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France Has Neither Nationalism nor Patriotism

What exactly is French patriotism nowadays? At the hundredth anniversary celebration of the World War I armistice, French President Emmanuel Macron rebuked visiting President Trump by declaring that "nationalism is the opposite of patriotism," and that "nationalism is the betrayal of patriotism." Whether these two words mean the same or the opposite, neither of them survives in the French vocabulary.

Just 29% of the French are willing to fight for their country, according to a 2017 WIN/Gallup poll, a bit above Germany's 18%. Contrast that to 84% of Israel's Jewish population. That's "patriotism" or "nationalism," as you prefer. All Europeans want is an untroubled journey to extinction. As it happens, there is a reasonably tight statistical relationship between the total fertility rate and readiness to defend one's country. In the case of France, I used the estimated fertility rate for women born in France (migrants push up the total).

Why should any European lay down his life for the welfare of future generations, when there aren't going to be any future generations? Europe's nationalism, as I argued in my 2011 book How Civilizations Die and in the appended essay on the First World War, was a form of national idolatry. Each of the major European nations worshipped at its own altar, and held itself to be a superior culture, a superior civilization, a new Roman Empire, or a new "chosen people," entitled to dominate its neighbors. French grandeur, German Kultur, and Russian messianism fought each other to the death twice in the 20th Century. If you worship yourself, you become the God that failed. Europe wallows in its own pessimism and self-disgust.

American nationalism has always been different: We never defined ourselves by race or culture. In our best moments we thought of ourselves as an almost chosen people (Lincoln), an attempt to emulate the Hebrew Republic of Scripture. And that is why we saved the sorry derrieres of the Europeans twice during the 20th Century and continue to provide for their defense when they don't have the decency to defend themselves.

Who the hell does Macron think he is?

Four years ago I published the essay below on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. I reprint it here on the anniversary of the Armistice by way of context for European complaints about the United States.

-------------------------------

Musil and Meta-Musil

The West wasn't pregnant in August 1914, only constipated.

Rather than give birth to the future, it emptied its bowels of rancor. No disaster in world history was more predictable or longer in preparation. Robert Musil's great novel The Man Without Qualities depicts Vienna's elite in the months before the war, pursuing petty concerns unaware that their world was about to disappear. It is the great European anti-novel because its self-referential premise -- the protagonists do not know what every reader knows -- forbids an ending. There are no right choices because nothing can prevent this bubble of a world from popping. After Musil -- meta-Musil, so to speak -- comes the great evacuation. The novel is considered a masterpiece in the German-speaking world. Few Americans know it, and fewer of these can make sense of it.