Courtesy Reuters

THE DISINTEGRATION OF IDENTITY

The years since the end of the Cold War have seen intense, wide-ranging, and confused debates about American national interests. Much of this confusion stems from the complexity of the post-Cold War world. The new environment has been variously interpreted as involving the end of history, bipolar conflict between rich and poor countries, movement back to a future of traditional power politics, the proliferation of ethnic conflict verging on anarchy, the clash of civilizations, and conflicting trends toward integration and fragmentation. The new world is all these things, and hence there is good reason for uncertainty about American interests in it. Yet that is not the only source of confusion. Efforts to define national interest presuppose agreement on the nature of the country whose interests are to be defined. National interest derives from national identity. We have to know who we are before we can know

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  • Samuel P. Huntington is Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, where he is also Director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and Chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.
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