The rise of nationalism within the world's developed nations together with the expansion of nuclear arms production and testing poses a growing international threat. That was the conclusion of experts who spoke at a Nov. 29 Minnesota Peace Initiative forum, which recently aired on MPR News.
"The new nationalism, so named for the novelty of the populist revolt against the establishment that's captivated the west, needs to be distinguished from previous forms of nationalism," said panelist Robert Kelley, associate professor at the School of International Service at American University. "They aren't all the same."
Despite differences, the current trend of nationalism inspires many of the same feelings as doctrines of the past, reminding the world of fascism, Nazism and socialism — fueling the fear that soon society will make a shift towards homogenizing, possibly at great cost, Kelley said.
This isn't always the appropriate response, and when trying to analyze nationalist tendencies Kelley says it is important to consider the context of the movement.
"I think what we're seeing right now in the west is a shared experience voiced in the form of a harsh rebuke against globalization," Kelley said. Pointing to the unhampered migration across Europe, recent failed trade deals and how they have negatively affected the value of laborers as contributing factors to the modern nationalist attitude.
Regardless of the source, the "me first" thinking associated with nationalism, and seen in the actions and proposed actions of President-elect Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin, makes for a potentially dangerous rhetoric on a global scale, said panelist Tom Collina, director of policy at Ploughshares Fund, a group that financially supports initiatives to stop the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction.
Many people assume there are checks and balances when it comes to launching a nuclear strike in the U.S., "but in fact, the president of the United States can authorize the launch of nuclear weapons, at least the ones that are on ready alert, which are about 1,000," with no additional clearance required Collina said.
Leaving such a decision to the full discretion of Trump has Americans as well as other world leaders on alert. As countries begin to distrust each other, the common reaction is to build up defenses, something Trump has said he will do when he takes office — with Russia making a similar move to rebuild its nuclear forces.
"And you can see the danger there as they start to respond to each other, then those plans get out of hand and get exaggerated," Collina said. "Rather than if you had leaders that were more interested in cooperation you could imagine them agreeing not to rebuild so much, rebuild less, save money — we don't see that happening."
To hear the full discussion, click the audio player above.
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