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Friday, April 14, 2017

The Importance of Nationalism

Once upon a time, long ago in approximately 1162 AD and faraway in desolate and nearly inhospitable mountains a barbarian boy was born and named Temüjin. The first few decades of Temüjin's life were really miserable, even by the barbarian standards of his environment (which included tribal warfare, thievery, raids, corruption, revenge, and interference from neighboring powers). When he was 9-years-old, his father was poisoned and then his family was completely destitute, living off wild fruit, carrion, and whatever small game he and his brothers could kill. He was caught and enslaved when he was around 15 years old. Bummer!

That was probably the low point of his life. He eventually escaped slavery and things generally got better for him (with some ups and downs) from there. For example, during the the period starting when he was 35-years-old to 80 years later, he and his descendants conquered the world; well, not all of the world, merely the portions shown below.



Not all of the world, but in 1279 it was the largest contiguous empire ever (even to this day), totally dwarfing the Roman Empire, for example. Not all of the world, but he was an uneducated barbarian with the rather shaky start described above. Not all of the world, but he did it with the barely beyond stone-age technology of bows and arrows and horses. Think about conquering the area in the map above with just horses (my bottom hurts just thinking about it)!

Somewhere during his conquests, Temüjin became known as Genghis Khan which is how he is remembered today. Scientists estimate that 1 in 200 people are descendants of Genghis Khan, making him one of the 11 most prolific fathers of all time (9 of the 11 are unknown in history).

The horrors of nationalism and religion have been drilled into me my whole life. I've been told about all those people killed by this or that religious atrocity and this or that nationalistic war. Genghis Khan was neither nationalistic nor religious (there's no Genghisstan, for example). But he was possibly the bloodiest, most murderous person in all of history. For example, after conquering Urgench in central Asia, he slaughtered more than a million people in a mere few days. A million people represented 1 in 400 people on earth at the time. All told, the Mongol conquests killed about 10% of the people on earth. Genghis Khan might be considered directly responsible for the deaths of a larger percentage of the human population than anyone else, ever.

So why was this random barbarian able to conquer such a vast area? The pat answer is that he was a brilliant strategist and politically innovative. And that may well be true.

But I don't think that's the most important part. Genghis Khan didn't conquer any nations, not really. There simply were no nations in his path. At least not nations in the sense that if you attack even a tiny corner of the nation, millions upon millions of people will rush to their defense and drive off the attackers. Instead he just rolled through one city-state after another, none of which had an even remote chance of defending themselves. Even the most populous ones were sitting ducks.

One meme shared by progressives and libertarians is that political borders are at least somewhat immoral; that nationalism is quite immoral and responsible for many of the horrors of the last century; that eliminating nations and national sentiment would be very positive for humankind; that one shouldn't care more about someone from Mississippi than someone from Mozambique; etc. They both make similar critiques about religions.

I don't agree with those assessments. One can argue that Hitler was an insane genocidal maniac who hijacked a whole nation and caused misery nearly beyond comprehension and that if nations didn't exist, Hitler wouldn't've been able to do that. Maybe, but I don't think so.

Because, what about Genghis Khan? He was as simple as simple could be. He was simply a predatory mammal looking to extend his legacy like all (non-domesticated) predatory mammals. And he certainly succeeded. He wasn't insane. He wasn't religious. He was very tolerant of ethnic and cultural diversity:
The Mongol Empire did not emphasize the importance of ethnicity and race in the administrative realm, instead adopting an approach grounded in meritocracy. The exception was the role of Genghis Khan and his family. The Mongol Empire was one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse empires in history, as befitted its size. Many of the empire's nomadic inhabitants considered themselves Mongols in military and civilian life, including Mongols, Turks and others and included many diverse Khans of various ethnicities as part of the Mongol Empire such as Muhammad Khan.
If you crossed him, he would raze your city and murder everyone in it (except for the skilled artisans and the women, of course - how do you think 1/2% of the current day population are his descendants? Hmmm?). Very simple, really. But as long as you surrendered to him and didn't cross him, he was much more interested in your abilities than your religion or ethnicity.

There will always be people like Genghis Khan and Hitler. After all, we are predatory mammals, and some of us will simply be better predators than the rest of us.

The way I see it, nations and nationalism stopped Hitler from taking over the world. England, Russia, the United States, and others had the nationalistic fervor that drove them to stop him. It was awful, but it was stopped.

What Genghis Khan did was awful too.

And there were no nations to stop him. Only the technological limitations of the horse and bow kept him and his descendants from extending their empire even further.

If there were no nations and no nationalism, then we're essentially a bunch of city-states and the next Genghis Khan will take over the world, just like the Mongols created their empire.

