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Nationalism and Internationalism

Iraq and immigration have one thing in common. Both are founded on the assumption that national political philosophies can be universally applied to any population with the same results.

The same leftists and radical libertarians who mocked the idea that Iraqis could be successfully
transformed through democracy insist millions of illegal aliens from countries every bit as violent and unstable as Iraq can be successfully transformed by giving them legal status and the vote.

Both assumptions were and are wrong. They are both symptoms of an internationalism that assumes  a favorite political philosophy that works in the United States can be applied internationally without regard for culture. And internationalism invariably undermines the nation by prioritizing an ideology over the rights and interests of the citizenry.

Internationalism is always unsustainable. Even the USSR was not able to sustain the call for a World Revolution for very long. Early efforts on the part of American radicals to champion anti-monarchial revolutions across Europe ended miserably with the French Revolution which threw its champion, Thomas Paine into a cell and marked him for execution.

The invasion of Iraq was an attempt to deal with a threat. The reconstruction of Iraq attempted to
transform it in accordance with the belief that democracy could be applied anywhere with positive results. Not only did democracy not stabilize Iraq, it destabilized it and turned it into a playground for every stripe of Islamists from Al Qaeda to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard with our soldiers caught in the middle.

Most Americans accepted the logic of removing a potential threat. And that phase of the Iraq War went cleanly and with relatively few casualties. But few Americans were interested in a prolonged exercise undertaken on behalf of the people we had just been fighting. They saw no national interest in making over Iraq in line with international ideals.

The transition from an invasion for a national interest to an occupation for an international interest shifted the justification away from nationalism to internationalism.

Democracy in Iraq attempted to apply the idea that political representation transcends cultural difference to the Middle East, even though it no longer even worked properly in the United States. The Arab Spring demonstrated conclusively that democracy in the Muslim world would lead to a majority rule that would preclude the human rights and religious freedoms of the minority.

But Iraq doesn't just stay in Iraq. Some parts of California now look like Iraq, as do some parts of Arizona and Texas. Mexican drug cartels have already turned Mexico into a broken dangerous place and they are moving north. El Salvadoran gangs have been here for some time and are expanding. Refugees from every conflict have come here bringing the roots of that conflict to the United States.

Muslim terrorism like the drug cartels is what happens when internationalists fail to realize that importing a population from a troubled part of the world also means that you are importing its troubles. Pro-immigration rhetoric speaks about bringing the best of other countries to the United States or the United Kingdom, but that has meant importing exotic cuisines and less exotic gangs.

If trying to bring democracy to Iraq doesn't work, neither does trying to bring Iraq to democracy. Neither Mohammed nor the mountain are meant to meet and it's a bad idea if they do, on either terms. Importing large numbers of immigrants from countries where democracy does not work will insure that our democracy does not work either. The last election should serve as ample demonstration of that.

Internationalism works both ways and it applies to the mistaken idea that national values are so broad that they can be applied universally to transform large foreign populations-- whether through our invasion of foreign countries or their invasion of our country.

Liberal and libertarian champions of immigration must come to terms with the fact that the very thing that they support makes liberal and libertarian societies impossible.

Europe's growing Islamist minorities are already making basic freedoms impossible. Europeans are learning that they can have cultural freedom and a welfare state, or they can have high immigration, but they cannot have both. Immigration is forcing Europe to curtail religious satire, freedom of the press and its art scene. And it is overburdening its generous welfare system. If the process goes on, then European Socialism will have made its defining qualities extinct.

The European left blindly sticks to its internationalist principles while refusing to see the practical contradictions in its policies. It is so committed to its internationalism that it fails to understand that its political program developed in its nation states and can only exist within the context of its nation states and that a United Kingdom whose population is Pakistani will be a place more like Pakistan and less like the United Kingdom and that this will not be a change wrought merely in its cuisine or its language, but also its values.

