The Real Cause of Extreme Nationalism

One of the talking points used to defend the idea of Europe (the hypothetical super state that is) is that the alternative to a fourth Reich is another World War. This has been used by mass media during Brexit, the Migration Crisis, and anyone who has spoken to Europhiles will have heard such an argument. The logic goes if the European experiment ends then the reemergence of nation rivalries would lead to another century of blood.

The idea is not without merit, but the premises it is based on are erroneous, to say the least. It fundamentally misidentifies what kept the peace in Europe. It presupposes a new Pan-European identity creates a new fraternity among the European peoples that made another blood bath unthinkable. This analysis collapses once one realizes that for half the last century Europe was split into two heavily armed camps (some fraternity), that the EEC was more a matter of immediate material convenience than some transnational social experiment and that the pan-religious idea of “Christendom”(an identity with much more basis in reality) did not stop Europeans from murdering each other. So that begs the question – what did keep the peace? The answer is simple and threefold, none of which the Social Liberals like to think about: nukes, ethnic cleansing and the US military. Nukes created such a high cost of a new war that neither side – no matter how aggressive one side was at a particular moment – was willing to fight because to use such weapons would be the equivalent of Bismark’s aphorism for  committing suicide out of fear of death, and the presence of the US and NATO as the guarantors of borders after the wall came down made the need for large armies largely unnecessary. The first two reasons are not particularly controversial, but the third shall need more explanation.

The post-War Ethnic cleansing is perhaps the most important and least appreciated factor of all, mostly due to the fact acknowledging it would affirm the legitimacy of Nationalism. Whether it was the Germans in Alsace-Lorraine and Eastern Europe, the Poles in modern Belarus, or even the Jews just about everywhere, there was a mass expulsion of minorities to new homelands. One can say this was cruel and unnecessary but that would require a great deal of ignorance about the crises that culminated in the Second World War. Nearly 40% of Hungarians in Europe lived outside of Hungary, a third of Poland’s population (11 million people) were non-Poles and 13 million Germans lived outside of Germany and Austria. Say what you will of the Nazis and the other European ultra-nationalists but they were a natural consequence of this situation and had a point when the criticized the 1919 borders. The newer post-WWII demographic barriers made the status quo much more sustainable. If you’re skeptical of this, think of all the multi-ethnic states that survived these expulsions: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Belgium, and the Soviet Union. In fact, only Belgium remains. The rest collapsed with varying degrees of violence , which is exactly what will happen to Europe if full integration is achieved.

Nationalism is a consequence of people being around people who are different from them and becoming aware of their own shared identity, there’s a reason it has historically not been a strong force in Sweden which was almost completely, and uniquely, ethnically homogeneous until the 1980s and has been such a strong force in central and Eastern Europe where many people have been under the jackboot of one empire or another. The stronger Brussels gets, the stronger the European National movements will get to counter its influence. Think of most modern conflicts throughout the world; outside of  the religious fanatics in the Mid-East, they are almost entirely ethnic conflicts based around the need to establish or join a homeland. Whether it is, the Kurds in Turkey and Syria, the Ethnic Russians in the former USSR, the Uyghurs in China, the Moros in the Philippines, or the Berbers in Western Sahara, people want to be a part of a country which they feel is governed by people that are similar to them, and the EU will only exacerbate this tendency.

If you really care about peace then you must due what the Germans figured out at Westphalia in 1648 and outline the need for the Nation-State and allow for people to live in peace with their countrymen.

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