Radix Journal

Radix Journal

A radical journal

Author: Alt Atlantic

Empire or Nationalism?

We have become used to living under pax Americana that our analysis of almost all situations presupposes its continued existence, ironically even when such analysis calls for a new world…

We have become used to living under pax Americana that our analysis of almost all situations presupposes its continued existence, ironically even when such analysis calls for a new world order. Take as an example the proponents of ethnonationalism, in its most universalistic form, they demand that all peoples who aspire to a state of their own should be given one. Ethnonationalists argue this will prevent conflict by removing internal divisions over race and even ethnicity, to as large of a degree as possible. Furthermore, neighbouring countries will have fewer reasons to enter into conflicts, with their respective countrymen all being contained within a single state. We will have our little Flanders, little Scotland, and little Catalonia peacefully trading for their natural resources, following a global non-aggression principle. In their view there is no need for a united European state. These little statelets will form a defensive alliance that some ethnonationalists believe will be strong enough to prevent invasions from extra-European powers. But, anyone examining the historical record should find this ideology suspect. The entente powers split apart their opponents into relatively close approximations of ethnostates, compared to what came before. The fact that the greatest war in history came after this does not seem to bide well with the petty nationalist vision, perhaps real ethnonationalism has never been tried. They would reiterate that Germany started WW2 as a response to the dismemberment of their country, they would not be completely wrong. But, petty nationalists have no solution for the multiple other causes of conflict between states: to create defensible borders, to secure resources, secure captive export markets, build foreign military bases that can be used to project power, and in general to enlarge their spheres of influence. They handwave these aspects of foreign policy away, in the European context, with rather utopian sentiments of our common European brotherhood felt by today’s European nationalists, as if the feelings of people outside the halls of power will stay the same if they enter them. According to them trade will proceed as it does now, with or without the American empire; to say otherwise is to admit to chinks in their petty nationalist armour. Empire is unnecessary, “look today you can buy bananas in Moscow all the way from Central America”; what they forget is that the American post-WW2 system makes most of this unprotected global trade possible. The world that the petty nationalist desires, in fact, requires the existence of the American Empire.

Before we start discussing the faults with petty nationalism, it is important to discuss the unprecedented effect the American Empire has had on global trade. The importance of American naval supremacy cannot be overestimated. Prior to 1945 most trade was conducted within an imperial trading block or with immediate neighbours. As ocean going trade required a large navy to convoy ships to their ports of call, this was the primary role of the Royal Navy throughout most of its history. Since European powers might be involved in conflicts with each other, trade outside of your sphere of influence was quite risky since these imports would cease during war. Trading overseas was even more risky. The American system forced states within their Atlanticist sphere to decolonize, replacing the imperial trading block, where colonial powers extracted primary resources from colonies and used them as captive export markets, with the system of global and relatively free trade. Colonies once restricted to trading with their overlord now could trade with any nation and importantly, they were now open to American corporations.

There was a pax Britannica preceding the American order and global trade under this order grew to a degree, but this growth pales in comparison to the huge increases in trade post-1945. The growth of globalization has been a manifestation of the politics of the American order, rather than an emergent trend resulting from economics and technological progress. The United States created their order as a way of securing alliances against the threat of the Soviet Union. The huge American market was opened to their European and East Asian allies, allowing those states to trade their way back to prosperity. The United States cracked open the colonial world allowing both the victors and defeated powers of WW2 access to any natural resources they required, without military expansion or colonial holdings. The United States navy, virtually unchallenged globally, was committed to the freedom of the navigation, preventing any disruption of global sea trade. Subsequently, the price of shipping decreased drastically allowing supply chains that once were dispersed throughout a single country now to be dispersed throughout the world creating the global economy we have today.

Pax Americana

After the fall of the USSR, the United States opened this global system to practically the entire world. This brought on the biggest artificial boom in history; states that have never been wealthy in their existence can now use trade to offset serious geographic weaknesses. This has allowed global populations in agriculturally poor states, such as those in Africa and the Middle East, to explode. China and to a lesser extent India have seen a massive growth in GDP. China has progressively climbed the value-added ladder, making their economy more and more advanced all in thanks to trade with the United States. But, the underlying reason the United States created this system was not to promote order and prosperity in the 3rd world but to contain and defeat the Soviet Union. American cold war policy sought to prevent the formation of a Eurasian hegemon, which would have controlled most of the world’s oil, resources, and population. The fall of the Soviet Union undermines the American order’s reason for its own existence and has become a serious conundrum to the global order, one that has been only exacerbated by President Trump. Namely this order was created primarily for political reasons not economic ones, the economic growth was only a by-product. The reality of the demise of the USSR has finally caught up with the United States, they are asking themselves the questions of why they should support trade deals designed to buy alliances. Deals that usually were at the expense of American industry for a war that is over, why should they underwrite the defence of the NATO? This trend of shirking away from their position as leaders of the global order is only being accelerated by the shale revolution, which has now made the United States a net exporter of oil. The United States has few economic incentives to continue the global order; those who argue the United States should pay for global stability seem to be losing the debate. In fact, the American economy is the least dependent on foreign trade amongst all the major powers; this is even more apparent when you consider the largest sources of American trade is to its neighbors: Mexico and Canada. Therefore, little by little, the American order will retreat to North America, and likely continue to support a few key partners such as Britain and Australia.

