest, whereas the latter, who he supports, interprets politics in the light of imperative moral norms, so that it may coexist with ethics in a non-conflictual way. The moral politician is the one who represents the ideal incarnation of the “good politician”, whose ultimate aim is the creation of a universal union of states through the birth of a juridical community that takes the form of a global confederation.
It follows that the sovereigns should behave and rule morally, that is obeying at the imperative and supreme moral axiom according to which the human person should never be considered as a mean.
The ethics of virtue and the ethics of might are always incompatible: only the adoption of the ethics of virtue by the governors will be capable of putting an end to the perpetual state of war, whose sole result would be, in Kant’s words, the cemetery of humankind.