A leading conservative thinker argues that a nationalist order is the only realistic safeguard of liberty in the world today
Nationalism is the issue of our age. From Donald Trump's "America First" politics to Brexit to the rise of the right in Europe, events have forced a crucial debate: Should we fight for international government? Or should the world's nations keep their independence and self-determination?
In The Virtue of Nationalism, Yoram Hazony contends that a world of sovereign nations is the only option for those who care about personal and collective freedom. He recounts how, beginning in the sixteenth century, English, Dutch, and American Protestants revived the Old Testament's love of national independence, and shows how their vision eventually brought freedom to peoples from Poland to India, Israel to Ethiopia. It is this tradition we must restore, he argues, if we want to limit conflict and hate--and allow human difference and innovation to flourish.
Herzl Institute president Hazony (The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul) argues that nationalism, by which he means support of national sovereignty, is preferable to globalization, which he considers imperialist. Critics of recent populist movements consider nationalism to be rooted in racism and xenophobia, but Hazony defines it as opposition to supranational hegemony, a nation-level live-and-let-live policy. Whereas Nazi Germany is usually cited as the epitome of nationalism gone awry, Hazony argues that Hitler's attempt to form a Third Reich over Europe was not dissimilar to the Catholic empires of the Middle Ages; in the author's view, the founding of modern Israel in 1948 was a nationalistic response to the horrors of imperialism. The European Union and the United States are pursuing imperialist projects, he argues, and their focus on imposing one vision of the good at the expense of nations' self-determination puts "the entire Protestant order in jeopardy." His response to claims that nationalism leads to bigotry and hatred is to say that such behavior also exists among "anti-nationalists" and is more a feature of human nature than specific to nationalism. Though Hazony's cynical views of Catholicism and the liberal world order, not to mention his waving away the behaviors and beliefs of self-identified nationalists, might strike some as controversial, this is on the whole a thought-provoking book.