September 2 2010
The Rise of the Nation State--Again
The oh-so-modern notion that we can transcend our national loyalties, perhaps best embodied in the European Union, is coming up against a harsh reality: some of us really love our own countries.
While there are some inherent problems in this (think competition between nation states that can lead to armed conflict), it does seem to be happening, as the historian Victor Davis Hanson notes:
The post-Cold War New World Order is rapidly breaking apart. Nations are returning to the ancient passions, rivalries, and differences of past centuries.
Take Europe. The decades-old vision of a united pan-continental Europe without borders is dissolving. The cradle-to-grave welfare dream proved too expensive for Europe's shrinking and aging population.
It seems to me that the best thing to do is recognize this factor and act accordingly. Looking at the Middle East, for example, through this prism, we will see something different from what we're used to seeing:
The tired Israeli-Palestinian fight over the future of the West Bank is no longer the nexus of Middle East tensions. The Muslim Arab world is now more terrified by the re-emergence of a bloc of old familiar non-Arabic, Islamic fundamentalist rivals.
With nuclear weapons, theocratic Iran wants to offer strategic protection to radical allies such as Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and at the same time restore Persian glory. While diverse, this rogue bunch shares contempt for the squabbling Sunni Arab world of rich but defenseless Gulf petro-sheikdoms and geriatric state authoritarians.
Turkey is flipping back to its pre-20th-century past. Its departure from NATO is not a question of if, but when. The European Union used to not want Turkey; now Turkey does not want the shaky EU.
VDH, as we ardent fans call him, provides a tour of the world (I think it's time for another "reset" with regard to Russia), as seen in the light of the re-rise-of-nationalism. What does it mean for the United States? Well, there's bad news and good news:
As European socialism implodes, for some reason a new statist U.S. government wants to copy failure by taking over ever more of the economy and borrowing trillions more to provide additional entitlements.
As panicky old allies look for American protection, we talk of slashing our defense budget. In apologetic fashion, we spend more time appeasing confident enemies than buttressing worried friends.
Instead of finishing our border fence and closing the southern border, we are suing a state that is trying to enforce immigration laws that the federal government will not apply. And as sectarianism spreads abroad, we at home still pursue the failed salad bowl and caricature the once-successful American melting pot.
But just as old problems return, so do equally old solutions. Once-stodgy ideas like a free-market economy, strong defense, secure borders, and national unity are suddenly appearing fresh and wise.