Varieties of Nationalism

by Mark English

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Patriotism comes in many shapes and sizes. It remains a key factor in politics and international relations. In this episode, Mark English continues his reflections on patriotism and nationalism, referring to a curious and revealing passage from Margery Allingham’s 1941 novel, Traitor’s Purse. Reference is also made to criticisms of previously-expressed views on the Ukraine conflict and current U.S. foreign policy.

https://youtu.be/B9zmXjPzhtA

Comments

28 responses to “Varieties of Nationalism”

  1. Nice to see you back again, Mark!

    Your conception of the radically different geopolitical situation strikes me as at odds with reality. The US and its allies maintain overwhelming military and economic power, and Russia has just been revealed to be a basket case of a country and a paper tiger, with an almost useless military. China will be revealed to be the same, if it tries to do in Taiwan as Russia has done in Ukraine. Indeed, I will predict right now that if China does, its humiliation will be even worse than Russia’s.

    The idea that somehow Ukraine is at fault for the prolonged death and suffering from the war — or those like the US, UK and others who are helping Ukraine — is not only a poor analysis of the situation, it represents what to my mind are really terrible values. Ukraine does not want to surrender. It does not want to hand over part — or all — of its country to Vlad the Impaler and his armies. It does not accept the rape and torture and mass murder that Russia has been inflicting on it. The idea that it should do so in order to satisfy *your* conception of proper geopolitical order — or that of Russia or any of the other murderocracies and kleptocracies on the planet — is just so out of whack, I don’t even know how to respond to it. Fortunately, there is zero chance it will happen.

  2. Paul D. Van Pelt

    All good. Appreciate Professor Kaufman’s outspokenness. Have learned a lot from him. Talking about varieties of nationalism and patriotism is a bit akin to talking about varieties of religious experience (William James). One can’t easily compare the latter because of interests, preferences and motives which spring from cultural and social differences.Leaders in adversarial countries all seem quite mad to us. North Korea is provocative, but not so different to Khrushchev’s USSR or Chairman Mao’s China. Current leaders merely tailor their behaviors to emulate predecessors. it works, sometimes. More or less. All are, in their own ways, trying to be at home in the Universe. How THEY go about that is not easily comparable to how WE go about it either.

  3. “The idea that it should do so in order to satisfy *your* conception of proper geopolitical order — or that of Russia or any of the other murderocracies and kleptocracies on the planet — is just so out of whack, I don’t even know how to respond to it.”

    I am not talking about some desired political order. Rather I am noting, as carefully and accurately as I can, current geopolitical and geo-economic realities. I am making the point that over the last thirty years or so the situation has changed and not in ways which favour an overwhelming level of American dominance (such as applied immediately after WW2 and again after the break up of the Soviet Union) in the future.

    For example, the US is no longer as economically dominant as it once was. Its share of the global economy has declined from about 40 percent in 1960 to about 24 percent today. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean that a broader range of countries will have a say in reshaping the financial system than was the case, say, in the immediate post-WW2 period.

    This is important because economic factors underpin military power. And though the USD is strong at the moment, the widely-acknowledged fragility of the current debt- and derivative-based financial system — a system which creates demand for (and so guarantees the value of) the dollar — strongly suggests that the United States will not be able to continue to play, at least to the same degree, the dominant global role which it has undoubtedly played over the last three-quarters of a century.

  4. I think this is quite wrong on several fronts. If anything, the US is even more dominant than it was before. And given the paths that the other large powers have taken — economically and politically foolish paths — it will continue that way in the foreseeable future.

    I still see nothing in anything you’ve said or written that justifies the US or NATO telling the Ukrainians to eat Russia’s excrement. Let Russia eat its own — as it is busily doing.

  5. Nothing unites a country like invasion. All the most sophisticated armaments in the world won’t defeat that spirit as America learned in all her recent wars. Now though is a time to allow Putin a way out. Forget about regime change and the fomentation of insurgency in Russia. Give him something suitably humiliating.

  6. Marc Levesque

    Mark,

    I always appreciate your insight and effort to take on difficult topics.

    I agree a lot of current American, its allies, and NATO strategies are flawed and dangerous. Likewise in Taiwan and in past year the military posturing around North Korea, including the ongoing ‘vigilant storm’ manoeuvres which involve buzzing their shores with over 200 US and South Korea war planes.