Some libertarians in the United States are similarly championing an immigration policy that would eliminate any hope of implementing most of the political feasibility for their program. Like the European left, they insist on acting as if the innate rightness of their political philosophy makes all the practical objections to its implementation irrelevant. And yet the dogmatic implementation of political philosophies is exactly what made the Soviet Union and Communist China such nightmarish places. It is at the heart of so many disasters... including Iraq.

There is a cultural tendency toward libertarian approaches to government in the United States. And that is also why those approaches work in the United States, rather than Iraq. Applying libertarian ideas to Iraq would work as badly as trying to bring democracy to Iraq did. Expecting that these approaches will work if large numbers of immigrants from places like Iraq are brought to the United States is equally foolish.

That is not to say that small government and democracy are not good things in and of themselves, but they are good things because they allow a decent responsible population rooted in rural areas to see to its own affairs.

Nationalists, unlike internationalists, do not need to embrace the left's cultural relativism to understand why the international application of national values fails. A value system that may be true in the absolute sense, may still fail when applied locally because a culture is not ready or able to live responsibly that way.

It is possible to believe that our way of life is best without also believing that it can be applied to any other part of the world with invariably successful results. And as nationalists, it is possible to believe that our way of life is best without feeling the need to prove it by applying that way of life to foreign cultures either through invasion or immigration.

That is not to say that there should be no immigration and that we should never invade another country. But both invasion and immigration should be governed by the national interest, rather than by an international one.

An international interest believes that reforming another part of the world or adding diversity to ours is an end in and of itself. A national interest however looks primarily at how the the citizenry of the nation would benefit from such a step.

If immigration is to serve the national interest, then it should provide maximum benefits to the people already living in the country, not the people who are only now entering it. Immigration should be assessed on a cost-benefit basis, measuring its advantages and disadvantages for the citizenry and immigration policy should be adjusted in such a way as to achieve maximum benefit and minimum loss.

That would mean favoring immigration from countries with low crime levels and high education levels over countries with high crime levels and low educational levels. It might mean adjusting immigration policy with a view toward cultural stability and away from cultural instability. These factors should be put under the control of the citizenry who would be able to select policies that would make life better for them.

By envisioning immigration in national, rather than international terms, we can design an immigration policy that would benefit a country, rather than some internationalist ideal. And the same can be done for most policies with international application, including military action.

A national interest military action would strike quickly at terrorist outposts, whether through drones or rapid mobile troop deployments, and then pull back quickly again. Such actions would be more like the French action in Mali rather than the extended occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such an action would need to have the approval of the people and their protection from a known threat as the rationale, rather than the unpopular massacre prevention wars of Clinton and Obama.

While internationalist military action is concerned with the global community and international law, nationalist military actions are defense or preemptive attacks meant to deal death to an enemy, rather than to teach him our values or laws.

Wars that are fought in the national interest concentrate on destroying a known threat, rather than transforming populations. Their reconstruction is limited to rebuilding countries that are known allies, rather than trying to win over populations full of known enemies. Advocates of reconstruction rightly point out that instability breeds terrorist nests and outposts, but the scope of that instability is far too global for reconstruction efforts to be undertaken around the world.

The post-war reconstruction of Europe cannot be replicated around the world and trying to do so will only waste lives. The Cold War, defined at its heart by a massed array of tanks and infantry locked across the continent, made that effort a matter of national interest by building a coalition that could oppose the Warsaw Pact advance. But what we are up against now is not even Asian domino theory, but a reality that every Muslim population center is also a potential terrorist center.

Communism was a political ideology, but Islam is an existing embedded religion. We can favor non-Islamic over Islamic governments, but economic and political reconstruction will not convince entire populations to turn their backs on Islam, the way we might have expected them to turn their backs on Communism. And a reconstruction that leaves Islam in place is as futile as the hunger relief effort that Hoover led to the USSR. It is as useless as rebuilding Communist countries in the hopes that they will be moderate Communists. It didn't work with the Soviet Union or Iraq or Afghanistan.

