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“It’s a sad truth that the democratic and populist impulse, if given the political means, almost always engages in some form of ethnic cleansing,” says R. R. Reno in today’s column .

One often hears about how the Muslim world needs to “undergo the Enlightenment” and “engage modernity,” learning the virtues of supposedly modern tolerance. It’s an understandable but naïve sentiment.  Democracy and the modern nation state are hell on minorities. Autocracy and empire may not be heavenly, but in most instances at least they’re hospitable and capable of keeping the peace . . . . Our neo-imperial efforts to reorganize and supervene over the Middle East after September 11 failed, perhaps because they were ill-considered, perhaps because they were poorly executed, perhaps because they were infused with a perennial Wilsonian idealism that is an enemy of empire and blind to its virtues—probably all three. Whatever the causes, the current fact is clear. For the first time since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims in the Middle East are now free to pursue the same dream that fired the imaginations of Polish and Hungarian and Czech and Lithuanian and Romanian—and Irish and Basque and Serbian—nationalists. And the same dream will very likely produce the same policies, which means ethnic cleansing in one form or another.

Read the full column here .

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