Assessment of the Threat of Nationalism to the State Power of Democracies in the Information Age

James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific.  He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Threat of Nationalism to the State Power of Democracies in the Information Age

Date Originally Written:  April 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  May 20, 2019.

Summary:  Historically, both scholars and political leaders have viewed nationalism as an advantageous construct that enhanced a state’s ability to both act and exert power within the international system.  Contrary to historic precedence, nationalism now represents a potential threat to the ability of modern democracies to project and exercise power due to demographic trends, globalized economies, and the information age. 

Text:  At its very core a nation is a collection of individuals who have come together through common interest, culture, or history, ceding a part of their rights and power to representatives through social compact, to purse safety and survival against the unknown of anarchy.  Therefore, a nation is its population, and its population is one measure of its overall power relative to other nations.  Academics and policy makers alike have long viewed nationalism as a mechanism that provides states an advantage in galvanizing domestic support to achieve international objectives, increasing comparative power, and reducing the potential impediment of domestic factors within a two-level game.  Globalization, the dawn of the information age, and transitioning demographics have fundamentally reversed the effects of nationalism on state power with the concept now representing a potential threat to both domestic stability and relative power of modern democracies. 

Looking beyond the material facets of population such as size, demographic trends, and geographic distribution, Hans Morgenthau identifies both “National Character” and “National Morale” as key elements of a nation’s ability to exert power. Morgenthau explains the relationship between population and power as “Whenever deep dissensions tear a people apart, the popular support that can be mustered for a foreign policy will always be precarious and will be actually small if the success or failure of the foreign policy has a direct bearing upon the issue of domestic struggle[1].  Historically, scholars have highlighted the role nationalism played in the creation and early expansion of the modern state system as European peoples began uniting under common identities and cultures and states utilized nationalism to solidify domestic support endowing them greater autonomy and power to act within the international system[2].  As globalization and the international movement of labor has made western nations ethnically more diverse, nationalism no longer functions as the traditional instrument of state power that was prevalent in periods where relatively homogenous states were the international norm.  

Key to understanding nationalism and the reversal of its role in state power is how it not only differs from the concept of patriotism but that the two constructs are incompatible within the modern paradigm of many industrialized nations that contain ever-growing heterogeneous populations.  Walker Connor described patriotism as “an emotional attachment to one’s state or country and its political institutions” and nationalism as “an attachment to ones people[3].”  A contemporary manifestation of this concept was the rise of Scottish Nationalism during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum that was in direct opposition to the greater state of the United Kingdom (patriotism) leading to the prospective loss of British power.  Furthermore, the term nationalism both conceptually and operationally requires a preceding adjective that describes a specific subset of individuals within a given population that have common cause, history, or heritage and are often not restricted to national descriptors. Historically these commonalities have occurred along ethnic or religious variations such as white, Hindu, Arab, Jewish, or black in which individuals within an in-group have assembled to pursue specific interests and agendas regardless of the state(s) in which they reside, with many such groups wishing to create nations from existing powers, such as Québécois or the Scots.  

The idea that industrialized nations in 2019 remain relatively homogenous constructs is a long outdated model that perpetuates the fallacy that nationalism is a productive tool for democratic states.  The average proportion of foreign-born individuals living in a given European country is 11.3% of the total population, Germany a major economic power and key NATO ally exceeds 15%[4].   Similar trends remain constant in the U.S., Canada, and Australia that have long histories of immigrant populations and as of 2015 14% of the U.S. population was foreign-born[5].    Furthermore, projections forecast that by 2045 white Americans will encompass less than 50% of the total population due to a combination of immigration, interracial marriages, and higher minority birth rates[6].  The aforementioned transitions are byproducts of a modern globalized economy as fertility rates within Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations have dropped below replacement thresholds of 2.1[7] the demand for labor remains.

One of the central components of the information age is metadata. As individuals navigate the World Wide Web, build social networks, and participate in e-commerce their personal attributes and trends transform into storable data. Data has become both a form of currency and a material asset that state actors can weaponize to conduct influence or propaganda operations against individuals or groups whose network positions amplifies effects.   Such actors can easily target the myriad of extra-national identities present within a given nation in attempts to mobilize one group against another or even against the state itself causing domestic instability and potential loss of state power within the international system.  Russian digital information operations have recently expanded from the former Soviet space to the U.S. and European Union and regularly target vulnerable or disenfranchised populations to provoke domestic chaos and weakening governance as a means to advance Russian strategic objectives[8].

As long as western democracies continue to become more diverse, a trend that is unalterable for at least the next quarter century, nationalism will remain a tangible threat, as malign actors will continue to subvert nationalist movements to achieve their own strategic objectives.  This threat is only intensified by the accessibility of information and the ease of engaging groups and individuals in the information age.  Nationalism in various forms is on the rise throughout western democracies and often stems from unaddressed grievances, economic misfortunes, or perceived loss of power that leads to consolidation of in-groups and the targeting of outgroup.  It remains justifiable for various individuals to want equal rights and provisions under the rule of law, and ensuring that systems are in place to protect the rights of both the masses from the individual (tyranny) but also the individual from the masses (mob rule) has become paramount for maintaining both state power and domestic stability.  It falls on citizens and policy makers alike within democracies to promote national identities that facilitate patriotism and integration and assimilation of various cultures into the populace rather than segregation and outgrouping that creates divisions that rival states will exploit. 


