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Archive for the ‘Nationalism’ Category

One of my least favorite parlor tricks of liberals, including neoconservatives and libertarians, is to define “rational” as a very narrow range of individualist philosophical views, based on a few pseudo-scientific axioms of one kind or another, and thereby rendering it nearly impossible for one’s opponents to win an argument before the discussion has begun because their opponents’ concerns, such as the good of a nation or the Glory of God, are defined beforehand as irrational and irrelevant.

There is much of this in Ilya Somin’s recent discussion of the evils of nationalism over at Volokh or in a surprisingly dispassionate defense of disloyalty by David Schraub over at the University of Chicago. This is what Enlightenment Universalism is, of course. It rejects the organic, historical and blood ties of peoples. It rejects the idea that God and revealed truth might have some influence in our political and moral life. It denies that matters that cannot be reduced to philosophical formulae might also be true, such as the idea that men should not marry men, women should first and foremost be mothers, or that people who talk and act funny and have unpronounceable names should be treated differently than our native-born sons.

What I wrote in response to Schraub exposes this little sleight of hand that all-too-often avoids the merits of the issue:

Majorities in fact have real power and a real moral right to preserve themselves as a people. Unless they’re suffering from mass psychosis, they do and should impose certain standards on those who would benefit from the nation and its laws and its protection, not least not to actively aid enemies of the nation.

We sadly ask so little of citizens, particularly newcomers, who often have dual loyalties. We are in fact a remarkably tolerant people, and it’s gone too far, culminating in such ridiculous acts as serving in foreign armies by the President’s Chief of Staff and the mass murder of soldiers after repeated statements of disloyalty by the terrorist, Major Nidal Hasan.

Nations are safer, more secure, and more pleasant when people are loyal and have some sense of allegiance and community. There will always be loyalty of one kind or another, but where disloyalty to the nation is tolerated usually it’s reserved instead for some other nation or group, whether it’s one’s ethnic subgroup, one’s religious community, a foreign nation, or some combination of the three.

There is something very obvious going on here, and part of the answer is in the authors and their backgrounds. They are ethnic and religious minorities, and highly educated transnational cosmopolitans to be exact. They are not typical Americans, but their views are highly influential. Big surprise, “Uzair Kayhani” came to Schraub’s defense. I’m surprised Osama bin Laden himself didn’t pipe in. The views of these people are why the Army tolerated the anti-American rantings of Major Nidal Hassan. They are why we tolerate foreign tongues and weird styles of dress by foreigners in our cities. This is why it’s been drummed into us to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

The universalist enlightenment liberalism they are promoting is a set of rules that is very useful for minority tribes surrounded by a majority with different values and interests. These views advance the minority by rendering the majority’s dominance on cultural, economic, and political matters less so, such that its older standards of excellence are dismissed as exclusionary and morally suspect. Who cares if you were descended from those on the Mayflower? That’s ethnocentric and elitist. Who cares if your granddad fought in World War II? It doesn’t matter where you were born or what your family ever did, you’re just a citizen no different than an FOB in a Hijab.

Under this viewpoint, the majority’s becomes one voice in a multicultural chorus. Of course, in spite of its pretensions to fairness, it’s obviously a self-interested ideology. When these same minorities are in charge or in the majority–such as Jews in Israel or Chinese in China or Muslims in any Muslim country–they almost always adopt different and sensible rules aimed at the self-preservation of their nation and their religion.

I do not necessarily begrudge them such nationalism at home; within the limits of justice, it is natural and to be expected. But I do begrudge the attempt by alienated minorities of all kinds to redefine and rewrite the rules of the game in my home, where we have a majority, our own folkways, our own traditions, and our own way of life. Those traditions, of course, are and were very flexible. They were flexible enough historically that many minorities felt welcome here and did not, until recently, feel it terribly offensive to have Christmas as a federal holiday or to change their names from Chandrakumar to “Sean.” But this tolerance was not our only value. It was part of a broader tradition, that of a real nation with more than a creed but a real national character–courageous, risk-taking, unpretentious, in love with space and freedom, upwardly mobile, self-reliant, proud, God-fearing, patriotic, inventive, practical–but this character has been deliberately and maliciously erased by the deliberate efforts of a subset of minorities and newcomers, for whom such very minor indignities as Nativity Scenes, the “strong silent” WASPy ideal of masculinity, and the old informal rules of “fair business,” undermined their own rise to power.

