Ten years before the Soviet Union collapsed, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan stood almost alone in predicting its demise. As the intelligence community and cold war analysts churned out statistics demonstrating the enduring strength of the Moscow regime, Moynihan, focusing on ethnic conflict, argued that the end was at hand. Now, with such conflict breaking out across the world, from Central Asia to South Central Los Angeles, he sets forth a general proposition: Far from vanishing, ethnicity has been and will be an elemental force in international politics.
Drawing on a lifetime of scholarship, the Senator provides in Pandaemonium a subtle, richly textured account of the process by which theory has grudgingly begun to adapt to reality. Moynihan--whose previous studies range over thirty years from Beyond the Melting Pot (with Nathan Glazer) to the much acclaimed On the Law of Nations--provides a deep historical look at ethnic conflict around the globe. He shows how the struggles that now absorb our attention have been going on for generations and explain much of modern history. Neither side in the cold war grasped this reality, he writes. Neither the liberal myth of the melting pot nor the Marxist fantasy of proletarian internationalism could account for ethnic conflict, and so the international system stumbled from one set of miscalculations to another.
Toward the close of World War I, Woodrow Wilson declared the "self-determination of peoples" to be an Allied goal for the peace. Toward the end of World War II, Josef Stalin inserted "self-determination of peoples" into Article I of the United Nations Charter, defining "The Purposes" of the new world organization. This process has been going on ever since. The first phase, the breaking up of empire, was relatively peaceful. The second phase, presaged by the 1947 partition of India, is certain to be far more troubled, as fifty to a hundred new countries emerge.
Moynihan argues, however, that a dark age of "ethnic cleansing" is not inevitable; that the dynamics of ethnic conflict can be understood, anticipated, and moderated. Ethnic pride can be a source of dignity and of stability, if only its legitimacy is accepted. Moynihan writes in a learned, reflective voice: at times theoretical, but always in the end directed to issues of fierce immediacy. A splendid achievement, Pandaemonium begins the re-education of Western diplomacy.
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From Kirkus Reviews:
About the Author:
Daniel Patrick Moynihanis the senior Senator from New York. A former professor of government at Harvard University, he has served as Ambassador to India and to the United Nations, where he represented the United States as President of the Security Council.
A timely, informed plea from New York's senior US senator ``to make the world safe for and from ethnicity.'' Moynihan presented an early version of this material in November 1991 as a lecture at Oxford; he's updated that text with notes on such events as the ``ethnic cleansing'' occurring in Bosnia. There's a certain amount of self-congratulation here (guess which politician, virtually alone in the 80's, predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union while the ``realists'' wailed about the Red tide?), but, at his best, Moynihan displays erudition and a mastery of material. Both the American liberal belief in a melting pot and the Marxist belief in class solidarity, he shows, badly underestimated ``the persistence of ethnicity.'' Although a believer in Woodrow Wilson's notion of international law, he points out what a Pandora's box that visionary's concept of ``self- determination'' has proven. Not only did Wilson refuse to apply the concept to America's allies (notably regarding Britain's control of Ireland), but he was ignorant of the idea's presumed beneficiaries and fuzzy about what the term meant in the first place. Moynihan lucidly explains how Communists pushed self-determination for ethnic groups without reconciling this with an international proletarian movement; how the UN Charter has been bedeviled by contradictory clauses on self-determination and noninterference with nations' internal affairs; and how preferential policies for majorities and entrenched minorities, both abroad and at home, exacerbate intergroup conflict. Throughout, the senator's mordant observations on historical myopia are leavened with typically puckish wit (``For years Europeans asked: Why is there no Socialist movement in the United States? The answer may be that we knew better''). The latest in a series (On the Law of Nations, 1990, etc.) demonstrating that Moynihan may be America's foremost literary politician--someone who can advance policy as cogently on the written page as on the stump. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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