Ethnonationalism: The Wars of Tribe and Faith Return
When the Soviet Union
disintegrated, most Americans likely had never heard of
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.
There swiftly followed the collapse
Yet, if one knew nothing of the
Ottoman empires or the First and Second Balkan Wars
of 1912-1913, one would likely have been surprised by
the sudden emergence of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia,
Macedonia, Montenegro and
Kosovo on the map of Europe.
What the splintering of the Soviet
Union and of a Yugoslavia whose baptismal certificate
dated to the
Paris peace conference of 1919 revealed was the
accuracy of Arthur Schlesinger`s insight in his 1991 Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society:
"Nationalism remains after two centuries the most vital political
emotion in the world — far more vital than social
ideologies such a communism or fascism or even
democracy. … Within nation-states, nationalism takes
the form of ethnicity or tribalism."
Ethnic ties, Schlesinger
wrote, might prove more powerful and historically
important than the forces of globalism and
democratism, which then seemed ascendant. He only
neglected to mention religious faith as often a
"far more vital"
emotion than ideology.
And though the Iraq elections have
been hailed as a triumph of democracy, they would seem
to prove him right.
Kurds voted for Kurds, Shia for
Shia, Sunni for Sunni on a slate led by
Allawi, a secular Shia who campaigned on a unity
The election results resemble a
In the struggle between Allawi and
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to put together a
government, both are courting the Kurds, whose near-term
goal is Kirkuk, control of which would mean control of
40 percent of Iraq`s oil reserves. If the Kurds, who
have been forcing their way into Kirkuk and pushing
Arabs out, can annex the city, they will have the
economic base of a Kurdistan nation, the dream of a
people whose kinfolk are spread across Turkey, Syria,
Iraq and Iran.
The Kurds are using democratic
means for ethnonational ends.
Maliki`s strength is in the Shia
south and the capital, Baghdad, that has been slowly
cleansed of Sunni.
Among Allawi`s weaknesses is that
the Shia majority may not support as Iraq`s prime
minister a Shia secularist whose strength comes from a
Sunni minority that was the bulwark of the Baath Party
of Saddam Hussein.
Among the Shia are leaders who
spent the Iran-Iraq war in exile in Iran, and whose ties
to the Iranian Shia seem stronger than any ties to their
Hence, as we indulge in
self-congratulation for having brought democracy to
Iraq, Iraqis seem to be using the process to advance
ethnonational and sectarian ends that are the antithesis
of U.S. democracy. We see democracy as an end in itself.
Many in that part of the world see it as a means of
establishing their ascendancy and hegemony over other
religious and ethnic minorities.
In 2005, George W. Bush, then
global democracy as the answer to all of mankind`s
ills and an essential precondition for any permanent
security for the United States, demanded free elections
in Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine. The
winners: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah
in Lebanon and Hamas. A perplexed Bush refused to accept
the results or recognize and talk to the winners.
Before the invasion, most Americans
were probably unaware of the tribal and sectarian
divisions in Iraq that may yet produce a new Saddam to
keep that country from coming apart in sectarian and
And how many Americans were aware
of the ethnic divisions in Afghanistan, among Tajiks,
Uzbeks, Hazaras and Pashtun, before we invaded? A
program is underway to bring more Pashtun into the army
and police, lest the Pashtun in the south feel invaded
and occupied by alien tribes.
Globalization is no longer on the
march, but on the defensive. Economic nationalism is
rising. Across the Third World, we see an upsurge of
ethnonationalism and fundamentalism, especially among
the Islamic peoples. From Nigeria to Sudan to Mindanao,
Muslims battle Christians, as Christians are persecuted
in Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan.
In India and Thailand, Muslims
battle Hindu and Buddhists. In the Northern Caucasus,
they fight Russians.
Ethnonationalism, that relentless
drive of peoples to secede and dwell apart, to establish
their own nation-state, where their faith is
predominant, their language spoken, their heroes and
history revered, and they rule to the exclusion of all
others, is rampant.
In China, Tibetans fight
assimilation and the mass migration of Han Chinese into
what was their country, as do the Uighurs in the west
who dream of an East Turkestan breaking away and taking
its place among the nations of the world.
In speaking of the rising tribalism
abroad, Schlesinger added, "The ethnic
upsurge in America, far from being unique, partakes of
the global fever."
Indeed, separatism and secessionism
seem to be in the air.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Patrick J. Buchanan
no introduction to
VDARE.COM readers; his book State
of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and
Conquest of America, can
be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book
Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How
Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost
Paul Craig Roberts.