An Awkward Question For Patriotic Anti-Nationalists

I know I’m hugely late with this question but here we go anyhow. The archetypal “Just War” is supposed to be World War II. We were attacked, without warning, by an aggressive power bent on domination of an entire region through brute force, a power that had already launched unprovoked wars against numerous neighbors, allied with another power with a similar track record and similar ambitions who was already at war with many of our historic friends and allies, and on top of all that the enemy was really, really evil.

There is, of course, a school of thought that says we should have stayed out of World War II. But that school focuses on pre-war matters ranging from the Treaty of Versailles to Lend-Lease to America’s resource competition with the Empire of Japan, or it focuses on the danger and evil of Soviet Communism and points out how World War II ended with a victory for that evil as much as for freedom and democracy. But the general assumption is that Pearl Harbor ended the debate: whether or not we should have wound up in the position we were in, surely we had to respond to that unprovoked attack.

But, if we’re among patriots here – defined as those who defensively love and defend the land of their home, but do not subscribe to notions of national honor, are implicated in no national “project,” and are opposed to the idea of dominating or “improving” other nations and peoples – why should we have done so?

The attack, after all, was on naval installations in Hawaii. Hawaii was not a state; it was a territory. Moreover, it was a territory that was joined to the United States under circumstances of debatable legitimacy. Further, it was a territory whose annexation to the United States could only make sense in the context of either a mission to expand American territory without end (a classical imperial ambition) or a mission to dominate the Pacific Ocean and its trade (a modern imperial and nationalist ambition). And the United States Navy in the Pacific was similarly purposed. Hawaii, then, and the navy that defended it, were emphatically the sorts of things that patriots – as defined above – should have been against. And, not being nationalists, should have considered themselves uninvolved in any kind of obligation to defend on the grounds of honor or mutual involvement in the same national entity.

And so, my question: why should not the patriotic thing in 1941 have been to refuse to fight a global war to defend Hawaii?

Daniel Larison being on the way to Taiwan, someone else will have to take up pen-as-sword. I hope someone does, as this is not intended to be a snarky question; I really want to understand how patriotism, construed as Larison does, would actually function in a world of states and nations rather than small freeholds.