Tribalism marches on
Recently, a columnist-friend, Matt Kenney, sent me a 25-year-old newspaper with his chiding that my column had been given better play.
Both had run in The Orange County Register on June 30, 1991.
"Is there no room for new nations in the New World Order?" was my title, and the column began:
"In turning a stone face toward embattled Slovenia and Croatia, President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker have not only put America's chips on the wrong horse. They have bet on a losing horse.
"Can the U.S. Government seriously believe that a Yugoslavia of such disparate peoples, all of whom wish greater freedom, most of whose republics wish to be free of Belgrade, is a viable nation?"
The State Department had denounced "these unilateral steps by Croatia and Slovenia" to break free: "As Secretary Baker made clear last Friday, we will neither encourage nor reward secession."
Croatia and Slovenia are today free and members of NATO.
A month later in 1991, George H. W. Bush, in what Bill Safire dubbed his "Chicken Kiev" speech, warned that Ukraine's desire to break free of Moscow manifested a "suicidal nationalism."
Today, Ukraine is independent and the Bush-GOP establishment wants to send weapons to Kiev to fight pro-Russia secessionists.
As nationalism tore apart Yugoslavia and the USSR in the 1990s, and surged to propel British secession from the EU and Donald Trump's triumph in 2016, that primal force appears on the march again.