Endnotes:

[1] Morgenthau, H., & Thompson, K. (1948). Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace-6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

[2] Mearsheimer, J. J. (2011). Kissing Cousins: Nationalism and Realism. Yale Workshop on International Relations, vol. 5.

[3] Connor, W. (1993). Beyond Reason: The Nature of The Ethnonational Bond. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 373 – 389.

[4] Connor, P., & Krogstad, J. (2016, June 15). Immigrant share of population jumps in some European countries. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from Pew Research Center: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/06/15/immigrant-share-of-population-jumps-in-some-european-countries/

[5] Pew Resarch Center. (2015). Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S. Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065. Washington DC: Pew Rsearch Center.

[6] Frey, W. H. (2018, March 14). The US will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, Census projects. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from The Brookings Institution : https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/14/the-us-will-become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects/

[7] World Bank. (2019). Fertility Rate, Total (Births per Women). Retrieved April 9, 2019, from The World Bank Group: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN

[8] Klein, H. (2018, September 25). Information Warfare and Information Perspectives: Russian and U.S. Perspectives.Retrieved April 6, 2019, from Columbia SIPA Journal of International Affairs:https://jia.sipa.columbia.edu/information-warfare-and-information-perspectives-russian-and-us-perspectives

Assessment Papers Information Systems James P. Micciche Nationalism

An Assessment of the Threat Posed by Increased Nationalist Movements in Europe

Major Jeremy Lawhorn is an active duty U.S. Army Psychological Operations Officer with over a decade in Special Operations.  He has served in the United States Army for over 19 years in a variety of leadership and staff officer positions, both domestically and internationally.  His academic interest is primarily in military strategy, specifically the competition phase. His current research focuses on understanding resistance movements. He currently holds a Master’s Degree from Norwich University, Duke University, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  He is currently working on his Doctorate at Vanderbilt University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Army or any other government agency.


Title:  An Assessment of the Threat Posed by Increased Nationalist Movements in Europe

Date Originally Written:  March 18, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 15, 2019.

Summary:  If left unchecked, the current nationalist movements on the rise throughout Europe threaten the integrity of the European Union (EU), the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Alliance, and the overall security of Europe. Leveraging nationalist sentiments, Russia is waging a hybrid warfare campaign to support nationalist opposition parties and far-right extremist groups to  create disengagement among EU and NATO members.

Text:  In recent years there has been a groundswell of nationalism and far-right extremism across Europe, allowing far-right political parties to gain power in several countries as well as representation in the European Parliament. Today there are more than 59 nationalist parties, 15 regionalist parties, more than 60 active nationalist-separatist movements, and a growing radical right-wing extremist movements throughout the EU. Collectively, far-right nationalist groups occupy 153 of 751 seats in the European Parliament representing 21 of the 28 EU member states. This rise in nationalist sentiment is the result of growing Euroscepticism that has been driven in part by the Eurozone debt crisis, increased opposition to mass immigration, fear of cultural liberalization, and the perceived surrender of national sovereignty to external organizations. These nationalist movements threaten the integrity of the EU, the future of the NATO Alliance, and the overall security and stability of Europe. Leveraging nationalist sentiments, Russia is waging a hybrid warfare campaign to achieve their own political objectives by supporting nationalist opposition parties and far-right extremist groups to increase Euroscepticism and ultimately create disengagement among EU and NATO members.

Today’s nationalist movements are gaining strength in part because they are creating large networks of support across Europe. These movements have created transnational alliances to support each other to oppose the EU. The Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD or EFD2), and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) are nationalist Eurosceptic groups made up of members from several EU members states that collectively have significant representation in the European parliament. These group’s stated purpose is to work for freedom and co-operation among peoples of different States to return power back to the people of sovereign states, to focus on respect for Europe’s history, traditions and cultural values with the belief that peoples and Nations of Europe have the right to protect their borders and strengthen their own historical, traditional, religious and cultural values[1]. These groups are also committed to sovereignty, democracy, freedom and ending mass immigration so that members may advance their own interests at the domestic level[2]. The collective strength of these groups empower local nationalist movements, enabling them to gain influence and power that might not otherwise be possible. As each individual nationalist movement gains power, the larger alliance gains power to support other movements.

The rise of nationalist sentiments is also emboldening right-wing extremism groups. While not all nationalist parties are affiliated with right-wing extremism, the similarity in ideologies creates sympathetic leanings that are destructive for society. In recent years, right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies[3]. These relationships can be used to serve mutually supportive positions while leaving room for plausible deniability. These violent far-right groups have not only embraced similar populist language of the nationalist political movements, they also espouse openly racist epithets and employ violence to pursue their goals of reestablishing ethnically homogenous states[4]. Not unlike the Nazi party of the past and consistent with nationalist rhetoric, these groups portray immigrants and ethnic minorities as the cause for economic troubles and demonize as threats to the broader national identity[5]. In essence, nationalist parties benefit from national fervor generated by these right-wing extremist without having to openly support their violent activities.