    Unsurprisingly, with this level of tension, it’s not easy to find space to talk about this online without being subject to what seems like willful misinterpretation, outright insinuations about our character, or trolling.

    At the same time I can understand the need, partly emotional, so many seem to have to over simplify complex situations and frame them with familiar assumptions, but it doesn’t seem like the prudent thing to do especially when the status quo has already led to far too much suffering and death, for far too many.

  7. What’s complex about the fact that Ukraine does not want to surrender (and is cleaning Russia’s clock)?

    And who has made insinuations regarding Mark’s character? I said telling the Ukrainians they should hand their country over to or negotiate with Putin/Russia after the mass murder, rape, and mass-kidnapping of their compatriots, represents bad values. That’s not an insinuation. It’s a plain, explicit statement.

  8. Marc Levesque

    Dan,

    “What’s complex about the fact that Ukraine does not want to surrender …”

    I didn’t refer to that or say it was complex.

    “And who has made insinuations ”

    My choice of words wasn’t about you specifically, I actually wasn’t sure how you’d meant it in your comment, explicit or otherwise.

    “telling the Ukrainians they should hand their country over to or negotiate with Putin/Russia after the mass murder, rape, and mass-kidnapping of their compatriots”

    I listened to the podcast again and I can’t find something there, or here in his comment, like that.

  9. I listened to it too. I guess we’ll have to disagree as to what we heard.

  10. Dan wrote:

    “I said telling the Ukrainians they should hand their country over to or negotiate with Putin/Russia after the mass murder, rape, and mass-kidnapping of their compatriots, represents bad values.”

    I never suggested that the Ukrainians should “hand their country over to … Putin/Russia” but I am in favour of negotiations. What is the alternative?

    Dan seems to be envisaging some kind of clear military victory on the part of NATO forces, but my point is that pursuing such a goal would necessarily entail not just a continuation of the conflict but also a significant escalation.

  11. Because of what ML said, I went back and listened to the podcast again, in case I’d missed something. I indeed, had, but it just made the whole thing worse.

    At one point in the podcast, Mark says that “demonizing one side while ignoring the problematic activities of the other is just war talk,” thereby revealing that he thinks there are two *legitimate* sides to the invasion, mass murder of civilians, rape, and mass kidnapping on the part of Russia. This is both bad analysis and repugnant.

    Mark likes to talk about what he “prefers” — some kind of “reset” which he never details or explains why anyone should think will happen — and gestures towards regional and political history [about which, of course, he won’t give details], but seems not to like talking very much about what is actually happening, which I described in the last paragraph. [Unprovoked invasion; mass murder of civilians; mass kidnapping; etc.] This is also bad analysis and repugnant. And I very much doubt any *sound* regional and political analysis would sustain his view anyway. Then, he finishes by discussing a novel, which completes the fact-free discussion of the worst humanitarian disaster we’ve seen since Rwanda and Kosovo.

    My experience of Mark’s foreign policy writing and podcasting is that he deeply and bitterly resents US power and influence and that this is so overwhelming of both his sensibility and his reason that he is unable to see crimes and villainies like Russia’s for what they are or understand that normal people are not going to negotiate with someone who has just done this to them. In this regard he reminds me a little of Bob Wright at BHTV, who has allowed his hatred of American power and influence to derange him to the point that he has become a parody of himself.

  12. Mark, I’ve explained what’s wrong/mad about expecting Ukraine to negotiate now, given what Russia has done, and given that Russia is losing and losing badly. Which part of that was unclear or unsustainable?

    Or were you not aware Russia is losing badly? You don’t actually believe the rot coming out of the Kremlin and their ridiculous big-talking Macho Men do you?

  13. One last thing, I would be very happy with a negotiated cease-fire. But Ukraine should not give up one inch of its country to Vlad and his bloodthirsty imaplers. And given that Vlad and Russia clearly, demonstrably cannot be trusted to honor any agreements or treaties, Ukraine should be fast tracked into NATO immediately.

    Indeed, if Ukraine had already been in NATO, none of this would have happened. Seems like NATO is a much better deal for Ukraine than the crappy deal Mark wants them to take.

