- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Tribalism in Europe Marches on—But to What End?

Recently, a columnist-friend, Matt Kenney, sent me a 25-year-old newspaper with his chiding that my column had been given better play.

Both had run in The Orange County Register on June 30, 1991.

“Is there no room for new nations in the New World Order?” was my title, and the column began:

“In turning a stone face toward embattled Slovenia and Croatia, President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker have not only put America’s chips on the wrong horse. They have bet on a losing horse.

“Can the U.S. Government seriously believe that a Yugoslavia of such disparate peoples, all of whom wish greater freedom, most of whose republics wish to be free of Belgrade, is a viable nation?”

The State Department had denounced “these unilateral steps by Croatia and Slovenia” to break free: “As Secretary Baker made clear last Friday, we will neither encourage nor reward secession.”

Croatia and Slovenia are today free and members of NATO.

A month later in 1991, George H. W. Bush, in what Bill Safire dubbed his “Chicken Kiev” speech, warned that Ukraine’s desire to break free of Moscow manifested a “suicidal nationalism.”

Today, Ukraine is independent and the Bush-GOP establishment wants to send weapons to Kiev to fight pro-Russia secessionists.

As nationalism tore apart Yugoslavia and the USSR in the 1990s, and surged to propel British secession from the EU and Donald Trump’s triumph in 2016, that primal force appears on the march again.

Wrote the Wall Street Journal Monday:

“Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban barely mentions his political rivals as he campaigns for a fourth term. Instead, he is targeting the European Union and its biggest members. ‘Our fiercest opponents are not in Hungarian opposition parties,’ Mr. Orban said in a speech last week, ‘They are abroad … Berlin, Brussels.’

“In neighboring Poland,” the Journal goes on, “government rhetoric is even harsher. Politicians have one-upped each other in attacking France and Germany, arguing they are forcing multicultural liberal democracy on more traditional Poles.”

Not only in the east of Europe but also in the west, nationalism is surging. Wrote the New York Times Friday:

“The accelerating battle over Catalonia’s status hit warp speed this week. Catalan lawmakers voted to go ahead with an Oct. 1 referendum on separating from Spain. Spain’s constitutional court declared the vote suspended. And Catalan politicians said they would proceed anyway.”

Yesterday, thousands of Catalans paraded through Barcelona under a banner proclaiming “Goodbye, Spain!” It was the Catalan National Day, which commemorates the 1714 capture of Barcelona by Philip V, the first Bourbon monarch of Spain.

Spain’s wealthiest region, Catalonia believes it is being milked by Madrid for the benefit of regions that contribute far less.

The question being raised by Catalonia is one America has faced before. Do peoples in a democratic republic have a right to declare their independence, secede, and establish a new nation, as the 13 colonies did in 1776 and the Confederate States of America sought to do in 1861?

Though America was born of secession, the U.S. establishment since the Cold War has been far more trans-nationalist and globalist than a great champion of new nations. Perhaps that is because the New World Order proclaimed by Bush I in 1991 envisioned the U.S. as the benevolent global hegemon.

Another ethno-national secession may be declared even before the Catalans go to the polls Oct. 1.

The Kurdistan Regional Government has scheduled a referendum for Sept. 25—on independence from Iraq. Should it go forward, a massive vote to secede seems certain. And Kurds are relying on U.S. support. For they have sustained many casualties and shed much blood backing us in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State.

Yet while our sentiments may cheer the cause of an independent Kurdistan, our national interests may call for caution.

For though the Kurds, 30 million in number, are probably the largest ethnic group on earth without a nation-state of their own, creating a Kurdish homeland could ignite a Middle East war the Kurds could lose as badly as did the Confederate States.

Why? Because, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 not only left millions of Kurds in Iraq, it left most of them in Turkey, Iran and Syria.

A free and independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraq could prove a magnet for the 25 million Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria, and a sanctuary for Kurd rebels, causing those nations to join together to annihilate the new country.

Then, there is Kirkuk, seized by the Kurds after the Iraqi army fled from an invading ISIS. The city sits on some of the richest oil deposits in Iraq.

Yesterday, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, told the BBC that if the Kurds vote for independence and Baghdad refuses to accept it, they will forcibly resist any Iraqi attempt to retake the city.

Tribalism appears to be doing to the Bush New World Order what it did to Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. 


11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Tribalism in Europe Marches on—But to What End?"