Eventually, some crisis will force a state’s hand to attack a rival’s shipping, perhaps to interdict oil shipments back home. If the United States doesn’t respond this will trigger a slow return to the old norm of naval power determining the reach of a countries merchant marine. As an aside, this could be triggered by an East-Asian tanker war over diminished gulf oil exports due to a direct Saudi Arabian-Iran military conflict disrupting production. The future order the petty nationalists require may cease to exist in the coming decade. The small states of Europe will find themselves in a very different world where your next shipment of oil is no longer guaranteed, and your exports could have no buyer. Let us then return to analyzing the claims of the petty nationalists in regard to the future of Europe.

The internal cohesion of Europe is waved aside as a non-issue since most of today’s nationalists are united by the common crisis that is affecting every European ethnicity. Is that the proper basis from which a European order can be created? Greg Johnson outlines the petty nationalist position on minimizing intra-European crisis:

As for white fratricide: the best way to defuse white ethnic conflicts is not to combat “petty” nationalism but to take it to its logical conclusion. If different ethnic groups yoked to the same system are growing restive, then they should be allowed to go their own ways. Through moving borders and moving peoples, homogeneous ethnostates can be created, in which each self-conscious people can speak its own language and practice its own customs free from outside interference. Such a process could be mediated by a European treaty organization, which could insure that the process is peaceful, orderly, humane, and as fair as possible to all parties. (Johnson, 2015)

Geopolitical decisions in the petty-nationalist world are decided by morale principles rather than by cold calculations. They do not seem to consider the effects of these various decisions on the relative standing of the state in question to its competitors. Taking Quebec as a test case for these beliefs, under the petty nationalist world order Quebec would have long ago separated from the Canadian state. The Canadian state would surely be weakened by the loss of the vast natural resources of Quebec, its industrial base, and control over the St. Lawrence seaway which connects the Canadian core, Ontario, with the wider world. The fact that Quebec separatism was indulged on two separate occasions with a popular vote, and close ones at that, is indicative of the power of the American system. Losing such a large piece of territory would deprive that state of manpower, industry, resources, and provide an opportunity for rival powers to take this new state into their sphere of influence. This would only be compounded in the example of Quebec, where suddenly Canada would be cut off from its best ports in the East and from its most important trade route, the St. Lawrence. In the era preceding pax Americana, a successful separatist movement would have jeopardized the continued existence of a state by weakening its ability to defend itself. If Quebec were to have separated in the 19th or 20th century, Canada would likely have been absorbed by the United States. Today Canada could survive such an event because we are subjects of the American Empire. Today access to global resources markets and very likely the passage of goods through Quebec would be guaranteed, the United States not desiring economic chaos in its biggest trading partner. It is of no coincidence that separatism in states under the aegis of the American Empire is no longer considered a treasonous activity, unless that separatism is opposed to the American order of course. As well, it makes sense how in states outside of the American orbit, separatist regions and movements are not tolerated; examples can be seen in the Russian Federation and mainland China. The survival of these states as independent geopolitical entities means they do not have the luxury of supporting liberal moralism when it comes to the supposed right of self-determination.

Quebec Separatist protest during the 1960 Quiet Revolution

The existence of global American power and the European Union gives the illusion that small European states can adequately function as independent entities. States with indefensible borders, tiny populations, little resources, and even without any access to the sea can thrive today. There is a common line of thinking that the horrors of the two world wars have made conflict between European nations unthinkable. But, this is not due to some fundamental pacifistic enlightenment spread after the destruction of WW1 and WW2, where we eschew violence and competition with our neighbours. It is because of the once bipolar and now unipolar nature of the current era, that we exist in an imperial paradigm. In his article “Grandiose Nationalism”, Greg Johnson lauds this as the vindication of ethnonationalism, as smaller states once subject to the Soviet Empire free themselves from tyranny:

Since the fall of the Soviet Empire, the tendency in Europe has been toward  ethnonationalism, either by the Czech and Slovak road of peaceful partition or Yugoslav road of war and ethnic cleansing. What is a more realistic path to peace: putting Yugoslavia back together, then Czechoslovakia back together, then unifying them both in a single state, with all the rest of Europe — or allowing peoples with long historical grudges to completely disentangle their affairs and lead their own lives? What is more likely to produce European amity: a shotgun wedding or an equitable divorce? (Johnson, 2015)

But, these new states have not become truly independent entities. They quickly joined both NATO and the European Union for access to protection and the American global trading network. The use of military force as a means of furthering foreign policy aims has become unthinkable outside of Africa and the Middle East. To even consider that European states may enter into conflicts in the future, especially in the Northern European core, seems ludicrous. Geopolitical analysis is seen as something rather funny. It’s almost provincial to be concerned about the control of resources when any input the state needs can be purchased from almost anywhere on the planet. Not only can they be purchased, but they will arrive and arrive on time. Add to these conditions the overwhelming military superiority of America, where any aggressive action that destabilizes its order is dealt with punitively, and you can begin to see where our naive thinking on geopolitics comes from.

This is why Czechoslovakia can be split in two and it has little knock-on effects for the prosperity of the two nations as a whole. The Czech state need not be concerned with access to import and export markets, or even its own security. It does not even have to negotiate trade deals with its neighbours thanks to the European Union. The benefits of Slovak industry, manpower, and resources were useful to pre-war Czechoslovakia, but today the ability to defend your borders against aggressive neighbors is unnecessary. The emergent nation states that petty-nationalists laud are products of the very system they, generally speaking, oppose. If you take away this American pre-eminence and their control of the sea, which underwrites the existence of global trade, we land in a very different world. The Utopian thinking of the petty nationalist will be fundamentally challenged by the realities that states previously had to contend with in the pre-1945 world.

There is also a general pacifism in the views of the petty nationalists. This passage by Greg Johnson displays the naivete on the topic of foreign policy that is present in the petty-nationalist sphere:

The threat of non-white blocs should not be exaggerated. France, the UK, or Russia alone are militarily strong enough to prevail against anything that Africa, India, or the Muslim world can throw at us — provided, of course, that whites are again morally strong enough to take their own side in a fight. A simple alliance of European states would be able to deter any Chinese aggression. Thus a defensive alliance between European states would be sufficient to preserve Europe from all outside forces, whether they be armed powers or stateless masses of refugees and immigrants. (Johnson, 2015)

What is most interesting about this passage is what is missing; everything is about deterrence and defensive alliances, but what about the projection of power? This is where the uni-polar world of the American Empire rubs off on us the most. It is here that there remains a large degree of liberalism in the dissident right. Europe needs only to defends its own borders; it does not to contend for the domination of Eurasia. But, that leaves Europe in a very tight spot. Europe is practically at the mercy of Russia to supply almost all of its oil and natural gas. If Europe is to be united together even in a simple defensive alliance this fact becomes very problematic. In a world where the United States has evacuated from Europe, Russia can use its near monopoly over much of Europe’s supply of oil to bring nations along its border back into its orbit. Europe as a loose alliance would practically be defenseless since its enemy controls such an important commodity, like Damocles sword handing over Europe’s head. If the tiny states of the petty-nationalist dream are to remain sovereign, they will have to at least form some alliance for the mutual extraction of resources, most importantly oil. This means they must project power into the Middle-East, North Africa, and/or West Africa to gain control over the distribution of oil, as well as protecting the convoy routes bringing it back to Europe. That fundamentally means engaging with China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, etc in a great power conflict. That brings us back to the flaws in petty-nationalist thinking, how can this assortment of sovereign states with uncoordinated militaries project power to compete with these powerful rivals?

The economies of scale required to maintain an adequate defense has been continuously increasing throughout history. Take for example the Dutch republic, which successfully defended itself against the much more powerful states of Spain and neighboring France throughout its early years. Denmark resisted various German states attempts at expansion northwards for centuries. Compare the success of these states in defending themselves a few centuries later against the Wehrmacht. What were once defensible and relatively powerful states were now defeated in a matter of days. As warfare has industrialized, larger industrial bases are required for the production of more advanced weaponry. The R&D can be spread across different states, think the Eurofighter, as we see in Europe; but still small states cannot adequately adopt the full range of technologies required for a fully functional offensive military. This goes out the window if cooperation amongst European states were to break down. Designing cutting edge military hardware has become so very expensive, especially in terms of new aircraft, the per unit cost would be unaffordable for most states if the research was done alone. To utilize the full strength of combined arms in the 21st century requires a nation on the scale of the United States, Russia, or China. The cost of employing progressively more advanced weaponry prohibits small states from having capable defensive and especially offensive forces precluding substantial support from outside sources.

