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The Iraq War and the Fate of Nation-States in the Twenty-First Century

March 20, 2023


The nation-states of Europe and the Anglosphere are presently caught up in a two-fold movement, each at odds with national sovereignty. The aspiration for supra-national sovereignty has captured the imagination of many of their national elites, who intend to use whatever state power remains at their disposal to dispense with the nation-state itself and replace it with global governance, though not with global government. Countervailing this supra-national development is the proliferation of sub-national sovereign sites, identifiable not as distinct territorial claims within which long-standing cultural patterns have emerged and stabilized, but rather as territorially dispersed group “identities,” which have also captured the imagination of many national elites, who intend to use whatever state power remains at their disposal to protect and “affirm” an ever-proliferating array of “innocent victims.” 

The Europe and the Anglosphere citizen who loves his nation, and whose predicates are secondary or ephemeral, is being replaced by the “innocent victim” who seldom loves his nation or the traditional mediating institutions without which no nation can long endure, and whose “identity” purports to be sovereign. No one knows how this twofold movement will be resolved. In Europe and in the Anglosphere, the apparatus of the state is today put in the service of advancing causes that undermine national sovereignty from two different directions.

Joshua Mitchell is a senior fellow with Common Sense Society and a professor of political theory at Georgetown University. From 2008 to 2010, he was acting chancellor of the American University of Iraq–Sulaimani.

Originally published in The American Conservative.

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