Nationalism Threatens World Peace

European nations waged wars against one another for centuries. The two European wars WWI and WWII engulfed the world and were the deadliest in human history. Over 100 million people died as a result of these two wars. Majority of those who died were women, children, teenagers, and young men. Since WWII, what distracted the Europeans from waging wars against one another was the United States, which provided the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, modernizing industries and encouraging cooperation amongst nations. To this day, the United States continues keeping its military forces in the region and redirecting Europe’s attention outward towards influencing affairs in other regions through vehicles such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. These initiatives promulgated peace in Europe, paving the way for the rise of European Union. However, peace in Europe and America may be about to change. The recent emergence of nationalism first in Europe and now in the United States could be the culprit.

“So it is the human condition that to wish for the greatness of one’s fatherland is to wish evil to one’s neighbors,” said Voltaire. Nationalism is a poisonous idea for it is a feeling of superiority over others and hostility towards other nations. It naturally leads to interventionism, conflicts, and wars. It contrasts with patriotism, which is being prideful of one’s own people or nation for its accomplishments, ready to cooperate with others towards doing good deeds, and willing to defend it against any foreign aggression. While patriotism is productive, nationalism is destructive. In the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqis and their accomplices acted on the behalf of the Arab nationalists and the Iranian defenders were patriots. In the Ukraine conflict, the Russians behaved as nationalists and Ukrainians as patriots. In the Iraq conflict, ISIS terrorists are behaving as Wahhabi nationalists and Iraqi defenders as patriots.

In Europe, the nationalists are gaining power in numerous countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. This year, the United Kingdom nationalists led the vote to leave the European Union. In his last Presidential visit to Greece, President Obama addressed the threat of nationalism in Europe. "We know what happens when Europeans start dividing themselves up and emphasizing their differences and seeing a competition between various countries in a zero-sum way," President Obama said. "The 20th century was a bloodbath. And for all the frustrations and failures of the project to unify Europe, the last five decades have been periods of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and growth in Europe."

The United States was founded upon liberal individualism, common language and culture, but not religious or ethnic nationalism. It has been a melting pot, welcoming immigrants and providing opportunities. This year, however, white racism emerged influencing the presidential election. Through the campaign rhetoric, the white citizens felt marginalized and saw immigration and terrorism as the countries’ major problems.

Nationalism as it is expressed in Europe and the United States is harming our democratic virtues and waning our rule of law. If unabated, it will leave us all economically exploited and morally humiliated. We could remember that it was the German nationalism that empowered Hitler and afterward brought shame to the Germans. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana.

Fortunately, we all share the same basic needs and desires: food, clothing, shelter, prosperity, and respect. Nature has plenty to offer to us all. May we release our fears behind judgment, control, and power thus opening the avenue to peace worldwide!

Dr. Mehdi Alavi
, President
Peace Worldwide Organization

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