Military band of the Chinese people’s Liberation Army in Jiujiang.

A European military would be able to project power outside of Europe, securing valuable resources the continent does not have. In a world with America as an absent superpower, the ability to trade globally will be determined by the strength of one’s navy and their ability to defend crucial seagoing trade routes. Major European powers such as England, France, and Germany could, after rearmament, still be able take control of West African oil reserves; but to compete with China or Russia, especially in the Middle East, will be far easier with most of Europe, especially the north, united. Furthermore, united they would be able to control far more resources and to regain control over lost territories. The vacuum created by America could allow the Chinese, Russians, or some other power to gain control over a large percentage of the Eurasian oil and strategic resources. This would force Europe to enter into a subservient relationship even without a military defeat, threatening the future prosperity of the continent. Or in another scenario where oil output dramatically decreases as various actors within the Middle East and Asia engage in conflicts prevented by American largess; for example, an Iran-Saudi war over Iraq or the Saudi Oil fields themselves.

Petty-nationalists claim that uniting much of Europe into a single state will create the intra-European conflicts that unity was meant to prevent. Deeply rooted ethnic animosities would bring this pan-European state down in its infancy. But, as of 2020 constant predictions about the imminent collapse of the European Union have not precipitated. The European Union remains a broadly popular institution across the continent. The European Union has moved to increase its power progressively over time without much resistance. At least in the present order, if the EU moved to centralize powers much further, I cannot foresee any conflicts arising from this, as long as France and Germany were cooperating. Like all states touched by the destructive effects of liberalism, the European Union has very major flaws; but these are matched and superseded by most of the member state’s national governments such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. The talking point describing the EU as the key instrument of some Kalergi plan is ludicrous as foreign immigration has clearly been spearheaded by the member states. As was mentioned previously, a Europe of sovereign states will be likely be dependent on foreign powers for its resources. Europe could be a location of proxy battles between extra-European great powers as they compete with each other for control of the Eurasian world island. A united Europe would be far less susceptible to interference by foreign states peeling off European nations into their spheres of influence.

Surely there will be conflict within a pan-European system and there will be a core population(s) which dominates the state. But, there has never existed these free and “sovereign” nations of petty nationalist dreams. Strong nations whether or not they are within a political union will come to exert large degrees of control over their weaker neighbours. In the case of pan-Europeanism, this relationship has been formalized allowing the greater integration of European militaries and economies into a global power more capable of projecting power. Poorer nations to the east and South will obviously have less of influence in the direction of such an empire compared to the wealthier Northern European states, but since the beginning of the industrial era this has clearly been the norm. The choice is not over a Europe of sovereign nation states proudly independent, but still respectful of each other, or Empire. It is between larger European nations, as they have always done, dominating the weaker states or an Empire that formalize this conflict inside its imperial system. Obviously, such a state will not be unitary but will be federal in nature; this could actually allow the partial autonomy of smaller nations like Catalonia that the petty- nationalists desire. The economy, military, science, and foreign policy would be controlled at the European wide level.

In fact, the European Union as an institution could be the fertile ground where Europe reforms itself as American power recedes. In this post-American scenario, no one state can partially monopolize the use of force to further its foreign policy objectives. In this world, the scope of useful state policies will decrease dramatically. The liberal dogmas concerning immigration and race will become impediments to national cohesiveness. The feminized society is not a society conducive to struggle. The attack on every western states core population will necessarily be stopped. The end of the prosperity and peace of the American era would likely act like Darwinism in the realm of politics. Due to the selection factors of the American order, states could follow liberalism to its ultimate logical conclusion. Prior to this order, decadent nations could not persist without reforming or falling to more virile external forces. The destructive effects of liberalism while still acting were at least held back by the necessity of national defense, that all changed in 1945 and radically accelerated after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

This Darwinism at the level of the state can be clearly viewed by comparing the early years of the Soviet Union with the Stalinist era. The Soviet Union attempted radical anti-hierarchical and feminist experiments during its inception. Many of the progressive policies of the Soviet Union were subsequently put on hold and reversed as the Soviet Union was threatened by outside powers, especially at the start of WW2. Stalin eliminated abortion as a means of increasing population growth during the great patriotic war. Many ideological leftist dogmas that threatened the state’s ability to make war were thrown aside while many of those previously associated with reaction were brought back. Russian nationalism and a subservient church were far more useful for the expansion and war making ability of the Soviet State than internationalism and radical experiments in family organization. This occurred out of necessity, either a state reforms and abandons degenerative policies or eventually it would be defeated by its rivals.

