Monday, January 14, 2008

Tribalism and Globalization

Why is this happening, and why now? Globalization and democratization are the broad trends of the day, and both have the effect of empowering small groups within countries and weakening the nation-state. Gujarat can prosper without much reference to or help from New Delhi. The Sindhis can maintain their sense of identity far better today—with the proliferation of regional television, Web-based communities and cheap communication—than ever before. The Scots know that a small nation of 5 million is completely viable in today's European Union and open world economy. In such circumstances, the pull of old identities—all of them much older than the nation-state—dominates politics.

The United States has often tried to impose its own narrative onto events in foreign lands. But often this storyline—of a struggle between Islamic radicals and secular democrats, for instance—is a mask for these more basic battles. Whatever Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's failings, his successor will surely have to deal warily with the rise of Pashtun nationalism, which is the underlying base of support for the Taliban. Even without Iran's support, Hizbullah's appeal among Lebanese Shiites ensures that that country will remain precariously balanced. Even if violence continues to diminish, the divide between Iraq's three communities has become the country's core political problem. There are no good answers other than the long, hard work of nation-building—political bargains, compromises and institution-building, none of which is easily affected by outsiders. All this makes for a world that is becoming rich, empowered and unmanageable.

-What People Will Die For, Fareed Zakaria

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