What Are the Negative Effects of Nationalism?

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Nationalism is sometimes used to get a population to support wars or other dangerous actions. It can also cause citizens to disengage from rational thought. Many wars and atrocities were committed by people acting on behalf of a nationalist leader.

The various wars in the area formerly known as Yugoslavia were started and amplified by nationalist leaders. Slobodan Milosevic used Serbian nationalism to support his campaigns against other regions, and many of the war crimes committed during that time were perpetrated by people fueled by nationalism. He was not the only nationalist leader in the area; Croatian president Franjo Tudman, a strong nationalist, was elected in response to Milosevic's rise to power, and he has received criticism for many of Croatia's actions during the conflicts.

However, these same nationalist qualities can lead people to fight for worthwhile goals. During World War II, British, French and American troops were partially inspired by nationalism, and propaganda used nationalism to fuel support for the troops and for creating the resources they needed. In addition, national pride encourages people to enter politics, run volunteer efforts and find ways to support their nations. Most of the dangers arise, according to experts, when a charismatic leader misuses peoples' natural nationalism.