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usa-dark-clouds americaWhen, in the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev said, “We will bury you,” and, “Your children will live under communism,” Eisenhower’s America scoffed.

By 1980, however, the tide did indeed seem to be with the East.

America had suffered a decade of defeats. Southeast Asia had fallen. The ayatollah had seized power in Iran. Moscow had occupied Afghanistan. Cuban troops were in Ethiopia and Angola. Grenada and Nicaragua had fallen to the Soviet bloc. Eurocommunism was all the rage on the continent.

Just a decade later, the world turned upside-down.

The Berlin Wall fell. Eastern Europe was suddenly free. The Soviet Union disintegrated. China abandoned Maoism for state capitalism.

Now, 20 years on, the wheel has turned again–toward darkness.

No longer do we hear chatter about “The End of History” and triumph of democratic capitalism, of America imposing her “global hegemony” or leading mankind into “a second American century.”

The hubris is gone, and triumphalism has given way to anxiety, apprehension, alarm.

In an essay, “The Return of Toxic Nationalism,” Robert Kaplan, a geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, writes that Western elites are even yet failing to see the larger, darker picture of our evolving world.

These elites identify with the like-minded in other lands and “prefer not to see the regressive and exclusivist forces … that are mightily reshaping the future.”

Egypt and the Mideast offer “a panorama of sectarianism and religious and ethnic divides. Freedom, at least in its initial stages, unleashes not only individual identity but, more crucially, the freedom to identify with a blood-based solidarity group. Beyond that group, feelings of love and humanity do not apply.”

This is “a signal lesson of the Arab Spring,” and out of it will likely come an “Islamist-Nasserite regime” in Cairo.

“Asia is in the midst of a feverish arms race,” writes Kaplan. Nationalism there is “young and vibrant–as it was in the West in the 19th and 20th centuries.” Having consolidated the homeland, China is moving to annex her adjacent seas, and a formerly pacifist Japan is “rediscovering nationalism as a default option.”

Nationalism is “alive and thriving in India and Russia,” with New Delhi building armed forces that will be among the world’s largest.

“Race hatred against Muslims is high among Russians, and just as there are large rallies by civil-society types, there are also marches and protests by skinheads and neo-Nazis, who are less well-covered by Western media.”

A weakening European Union has spawned a “resurgence of nationalism and extremism in … Hungary, Finland, Ukraine and Greece.”

“We are truly in a battle between two epic forces,” says Kaplan, “those of integration based on civil society and human rights, and those of exclusion based on race, blood and radicalized religion.”

How should the United States deal with this darkening age?

“Because values like minority rights are under attack the world over, the United States must put them right alongside its own exclusivist national interests, such as preserving a favorable balance of power. Without universal values in our foreign policy, we have no identity as a nation–and that is the only way we can lead with moral legitimacy in an increasingly disordered world.”

But is this not itself utopian?

A great religious awakening is taking place from Morocco to Mindanao. If these hundreds of millions believe there is no God but Allah and he has shown the way to eternal life, why would they, why should they, tolerate pastors and preachers from heretical and false faiths?

How do we preach women’s equality–an easy access to divorce contraception and abortion–to people who swear by a sacred book that says you kill people like that?

How do we preach the blessings of racial and ethnic diversity to a world where, as Kaplan writes, ethnonationalism and tribalism are being embraced and people are willing to die to create nations where their own kind and their own culture are dominant if not exclusive?

Before we put our “values” up there with our vital interests, as the object of our foreign policy, what exactly are we talking about?

Do Americans in the grip of a social-moral-cultural war even agree among themselves on “values”?

Our First Amendment protects freedom of speech to call the Prophet vile names. Our freedom of the press protects pornography. Our freedom of religion means all religions are to be equally excluded from public schools.

Other nations believe in indoctrinating their children in their own beliefs and values. Where do we get the right to push ours in their societies?

When did the internal affairs of foreign nations become the portfolio of American diplomats? Did James Madison’s first minister to Russia, John Quincy Adams, demand that Czar Alexander free the serfs?

