World War I ended one hundred years ago today so of course we’re treated to a bunch of nonsense about what lessons we should have learned from this horrible tragedy. Ill-informed state propagandists are always trying to retrofit their current delusions about society into past historical events. Two things are certain for these people one hundred years later: Nationalism caused World War I and is bad. Globalism (or “Internationalism” or whatever word they think sounds more appealing at any given moment) is good and it has kept the peace since World War II.
On its face, this just isn’t true. First of all there have been hundreds of wars since World War II, including some in Europe. Secondly, the major combatants in World War I were huge multi-ethnic Empires. Twenty-first century European nationalists would have no desire to return to a system where German Austrians ruled over Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles, etc. In fact quite the opposite. The Germans (albeit not of the Austrian variety) tend to play an outsized dominant role in the current European Union applauded by today’s globalists and despised by today’s nationalists. Similarly, many of today’s nationalists want to break up the existing European states into smaller semi-homogenous political units. How would a UK without Scotland, a Spain without Catalonia, or an Italy without Venice lead to any sort of continental-wide conflict? The only way I can see is if other States intervened to stop a region from seceding from their current government. So it’s not nationalism that would lead to a large scale war, it’s the potential violent response by the globalists themselves to any possible breakup of the current globalist structures
To the extent nationalism can be blamed for World War I, I can only think of one semi-legitimate argument to be made. The idea that Serbian nationalism was the spark that started it all. Serbian nationalists wanted to unite all the ethnic Serbians under one government and many were still ruled by the Austrians so one of them killed the Hapsburg heir and his wife. Of course whether you want to blame the Serbian Nationalists or the Austrian response for the initial outbreak of war, is really beside the point.
Ask yourself this, what did the Archduke’s murder have to do with the United States, Canada, France, England, etc. Would an American nationalist in 1914 have advocated intervening to save Serbia? If Donald Trump or Pat Buchanan were alive back then would they want to take up arms to fight the Germans to protect France or Serbia or Belgium or whoever? What would a globalist such as John McCain or Hillary Clinton have wanted to do? Did Woodrow Wilson argue the war was necessary on nationalist or globalist terms? Was his desired League of Nations nationalist or globalist in nature?
The real meaning people should have learned from The World Wars, particularly the first one, is that military or “defensive” alliances lead to war rather than peace. Austria wanted to punish or maybe even conquer the small country of Serbia. That sucks for Serbia, but why did it snowball into a huge World War? The Germans were allies with the Austrians and backed them up diplomatically. The Russians were allies with the Serbs on religions/ethnic grounds and felt compelled to intervene on their behalf. Whether the Russian-German war could have been avoided given the circumstances in 1914 is a tough question. There were ethnic considerations-mainly whether Germans or Russians would be the dominant, ruling force over the diverse peoples of Eastern and Central Europe.
But why did France need to get involved? The German declaration of War on France was in response to France’s mobilization, but why did France need to mobilize in the first place over Serbia? Did French nationalists feel some special attachment to Serbs? Or was it because the government of the French Empire had made a military alliance with Russia? And what about the British Empire? Britain declared war on Germany, not the other way around. They had pledged to defend Belgium two generations earlier and also had a secret alliance with France. Because Britain was a Global Empire and not simply a Nation, their entry automatically pulled in people from Canada, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and eventually their former colonies in the United States.
The lesson from World War I is to follow George Washington’s wise advice and stay out of “entangling alliances.” This is advice no globalist could ever follow, but most present day nationalists would likely find quite appealing.