Don’t fall for this trick, friends. What appears to be a fair, universalist, philosophical account of the good is often based on controversial and unproven premises; a little looking makes it clear often that the speaker is insincere, his arguments are sophistical, and that his goals are the same tribalism (in the ascent) for which he denounces you, even when you’re merely trying only to defend a known way of life.

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In response to a jobs-protection provision in a pending amnesty bill, Hispanic chauvinist Ruben Navarette writes:

Why should [as Rep. Luis Guittierez said] “no one born here in this country … ever lose an opportunity for gainful employment at the expense of someone not born here?” Remember, these aren’t illegal immigrants but legal immigrants coming on visas.

Why should U.S. citizens get a benefit not from education or hard work but from something they had nothing to do with — where they were born? If a job is available, U.S. workers should be free to compete for it, but not have it handed to them on a silver platter. Likewise, foreign workers who come here legally should have a shot at competing for that same job.

Of course, protectionists claim that the playing field isn’t level since foreign workers will often accept less money to do the same job, thus putting American workers at a disadvantage.

Tough.

Pro-immigration activists alternately talk about compassion while saying “tough” to Americans. The only unifying principle is the good of their tribe. Ruben is a Hispanic. He is not a loyal American. He has demonstrated this repeatedly in his writings, which are totally indifferent to the good of other Americans. It matters not where he was born; it’s clear he’s totally indifferent to the common good and can’t even think in such terms. This kind of talk would be intolerable among anyone but minorities.

I suppose if we enforced our laws against border-hopping, stopped fraudulent H1B Visa applications (which supposedly require a company first to hire an American), and generally leveraged US power for the benefit of American citizens, even at the expense low-skilled Mexican workers, “tough,” wouldn’t exactly fly with Ruben. That’s when we’re called to be “compassionate.” Ruben’s column is not a moral statement aiming at justice but a triumphalist one: we’re winning, you’re losing, and you people need to deal with it and stop complaining. “You” . . . Americans that is . . . must be sacrificed for the principles of globalism, for the “economy,” for all the bad things your ancestors did, and for the good of morally exquisite Third Worlders that are trying to make more money at our expense.

Allowing mass immigration is a policy choice. It’s a choice to underenforce the laws, and it’s a choice to let people in with visas. No company or family or individual would behave the way Navarette counsels when dealing with people they genuinely care about. No CEO would say, “Well we can give this business to our own in-house team and save some jobs and keep the money in house or we can save a nickel by sending it to a vendor.” There is a community of interest in a firm, and the firm’s management is supposed to look out for the good of the firm as a whole. This is obvious. No family would shrug its shoulders at a brother or sister or dad’s job loss due to the pressure of low-wage, low-skill competitors. A country is no different. It was obvious, until recently, that its leaders should look out for the good of its citizens.

There is no doubt that Navarette would not be fighting for mass immigration if it did not benefit his group to acquire greater numbers, greater cultural influence, and greater wealth at the expense of native-born Americans. We know this because leftists like him who now prattle about the virtues of globalism spent a good part of the middle 20th Century defending the mass exclusion of “neo-colonialists” (i.e., white Europeans) from places like India, Rhodesia, and Mexico. Leftists swooned with admiration as these countries built up nationalist economic orders, complete with protectionist state-owned monopolies like PEMEX. When will Navarette dare to speak out about this vital feature of Mexican political and economic life? Can anyone imagine Navarette telling South African blacks or Indian nationalists or Mexican protectionists “tough” when they defend their historically nationalist and anti-white policies?

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Fouad Ajami contrasts Obama’s wishful thinking internationalism with McCain’s American-exceptionalist neo-imperalism:

[During the Nixon-Kennedy election of 1960] The national consensus on America’s role abroad, and on the great threats facing it, was firmly implanted. No great cultural gaps had opened in it, arugula was not on the menu, and the elites partook of the dominant culture of the land; the universities were then at one with the dominant national ethos. The “disuniting of America” was years away. American liberalism was still unabashedly tethered to American nationalism.

We are at a great remove from that time and place. Globalization worked its way through the land, postmodernism took hold of the country’s intellectual life. The belief in America’s “differentness” began to give way, and American liberalism set itself free from the call of nationalism. American identity itself began to mutate.

The celebrated political scientist Samuel Huntington, in “Who Are We?,” a controversial book that took up this delicate question of American identity, put forth three big conceptions of America: national, imperial and cosmopolitan. In the first, America remains America. In the second, America remakes the world. In the third, the world remakes America. Back and forth, America oscillated between the nationalist and imperial callings. The standoff between these two ideas now yields to the strength and the claims of cosmopolitanism. It is out of this new conception of America that the Obama phenomenon emerges.

