As we lurch toward the end of the twentieth century, it is easy to think that our public discourse has gone through a core meltdown. The cold war is over, and we are free from the fear that our leaders will blow up the world. But we are menaced by a whole new world of pretexts for people to kill each other. Ethnicity, religion, nationalism, all old and venerable forces in politics, are erupting today with new brutal fervor against all those defined as “other.” Wilsonian “self-determination of peoples,” a vision so dear to liberals of the early twentieth century, now looks like little more than a preface to Milosevician “ethnic cleansing,” a pretext for destroying the peoples next door.
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