#1 Comment By mrscracker On September 12, 2017 @ 9:59 am

“Though America was born of secession, the U.S. establishment since the Cold War has been far more trans-nationalist and globalist than a great champion of new nations. ”
Thank you for pointing that out. It always frustrates me when folks think the War Between the States & the American Revolution had absolutely nothing in common, when in reality they were cut pretty much from the same cloth.
And yes, we invaded the new nation of Mexico pretty quickly after achieving our independence. I’ve never really understood the point of that war. Or most wars, really.

#2 Comment By Southern Sandy On September 12, 2017 @ 10:53 am

I applaud many of these movements. But historically, the Kurds have been nomads. I don’t think stealing another country’s land for their state will go over too well. And the US should certainly stay out of the fray, but it’s certain they will not put wisdom first and do that.

#3 Comment By Bartman On September 12, 2017 @ 11:08 am

As always, Pat brings up subjects that most commentators refuse to acknowledge or discuss….such as Tribalism.

#4 Comment By Michael Kenny On September 12, 2017 @ 11:48 am

Glad to see Mr Buchanan embracing the cause of Ukraine’s national sovereignty. The sovereign nation-state is the fundamental building block of the European political order. That, or the aspiration to it, has been the European norm since the French Revolution and shows no sign of disappearing. It has also been the cause of all the wars we have seen in Europe since the Congress of Vienna, including both world wars. The best idea anyone in Europe has come up with so far for reconciling the legitimate desire of all the European peoples to exercise their national sovereignty with the equally legitimate desire to avoid slaughtering each other every few years is the European Union. Croatia and Slovenia are EU Member States. Ditto for Hungary and Poland. None of those states are even remotely considering leaving the EU. The fight in Ukraine started as an American attempt to block the EU-Ukraine Association agreement, using Putin as a battering ram. Incidentally, the Agreement entered into effect a few months ago and Ukrainian nationals now have visa-free access to the EU. In the run up to the French election, Marine Le Pen backed off from taking France out of the EU or abandoning the euro. It was causing her to lose votes. “Brexit” is increasingly turning into a farce and if the UK actually does leave the EU, Scotland and Northern Ireland will probably demand their independence so as to stay in the Union. Similarly, Catalonia has no intention of leaving the EU. Like Scotland, it just wants to be a full Member State. Thus, national sovereignty is the key to everything in Europe, which is why Putin’s denial of the principle of national sovereignty and his desire to return to the pre-1914 concept of “spheres of influence” has caused such trouble.
One could ask why white Americans speak of “white nationalism” in regard to themselves, but deny us white Europeans the right to come together in the EU if we wish. Why do white Americans feel entitled to prevent us from doing so by influencing, manipulating and even rigging our elections and referenda? Indeed, if a recent book is to be believed, the CIA is financing the flood of refugees so as to undermine the EU! That doesn’t sound much like respect for our national sovereignty!

#5 Comment By Pelayo Viriato On September 12, 2017 @ 1:35 pm

“Spain’s wealthiest region, Catalonia believes it is being milked by Madrid for the benefit of regions that contribute far less.”

First of all, Catalan separatists do not speak for Catalonia. There are many Catalans who still believe in the unity of Spain.

Second of all, Catalonia’s wealth is due in large part to economic policies made in Madrid — policies that hurt the rest of Spain. During the nineteenth century, Catalan industrialists were the biggest beneficiaries of Spain’s trade with its colony Cuba. Protective tariffs placed high-quality British and American goods beyond Cubans’ reach, forcing them to settle for comparatively shoddy Catalan products. Thus did excessive protectionism contribute to resentment of Spanish rule in Cuba.

During the twentieth century, misguided protection of Catalan industry continued with the Arancel Cambó, or Cambó tariff. From the 1920s until its repeal in the 1960s, the Arancel Cambó privileged Catalan industrialization at the expense of the economic development of the rest of the country. (To be clear, I am not a free trader. But excessive protectionism also has unintended consequences.)

Also worth noting is that Catalan supremacism is predicated to a large degree on spurious racial theories. The founders of Catalan nationalism claimed that Catalans were Aryans and that other Spaniards were “contaminated” with large amounts of Jewish and Arab blood. (For the record, there is no evidence of significant genetic differences between Catalans and other Spaniards, nor do Spaniards have a significant amount of Jewish or Arab blood — notwithstanding the many centuries of Jewish and Arab presence in the Iberian peninsula).

