December 10, 2018

Cohesive States Are Stable States

“In an ironic twist of fate, two decades after Western experts touted various “state-building” and “nation-building” theories and projects as the precondition for democratization and stability in the Muslim world after 9/11, democracies across Europe and North America are now also fast approaching the point at which systemic state failure is no longer a fantasy. After decades of multicultural deconstruction of its nation-states, the Western democracies are internally fracturing, and their societal and national bonds are dissolving. Today, thinking about national security in the West means taking stock of the effects not only of the dwindling sense of mutuality of obligation among the citizenry but also of levels of ethnic, racial, and political polarization not seen since the late 1960s. The current fashion for identity politics has advanced to the point that the progressive decomposition of Western nation-states is now a near-term possibility.

While civilizational collapse may still be a long way off, Western democracies face an erosion of the consensus of what constitutes the larger national community, and hence why its members should rally to defend it in an emergency. As internal national bonds weaken, the viability of a Transatlantic solidarity that rests on more than just geostrategic calculations loses some of its luster. A 2015 Pew study offers disturbing insight into the views of Western publics when it comes to allied solidarity: In the polling only Americans and Canadians declared themselves willing to go to war to defend their NATO allies in an Article 5 emergency, and even in these cases the numbers were not that impressive (56 percent for the United States and 53 percent for Canada); by contrast, in no European country was there a majority in favor of meeting the NATO commitment if this meant possibly going to war.

For close to half a century now, the United States and some of the most storied democracies of Europe have framed their key domestic and foreign policies around the foundational premise that democratic governance and systemic stability rest on rightly sized political institutions, normative systems, and the rule of law. The borderline fetishization of diversity as a value in Western political discourse offers both a safe haven from “nationalism” and, more importantly, the ultimate justification for democratic institutionalism as a panacea for the messiness of representative government.”

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