Interesting essay at Foreign Affairs, free for now:
Liberalism is in peril. . . . Liberalism’s decline is evident in the growing strength of autocracies such as China and Russia, the erosion of liberal—or nominally liberal—institutions in countries such as Hungary and Turkey, and the backsliding of liberal democracies such as India and the United States.
In each of these cases, nationalism has powered the rise of illiberalism. Illiberal leaders, their parties, and their allies have harnessed nationalist rhetoric in seeking greater control of their societies. They denounce their opponents as out-of-touch elites, effete cosmopolitans, and globalists. They claim to be the authentic representatives of their country and its true guardians. Sometimes, illiberal politicians merely caricature their liberal counterparts as ineffectual and removed from the lives of the people they presume to represent. Often, however, they describe their liberal rivals not simply as political adversaries but as something more sinister: enemies of the people. . . .
Liberalism’s most important selling point remains the pragmatic one that has existed for centuries: its ability to manage diversity in pluralistic societies. Yet there is a limit to the kinds of diversity that liberal societies can handle. If enough people reject liberal principles themselves and seek to restrict the fundamental rights of others, or if citizens resort to violence to get their way, then liberalism alone cannot maintain political order. And if diverse societies move away from liberal principles and try to base their national identities on race, ethnicity, religion, or some other, different substantive vision of the good life, they invite a return to potentially bloody conflict. . . .
That is why it is all the more important for liberals not to give up on the idea of the nation. They should recognize that in truth, nothing makes the universalism of liberalism incompatible with a world of nation-states. National identity is malleable, and it can be shaped to reflect liberal aspirations and to instill a sense of community and purpose among a broad public.
For proof of the abiding importance of national identity, look no further than the trouble Russia has run into in attacking Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Ukraine did not have an identity separate from that of Russia and that the country would collapse immediately once his invasion began. Instead, Ukraine has resisted Russia tenaciously precisely because its citizens are loyal to the idea of an independent, liberal democratic Ukraine and do not want to live in a corrupt dictatorship imposed from without. With their bravery, they have made clear that citizens are willing to die for liberal ideals, but only when those ideals are embedded in a country they can call their own.
As a practical matter, I think Fukuyama is right: attacks on the nation are just plain bad politics wherever you live. Most people want a national identity, and the response of Ukrainians to the attack on their nation shows the power of this idea. One thing many conservatives have in common is a belief that the world is a dangerous place, and that what is happening to Ukraine will happen to any nation that lets its guard down. Others are worried about civil war scenarios. The question, "Who will fight to defend me?" looms large for many people.
Fukuyama is looking at this problem as it concerns liberalism, but it can also exist on the conservative side; you see this in admirers of Vladimir Putin across Europe, and among white supremacists in the US. I believe the path forward for liberalism around the world is to emphasize that equal rights for all can make the nation stronger, that since we citizens are all in the same boat, we should work together to make it safer from enemies and better for citizens. There is no inherent reason why nationalism has to be authoritarian. There is also no reason why liberalism should be anti-nationalist in practical matters; after all, who is going to defend your individual rights if not the state? On whom do you rely for protection, if not your fellow citizens?