I usually agree with Pat Buchanan, but I find his implicit support for Catalan independence to be deeply disturbing, not least because his father was a passionate supporter of General Franco.

#6 Comment By mrscracker On September 12, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

Pelayo Viriato ,
I don’t have a dog in this fight but I know others who do & I have read a number of similar articles about Iberian DNA. Just to mention too, many American Hispanics are generally surprised to find Jewish ancestry suggested through DNA testing.There were a number of Jews seeking a better life in the New World after the expulsion. While other Jewish converts like St.Teresa of Avila’s family remained in Spain :

“Southern Europeans get a significant portion of their genetic ancestry from North Africa, new research suggests.
The findings are perhaps not surprising, given that the Romans occupied North Africa and set up extensive trade routes in the region, and the Moors, a North African people, ruled a medieval territory called El-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula.

But the findings, published today (June 3) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest the impact of these connections went beyond culture and architecture, and may explain why Southern Europeans have more genetic diversity than their northern counterparts…
To untangle European ancestry, Bustamante and his colleagues compared existing DNA samples of 2,099 individuals from 43 different populations in Europe and Africa. Crucially, they included new genetic samples from North Africa and Spain.

The team found that for Southwestern Europeans (those from Italy, Spain and Greece), between 4 and 20 percent of their genomes came from North Africa, compared to less than 2 percent in Southeastern Europe…”

#7 Comment By JonF On September 12, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

The question of secession cannot be answered generically, but only on a case by case basis. The first question to be asked is whether such a right is explicitly provided for in whatever legal agreement (Constitution, charter, etc.) binds a people to a larger polity. The second question– to be answered if the answer to the first question is No– is whether there is sound moral justification for a lawless secession. The US Declaration of Independence takes great pains to make the case for the latter because there was no legal way to break free of the British Empire. By contrast Brexit requires no such argument because the EU Charter makes provision for a member state to leave it. And as for the CSA in 1861, despite specious claims to the contrary there was no legal right to secede established in the US Constitution. And the moral case was decidedly inferior to that of the American founding, to say the least (the Southern states had full representation in the federal government, unlike the colonists, and they faced no sort of tyranny or persecution unless disapproval of their “peculiar institution” could be portrayed as such, and goodness knows they tried to pull off that extraordinary claim). The situation with other current potential secessions is more complex: Places like Catalonia, Scotland and Brittany were incorporated into larger states by royal marriages, conquest or both a long time ago. And in other parts of the world foreign powers drew lines on maps in the 20th century without bothering to consult the people who were affected by those lines.

#8 Comment By Angel Bonilla On September 12, 2017 @ 10:10 pm

Is Mr. Buchanan being sympathetic toward Catalan Separatism?

#9 Comment By Bob Freeballer On September 13, 2017 @ 5:43 am

The US supported the seccession of a muslim people in Kosovo from Serbia. While at the same time bombing the christian Serbs who were trying to seccede from Muslim Bosnia.
So much for supporting the self-determination of people.

#10 Comment By Beowulf On September 13, 2017 @ 4:12 pm

I could be sympathetic to Catalonia’s secessionist movement. However it is commanded by leftist pro-european (Junts pel Si) and Alt Left (CUP) leaders. Most catalans vote socialism (Junts pel Si, Podemos, PSC) or communism (CUP, ICV). What good can we get from this bunch of leftards?. I would happily support them if they were to deliver economic nationalism and despised european open borders and immigration policy. Don’t fool yourself on this one, both the spanish and catalan politicians are hard globalists. After quarrel in parliament both groups can be seen as friends laughing and inviting for a cup of coffee in the lobby. The only hope is in the Visegrad Group. south and western Europe is doomed under Merkel and Juncker rule.

By the way, Viriathus was a celtic tribal leader fighting Roman Empire (Terror Romanorum) by the time Spain did not exist yet.

#11 Comment By hooly On September 13, 2017 @ 5:59 pm

@Pelayo Viriato,

Spaniards don’t have Jewish and Moorish blood? I don’t know man, I’ve been to Spain, there are ALOT of dark skinned brunettes who wouldn’t look out of place in North Africa, the Mid East or India. And only in Catalunya, Aragon and Navarra (i.e Northern Spain) do you see the ‘Aryan types’, just my personal observation. Andalusia and Portugal might as well be Arabic speaking if you look at the people there!