It seems that Rich Lowry has taken time off from castigating Donald Trump and calling for the prompt removal of Confederate memorial monuments to compose an entire book making “the case for nationalism.” A media launch was provided by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who gave Lowry ample time on his widely watched program to expatiate on his most recent book.

Listening to Lowry on TV and then reading his book selectively, one might think that we are encountering a kindred spirit in the editor of National Review, for he almost ritualistically revisits the views and tags that have long been associated with the Old Right. Perhaps Lowry has changed his thinking in the last few months and no longer claims to be on the traditional right, while steadily virtue-signaling toward the left. Although those of our orientation are not invited on to TV (lest the heavens fall), Lowry, or so it appears, is doing our work for us.

For example, he claims loyalty to one’s native land cannot be reduced to adhering to abstract ideals, suggests attachment to one’s kin and ancestral ways is natural to human beings, and justifies immigration restrictions for the purpose of maintaining a settled national culture. Perhaps we should be grateful for the crumbs we are getting as we listen to our ideas being recycled on Tucker’s show.

A careful reading of Lowry’s book dispels any such illusion. Much of what Lowry presents as the essence of his “nationalism” is just old wine in new skins. If he were providing anything edgier, he probably would not be featured on nationwide TV or in The Atlantic. Lowry’s list of venerable heroes who have shaped the American national identity should cause no discomfort to his left-of-center professional contacts. They include Alexander Hamilton, who built our ever-expanding federal government, the trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt, the anti-slavery warrior and defender of equality Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Lowry lavishes praise on FDR, together with Winston Churchill, as avatars of “democratic nationalism.” Not surprisingly, given Lowry’s neoconservative sponsors, he omits from his list of heroes the architect of the German nation-state, and perhaps the greatest statesman of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck.

Lowry also notes that World War II was “a time of great common national purpose” free of the “shameful repressive measures on domestic dissent that Wilson had in World War One.” But Lowry then mentions “the hideous exception of the internment of Japanese Americans.” Hey, what about the House Un-American Activities Committee and other government agencies that were organized even before the U.S. entered the war? Most of the anti-American ranters on the left that Lowry goes after strike me as exceedingly soft targets. I am far from impressed that he defends his country against raging anti-white activists or unhinged advocates of LGBTQ rights.

More interesting is Lowry’s mention of Joan of Arc in a self-promoting article in The Atlantic. Lowry frames Joan as the heroine of an emerging French nation, associating her with the Cross of Lorraine featured by Charles de Gaulle and the French resistance to the German occupation in World War II. In reality, the Joan of Arc cult emerged from the French nationalist right, to which de Gaulle (who was from Lorraine), had rallied in his youth. Joan’s canonization in 1920 was supported by Benedict XV as an attempt to build a working alliance between the papacy and the French right against the anti-Catholic left in France.

As for the outbreak of the Great War, Lowry faithfully repeats all the puerile, oversimplified explanations that are typical of The Weekly Standard and National Review. He cannot go many pages before ripping into the Germans, blaming them for the “venomous” nationalism that affected the great powers in the early 20th century. World War I was caused by “the kaiser’s Germany,” which “exemplified how an aggressive and authoritarian nationalism slides into overweening imperial ambition,” Lowry writes. “It could not tolerate the power and influence of any other nations and treated foreign countries as disposable pieces in its grand design.” He also condemns the Germans because they “hated the idea of an international order defined by the British,” although he never explains why Germany, which by 1900 was the economic and military equal of England, was supposed to bow before British hegemony. By the way, Friedrich Naumann, whom Lowry cites as a German militarist and imperialist, did not call for conflict with England in his book Mitteleuropa (1915), as Lowry claims. Naumann simply argued, albeit in overblown prose, that the Germans were entitled to parity with the English as a premier European power.

Lowry also tells us how Serbia and other Balkan countries were responsible for creating the conditions for the war that finally broke out in August 1914. Lowry might enrich his understanding, however, by reading the work of eminent Cambridge historian Christopher Clark on the German Second Empire and the causes of World War I. Let me also suggest that he look at Sean McKeekin’s The Russian Origins of the First World War (2011) to expand his mind even further. Such scholarship provides a far more nuanced view of the Imperial German government and the causal complexities surrounding the outbreak of war in 1914 than what I find in The Case for Nationalism.

Lowry’s banalities about the 19th-century’s good and aberrant nationalisms overlook a key point. The racial component of nationalism was not particular to Germany, for almost all nationalisms displayed racialist overtones by the end of the 19th century. The British won World War I and had a long-functioning parliamentary monarchy, but they and their French and Russian allies were as subject to racialist thinking as were their German enemies. Zionists were also at least as racially oriented as Slavic, German, or French nationalists. Max Nordau, Chaim Weizmann, Revisionist Zionists like Ze’ev Jabotinsky all had racially defined notions of Jewishness that were rooted in 19th-century ethnology.

Lest I make too much fun of Lowry’s pretensions to learning, let me point out that he sounds even worse when he lets it all hang out. In these stretches of his book he offers readers a string of banal clichés, which become particularly risible under a section entitled “Culture Unites Us”:

We all are Thomas Jefferson and W. C. Handy, the Pilgrims and Frederick Douglass, British and African, black and white, sitting at a vast Thanksgiving table within sight of an enormous flat-screen tuned to a Lions or Cowboys game under the watchful gaze of a red, white, and blue-bedecked Eagle, sharing, laughing, squabbling, commiserating, and doing it all loudly in the distinct, instantly recognizable American style that makes its indelible imprint on us all.

Too bad that Tom Wolfe isn’t around any longer to parody this happy talk!