Hegemonism, the attempt (it should be acknowledged at the outset that the ambitions of the hegemonist can never be fully achieved, save upon mountains of skulls) to provide for the security of one's own nation, not by defending her by means of a military deterrent, alliances, and geopolitical balancing, but by reducing, degrading, subverting, and subordinating other nations to one's own, reducing them to a state of vassalage, is not an expression of patriotism, but its negation. The contemporary conflation of hegemonist policies with a patriotic love of place and people is but one reflection of a profound moral disorder, an ideological deformation of loyalties and obligation that, by nature, are concrete and circumscribed, ethically and geographically.
Patriotism is an almost tangible thing, a love of a man for the very soil (I dare say that he will not call it dirt.) of his homeland; it is an instinctual attachment to the very specificities of his place in the world: its rivers, hills, plains, towns, villages, and irreducibly, the customs, traditions, mores, legends, histories, memories, heroes, villains, and articulated order that make of those natural features a human environment, and not mere physical things. Patriotism, then, is above all a virtue, a mode of piety: a veneration for a certain community of memory and history, a community, moreover, which is not to be confused with those presently living, but receives its very substance from those who now rest from their labours, and hopes to transmit that substance to posterity. Patriotism is a love of neighbour expressed as a democracy of the dead and the as-yet unborn. It is thus particularistic; the nature of the thing excludes the possibility of a universalist patriotism. To combine such terms, and to attempt thereby to conjure a complex meaning from their conjunction, is a fully absurd as to posit square circles.
Something, however, follows from the essence of patriotism, and that something is seldom appreciated in this age of ideologies and clashing empires - namely, that a patriot, in order to remain true to himself, to his own affirmations and virtues, must acknowledge the presence in others - specifically, those others belonging to other nations and peoples - of analogous sentiments, loyalties, virtues. They, too, have their own communities of memory, their own heroes, their own traditions which bind ancestors to the living, and both to those yet to be born into the world. And it is in the confluence of the particularism of patriotic affection and this reciprocity that the nature of patriotism as a circumscribed phenomenon is disclosed. For a particular people to elevate its own traditions, its own way of life, its own mode of existence, to a transnational, transcultural imperative, is to negate the patriotic sentiment itself; it is to posit as a general obligation one that is particular, with the logical consequence that the original sentiment ceases to exist. If a particular set of obligations toward specifiable persons, places, institutions, and traditions is transmogrified into a set of obligations towards a multiplicity of peoples and places, with a concomitant obligation to manipulate or reconstitute the institutions and traditions of those peoples and places, the patriotic obligations toward a particular place vanish: there is no longer a particular obligation at all. Patriotism is abolished by this expansiveness, and in its place there remains only an armed doctrine, an ideology of one sort or another; worse yet, perhaps, in its place may stand an armed faction, bereft of ideology but bent upon domination: Augustine's vision of government, absent law, as banditry on a grand scale.
Stated differently, patriotism is not aggressive, but defensive. It seeks to defend, secure, and strengthen what it possesses, and this because it is acutely conscious of the contingencies of history, of its vicissitudes. Patriotism is a virtue manifest under the ontological condition of finitude. Those persons, places, and things which are its natural objects might not have existed, and there could come a time when they will cease to exist, when the entire community could vanish from under the heavens. Patriotism is fired by the awareness of mortality, and this is the reason for the commemoration of heroes, of those who have sacrificed, or risked the ultimate sacrifice, in order to preserve the community and its memories, and of those who even now sacrifice that it might be perpetuated. There is something in this of the virtues of the instinctive, unselfconscious paganism of antiquity, with immortality folded somehow into the continuation of the mortal existence of one's people and traditions, and it is for this reason that pagan warfare could easily become warfare unto the very extremities, warfare unto death: us or them, for we will not suffer ourselves to be blotted out and known no more. Christianity, however, does not so much abolish this sentiment, but as grace perfects nature, corrects it and purifies it; these loyalties and duties are not abolished or transcended in some illusory higher loyalty to humanity and some set of abstract principles of social organization, but are set in their proper place. They are proximate, and the witness of this fact is, most obviously, the hard saying of Christian ethical teaching that there are some things we must not do, even though the refusal to do them might lead to our demise. We are to affirm the created order, replete with its natural kinds, inclusive of communities, peoples, nations, and the like, but in the proper measures; that is, in their licit places, to their licit degrees, and always under God. I might asseverate, as an aside, that this accounts for that fearful asymmetry between the methods available to the follower of Mahomet and the methods available, licitly, to a soldier of a Christian nation. The latter knows that, for all of the fervor with which he loves his homeland, it is but a proximate good, relativised, in a sense, by the eschatological presentness of the Kingdom of God. His homeland is, then, a temporal and temporary analogy of the homeland that ought to be his heart's desire. The former, by contrast, while possessing a doctrine of future things, believes that the world is created afresh in each instant by the arbitrary, unbound will of Allah; in consequence, the Umma and its law are static, eternal, and unalterable. More than even the substance of that law, the Sharia, is its eternal presentness, which entails that it can never be rendered merely proximate; the Christian gazes through this world, albeit darkly, but the Mahometan gazes outwardly upon it, seeing the temporal immortality of his Umma and Sharia, and finds no method alien to him, for the possibility of ultimate defeat is the possibility of the loss of eternality itself.
If I've not already allowed myself an excess of discursive liberties, it must be reiterated that patriotism is a conditioned and circumscribed sentiment and obligation; one can no more claim its sacred mantle and advocate hegemonism than one can assert the sacredness of life, yet exclude certain lives, which can be disposed of on selective utilitarian grounds. To admit of the latter is to proclaim that life's sacredness is contingent upon circumstance and will; and to advocate hegemonism is to proclaim that the specific loyalties of patriotism are also contingent upon circumstance and will, that one can dispense with them altogether in the name of something "higher" and "nobler". The antipatriot who arrogates to himself the right of hegemony, as much as the utilitarian, negates his own claims to rights and goods; as the utilitarian, by establishing the principle that life is valued only in accordance with a volitional, circumstantial judgment, logically renders himself vulnerable, so also the hegemonist renders himself vulnerable. If he can dispense with his particular obligations and pursue the subjugation of others, so also can his adversaries, likewise, dispense with their obligations, and seek to dominate him. Those who do not understand the love of others for what is their own do not truly love what is their own.
What has occasioned these thoughts? The following, from a (subscription-only) Stratfor analysis of United States/Russia relations and geopolitical grappling:
The problem with the first option (In context, the renegotiation of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty to reflect the eastward expansion of NATO since ratification.) is that it assumes the Americans are somewhat sympathetic to Russian concerns. They are not.
Recall that the dominant concern in the post-Cold War Kremlin is that the United States will nibble along the Russian periphery until Moscow itself falls. The fear is as deeply held as it is accurate. Only three states have ever threatened the United States: The first, the United Kingdom, was lashed into U.S. global defense policy; the second, Mexico, was conquered outright; and the third was defeated in the Cold War. The addition of the Warsaw Pact and the Baltic states to NATO, the basing of operations in Central Asia and, most important, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine have made it clear to Moscow that the United States plays for keeps.
The Americans see it as in their best interest to slowly grind Russia into dust.
This is not in any objective interest of the United States, as Russia neither threatens the conquest of the United States nor her subversion, let alone her annihilation. This is what hegemonism looks like. It is not patriotic, save in the sense of being a 'last refuge' for a certain type of person.