“Without universal values in our foreign policy, we have no identity as a nation,” says Kaplan.

But that is not our history. America has indeed been about ideas, but America is now and has always been about more, much more than abstract ideas.

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Published with gracious permission of the author. Copyright 2012,


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5 replies to this post
  1. Pope Francis put it best: “Unity does not mean identity, it means harmony.”

    Kaplan is wrong about the nature of the ressurgent nationalism. Where he sees racism and radicalized religion, I see people taking their first steps towards self-government. If you lived under slavery for 50 years, wouldn’t it be only natural that you’d be radicaly enthusiastic about being free to wave your flag and celebrate your nation and religion?

    Using extreme examples to paint the world with one brush is suspect. The error is betrayed by the broadstroke of putting Finland, Greece, Hungary and Ukraine into one basket – the political situations in those countries are vastly different.

    I’ll be concerned when I see people stop honoring election results. Until then, it is callous to presume that something insidious is going on just because folks who would have gone to jail for singing their national anthems are now happy and zealous about it.

    As for the Arab world, how can Kaplan ignore the fact that a driving force behind the violent type of nationalism he deplores is American foriegn policy?

    Self-government and the right to national self determination means we’re going to have to get accustomed to people doing things a bit differently, without necessarily meaning that different=Hitler.

  2. Forgive my double post, but some elaboration:

    Kaplan’s words, and his whole idea of integrationist human rights vs blood nationalism all sound eerily familiar to me: it’s the same rhetoric that the pragmatic parties of power make in defense of centralization of power in Brussels, trying to paint a stark contrast: either you are for the EU Commisars running your life, or you’re a mentaly deficient religious extremist who favors racist nationalism.

    But please show me the nationalist party in Europe which has refused to honor a free, democratic election? And do not conflate Arab nationalism, which is violent because it sees foriegn meddling as its enemy, with European nationalism, which is peaceful and a celebration of national culture – long supressed by the Cold War.

    Kaplan actually makes a fool of himself. How any sane person can talk about “dangerous” nationalism in Ukraine is beyond me.

    First, Ukraine volluntarily gave up its entire nuclear arsennal. This is unprecedented in world history. Second, it is actually the nationalists in Ukraine, the national patriots of the Orange coalition, who wished fervently to join the EU and NATO. The present ruling party, tellingly called the Party of Regions, is anything but nationalist, as they wish to acknowedge that large parts of Ukraine are politicaly and culturaly closer to Russia, and ought to be respected equally along with the pro-western parts. The nationalists see this as an attempt to divide Ukraine against itself.

    Hungarian nationalism, is in fact a natural, peacefull completion of the anticommunist revolution (I wrote about it here:

    Greek nationalism wouldn’t be so unhinged if the EU hadn’t made such a mess of the country.

    One could go on and on. Just because a few skinheads throw some rocks and break some windows from time to time is no excuse for conflating crazy people with peaceful, legitamite political parties which come to power from time to time through free elections and call themselves National Democratic.

    Kaplan does a disservice to many veterans and patriots who fought for human rights and believe that a fundamental right is the right to national self determination.

  3. “By 1980, however, the tide did indeed seem to be with the East.”: only to the same sort of gloom-and-doom criers who are now peddling their updated fears of America’s impending demise. For such folks, the sky is always falling, but somehow it never does. Eisenhower’s America would have been right to scoff; unfortunately, it reacted with degrees of hysteria and paranoia.

    “Do Americans in the grip of a social-moral-cultural war even agree among themselves on “values”?” No, we don’t agree on values, and we never have; and no, we’re not in the grip of a war over them, we’re just disagreeing. Free people disagree, sometimes even vehemently, without such disagreement constituting, even metaphorically, a “war”. That’s the language of demagoguery.

    “The hubris is gone, and triumphalism has given way to anxiety, apprehension, alarm.” Those are two sides of the same coin, and the coin is the nonsensical notion of American Exceptionalism, which leads us to carom between thinking we can dominate the world and fearing that the world will dominate us.

