The Death of the Nation-State

Yugoslavia is gone, forever. The country that emerged from World War I and Versailles as the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, land of the South Slavs, has passed into history.

Sunday’s vote in Montenegro, a tiny land of fewer people than the Washington, D.C., this writer grew up in, voted Sunday to secede from Belgrade, establish a nation and seek entry into the European Union.

In 1991, Macedonia peacefully seceded. Slovenia and Croatia fought their way out, and Bosnia broke free after a war marked by the massacre at Srbenica and NATO intervention. Bosnia is itself subdivided into a Serb and a Croat-Muslim sector.

After the 78-day U.S. bombing of Serbia by the United States, and the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from the province in the wake of the NATO war, Kosovo is 90 percent Muslim and Albanian. Loss of this land that was the cradle of the Serb nation seems an inevitability.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia, the second partition of Czechoslovakia and the breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 nations — many of which had never before existed — seem to confirm what Israeli historian Martin van Creveld and U.S. geostrategist William Lind have written.

The nation-state is dying. Men have begun to transfer their allegiance, loyalty and love from the older nations both upward to the new transnational regimes that are arising and downward to the sub-nations whence they came, the true nations, united by blood and soil, language, literature, history, faith, tradition and memory.

Imperial and ideological nations appear, for the foreseeable future, to be finished. The British and French, greatest of the Western Empires, are long gone. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, the Irish, though its sons had fought to erect and maintain the Victorian “empire on which the sun never set” — and defend it in World War I — fought relentlessly to be free of it. They wanted, and in 1921 won, a small nation of their own, on their own small island.

The Irish preferred it to being part of the British Empire.

The call of ethnicity, nationalism, religion, faith and history pulled apart the greatest of all the ideological empires, the Soviet Empire, and the Soviet Union, that “prison house of nations.”

Transnational institutions, the embryonic institutions of a new world government to which the elites of the West and Third World are transferring allegiance and power, include the United Nations, the EU, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the International Seabed Authority, the Kyoto Protocol, the IMF and the World Bank.

The sub-nations, or ex-nations, struggling to be born or break free include Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque country of Spain, Corsica, northern Italy and Quebec in the West. Iraq, as we have seen, is a composite of peoples divided by tribe, ethnicity and faith — as are Iran, Pakistan and India. Jordanians are Palestinian Arabs, with a minority of Bedouins.

Lind argues that not only are nations subdividing, losing their monopolies on the love and loyalty of their peoples, but they are being superseded by “non-state actors” that are challenging the monopoly on warfare enjoyed by the nation-state since the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War.

Among the more familiar non-state actors are the Crips and Bloods, Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, the Zapatistas of Chiapas, the racial nationalists of MEChA, the white supremacists of Aryan Nations, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah, the Maoists of Nepal and the Tamil Tigers.

Among the central questions of our time is a central question of any time: Who owns the future?

Of late, the transnational vision has lost its allure. Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and most of Latin America reject the NAFTA vision of Bush and Vicente Fox. French and Dutch voted down the EU Constitution, which now appears dead. The Doha round of world trade negotiations is headed for the rocks. Hostility is rising to bringing Turkey into the EU.

Arabs and Turks in Europe identify more and more with the Islamic faith they have in common and the countries whence they came, not the one in which they live and work.

So, too, do millions of illegal aliens in the United States. They march defiantly under Mexican flags in American streets demanding the rights of U.S. citizens — while an intimidated political class rushes to accommodate and appease them, assuring itself this is but the latest reincarnation of Ellis Island.

As the Old Republic trudges to its death, less and less do we hear that incessant blather about the American Empire, “the world’s last superpower” and “our unipolar moment.”

Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire.