Conflicts over nationalism

After the outbreak of World War II, Western intellectuals rediscovered aggressive nationalism as one of the principal causes of the world instability and eventual war, and advocated the necessity to overcome it. In his Conditions of Peace (1942), E. H. Carr, who chaired the study group on nationalism at the Royal Institute of International Affairs from 1936 to 1938, denounced nationalism as an outdated, regressive political ideology in an era where European countries were increasingly integrated by common military' and economic necessities. According to Carr, the universal application of the principle of self-determination was a fundamentally wrong idea in that it assumed that each nation, either small or large, has the right to constitute an independent state. As a result of applying this abstract principle to the complicated reality, Carr argued, fragmentated small states increased, which had hindered effective international cooperation.38 Carr’s critical diagnosis of nation-states and state sovereignty was widely shared among Western intellectuals at that time.39

The gulf between Asian and Western countries over the significance of nationalism and nation-state increasingly became apparent in the beginning of the Cold War. At the eleventh IPR conference held in October, 1950 in Lucknow, India, under the theme of “Asian Nationalism and the West,” Jawaharlal Nehru, then India’s Prime Minister, gave an opening speech, in which he insisted that for Asians, who had long suffered from Western colonialism and yearned for independence, nationalism would remain a compelling and important force in the future. After emphasizing that he had long supported the IPR as an important venue where Westerners and Asians learn from each other, Nehru added that there was a significant misunderstanding between Westerners and Asians over the subject of nationalism, and criticized Western people’s ignorance about the importance of nationalism for Asian people by say'ing:

In the case of a country under foreign domination, it is easy to describe what nationalism is. It is anti-foreign power. But, in a free country', what is nationalism? Certainly it is something positive, though opinions may vary. Even so, I think a large element of it is negative, and sometimes we find that nationalism, which is a healthy force in a country, a progressive force, a liberating force, becomes—maybe after liberation—unhealthy, retrogressive, reactionary or expansionist and looks with greedy eyes on other countries, as did those countries against which it fought for its freedom ...We [Asians] have just been through our struggle for independence and freedom. Naturally, nationalism was a war-cry which warmed our hearts. It is still there in our hearts and it still warms the hearts of almost every Asian wherever you may go, because the memories of past colonialism are very vivid in our minds... 40

Western members, whose main concerns were creating unity' to confront communism, did not share Nehru’s view on the importance of nationalism in postcolonial Asia. The British members insisted that the discussion should be focused on trade and power rather than abstractive talk on nationalism. Asian delegates also bitterly criticized expanding U.S. informal empire in Asia. Pushed by' Cold War military' necessities, the United States had extended its military' bases deeply' into Asia. U.S. economic aid also became a target of Asian members’ accusations, as they saw U.S. strategic concerns and imperialistic ambitions behind it.41

Recent scholarship has shed new light on interwar “internationalists,” yet still largely' overlooked non-Western “internationalists” during the period.42 In their pathbreaking book, Hathaway and Shapiro highlight interwar “internationalists,” who played significant roles in establishing the Pact of Paris and the United Nations yet have long been criticized as sheer Utopians. According to Hathaway' and Shapiro, they' significantly contributed to changing the world from an “Old World Order,” where all states retain the right of waging war, to a new one, where aggressive war is illegal, and conflicts are solved through peaceful means.43 However, in this narrative, the contributions of non-Western “internationalists” are still largely' missing, as their main role was not to contribute to the foundation of the Pact of Paris and the United Nations, but to criticize them and envision a higher order beyond the Pact of Paris and the United Nations. As this chapter shows, non-Western intellectuals at the IPR criticized the Pact of Paris and the United Nations, which they thought did not fundamentally challenge Western-centric world structure.

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