  14. “My experience of Mark’s foreign policy writing and podcasting is that he deeply and bitterly resents US power and influence and that this is so overwhelming of both his sensibility and his reason that he is unable to see crimes and villainies like Russia’s for what they are or understand that normal people are not going to negotiate with someone who has just done this to them. In this regard he reminds me a little of Bob Wright at BHTV, who has allowed his hatred of American power and influence to derange him to the point that he has become a parody of himself.”

    I have not been following what Robert Wright has been saying on this issue but I will in due course follow up on this and also look at the links Dan has kindly posted. I point out however that I am and have long been drawing on a wide range of sources, including mainstream Western ones, in order to shape and refine my always open and developing views. I have no vested interests here.

    The idea that I have “deep and bitter” resentments regarding U.S. power and influence is mistaken. For decades I was a strong supporter of American foreign policy settings and I took a lot of flak on this from my academic colleagues. But less than 20 years ago my views started to change. What I saw as a new and more extreme form of neoconservatism had taken hold in foreign policy circles. Jeanne Kirkpatrick’s style of neoconservatism I could live with; but not the current (CNAS) mob.

  15. I am no neoconservative. If I’ve misunderstood you, then that’s on me.

  16. Well, Dan, I listened to Robert Wright’s discussion with Samuel Charap, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Charap (who is fluent in Russian and a genuine expert on the region) hardly gets a word in!!

    Here are a couple of paragraphs from a recent article (published in Foreign Affairs) which Charap wrote with Miranda Priebe:

    “U.S. President Joe Biden has said that the United States is committed to a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine. But his administration has taken few, if any, steps to create a diplomatic process that could produce such an outcome. Buoyed by Ukrainian battlefield successes and horrified by Russian atrocities, the United States seems committed to continuing its current approach of helping Ukraine recapture as much territory as possible without provoking a wider war. The mantra in Washington is to support Kyiv “for as long it takes” and to rule out, at least for now, practical steps toward diplomacy. That message was reinforced this week when 30 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives released a letter urging the Biden administration to pursue direct negotiations with Moscow, only to withdraw it a day later amid the predictable outcry.

    “In fact, the United States and its G-7 partners have already proposed a peace deal. But the terms read like conditions for Russia’s surrender: Kyiv regains all its territory, receives reparations from Moscow, and signs security agreements with Western countries. Such an outcome would indeed be ideal, restoring Ukraine’s control over its internationally recognized borders, strengthening the international order, and chastening Russia—but it also is improbable. Communicating that an outright Ukrainian victory is the desired U.S. endgame without making a concerted effort to prepare for future diplomatic negotiations could lead either to a dangerous escalation or to prolonging the conflict indefinitely…”

  17. When did appeasing a brutal imperialistic thug become ok again? Nothing to learn from Munich? Anyway, the only answer to ‘arguments’ concerning the Russian invasion is more dead Russians. This is war, not another round of Hasbro’s Diplomacy.

    Actually Ukrainians, and their supporters, have really nothing against the Russian people. It’s the Russian government that is cruel and corrupt.

    Probably there is no finale here possible while Putin is still alive – so Putin must die. Hopefully, some faction in or near the Kremlin will realize this and get rid of him.

    But even if they do, the problem is obvious, Russian forces illegitimately occupying Ukraine territory . Russia’s only real solutions here are withdrawing and admitting a mistake; or petitioning the UN to help establish the annexed territory as a DeMilitarized Zone, claimed by both sides, but without military action by either. I don’t know how that could be achieved; I don’t know that Ukraine’s government would be agreeable to that. However, there is no good solution for the Russians otherwise.

    We can’t just hand over Ukraine territory to the Russians – what theory of sovereignty makes that acceptable? Ukraine is neither technically nor de facto a client state of the US, and the EU effectively recognizes it as an equal or equivalent sovereign state. How hard is this to understand? Or is policy to be set by paranoia, or conspiracy theories about secret American chemical weapons plants?

    The NeoConservative moment in history has passed. The great threats to foreign relations today all come from the far-right – including Putin.

  18. Marc Levesque

    “petitioning the UN to help establish the annexed territory as a DeMilitarized Zone, claimed by both sides, but without military action by either”

    Interesting observation.

    “Anyway, the only answer to ‘arguments’ concerning the Russian invasion is more dead Russians.”