The entire program of reconstruction is inherently internationalist. It uses American soldiers as blunt instruments for reforming another society. In Afghanistan, American soldiers are denied air support or the right to fire first because that would interfere with the internationalist aim of winning over the native population. Once the internationalist aim dominates the national interest then that is a sign that the entire program has gone wrong.

And the same is true of immigration. Once an immigration policy results in native displacement, high crime rates and social dysfunction then it is no longer operating in the national interest, but in the international interest. And that is when it is time to put a stop to it.

Invasions or immigration should not be used to transform countries. The entire idea of national transformation is an internationalist creed.

The internationalist believes in harnessing global events to transform nations, then regions and finally the world, while the nationalist is concerned with conserving the prosperity and integrity of his own nation.

Nationalists need not be isolationists, but they should be wary of any political agenda which expresses itself in terms such as the international community or the common good. Nationalists believe in defined alliances between nations and in policies that are meant to serve the welfare of their own populations. When an idea is grounded in terms of imposing a universal idea on a nation then it will rarely end well.

Successful policies are national policies because they are measurable in terms of benefit and loss. Just
as individual citizens can benefit in defined ways from a policy, so too nations. The best national policy provides defined benefit to individuals. A national policy that cannot be measured in those terms is a bad one. Similarly an international policy that cannot be measured in terms of national interests is a bad one.

By measuring a policy against a constituency we can see it in terms of results, rather than ideals. We can decide whether the policy is a good thing or not because we can see how it affects people. And what is true for people is also true of nations. Internationalists all too easily lose track of people while obsessing over ideals. Nationalists can never afford to lose that mistake because their entire purpose must be defined in terms of known benefits to their people. 

Democracy and limited government constrain policy to the human level. They resist the creeping internationalism that encourages leaders to think in terms of ideals rather than people. Nationalism similarly constrains the international policies of a nation to the human level of its people, measuring activities such as wars and migrations to the level of its people, seeing their real impacts rather than the ideal impacts on the people. 


  1. Jerome26/3/13

    12 million illegal aliens in the USA become "undocumented immigrants" cited as immovable "facts on the ground" to oppose any attempt to require some adherence to the laws of the borders and citizenship. Many of the same people, however, decry the "facts on the ground" of a few hundred thousand Jews living in East Jerusalem and the "West Bank" (f/k/a Jordan, which lost when it attacked Israel). These people demand that those Jews leave immediately, and blame them (so-called "settlers") for all the problems in the Middle East.

  2. "Importing large numbers of immigrants from countries where democracy does not work will insure that our democracy does not work either."

    Small nit: I think you meant "ensure" here.

    (...Yeah. I'm "that guy" when it comes to grammar trifles.)

  3. Anonymous26/3/13

    I think you simplify this issue. The reality is that the areas of the world with a rise in Islamism also are some of the most uneducated regions of the world. A nation like Iraq even though having a highly educated populace also had no history of democracy or understanding of "human rights." For decades the west allowed the oligarchs, dictators and totalitarian leaders of these nations to destroy pro-democracy education, leaving only Islamism as an alternative to their evil rule. To be a democrat one needs to be educated in its importance. You can't just tell a person, here vote for democracy and all it entails including the element of self-reliance and self-blame, especially in a culture where "shame" can mean a death sentence.

    People forget that it took hundreds of years for our society to assimilate the ideals of democracy and that it only works with a highly educated and democracy-aligned populace. Even today in our "democracy" people are tired of taking responsibility for themselves. Look at the rise of nanny-statism in the USA.

    Internationalism of the ideals of freedom and democracy happen to be the right idea. The same can be said for the internationalism of human rights. To say that only some people in the world are entitled to be free is quite frankly disgusting. However when democracy is installed incorrectly or prematurely then you get the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood and a denial of human rights. These societies actually simply revert back to type. They become what they know because it is all they know.Change is frightening, especially change that you were never educated in understanding.

