If Donald Trump fights the globalist Empire and defends the weak against the strong, he will be a nationalist; if he employs his strength against the weak for what he claims to be American interests, he will be an imperialist. So, is there any indication as to which President Trump will be?…

donald-trumps-nationalismIt seems that nationalism in its various guises is on the rise. It also seems that the political establishment, or what might be called the liberal ascendency, is not very happy with the phenomenon. The response from the liberal globalist old guard has been, for the most part, shrill and irrational, animated by a reactionary descent into the reductionism of stereotypes and name-calling. Thus, anyone who voted for Donald Trump or for Brexit is a xenophobe, a fascist, a racist, a bigot or any number of other labels that can be spat venomously in the venting of one’s spleen. Amateur psychologists will note that this sort of knee-jerk name-calling, and descent to the language of the lowest common denominator and the stereotype, is not that dissimilar from the manner in which xenophobes, fascists, racists and bigots conduct themselves. There is, therefore, more than a little irony in the manner in which such mudslinging and smear-mongering have replaced rational discourse.

It is, however, in the spirit of rational discourse that we should proceed, irrespective of the anti-fascist fascism of the enemies of reason.

Let’s begin with a basic definition of nationalism as a belief in the political sovereignty of nations. Its antonym is internationalism, a belief in the absence or minimizing of the political sovereignty of nations. Beyond this basic and fundamental definition, of which we should never lose sight, there are different manifestations of nationalism, as there are different manifestations of internationalism.

Take Irish nationalism, for instance. It would seem to have little or nothing in common with British nationalism. Indeed it is, at its core, antagonistic towards British nationalism. Isn’t this the problem with nationalism? Doesn’t it lead to tensions between nations? Isn’t the answer to such tensions their eradication by means of some form of internationalism which weakens or destroys the cause or source of enmity between nations? If there were no nations, the argument runs, there could be no enmity between them. This is true, to be sure, but it’s like saying that if there were no neighbours there would be no enmity between them. Nations are like neighbours; like the poor they are always with us. We can only destroy them by placing something far worse in their place. Were anyone to seriously believe that a One World government would be better in terms of political liberty than the relatively smaller governments of sovereign nations, they know nothing of the nature of political power. Nor would it eradicate tensions among nations, which might then be called merely “regions.” Faced with a globalist Empire, we would see the rise of “regionalism” demanding political freedom from Big Brother. And this is, in fact, exactly what we are seeing today. The rise of nationalism is nothing other than a healthy rebellion against the globalist Empire.

But what of the problem of nations hating nations? What of the British and the Irish? These are good questions but they are rooted in a misunderstanding of the political relationship between nations. Most of us fail to understand that the tension between nations is not caused by nationalism but by internationalism. Thus the problem between the British and the Irish is not rooted in nationalism but in imperialism, the latter is merely a synonym for internationalism. When one nation imposes its will on another nation, it is acting as an imperial power, not as a national power. Since this is so, a true nationalist can never be an imperialist because an imperialist is an internationalist. An English nationalist, as distinct from a British imperialist, does not seek to impose English power on Scotland, or Ireland, or Wales. On the contrary, insofar as he is a nationalist he respects the nationalism of his neighbours and would welcome an independent Scotland and Wales, as he welcomes an independent Ireland. In this sense, one who boasts that the sun never set on the British Empire is not a British Nationalist but a British Imperialist. In the same sense it can be seen that the Nazis were not German nationalists but German imperialists, as the German invasion of Poland illustrated all too grimly.

Having discussed what nationalism is and, equally importantly, what it isn’t, we can perhaps better judge whether Donald Trump is truly a nationalist. If he seeks to liberate the American economy from the encroachments of globalist economic imperialism, as he has promised he will, he will be acting as a nationalist. If he comes to the aid of a small sovereign nation, at that nation’s request, when it is the victim of the imperialism of another nation, he could be said to be acting in accordance with nationalist principles; if, however, he exerts American political muscle on small sovereign nations to their detriment, in order to pursue America’s interests, he will be acting as an imperialist or internationalist. Thus, for instance, Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 was an act of imperialism, whereas Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in order to defend Poland was not; Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was an act of imperialism, whereas the USA’s declaration of war on Iraq to liberate Kuwait was not. On the other hand, the USA’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, deploying weapons of mass destruction on the dubious grounds that Iraq possessed such weapons, was an act of imperialism.

With these criteria in mind, we can begin to judge whether Donald Trump’s presidency will be nationalist or imperialist. If he fights the globalist Empire and defends the weak against the strong, he will be a nationalist (and a hero); if he employs his strength against the weak for what he claims to be American interests, he will be an imperialist (and a villain). For the sake of justice and peace, we can all hope he proves to be a nationalist, and not an internationalist, imperialist, and globalist.

Books by Joseph Pearce may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility.

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