    Whut !?

  19. Peaceful IR Realist

    The simple case for diplomatic resolution (which would necessarily involve some concessions to Russia):

    (1) From Ukraine’s perspective, negotiation makes sense because, no matter how badly it beats Russia, Russia will always be strong enough to threaten or harass Ukraine, so it is better in the long term if Russia’s security interests are accounted for in a negotiated settlement. Keep in mind that Ukraine’s current victories against Russia are possibly only because of U.S. support, but US interest in the region may fade, whereas Russia will always be there. The idea of beating Putin so badly that he never tries this again is childish.

    (2) From American’s perspective, negotiation makes sense because our strategic priority is East Asia, not Eastern Europe. Obama tried to “pivot to Asia” but failed in part because he was distracted by turmoil in the Middle East. We don’t want turmoil in Eastern Europe to turn that region into yet another distraction from East Asia. So long as Russia’s security interests are not accounted for in Eastern Europe, it will continue lighting fires that distract the US from East Asia.

  20. Peaceful IR Realist

    One update, in response to Dan’s claim that this is not the right time for diplomacy because “Russia is losing badly.” See this from the NYT today:

    At “internal meetings” within the Biden administration, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been “urging negotiations” to “seek a diplomatic end to [Ukraine’s] war with Russia.” Milley has argued that the Ukrainians “have achieved about as much as they could reasonably expect on the battlefield before winter sets in and so they should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table.“ Regarding the likelihood of further Ukrainian gains, Milley “has pointed to satellite imagery showing that the Russians are digging trenches and establishing firm lines through much of the occupied territory in preparation for winter, when the fronts presumably will stabilize. The pullback from Kherson appeared to be aimed at setting up a more defensible position.” The scenario Milley wants to avoid is “World War I, when the two sides engaged in years of trench warfare with little change in territory but millions of pointless casualties.”

    (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/10/us/politics/biden-ukraine-russia-diplomacy.html)

    It is worth dwelling on the last remark, especially since much of Dan’s commentary has been focused on the horrible Ukrainian civilian casualties. Bear in mind that perpetuation of the war almost certainly means that Russia will continue, and probably escalate, its air strikes on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure. Thus, it is not at all clear that refusal to negotiate serves the best interests of Ukrainian civilians.

    Regarding what the peace deal would look like, the exclusion of Ukraine from NATO membership (or from a military alliance that effectively constitutes quasi NATO membership) is the essential concession that must be made to Russia. The big questions are: (a) what sort of security guarantees, if any, will Ukraine be permitted to receive from the West?; and (b) what will happen to the Ukrainian territory Russia now occupies?

  21. As I said to Mark, I am happy for negotiations, as long as Russia does not benefit from its invasion.

    Also:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/10/world/europe/ukraine-kherson-russia.html

  22. Peaceful IR Realist

    Your condition that Russia “does not benefit from its invasion” effectively places you in the camp of those who oppose negotiation *now*, because a diplomatic settlement at the present moment would necessarily involve some concessions to Russia (most likely regarding Ukraine’s NATO status, and the status of at least some of the Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine) such that Russia would have gained *something* from the invasion. Given what Chairman Milley is saying about the true battlefield conditions, getting Russia to agree to a diplomatic solution in which it has gained *nothing* from the invasion would almost certainly require further, and quite dramatic, battlefield gains on the part of the Ukrainians.

  23. Yep, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get.

    Lesson: Don’t invade other countries, when your own country is a basket case and falling apart, with a paper tiger military.

  24. Peaceful IR Realist

    The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff disagrees with your assessment that Russia has a “paper tiger military” (see my comment on Nov 11, at 9:33 am).

  25. Marc Levesque

    “Because of what ML said, I went back and listened to the podcast again, in case I’d missed something. I indeed, had, but it just made the whole thing worse. At one point in the podcast, Mark says that “demonizing one side while ignoring the problematic activities of the other is just war talk,” thereby revealing that he thinks there are two *legitimate* sides to the invasion, mass murder of civilians, rape, and mass kidnapping on the part of Russia. This is both bad analysis and repugnant.”

    I guess we’ll disagree more on what we heard. I’ll leave it at that for now.

    I look for to more from both of you.