By Gordon Parsons in Britain:
Sunday 07 July 2013
The contributors to this book, all leading historians and social scientists, engage historically, geopolitically, ethnically and economically with the relation between nationalism and war.
In the process they provide a wealth of detail and closely argued commentary on how, when and where both have colluded and collided.
Yet, surprisingly, there is little concern in the 14 essays with how religious fundamentalism fits into the picture.
In their introduction the editors make the point that the popular consensus that nationalism causes war is wrong, observing that “wars had been fought thousands of years before the advent of nationalism.”
Nations are in fact a relative newcomer on the scene whereas in recorded history empires have been the dominant form of politically organising societies.
Comparing and contrasting contemporary situations in different countries, Matthew Lang examines Sri Lanka and Canada, both societies with minorities demanding independence. Yet whereas Sri Lanka suffered from a lengthy violent conflict, caused by a weak national economy and brutal repression of the Tamils by the state, in Canada a healthy economy and skilful constitutional handling of the Quebec separatist movement defused any potential conflict.
Civil wars in Ireland and Finland are similarly compared and the differences in the respective responses of Denmark‘s and Holland’s equally xenophobic right-wing parties to their national involvement in the Afghan invasion are explored.
Particularly interesting is Michael Mann’s essay comparing the role of nationalism in the two world wars. His finding that nationalism played little part in the terrible mayhem of the “Great War” provides an acid comment on next year’s centenary shindig.
The editors remind us that “the monuments, cenotaphs and war memorials dedicated to the ‘glorious dead’ lionise the war heroism of past soldiers in order to set the boundaries of normative obligation to present and future generations.”
Other essays cover South America, Africa and the role of British counterinsurgency in the inter-communal conflicts of 1969 to 1972 in Northern Ireland. Broader thematic treatments such as the degree of influence of nationalist sentiment on fighting efficiency contribute to a collection that explodes popular myths.
In emphasising that nationalism represents a prime historical force that has reshaped the political outlook of the globe over the past 200 years, these essays help us to understand the multiple ways in which this force has operated and still plays a vital role today.
- Investigative Journalist Jeremy Scahill Goes Deep Inside the Modern with ‘Dirty Wars’ (Review) (popmatters.com)
- Manipulating public opinion to wage war: Part 2/5 (thesoulfulveteran.wordpress.com)
- | Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill: Is journalism being criminalised? (truthaholics.wordpress.com)
- Mos Def (initely) (shadowchronicle.wordpress.com)
- Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” (sunsetdaily.wordpress.com)
- Civilization and War – by Brett Bowden (elgarblog.wordpress.com)