Every Georgetown student has seen Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s quote in the ICC Galleria. “The Age of Nations,” the French Jesuit writes, “is past.” Writing after the calamities of the First and Second World Wars, one can see his point. Unbridled nationalism brought the greatest nations to blows, elevated fascists to power, and fueled the hatred that destroyed much of Europe.

Perhaps amidst the wave of economic globalization, increased communication and ease of travel, we’ve forgotten that nationalism is indeed the driving force in international affairs. And why not? Humanity has never been more globalized. Markets are affected by events thousands of miles away, travel has never been easier, communication never more convenient. Many scholars of international relations tout the decline of the nation state as they bludgeon syllabi with a dizzying array of acronyms: NGO, ISA, MNC, UN, EU, AU and ASEAN.

And yet, in so many instances in international affairs, feelings of nationalism and national pride take precedence over economic and material incentive. Two perfect examples are Kosovo and the Russo-Georgian War. From an economic perspective, Kosovo faces serious hurdles in its independence: The country has few raw materials, its infrastructure is in shambles and it’s not self-sustaining. The country has a new hostile neighbor, ethnic problems with the Serbians still residing within Kosovo, and still plays host to thousands of peacekeepers.

The new state lacks many prospects for growth and has a dearth of natural resources on top of crippling unemployment rates. And yet, the drive for self-determination trumped the material benefits that would have been maintained by having autonomy within a greater Serbia.

Russia and Georgia’s conflict provides another example of the relative unimportance of cost-benefit analysis when nationalistic antagonisms exist. With billions of Western dollars invested in Russia, extensive trading relationships with the West, and simmering ethnic conflicts of its own, the last thing our government expected Russia to do was invade Georgia over the fate of Tshinvali and the independence of South Ossetia – and consequently damaging its relationships with the European Union and the United States.

And yet the messianic tradition of exerting control in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus has proven irresistible to a new generation of Russian nationalists. And what about the opinions of average Eastern Europeans? Perhaps my Montenegrin cabbie said it most powerfully: The Georgians are a sneaky people, the Russians want to rule everybody, and the South Ossetians will steal every kopeck that isn’t tied down. Such deeply-held personal views of other peoples are unlikely to be altered despite trade, democracy or liberalization.

Western democratic capitalists are hardly immune to their own brand of economic nationalism. There exists no sound economic rationale for Italy to bail out the struggling Alitalia. Just this year, with its 300-million-euro loan to the floundering carrier, the government imposed a de facto 7.50-euro head tax on every Italian.

In Mexico, the constitution provides that the state have complete ownership over all petroleum resources. Even the self-declared pro-free-market Sarkozy rails against closing uncompetitive French factories under pressure to outsource their work to developing nations.

Even within nations that are supposedly post-nationalist, feelings of national superiority and pride linger beneath the surface. Germany provides an interesting example. The history of the German people’s struggle for European supremacy is in many ways the history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – more than any nation, Germany serves as a warning of nationalistic excess. And yet today, among German youth without memory of fascism or communism, national pride lingers beneath the surface.

France and Germany may both be founding members of the EU, but watching French and German partygoers scream-singing “La Marseillaise” and “Die Wacht am Rhein” (The Watch on the Rhine) at one another waiting for the Metro, one rightly questions the depth of that integration.

Despite the upheaval and instability borne out of nationalism and the danger in grafting an emotive aspect to a disagreement between states, the primacy of nationalism is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Ironically, in a world ever more connected, the unique aspects that differentiate Russian from American, or Chinese from Indian will likely become ever more salient. The age of nations is just getting more complicated.

Adam Kemal is a junior in the College.

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