The Cold War was yesterday. Communism was in its death throes. The Soviet Empire had crumbled.
The Soviet Union was disintegrating. Francis Fukuyama was writing of "The End of History." Savants trilled about the inevitable triumph of democratic capitalism.
Yet, in 2012, sectarianism, tribalism and nationalism are all resurgent, reshaping a world where U.S. power and influence are visibly receding.
Syria is sinking into a war of all against all that may end with a breakup of the nation along ethno-sectarian lines -- Arab, Druze, Kurd, Sunni, Shia and Christian. Iraq descends along the same path.
A U.S. war with Iran could end with a Kurdish enclave in Iran's northwest tied to Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran's Azeri north drifting toward Azerbaijan, and a Balochi enclave in the south linked to Pakistan's largest province, Balochistan, leaving Iran only Persia.
The Middle and Near East seem to be descending into a Muslim Thirty Years' War of Sunni vs. Shia. Out of it may come new nations whose names and borders were not written in drawing rooms by 19th and 20th century European cartographers, but in blood.
India, too, is feeling the tremors. Ethnic violence in the Assam region has sent hundreds of thousands fleeing in panic.
In East Asia, ethnonationalism, fed by memories from the 20th century, is igniting clashes among former Cold War allies.
China's claim to the Spratly, Paracel and other islands in the South China Sea puts Beijing in conflict with Hanoi, which welcomes U.S. warships back to Cam Ranh Bay. Were not these the same people we bombed and blasted not so long ago?
Twenty years ago, Manila ordered the U.S. Navy out of Subic Bay, which had been home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet almost since the Spanish-American war. Now Manila is inviting America back.
Why? China is claiming islets, atolls and reefs 1,000 miles from the Chinese mainland, but only 100 miles from the Philippine coast.
To annex what could be a mother lode of oil, gas and minerals in the South China Sea, China is stoking the ethnonationalism of its own people.
Yet, a fear of ethnonationalism is behind Beijing's repression of Tibetans and Uighurs, whose regions are being inundated with Han Chinese, just as Josef Stalin flooded Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia with Russians after annexing them in 1940.
"All is race; there is no other truth," wrote Benjamin Disraeli in his novel "Tancred." Beijing behaves as if it believes Disraeli was right.
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