Q&A Friday #46: What About Nationalism?
Question: A couple of weeks ago you defended the 1945-bombing of Dresden’s civilian population on rightwingnews.com. Traditionally, the estimates of the German casualties from this attack range from 10.000 to 30.000 civilian deaths.
I would very much like you to elaborate on this point and, if possible, relate it to the ethical question of how a patriot deals with the inherent moral problems of nationalism?
If we are to exhume a lesson from the political realities of the 20th century it is most certainly that senseless nationalism _will_ lead to moral transgressions not unlikt the ones seen in Abu Gharib.
To put this matter on its egde: If punishing Dresden’s civilians for not deposing Hitler is acceptable then the same must hold true for the attacks on the World Trade Center to the extent that some arab warlord fins Ameican intervention in his region objectable.
Answer: So, you want me to relate the bombing of Dresden to, “the inherent moral problems of nationalism?” That’s like saying you want me to explain the relationship between cow flatulence and tomato soup. Sure, I could probably come up with something, but they aren’t related in any significant sense.
Moreover, let me add that there are no, “inherent moral problems (with) nationalism.” That’s not to say that nationalism hasn’t been misused by demagogues and tyrants at times (See WW2 Germany for a perfect example of that), but overall, nationalism has been a positive force in world history. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of nations today that would be better off with a lot more nationalism and a lot less tribalism.
If anything, there is more of an inherent moral problem with people who aren’t nationalistic. If you live in a country and have no loyalty or love for your own country, you’re the one with the problem in my book, especially in a great nation like America.
Going on to the rest of your question, on Abu Ghraib and nationalism: Again, we’re back to cow flatulence to tomato soup here. There are a lot of things you could pin Abu Ghraib on. Moral decay, lack of supervision, the cruelties of war — but, nationalism? Please. What those out-of-control yahoos did at Abu Ghraib was criminal and moronic, but it was like a fall picnic compared to what the Iraqis were doing to other Iraqis before we arrived.
Last but not least, anyone who could say that they don’t see any difference between the Allies in World War 2 and Al-Qaeda today is obviously a sick and depraved individual whose ethical compass has been shattered by moral equivalence. Quite frankly, if everyone in Europe had your attitude during WW2 — scratch that, because there was only one really important nation in Western Europe back then — if the Brits had your attitude during WW2, and weren’t willing to do whatever it took to win the war, you’d be speaking German today and heiling Adolph Hitler the 3rd, who’d be ruling your little country with an iron fist from Germany.