May 5, 2019


Right-Wing Israeli Author Writes "The Virtue of Nationalism" -- and Accidentally Exposes Its Pitfalls (Murtaza Hussain, May. 5th, 2019, The Intercept)

Nationalism has a reputation for starting wars, a painful historical legacy that caused the idea to fall out of favor. But "The Virtue of Nationalism" makes the case for embracing it again as a positive force. Hazony argues that nationalism is the only defense against "imperialism" -- defined today, by Hazony and some other nationalists, as the tyranny of universal values and liberal international organizations like the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the International Criminal Court. The book is a rallying cry against a world of universal rights and laws. It calls instead for each individual nation to govern itself as it sees fit. Such an arrangement will bring greater peace to the world, Hazony suggests, as each country focuses on tending its own garden instead of going on ideological adventures abroad.

There's an important subtext running through the book: Hazony's anger over international criticism of Israeli human rights abuses. Despite the incredible international support extended to Israel over the years, Hazony feels that recent criticisms of its abuses amount to "a shaming campaign of a kind that few nations have historically experienced." For this insult, he's ready to cast all the liberal institutions of the world -- the ones that have been sustaining and defending Israel for decades -- as its mortal enemies. He appears positively gleeful about the potential destruction of liberal internationalism at the hands of the new nationalist vanguard. [...]

The case for the new nationalism is justified by an old ideology: the anti-imperialism of the right. This version of anti-imperialism is distinct from its left-wing variant. Right-wing anti-imperialism holds that outsiders have no legitimate interest in what countries do within their own borders. Unlike liberals and leftists, they recoil from the idea of global standards for human rights and governance. In their worldview, the major imperialists of today are the international institutions that seek to impose such standards -- notably the EU and the U.N.

These institutions, Hazony argues, are "a version of the old imperialism" which bludgeons the sovereignty of nations. Their tools are global governance and the ideology they seek to impose is liberalism. In the words of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, they are the "globalists," a term that Hazony also uses. The heroes fighting this global empire, meanwhile, are anti-EU political movements, Trump supporters, and illiberal governments like Brazil and Hungary.

"The Virtue of Nationalism" is in large part a work of nostalgia -- calling back to and justifying historic notions of nationalism. As for the baggage that entails, Hazony gets around it by claiming that the two world wars it helped foment happened because the countries involved weren't really nations. Germany under the Nazis was actually an "empire" because it sought to interfere in the affairs of others, as the EU does. Even World War I happened not because of a scramble to steal the wealth of overseas colonies, the traditional historical explanation, but because Europeans had been seduced by the idea of making their way of life universal.

Nationalism is simply the argument that Anglospheric values ought not be applied universally (which is shared with The Left), but particularly within the Anglosphere where these ideals forbid racism and other bigotries as organizing principles for the electorate (which is distinctly the Right's project). Globalism is, after all, nothing more than Anglofication of the globe.

Posted by at May 5, 2019 10:11 AM