Nationalism to be key discourse of future

Blair has been wrong in understanding that even Middle East with its conflicts is passing through a period of transition. These fratricidal and overtly religious clashes will eventually lead to the growth of Islamic or Arab nationalism

Former British prime minister Tony Blair proved why the world does not regard him as a global leader. Once again he showed how pathetically warped his views are. Blair has recently opined that the "epic" battles of the current century would be fought over religion and not on political ideologies. He said: "The battles of this century are less likely to be the product of extreme political ideology — like those of the 20th century — but they could easily be fought around the questions of cultural or religious difference."

Evidently, thus opining, he betrayed his lack of understanding and knowledge about emerging trends and changing perceptions that are shaping our century. Blair has been caught trapped in his archaic beliefs and seems not to have moved beyond the tenets postulated by Professor Samuel P. Huntington in his book, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order. Huntington's views are passé today.

"The 21st century will be defined by nationalism; not religion or culture." And in believing contrary to this obvious trend Blair seems to have not taken into consideration what the former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton so strongly believed in. She was convinced that "The future of (global) politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq."

 Zachary Keck, Associate Editor of The Diplomat journal, feels that Blair has been wrong in his assessment that religion and culture will dominate world politics in the 21st century because he based his assessment on what is happening in the Arab World and Pakistan. And Keck is right. Blair has obviously ignored the events fast crystallizing in Europe, Central Asia, Burma, Thailand and even the Philippines.

Blair's error of judgement and comprehension is understandable. He has been greatly influenced by the turmoil under way in Middle East. But what this former British prime minister has not noticed is the strains of nationalism sprouting below the surface of fratricidal and overtly religious conflicts which is bleeding the region at present.

Blair has been wrong in understanding that even Middle East with its conflicts is passing through a period of transition. These fratricidal and overtly religious clashes will eventually lead to the growth of Islamic or Arab nationalism. We have seen this happen in the past and this will happen again in future. In about a decade or even less we would see growth of nationalism permeating across the Arab world, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and even Turkey.  

"Blair (has also) overlooked the importance of great powers in driving international politics. With the possible exception of Russia, none of the countries Blair notes in his examples of places profoundly divided by religion are slated to be great powers in the 21st century. Rather they are bit players on the world stage. And while bit players may dominate headlines in the short term — particularly when they are engulfed in civil wars — they don't define the world over a longer term like a century."

Let us go back to the text books of history to put our perspective right which Blair has seemingly forgotten to do. It was Britain, in fact Europe in general, which dominated the 19th century. It was so because most of the global powers of the contemporary world were located in Europe.

The 20th century, most so since World War II, has been the American century because of the command and influence exerted by the United States in shaping our world and politics.

Neither in the 19th century nor in the 20th culture or religion played any significant role in defining our planet and its politics. And so shall religion and culture remain only marginal factors in determining the order of the world in 21st century.

Therefore, Keck's conclusion is worth pondering. For this reason alone, the 21st century will likely be another age of nationalism, not religion. But even outside of Asia and the other rising powers, including in places where religion ostensibly predominates, nationalism is usually the most important ideology. Take the Middle East, for example, where religion and sectarianism seem most prevalent. While there's no denying religion and sectarianism's importance in the Middle East, we have repeatedly seen nationalism trump these factors when the two were in opposition.

Migrations and migrants are creating new cultures and are now the new pegs of rhetoric which is shaping politics of nations and continents.

Governments across the world are being pushed to revise their nation-building priorities. Globalisation is the new threat — enemy image — to nations. Inclusive pluralism is fast becoming passé. Immigrants and some historical minorities are perceived as a burden to society. Old myths about yielding influence in the financial world are revived. The 'multiculturalism model' is questioned.  

A worried editorial sometimes ago in The Guardian has surmised that as Brussels or Berlin will continue to lose sight of that simple fact, voters will reach for simpler and uglier solutions. The leader of Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), Nikos Michaloliakos, who introduced himself to Athens city council with a Nazi salute, has lately made the trend more than clear saying "the nation comes first, democracy after".

Nationalism in Europe has actually been growing since past few years and all the more since 9/11. Pluralism and multicultural society have been increasingly looked upon more as banes. Extreme form of nationalism has been mounting where migrants and ethnic groups other than white Christians are seen as threats to national identity.  

The author is the Opinion Editor  of Times of Oman.


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