Discusses nationalism's origins and shows its threatening, divisive power in the post-Cold War world
In his first book since the much-acclaimed and much-discussed Barbarian Sentiments, William Pfaff writes an enthralling narrative of the fall of empires and rise of nations - and with them, of that modern nationalism which has become the most powerful political force in the contemporary world.Born in the revolution against oppression and dynasties, nationalism has both created nations and ruined them. It paved the way for Nazism but eventually destroyed it. It forced Soviet armies out of Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, and eventually crushed Communism. It brought down the European colonial empires, but has left Africa confronting anarchy, and much of Asia dominated by ambitious and authoritarian new nations.It is the enemy of internationalist ideology, yet becomes an ideology itself, employing the apparatus of totalitarian control in search of utopias placed in the past rather than the future. It is this which links the Serbian drive to recapture a mythical "Greater Serbia" to the Islamic fundamentalists' ambition to reestablish a lost Islamic universal empire.Ethnic nationalism - the force which ignited both world wars - now has laid waste to Yugoslavia and threatens the rest of the Balkans and the Soviet Union's successor states, while it continues its destructive way in much of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.Yet nationalism cannot simply be condemned as reactionary or outmoded, a force which progress will push aside - as progressive philosophies and philosophers of history argue. It is rooted in the human need for secure place, communal loyalty, individual identification. It is an ineradicable factor in political existence.William Pfaff describes modern attempts to substitute internationalism for nationalism, each of them broken by nationalism's subversive power - the latest and most audacious of them, European union, now under what may prove fatal attack from nationalism. He concludes with a sobering reflection on whether in the twenty-first century the liberal democracies, and democracy itself, may not experience as bitter a siege as they have barely survived in the century now finishing.