    Change that also takes from you what little power you actually had is angering. Patriarchal societies do not like democracy since it means that the patriarch is not all powerful. Societies that are tribal and live within a strict societal code do not like democracy. No one gives up power without a fight. This fight is underway and sadly the west is doing nothing to help those seeking equality and freedom. Rather the west is giving into the patriarchs in the same way that they gave in to the dictators. Same formula simply different catalysts.

    As far as Europe and its duplicitous nature in dealing with the rise of Islamism.... Why are you so surprised that the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of those that capitulated to the Nazis would capitulate to Islamists? You forget that Europe has a long history of despotism and that even when it did try democracy for awhile it always reverts back to anti-democratic type. I would also add that it is easy for Europe to support the Islamists since they do have that anti-Semitic column in common.In truth Europe is already a lost cause. It's death is very sad to watch in so many ways, yet also so very well deserved too.

  4. Anonymous26/3/13

    Christian charity will destroy the world.
    Or, if you like, the perversion of Christian charity will destroy the world.
    Or, Daniel's essay could be expanded into an entire book and most people still wouldn't get it.

  5. Just like the comparison of Pro Illegal Immigration and the Iraq war, a similar comparison can be made between the Left's stance on Israel and Illegal Immigration. They claim that because the vast majority of Jews immigrated to Israel that they are invaders. But as anywhere from 11- 30 Million Latin immigrants invade the US, they are just fine with that.

    The Left by Nature is Bipolar. It depends too heavily on the who's and not the actual events. If Jews are slaughtered, they won't bat an eyelash. If a Muslim dies by blowing himself and others up, the Left will lose sleep over it. If a Mexican Illegal Immigrant mows down a family after a night of drinking, they will defend him. If a Caucasian gets pulled over while driving drunk, they will call for the death penalty. If a Black shoots a black in a battle for neighborhood supremacy, they don't give it a second thought. But when a neighborhood watchman with a Semitic sounding name shoots a black man while the black man smashed his head off the concrete, they call in the lynch mobs.

  6. The self-destruction of the United States we are witnessing is partially due to the predictable drift away from a self-reliant society that eschewed transfer payments from one group to another to the exact opposite, but it's also due to some inherent contradictions present at the time of the founding coming in contact with a new reality. How do you proclaim that all men are created equal and then admit that its not true? A man created in Iraq or Mexico is NOT equal in the way that it counts to a man created in a traditional family in the United States. No, it's not true about all men from Iraq, Mexico, or the US, but it's true in the way that allows to set policy. How do you adjust a culture that wants to treat every human being as a worthy individual to reject millions of human beings simply on the basis of their cultural origins? This is the challenge.

    Liberals are too far gone in general. It matters little what they think, as their thinking cannot be reasonably change on too many topics. They just need to be defeated. Today's problem, and one that can be and should be addressed are libertarians. With Rand Paul, they are on the ascendency and poised to make more significant inroads in the conservative movement than they ever have. I was talking to a libertarian friend a couple of weeks ago and made a very similar point to one of the ones you made: if we allow unlimited and uncontrolled immigration from South America, they will vote against everything he stands for in the economic areas just as soon as they can. He just scoffed at that notion and accused me of just wanting to close the door after I got in. And yet once we got past the personal accusations, he realized that he had no answer. I did not convince him of my philosophy, but at least planted doubts in his mind about his.

    This is a very important column. It's necessary to be blunt. It's necessary to judge people and reject people. It's necessary to proclaim that the national interest is above that of the world, and that in fact there is such a thing as national interest. This notion used to be intuitively accepted not that long ago, and it can be again. This column goes a long way towards making that argument and towards changing how the world should be viewed to change the outcome.

  7. I have a friend who s emigrating to Canada from Italy. She is educated, multilingual and a hard worker. Yet the hoops she is forced to jump through for her citizenship are unbelievable considering immigrants from "war-torn" countries waltz in and get government money, housing and schooling with no expectations placed upon them. Boggles the mind.

  8. You speak of democracy and liberty as if they were natural allies. The two philosophies combined in Europe and America because both arose in opposition to monarchy. Though they are distinct positions which contradict each other.