50 comments:

erp said...

Touché. However, the exquisite irony will be lost on the koolaid drinkers.

BTW - Stalin was part of the Axis and Hitler's bud until he double-crossed him. Please don't fall into the left's myth of the Soviets being on the right side in WWII.

Clovis e Adri said...

No, Erp, you take on Stalin is misguided. He couldn't have been a naive buddy of a guy whose ascent to power was, ostensibly, about wiping out communists.

You probably never read Mein Kampf. You can bet the Soviets did.


Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I remember a few years ago, here at GG comment sections, you were the one asking why a poor Mississipi boy should matter more to you than some other third world poor kid.

It is interesting to see you kept looking for that answer.

You gave us some food for thought, and I can easily agree with your conclusion up to the XX century. From the 1990s and on, I am not so sure. Maybe even from 1945 - the nuclear bomb changed our history forever, by changing the threshold for war so much.

And there is also the question of how much help a nation can really be. If the USA started to play Genghis Khan around, like invading Brazil and killing everyone but the hot women, what help would be for us to be a nation?

Bret said...

Oops. That was a rather large typo. The "Mongol conquests killed about 10% of the people on earth..." Originally I had 1%, but fixed now.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...why a poor Mississipi boy should matter more to you than some other third world poor kid."

Yes, I've changed my mind over the years. Heck, these days I change my mind about such things every 5 minutes. So it's not that I'm hypocritical, just mentally unstable! :-)

I still think it's a very good question. Progressives don't really have a good answer for it, in my opinion, yet the policies they advocate certainly do help Mike in Mississippi far more than Moe is Mozambique. Libertarians are adamant that the government shouldn't help Mike or Moe. Conservatives do have a sense of nationalism and taking care of your own, and to the extent they think there should be redistribution, would favor Mike over Moe.

Me? Just seeing the fraying of society in the Midwest from decades of disappointing economic opportunities makes me think that it's an issue that should at least be considered.

Clovis wrote: "...the nuclear bomb changed our history forever..."

The bomb is a complication for sure. I'm not sure it changes my argument all that much though. I think that a national response to a nuclear attack is more formidable than the response of a city-state.

Clovis wrote: "If the USA started to play Genghis Khan..."

Germany pretty much exactly tried to play Genghis Khan in WWII and did succeed in conquering several countries, but not enough of them to keep the territory and take over the world. Brazil would be tough for the US to invade. Nations are better as defensive entities than offensive entities.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
Brazil would be tough for the US to invade. Nations are better as defensive entities than offensive entities.
---
You are kidding, right?

You need only to drop a few nuclear bombs in the main cities along the coast, which would wipe out 75% of the population of the country, and the rest is all yours.

erp said...

Clovis, I read Marx before your mother was born. I googled around a bit and apparently history has been revised to reflect your take on Stalin and Hitler, but I can assure you that those of us around at the time, know the truth. Not to worry, in a few short years, we'll all be dead and the narrative can continue unchallenged.

erp said...

Why would we want any or all of Brazil or any other territory. We have connections we have been trying to unload, like Puerto Rico, but they don't want to be unloaded.

Q. Where on the globe have we invaded to gain territory or any other gain particular to the U.S.?

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

It was only an hypothetical question, trying to ilustrate how nations can be as helpless as city-states when facing a too strong adversary.

And please take a look at Mein Kampf, it was written nearly when your mother was born.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "You need only to drop a few nuclear bombs in the main cities along the coast ... and the rest is all yours."

Well, I'm not going to claim to be an expert in military objectives, but that doesn't seem right to me.

It may be useful as a preemptive defensive strike to turn the most valuable part of country into smoldering radioactive ruins, but much, much less useful as an offensive strike. When Genghis Khan wanted hot women, I don't think hot because of radioactivity was what he had in mind, even for hot Brazilian women.

It seems to me the two main offensive objectives are: (a) taking useful (non-radioactive) land; and (b) subjugating a population. Neither of those are really accomplished by nuking Brazil's coast. Yes, the interior has some value, but not really all that much.

On the other hand, even in the age of nukes, only the US, China, and maybe Russia could possibly benefit from attacking Brazil, and even then the cost would be very, very high. The nuking nation would be a pariah and other nations would take action to cost the pariah as much as possible. Without nukes, my bet is that Brazil as a nation could repel an attack by any nation on earth, even the (supposedly) mighty US.

erp said...

Clovis, I wrote Marx, but meant Mein Kampf. :-(

My comment was when I read it, not when it was published in 1925.

I'm only 82, not 92!

