So far, a climate of national unity is prevailing in France, just as it did in America immediately after 9/11. But how long will national unity prevail? The scars of colonialism are fresher in France than anywhere else in Europe; the country has Europe's largest Muslim minority; and, with moderates seeming particularly weak and divided, the extreme right is cresting in opinion polls. These ingredients could constitute a recipe for disaster.
Empathy for foreigners is not some warm and cuddly virtue; it lies at the heart of a realistic and granular understanding of foreign nations, peoples and what drives them. The U.S., highly nationalistic at home, is singularly disinclined to understand or care about nationalistic impulses in other countries. This may be an operational hazard of great power, the belief that it is only what we do that really matters in the end. We have helped create the conditions for our dangerous isolation; that in turn has led to wishful thinking and eventually to existence in our own American fantasyland and self-referential press about how we can control things.
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