    Democracy works only when an overwhelming majority support liberty. That may partially work for a while, but inevitably democracy will degenerate into voting for "benefits". Particularly when gov't controls the educational system and mass media.

    Prof Rummel does not understand that there is no "democratic peace", but there is a "liberty peace". Libertarian nations, whether democratic or not, tend to not fight each other. We have Hong Kong under the British as an example of a libertarian but non-democratic system.

    Immigration should be limited according to rational concerns over security; and while welfare exists, according to minization of welfare benefits.

    Liberty is objective and universal in the sense that it is based on natural law. Trying to base a libertarian political system on subjective preferences, inevitably leads to democracy and the degeneration of liberty. Because if values were subjective, they would be arbitrary and faith-based; one man's opinion would be as valid as any other man's, which is the position of democracy.

    I agree that the US was right to liberate Iraq and wrong to occupy and subsidize. But there is a third alternative. Liberty is not altruistic. We should put the highest priority on our own liberty, and secondarily the liberty of others as it relates to ours or voluntary charity.

    Liberty assumes a capitalistic system. Nationalization destroys capitalism. Saddam nationalized oil infrastructure in Iraq and used the booty to subsidize terrorism and his military. That infrastructure which has been nationalized, should be "privatized" or set ablaze. Instead, the US gifted the oil infrastucture to the Iran-dominated Iraqi gov't.

    Safeguarding oil infrastructure (and other industrial facilities such as mines and crops in Afghanistan) is a legitimate function of an armed forces. Because the primary function of rightful gov't is the protection of life, liberty, and rightfully-owned property.

    Please remember that liberty is not an arbitary, subjective, faith-based personal preference. It is based on reality, aspects of human nature. Cicero realized that western (Greco-roman) civilization is based on Jus Naturale, a synthesis of Jus Gentium and Stoicism. Not at all religion-based and nothing to do with political social conservatism.

  9. Can an arm heal if the whole body is sick?

  10. An excellent discourse on the folly of "open borders." Those who argue that opening our borders to any and all with no check on who comes in, and coupling that with professions of how "free enterprise" would benefit from an influx of immigrants with alien conceptions of work and culture (and who would insist on preserving those alien conceptions) ought to read this column and learn of their own folly. They simply will not believe that especially the Democrats want "open borders" to guarantee their reelection and the perpetuation of their American "make-over" agenda.

  11. How strange that your post still hasn't been commented on. Also strange, that your title seems so congruous with my last post title, also from 2 days ago.

  12. Anonymous27/3/13

    "Internationalism" is not a policy pothole that our government stumbled into by accident while wandering in the wilderness and groping for a way forward.
    "Internationalism" is not a policy advocated by a well intentioned but misguided Left to advance their sincere desire for a better world.

    "Internationalism" is a weapon of war wielded by the Islamo/Communist Left to destroy the United States.

    "The CPUSA supports immigration because it believes that this will enable it to solve the fundamental problem it faces in America: a materially contented working class. As put in William Hawkins's excellent 1994 book on the open-borders conspiracy, Importing Revolution,

    The solution? Increase immigration, especially that of undocumented, illegal workers. The Communist Party, USA, in its publication, Political Affairs: Theoretical Journal of the Communist Party USA, understands well the cause-effect relationship of this: "undocumented workers in any work... have the effect of depressing wages and lowering the quality of working conditions." In other words, CPUSA and its fellow travelers suggest that, in order to "save" workers, the working class must first be destroyed through declining wages and living standards!"

    This is the first prong of the Communist assault: worsen conditions for American workers."

    "Islamic terrorists are among the no-borders advocates who seek to bring the United States down to the economic and social level of Third-World nations. "

    "National Council of La Raza (or The Race), a Mexican-American political organization in the United States, and its “gringo” supporters work for the elimination of all borders (land and sea) around the United States of America. "


  13. I have linked to your superb post here: http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2013/04/nationalism-versus-internationalism.html


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