The “aloofness” of Mr. Obama that has become part of the commentary about him is born of this cultural matrix. Mr. Obama did not misspeak when he described union households and poorer Americans as people clinging to their guns and religion; he was overheard sharing these thoughts with a like-minded audience in San Francisco.

Nor was it an accident that, in a speech at Wesleyan University, he spoke of public service but excluded service in the military. The military does not figure prominently in his world and that of his peers. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention, as was the case on the campaign trail, he spoke of his maternal grandfather’s service in Patton’s army. But that experience had not been part of his own upbringing.

Ajami seems to think Americans like McCain because he’s the more competent imperial administrator.  While that is true of some, I think the fact that he wraps his imperial vision in the rhetoric of nationalism is why he’s effective.  Between an anti-American cosmopolitan, and a bellicose ideological neo-imperalist, Americans, particularly Americans of a conservative bent, will choose the latter.  Why?  Because for conservatives who are uneasy about imperialism, it is still better to be in charge, even if the endeavor is self-defeating than to let other people, with similar but opposing imperial visions, to be in charge of us.

The standoff that Ajami speaks of is a tragic one, an unfortunate consequence of the domination of the Republican party by the neoconservative vision of foreign policy, a vision that demands intervention, the continuation of American power, and the erasure of distinctions of the nation and the foreigner. 

Missing from both candidates’ views, and the political scene generally, is a true nationalist voice that is neither excessively indebted to nor overly influenced by the rest of the world.  A humble view that is aware of our limitations and jealous of our advantages.  A view that does not seek to manage or influence world with the exception chiefly of providing a good example to others and protecting what is ours. 

This tradition, stretching from George Washington and James Monroe, to the so-called Know-Nothings, and more recently to Charles Lindbergh, Robert Taft, and Pat Buchanan has been the abiding idiom of American conservatism.  It’s absent from both parties, yet it finds support in what is likely a numerical plurality of working class ethnic whites, business-oriented conservatives, many Vietnam veterans, as well as a swath of anti-war Americans who come from a variety of traditions.

The nationalist is against the continuation of the Iraq War not because it is wrong or an evil to the Iraqis, but because it distracts us from our chief concern, which is our own flourishing as a people and the protection of that people and our way of life.

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A truly excellent article appears in Foreign Affairs describing how the European peace and prosperity of the last 50 years were a product of increasing ethnic homogenization among almost all of these nations since WWI. 

Far from this being the age of post-nationalism, the EU and Franco-German detante conceal the fact that our age is witness to the apotheosis of the traditional nation-state.  While nothing earth-shattering appears in Muller’s essay, it is very clear and precise.  Ideally, it would disabuse American readers of the hoary notion that the ethnic state is an anachronism that should be eliminated through mass immigration, meddling in other nation’s internal affairs, and constant hectoring by a******s like George Soros. 

Projecting their own experience onto the rest of the world, Americans generally belittle the role of ethnic nationalism in politics. [Well, liberal ones, minorities, and recent arrivals do.]  After all, in the United States people of varying ethnic origins live cheek by jowl in relative peace. Within two or three generations of immigration, their ethnic identities are attenuated by cultural assimilation and intermarriage. Surely, things cannot be so different elsewhere.

Americans also find ethnonationalism discomfiting both intellectually and morally. Social scientists go to great lengths to demonstrate that it is a product not of nature but of culture, often deliberately constructed. And ethicists scorn value systems based on narrow group identities rather than cosmopolitanism.

But none of this will make ethnonationalism go away. Immigrants to the United States usually arrive with a willingness to fit into their new country and reshape their identities accordingly. But for those who remain behind in lands where their ancestors have lived for generations, if not centuries, political identities often take ethnic form, producing competing communal claims to political power. The creation of a peaceful regional order of nation-states has usually been the product of a violent process of ethnic separation. In areas where that separation has not yet occurred, politics is apt to remain ugly.

The author does a good job of explaining the present state of the ethnic state.  It’s the super-tribe, the most modern of  kinship identies, and also the weakest, but it is also a natural bond, considering the common histories, languages, religions, and physical similarities that unite most national groups. 

I do think he misunderstands the nascent American ethnic nationalism that bloomed in the post-war era, only to be scrubbed away after 1965 through mass immigration and a “counter-cultural” ideological program. But the main point stands, and it probably stands doubly strong once American exceptionalism is rejected as an ideological tale told by self-interested parties, mostly unassimilated minorities and our foreign enemies.

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