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,


Your rationale above is clearly one dictated by a measure of scruples that denies the initial hypothesis: a Genghis Khan like minded powerful conqueror.

I am no expert in military objectives either, but I find it very plausible that some right combination of conventional weapons and nukes would indeed allow the USA to conquer a good number of non-nuclear countries - but only if the nuclear ones were to step aside idly, so you are very on point about the costs the other nations/peoples would try to effect over the USA. As they did over Khan's empire back then: he was very good at annexing ever more territory, but he obviouly never had a chance to keep it all in the long term.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

---
Clovis, I wrote Marx, but meant Mein Kampf. :-(

My comment was when I read it, not when it was published in 1925.
---

I recommend for you to read it again then.

I suppose you read it when you were too young to get all it entails.

Bret said...

Was erp ever young? :-)

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...he obviouly never had a chance to keep it all in the long term."

He died. If he had lived another hundred years, perhaps he would've kept it all. Those pesky succession issues often screw up empires.

And as for your argument about nukes, perhaps. Still, most national areas are less conquerable than they would be if they weren't nations, nukes or not.

erp said...

Bret, yes, but that was before your grandmother was born.

erp said...

Clovis, I remember it all too well and it wouldn't matter what Hitler wrote. The fact is he buddied up with Stalin and my guess is he thought, after Europe was conquered, he'd deal with what was left of the Ruskies and go on to "infinity and beyond."

erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erp said...

erp reading a first edition of Mein Kampf

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

LOL!

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

At the year of that picture, did Hitler already get Poland?

erp said...

No, he hadn't as yet invaded Poland. The picture was taken in 1938 when at the age of 4, I had already figured out geo-politics, but what I hadn't foreseen, even as brilliant and precocious as I was even then, the extent of Frankie's treachery, Hitler's butchery and France's perfidy. The rest of the world behaved according to its usual predilections and for no gain and much criticism as to our motives, we lost over four hundred thousand of our best and brightest and many more wounded, not to mention the drain on our treasury, disruption in our families ... .

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Yes, and in return for that treasure and blood you inherited the earth - building the most formidable Empire the World has ever seen, with an economy and military might beyond any such before.

Sounds like a bad deal?

Bret said...

Genghis Khan woulda taken that deal in a nanosecond!

Ummm, me too, actually. :-)

erp said...

What empire?

erp said...

Sorry, I didn't read your comment correctly.
Do you actually mean ???

WE INHERITED THE EARTH ????

FROM WHOM????

AND TO WHAT END????

Bret said...

Pax Americana.

erp said...

Exactly.

Harry Eagar said...

'Q. Where on the globe have we invaded to gain territory or any other gain particular to the U.S.?'

Hawaii. The nativists lusted after it and ended up with Obama.

Ironic, no?

Harry Eagar said...

Bret, I won't dispute you on libetarians. I recently socialized with a herd of them (some famous names you'd know) and found them to be pretty disgusting on the topic of fellow-manhood.

I hardly think that progressives, and certainly not liberals, are disdainful of borders. Liberalism was, after all, the ideology of the springtime of the peoples.

Where the liberal impulse crosses borders is in two places:

1. collective security, a good-sounding idea with a checkered record in practice

2. humanitarianism. Nationalism, as such, has a miserable record here. Ideas about protecting non-combatants, restraining the kinds of violence used against combatants, rebuilding devastated areas that are not part of your ethnikos, eradicating diseases that you are not subject to (thank you, Jimmy Carter) are the heart of liberalism.

That such initiatives are more or less indifferent to borders goes without saying. But in other realms, liberalism has been very protective of borders. Think of the domino effect.

Nationalism can be quirky. Who would have guessed that the bolsheviks would end up as guarantors of the integrity of Poland?

erp said...

You know Harry, I recognize the word and words in your two comments above, but I have no idea what the h*ck you are trying to say with them.

erp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harry Eagar said...

Why am I not surprised?

erp said...

... Of course, you're not surprised. You believe the nonsense you write. Hawaii is the most racist place in the U.S. In order to own property, one must pass a blood test to prove one's blood is pure enough. The other comment is such a hodgepodge of disconnects, it must have been written with a corkscrew.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] 'Q. Where on the globe have we invaded to gain territory or any other gain particular to the U.S.?'

[Harry: ]Hawaii. The nativists lusted after it and ended up with Obama.


Harry, you don't know the meaning of the word "invasion".

erp, I think it is fair to way the the Mexican-American war was a perfectly good example of invading another country to gain territory.

[Clovis:] You need only to drop a few nuclear bombs in the main cities along the coast, which would wipe out 75% of the population of the country, and the rest is all yours.