There is likely not much we can do prior to the challenging of American power by some exterior force. When that day comes the political sphere will open as some elites will search for useful ideas as to how to strengthen the ailing American state. We must be there with a coherent set of ideas that will be useful for the searching elite in the coming post-liberal era. The same will occur in Europe; there are already some stirrings in the water from President Macron about the need for a European army in a post NATO future. Macron has signaled a slight change in tack on the immigration question, perhaps it is a cynical ploy to steal attention from National Rally. Or it could be the beginnings of a European reorientation responding to the absenteeism of the American superpower. If our ideas are correct, the stop-gap benefit of mass immigration which is aimed at combating the very real problem of our aging demographics will quickly become a liability for various states survival in a more chaotic world. A distinctly possible scenario where the EU fractures as a response to the withdrawal of American support, and likely Russian interference, would lead to a far worse conflict than tensions between different constituent EU member states, which are constrained within the bureaucratic framework of the EU. Europe’s declining population is already requiring extra-European export markets for a growing percentage of industrial and luxury goods. Without the ability to sell these items abroad at competitive rates; Europe faces severe economic problems as a norm, especially combined with the ever-growing public spending associated with an aging population. This could lead more powerful states within the EU, out of economic necessity, to force neighbors into subservient relationships to create some market for their goods, acquire natural resources, and to use military technology created with the excess production. A state encompassing most of the Europe could apply these energies outside of Europe, particularly towards securing oil reserves and export markets in the Middle East and West Africa as well as containing an aggressive Russia, moving west in search of more defensible borders.

Ernst Junger, 1920

Now that we have questioned whether the world desired by universalist ethnonationalists is possible, let us ask the question, is it even desirable? If you could supply all of Europe with the resources it needs to function, ensure its defense, and prevent conflict: would it be good to carve Europe into many independent states? If your only goal was the survival of individual European ethnic groups and some sort of traditionalist cultural rejuvenation, then this position would be sufficient. Given the history of the European civilization, this does not seem to be a sufficiently lofty goal for the Faustian man. To be cocooned in our respective countries untroubled by the outer world but also not exerting our will to power upon it, is an unsatisfying future. The true universalistic ethnonationalist position resembles only a slightly altered version of Francis Fukuyama’s own prediction. A world of ethnostates, stable due to homogeneity, frozen in place due to a lack of conflict. If you followed the logic of the proponents of ethnonationalism you would find history over, completed. It is easy to choose interesting times over stability from the comfort of your own home. But, who on the right can look through history and wish there will be no more empires to rival Rome, no grand conquests, no new mythic battles like Trafalgar and Agincourt? To make sure the surely unpleasant and violent, but oftentimes heroic, side of human nature stays in the history books. We would create no men in our own times to rival Ernst Junger, a true aristocratic of the soul. We would be left with a civilization stuck in the Spenglerian “culture” phase; either reproducing the same styles of art, architecture, and music that has come before or following the rabbit hole of deconstructionism further into the abyss. Perhaps the advanced technics of such a civilization could stop external enemies from defeating it, even for centuries. Such nations would be like enclaves depicted in the film Zardoz, highly civilized but ultimately stagnant.

That is why we must support Empire over our continued obsessions with little nation states. Even if these states could survive and even thrive after the decline of the American Empire, it would only lead to our own spiritual deaths. Faustian man needs to finally embrace the Spenglerian “civilization” phase of our existence. To unite the different European peoples under one flag, giving us the power to step away from the precipice we are inching towards. Then to spread our flag to the different corners of the globe, to create an Empire worthy of those that came before. We must think on a grand scale, first to ensure our premier place on this planet, to protect its environmental viability, and to provide enough resources so we can look towards the stars. It might never be possible to economically mine distant asteroids or to create self-sufficient colonies on Mars. But, this to me seems like a much more inspiring future than to aspire to a return to the small states and the small scale thinking of a bygone era. We should strive for a future where the full range of human existence is possible, both comfort and security but also the self-actualization through combat, which Junger and others have described. Perhaps the dream of a united Europe is also not possible without American military support; that the European nations will fall into conflict as the demographic replacement leads to our civilizational eclipse. But, let us aim for a future that is grander and far more interesting with new cultures, new empires, and new horizons than mere existence, as prescribed by the petty nationalists.


REFERENCES

  1. Johnson, Greg. “Grandiose Nationalism”. Counter Currents. February 6, 2015. https://www.countercurrents.com/2015/02/grandiose-nationalism/.
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