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Cutting off the Nation to Spite the State

in Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Philosophy by Erik Andresen Comments are off

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Is libertarianism compatible with a more nationalist politics? Is it possible to have a free society that is largely closed to outsiders? The short answer is yes, but the way in which we (Americans specifically) conceive of the nation-state makes that question a little more complicated. Our rhetoric often revolves around the theme of shrinking (or eliminating) the State. But what of the Nation? What is the difference between a nation and a state?

StateThese two words are often combined into “nation-state.” A quick search of Google Ngram suggests that this compound is relatively new. This construction is not helpful in understanding these distinct concepts. A nation is a people, irrespective of location: Cherokee, Swede, Palestinian. A state is a government. A nation may form a state, but a state cannot create a nation, at least not a true nation. There is numerous example in which states have attempted to draw boundaries that did not accurately reflect real national territories, and war usually follows. In some cases, you may have multiple nations creating the state; Canada is a good example. The English, Inuit, and Québécois show that nations precede the state. A government too is just people. The point is that common governance has never been sufficient to create a nation.

If we do not understand this aspect of the current dialogue, libertarians risk losing the opportunity to message. Libertarianism (correctly) reduces many policy questions to interactions between individuals; we tend to shy away from discussing groups and tribes. Unfortunately for libertarians, most people tend to think in terms of group and tribal identities.

Our perspective doesn’t typically square with the current dialogue. Trump, Brexit (UK), Geert Wilders (the Netherlands), Marine Le Pen (France), Viktor Orban (Hungary), and Lega Nord (Northern Italy) are examples of nationalist candidates in the West whose campaigns and parties have performed historically well in recent elections. Their rhetoric is not very libertarian. They have opened wider the Overton Window, with national sovereignty, protectionism, cultural diversity, and mass immigration suddenly back on the table for discussion. Many writers have commented on the nationalist sentiment that seems to be sweeping much of the world. Depending on the writer, it is nearly always framed as either: open society vs. isolationist, or as globalism vs. nationalism.

How are we to persuade when most of our rhetoric only looks at individuals, with little room for larger, national conflicts? Let’s begin by listening to our friends. Are their positions based in fear? If so, do not dismiss their fears as insignificant. Why should they care about what we have had to say if we wholly reject their concerns or worldview? How can we hope to change hearts and minds if we don’t speak the same language? How can we reframe the conversation if we are not meaningfully involved in the discussion, to begin with? If we wish to influence, we must meet our friends and neighbors where they are at now.

 

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.

“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”

The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”

President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.

In August 2006, only 36 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War while 60 percent, the highest number at the time, opposed it due to almost daily reports of violence in Iraq. By the end of that year, more than 3,000 American soldiers were killed in the line of duty, according to iCasualties.org.

With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?

It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.

Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.

“When do we get to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” Boenig said, referring to the May 2003 photo op and speech by President Bush, “and when do I get my kids to come home safe again?”

“There’s no definite answer because our enemies get a vote in this process,” said Cotton. “In the end, I think the best way to honor our veterans…”

“Is to have more killed?” asked Boenig, who interrupted Cotton. “[I]s to win the wars for which they fought,” the freshman Arkansas senator said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also trying to position himself as Bush-style foreign policy hawk. During a recent appearance on Fox News, obviously, Rubio gave an unusual answer to a question about Iraq.

“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”

When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.

Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.