Despite loudly touting their nationalist credentials, Trump’s allies have a similar habit of ignoring the possibility that nonwhite people deserve sovereignty, too. In defending Trump’s Greenland proposal, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas noted, “Negotiated acquisition of sovereignty is a longstanding and perfectly legitimate tool of statecraft. More than one-third of America’s territory was purchased from Spain (Florida), France (the Louisiana Purchase), Mexico (the Gadsden Purchase) and Russia (Alaska).” For Cotton, the fact that the native peoples who lived on that purchased land had no say in the matter isn’t a problem. It’s a model. As a good Jacksonian, he doesn’t treat their national aspirations as worthy of mention, much less respect.
Tucker Carlson has made the point more crudely. No one on television offers more hymns to the glories of nationalism. In interviews taped between 2006 and 2011, however, he described Iraq as “a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys” where “they can just shut the fuck up and obey,” because “the second we leave, they’re going to be calling for us to return because they can’t govern themselves.” To be sure, Carlson doesn’t want America to govern Iraq. But not because Iraqi nationalism is legitimate, let alone virtuous. He wants America to keep its distance because Iraqis are too uncivilized to be worth conquering.