European nationalist parties are not the only ones benefitting from the growth in nationalist sentiments. Russia is also a key beneficiary and benefactor of European nationalist movements. Russia generally views the West with contempt as they see the expansion of NATO and the influence of the EU as an encroachment on their sphere of influence. Anything that challenges the cohesion of NATO and the EU is seen as a benefit for Russia. While Russia may not be responsible for creating these movements, they have supported a variety of nationalist opposition and far-right extremist groups throughout Europe to achieve their own political aims. Russia is playing a vital role to empower these groups with offers of cooperation, loans, political cover and propaganda. The Kremlin is cultivating relationships with these far-right parties, by establishing ‘‘cooperation agreements’’ between the dominant United Russia party and parties like Austria’s Freedom Party, Hungary’s Jobbik, Italy’s Northern League, France’s National Front, and Germany’s AfD (Alternative for Germany)[6]. Kremlin-linked banks are also providing financial support for nationalist parties like France’s National Front party to support their anti-EU platform. Kremlin-linked oligarchs are also supporting European extremist groups like Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD party, Bulgaria’s far-right Ataka party, Greece’s KKK party, and the pro-Kremlin Latvian Russian Union party[7].

Russian propaganda is also playing a major role in destabilizing the EU and fueling the growth of nationalist and anti-EU sentiment. According to a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in November 2016, Russian strategic communication is part of a larger subversive campaign to weaken EU cooperation and the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of the Union and its Member States. Russia’s goal is to distort truths, provoke doubt, divide EU Member states, and ultimately undermine the European narrative[8]. In one example, Russian attempted to create division by manipulating the Brexit referendum. Researchers at Swansea University in Wales and the University of California at Berkeley found that more than 150,000 Russian-sponsored Twitter accounts that tweeted about Brexit in order to sow discord. In the 48 hours leading up to referendum, Russian-sponsored accounts posted more than 45,000 divisive messages meant to influence the outcomes[9]. Another example of Russian interference was during the Catalan crisis in 2017. Pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts amplified the Catalan crisis by 2,000% in an effort to support the Catalan Independence Referendum and cause further friction within Europe[10]. On October 1, 2017, 92 percent of the population voted in favor of independence and on October 27 the Parliament of Catalan declared independence from Spain sparking unrest in Spain.

This rise in nationalism presents a challenge not only to the future integrity of the EU, but also the security and stability of the region. Continuing to capitalize on the growing nationalist sentiments, Russia is achieving its interests by supporting nationalist political parties and far-right extremist groups that are increasing fractures within and between European states. These actions present an existential threat to European security and the future viability of the EU and NATO.


Endnotes:

[1] Janice, A. (n.d.). About Europe of Nations and Freedom. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from http://www.janiceatkinson.co.uk/enf/

[2] Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2019, from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections-2014/en/political-groups/europe-of-freedom-and-direct-democracy/

[3] Holleran, M. (2018, February 16). The Opportunistic Rise of Europe’s Far Right. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://newrepublic.com/article/147102/opportunistic-rise-europes-far-right

[4] Frankel, B., Zablocki, M., ChanqizVafai, J., Lally, G., Kashanian, A., Lawson, J., Major, D., Nicaj, A., Lopez, R., Britt, J., Have, J.,&  Hussain, A., (Eds.). (2019, March 06). European ethno-nationalist and white supremacist movements thrive. Homeland Security Newswire. Retrieved March 10, 2019, from http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20190306-european-ethnonationalist-and-white-supremacist-movements-thrive

[5] Ibid., 2019

[6] Smale, A. (2016, December 19). Austria’s Far Right Signs a Cooperation Pact With Putin’s Party. The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/world/europe/austrias-far-right-signs-a-cooperation-pact-with-putins-party.html

[7] Rettman, A, (2017, April 21) Illicit Russian Money Poses Threat to EU Democracy, EUobserver, Retrieved February 20, 2019, from https://euobserver.com/foreign/137631

[8] European Parliament Resolution of (2016, November 23) EU Strategic Communication to Counteract Propaganda against it by Third Parties, 2016/2030(INI), Nov. 23, 2016. . Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/printficheglobal.pdf

[9] Mostrous, A., Gibbons, K., & Bridge, M. (2017, November 15). Russia used Twitter bots and trolls ‘to disrupt’ Brexit vote. The Times. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russia-used-web-posts-to-disrupt-brexit-vote-h9nv5zg6c

[10] Alandete, D. (2017, October 01). Pro-Russian networks see 2,000% increase in activity in favor of Catalan referendum. El Pais. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/10/01/inenglish/1506854868_900501.html

 

Assessment Papers Europe Jeremy Lawhorn Nationalism Option Papers

Call for Papers: Nationalism and Extremism

Nationalism

Image: https://eyes-on-europe.eu/nationalism-a-turning-point-for-europe/

 

extremist

Image: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Suspected-jihadis-offered-houses-in-counter-extremism-programme-/44109

 

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned non-revenue generating national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to nationalism and extremism.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by April 12, 2019.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Call For Papers Nationalism Violent Extremism