…an empire forces violence on its own people by enforcing standardization.
Globalism – the ideology of working toward a one-world government that would rule over all peoples on Earth – is generally seen as the answer to war, because while individual nations may be prone to competing, in transnational “unity,” there can be no conflict. Or so goes the propaganda. But is nationalism inherently warlike, and will globalism pave the road to world peace?
Trump Vs. Macron
President Trump declared himself a nationalist at an October campaign rally in Houston. “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist. OK? I’m a nationalist,” he said. He also encouraged his supporters to “Use that word.” The statement made waves, largely because the term has become more or less synonymous with the last group that used it for terrible ends, the Nazis, although historical do-gooders and peaceful protestors, including Mahatma Gandhi, have also identified as such.
But at the recent Paris commemoration of WWI’s end, French President Emmanuel Macron opposed Trump’s brand of nationalism. “Patriotism is the opposite of nationalism,” he declared. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” The words were seemingly targeted at Trump and various European nations – Austria, Hungary, Poland, the U.K. – who have recently resisted the pull of ever closer integration into a European superstate. But in the context of the centenary of armistice, these words from Macron’s speech should not be ignored:
“The lessons we draw from the great war cannot be rancor and resentment among other nations and it cannot be allowing the past to be forgotten … [world leaders represent the] face of a world that is once again peaceful, where friendship between peoples prevails over wars, a world where the words of men must speak louder than arms … On our Continent this is represented by the ties of friendship between Germany and France, and the desire to build a bedrock of common goals. This hope is called the European Union, a union that has freed us of our civil wars.”
Indeed, the European Union was established after WWII to prevent the continent ever going to war again – even today, the E.U. is sold as an antidote to conflict across Europe. Winston Churchill advocated for a “United States of Europe” after the war’s end, and the E.U. is the most obvious example we have of a globalist project today.
Union or Empire?
The old colonial empires are primarily seen as a terrible historical wrong, but perhaps we have learned nothing, after all. In the 21st century, it appears to be a case of “If you do it, it’s an empire; if I do it, it’s a union.” Think of the Soviet Union – despite its official benign title, critics did not hesitate to call it a Soviet Empire. The European Union, which began with only six members making a trade agreement, has slowly expanded to include 28 member states and a jurisdiction far beyond its original economic purposes – it now has a court of justice, a parliament, a central bank, and, soon, as recently declared by Leaders Macron and Angela Merkel, a military.
Building an Empire
In response to Angela Merkel’s support of a European army, Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage told the E.U. Parliament:
“I think, 100 years on from the Armistice, we should be genuinely worried. The idea that this new militarized union is somehow a recipe for peace, I suggest you all sit back and think a little bit more carefully. Maybe you should all reread history. The European project was set up to stop German domination, what you’ve seen today is a naked takeover-bid.”
English historian and journalist Simon Heffer wrote a 2016 piece in The Telegraph titled, “The Fourth Reich is here – without a shot being fired.” While Hitler is today called a nationalist, the label is questionable – didn’t he try to establish a global empire according to his ideals? There was no war until he violated national borders and invaded Poland. But it is not just critics of the E.U. who would call it an empire; French Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire recently told German newspaper Handelsblatt:
“It’s about Europe having to become an Art Empire … I’m talking about a peaceful empire that’s a constitutional state. I use the term to raise awareness that power will be in the world of tomorrow … Europe should no longer shy away from playing its power and being an empire of peace.”
It may indeed be an empire of peace – until someone decides not to follow the regime. As asked by Russian state outlet RT, are we going to have a “Napoleonic times redux?”
The problem with a union – or an empire – is that it has to keep everyone in line or risk losing its power, and the more people it rules over, the more ideas and cultures will vary. Wars may be fought between nations, but an empire forces violence on its own people by enforcing standardization. Not only that, but the purpose of an empire is only one: to expand. With expansion, comes war – as the E.U. has stretched eastward, has it not roused the Russian bear?
While the empires of today may not yet be using weapons and force for these two purposes, their tools are propaganda and persuasion – think of today’s Brexit debate, plagued with threats that the country will fall into economic ruin as soon as the U.K. leaves the Union. Not to mention cultural dilution, with unrestricted immigration encouraged – a population with no shared identity is chaotic and easy to conquer.
The EU doesn't allow dissidents. Will Britain be next on this list? pic.twitter.com/S9uaOquv30
— Mark (@markantro) November 15, 2018
Is Nation the Answer?
Despite all this, it is not established that the nation-state is the best mode of civilization. Indeed, some may find that the nation is still too large, with politicians in one centralized capital making laws for people in a faraway region that are simply out-of-touch. LN’s Onar Åm recently observed that Singapore, a highly international place with a tremendous amount of immigration, has managed to avoid the pitfalls of so many other nations that seek globalization. “Singapore’s political elite has been terrified of polarization and the anger of the population, and the city-state’s entire political project has been to compulsively focus on making its population content, with no reason to be unsatisfied.” Could it be that Singapore’s politicians – running one of only three independent city-states in the world today – are simply too close to their population to ignore their will and wellbeing?
Across Europe and the U.S., we see modern separatist movements among groups who feel their culture is too different from the centralized ruling class – even groups in Texas and California have sought to secede from the Union. And there is always the tension of state powers versus federal, not to mention local powers being subsumed by the states or provinces – hence a current lawsuit by a host of Ohio cities against their state legislature over a bill that sought to centralize municipal authority.
Most in the modern world would be hesitant to give up the comforts brought by some degree of globalization – so where is the balance? Is the nation the ideal-sized unit for society, offering both some degree of openness to foreign influence and also an adequate level of cultural unity and security? Or does it create an “us and them” mentality that inevitably leads to war?
Rather than nationalism, it is the empire-building desire to exploit or control others that leads to conflict. Even U.S. wars – Korea, Vietnam and arguably Iraq and Afghanistan – would not have happened if not for the desire to control and dominate other nations. Hegemony and the centralization of power, rather than the tribal idea of nation, is the driving force behind war today.