In a theoretical sense, perhaps. However, speaking realistically, the one thing that nazism and communism have taught is that it is far cheaper to buy than steal.

(And, having a military background, including with nuclear weapons, unless a country is facing an existential threat -- and maybe not even then -- they have no military utility. That is, using a Clausewitzian definition of war, the pursuit of political ends by other means, there is no political end that can't be better achieved without nuclear weapons.)

[Bret:] If there were no nations and no nationalism, then we're essentially a bunch of city-states and the next Genghis Khan will take over the world, just like the Mongols created their empire.

Full points. Not only does that make a great deal of sense, I have never thought of it that way, nor have I read anyone who has.

erp said...

Skipper, not so fast: Mexican-American War.

Hey Skipper said...

erp, I'm confused. Your link provides plenty of reason to suspect the M-A war was the consequence of trumped-up pretext, with an early form of lebensraum in mind.

erp said...

Skipper, I meant to check on what my very old pre-WW2 encyclopedia says about it. I'll get back to you on this. My recollection from American History classes is that it was about disputed territory as is described in the first paragraph of the Britannica article.

erp said...

Two old reference books (The Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedia c. 1953 and the other Grolier Encyclopedia c. 1944) on my book shelf confirm the Britannica article and my recollection of the Mexican American War.

Even the 1939 movie Juarez we happened to see on TCM last week followed this script pretty closely.

To my knowledge, this interpretation was never at issue. Why are you guys disputing it?

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

As far as I can see it, your links only attest Skipper's point.

Harry Eagar said...

erp, I accuse you -- very seriously -- of libel.

As have discussed before, I own real estate in Hawaii and I did not have to pass any tests, other than convincing a mortgage lender that I could pay off my loan.

If you are continuing to spread this lie, you are a deliberately dishonest person.

erp said...

I've already supplied numerous links on this, but here's another one.

erp said...

All the links say the same thing -- the territory was disputed.

Hey Skipper said...

Harry: you are in absolutely no position to be accusing any one of libel, or being dishonest.

Harry Eagar said...

The land involved was a private eleemosynary bequest. And the beneficiaries cannot buy, only lease. You are a liar, erp.

Skipper, just because you are afraid to, eg, look at Coulter's posts does not make me a liar. It makes you afraid

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] The land involved was a private eleemosynary bequest. And the beneficiaries cannot buy, only lease. You are a liar, erp.

erp is -- perhaps -- mistaking the particular for the general. Mistakes happen. It is true that in order to own someproperty in Hawaii, one has to have the right DNA (that also goes for Indian reservations); however, it isn't true in general.

How do we know that? Because erp gave us links in order for us to ascertain what is going on.

Unlike, say, you. BTW, you accuse erp of libel. Who did she libel? By all means, provide a direct quote. My scan of this thread strongly indicates you have no idea what "libel" means.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Skipper, just because you are afraid to, eg, look at Coulter's posts does not make me a liar. It makes you afraid.

No, Harry, it makes you liar and an asshole: and I'm not the least bit afraid of you providing anything to cancel the charge of being a libelous knob who is proving once again that you, like every other prog, is incapable of using "racist" correctly.

I hope you aren't confused as to why most Americans loath progressives.

erp said...

Skipper, life in Hawaii is a lot more complicated and racist than you think.

Several years ago, after Harry made he same statement as he did above, I asked a friend, alas now deceased, who was part of the government in Hawaii for over 30 years, write a piece on landownership in Hawaii and included it in a comment.

I don't know where it is and won't take the time to look for it. If Harry owns property, perhaps he figured out a way to get around it or perhaps some was set aside for Haoles.

Harry Eagar said...

Skipper, the land in question is not for sale. To anyone. erp's link is to (typical) rightwing nonsense. She knows this, because I told her. So she is repeating deliberate libels.

Life, indeed, is complicated in Hawaii. The Pauahi lands are not for sale. In one instance, however, some were sold. It was an outrageous use of political power, but the buyers were not native Hawaiians and did not have to prove ancestry.

So not only is erp a deliberate libelist, in the one instance where land really was sold, the circumstances were exactly the opposite of what she alleges.

erp said...

Methinks Harry doth protesteth too much.

I alleged nothing. I linked to a Google search and also had a friend who lived in Hawaii most of her adult life as a high government official write the real skinny on the subject. Perhaps Harry had some inside track, so typical of progs, to the purchase of land. It wouldn't be the first time that what's good for they'em ain't good for us'em.

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] So she is repeating deliberate libels.

Who is she libeling? Or perhaps you don't know the meaning of the word?