Dubravka Ugresic.

A guide to 20th-century culture.
April 6 2007 12:47 PM

Dubravka Ugresic

A defender of women's rights and a brilliant journalist.

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Multicultural ideologists, if there are any left, will find it even less comfortable than that. According to Ugresic, multiculturalism in rich countries abets ethnic cleansing in the poor ones. Try this:

Proudly waving its own unification, Europe supported disintegration in foreign territory. Emphasizing the principles of multiculturality in its own territory, it abetted ethnic cleansing elsewhere. Swearing by European norms of honour, it negotiated with democratically elected war criminals. Fiercely defending the rights of minorities, it omitted to notice the disappearance of the most numerous Yugoslav minority, the population of a national, "nationally undetermined" people, or the disappearance of minorities altogether.

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Residents of Britain will find such passages particularly embarrassing. It was British foreign policy, as propounded by men who thought they were acting for the best, that kept America from dropping its bombs on Slobodan Milosevic until it was almost too late to save anyone. The idea was to leave the area alone while things worked themselves out. (Long before, with regard to Biafra, Harold Wilson's government had pursued the same policy, and with the same results.) From those helpless civilians who were left alone while things were working themselves out, and who somehow managed to survive the experience, anger is the least we can expect. Ugresic's tone can be taken as a commendably moderate expression of the opinions she must have held while searching the sky in vain for the NATO aircraft that are held to be the worst thing in the world by those who have no idea how bad the world can get. If that's the way she wrote it, that's the way it probably felt, at the very least. No wonder then, if, on a brief holiday in New York, she found the tango dancers a holiday from history. If the Twin Towers had been hit at that very moment, it would have been no surprise to her. It would have been just a bigger version of the routine gang rape, or of a woman taking a hit from a sniper and falling on her plastic bags.

Clive James, the author of numerous books of criticism, autobiography, and poetry, writes for the New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker. He lives in London.

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