    “Other nations believe in indoctrinating their children in their own beliefs and values.” So do we; our beliefs and values happen to include thinking for ourselves and choosing our own beliefs and values, which is one of the reasons we keep religion out of schools.

    I agree that we should stop trying to remake the world in our image. Our “foreign policy” should be the example of America being America; other nations are free to emulate us or not, but it’s not for us to export ourselves overseas either at the point of a gun or with the carrot and stick of financial inducements. (Which isn’t to say that I’m against humanitarian or developmental aid entirely…)

  4. Pessimism here is only epiphenomenal – Buchanan is a sage of wisdom exploring “taboo” territory the statistically average American self-identified “conservative” has never even dreamed existed.

    Buchanan, only seems to attain fuller and fuller incisive penetration of analysis… Whoever deems his manful and intelligent resistance to Nihilism, even granting expression in the outer shell of human communication of mere stylistic rhetorical superficiality, as disillusioned “pessimism”, end of story, is simply absolutely void of vision and should omit from contemplating or participating in matters beyond reach…

    Buchanan’s “pessimist” formality here only encases his white-hot, fiery passionate American patriotic pathos in a time of “Voegelinian” tension…

    America shall not perish, as certain “Egyptians” from within so gluttonously desire, in an Atlantean cataclysm; but America shall, as Christianity sprouted from Judaism, be reborn from within in upward transfiguration of itself, via an ultimate sublation… America shall not be “Papist” nor “Protestant”, but its Christianity more-than-orthodox and polity more-than-organic; America shall not sink into Tartary abyssal depths – NO… Free will is the nexus of connection to the Divine, inside hominized Adam, the “image of God” we embody insofar as morally reasoning creatures, fully cognizant to the duality between moral good and moral evil; insofar as capable of freely nobly willing, according to higher, super-ordinate axial ordinances of the “Lex Eternae” (the “divine natural law”, our American “Declaration”, even skeptically, undeniably testifies to cryptically, as the fount of authentic human judicial sovereignty), insofar as such free willed creatures maintain the state of ascent of spirit, overcoming both Dionysian-pantheist conflation and Gnostic-anarchist erasure, of “Good and Evil”, we are of the “Immovable Race”…

    And the more disillusioned “reactionaries” among the resistance to Nihilism, shall not ever, if truly anti-subversive, “revolutionize” profanely America, in the doubtless “metaphysical warfare” and attendant struggles ahead of us… Even the radicalized counter-revolutionary element, if true to name and essence, shall never resort to war-hammer, in a situation of such delicate fragility and metaphysically-based nature, in which extra-ordinary mandate to terrestrially oppose hypothetical tyranny, shall exist as a moral certitude never imprudently sought for in its application, in the unique case of America, and its destiny… The “conservative counter-revolution” shall be definitely of pneumatic character, and re-integrate and deepen the epigenetic potential of America, as an aretaic and God-upholding presence in human history, unmistakably, indubitably, beneficent… Not as victims of the abyss shall we end; and the locus of the subversive faction’s intent of “Atlantean horror” in ruined, sunken ashes, shall exist only as ashes of the Phoenix of the spirit, subversion conquered by re-directing VERTICALLY, in interior metamorphosis and palingenesis of the insides, the “state”-form existing as such, as but the mere outward by-product of which; Plato was right: personal spiritual decline is indissociable from political – how else could things be, if reality is not a flatland of homogenized monistic emptiness? – spiritual motions of higher order, determine lesser causalities of the more earthly levels of being… The subversion, shall be internally counter-subverted; and we shall be neither Aryan nor Jew (and all rebels of tribalistic narcissism, hopefully even, declared as utlagatus AB INITIO, in the amended Constitution of the dream, more real than what is real, of the real America unburdened no longer in cognitive dissonance); and America’s meaning, actually, really, foreshadowed, in the ideally attained, because metaphysically re-oriented and re-configured, “New Order of the Ages”…

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