The Kosovo (non-)precedent

by Chris Bertram on February 26, 2008

Various European governments (and sundry commentators) are exercised by the Kosovan declaration of independence, on the grounds that this creates a dangerous precedent and will undermine the integrity of sovereign states. If Kosovo gets independence, they worry, then the Scots, the Welsh, the Basques and the Catalans won’t be far behind. Well that would indeed be a worry if the right principle is one that national groups may simply elect to separate on the basis of some supposed right of nations to self-determination. But as I’ve blogged before, there are other candidate principles that we could invoke. If we follow Allen Buchanan, and see secession as a remedial right for groups that have suffered serious injustice and sought and failed to obtain a remedy, then things will look different. The Catalans, Welsh and Basques may have been in this position in the past, but it is hard to see that they are now, given the combination of regional autonomy and language rights that they enjoy. The Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand have both suffered injustice and have no good reason to believe that a just settlement is possible within Serbia. Buchanan’s principle seems to discriminate in a plausible way.

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{ 149 comments }

1

Marko Attila Hoare 02.26.08 at 10:30 pm

Chris, if the people of Scotland, Wales, the Basque Country or Catalonia really voted overwhelmingly for independence, would you really be in favour of forcing them to remain in the UK/Spain against their will ?

I really find the widespread aversion to ‘separatism’ difficult to understand. If a nation wants to secede, all things being equal, why not just let them ?

2

Matt 02.26.08 at 10:31 pm

I tend to think that Kosovo comes dangerously closely to violating another principle Buchanan puts forward, namely that the state in question, to deserve recognitional legitimacy must not have been formed by (deeply) unjust acts, and that because of this the situation makes me rather unhappy. But, given that Serbia has offered no plausible other course over the last several years I’m more than willing to agree that in this case there are no other plausible options, at least in the short run, and that this doesn’t apply to the other cases mentioned by Chris.

3

dsquared 02.26.08 at 10:36 pm

Chris, if the people of Scotland, Wales, the Basque Country or Catalonia really voted overwhelmingly for independence, would you really be in favour of forcing them to remain in the UK/Spain against their will ?

more relevant would be; would you be in favour currently of a substantial political, diplomatic and legal effort to stop it coming to that?

4

rea 02.26.08 at 10:40 pm

Are you telling us that Scotland has not suffered injustice at English hands?

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled;
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your Glory Bed,
Or to Glorious Victorie.
Now’s the day, and now’s the hour;
See the front o’ battle lour;
See approach proud Edward’s pow’r.
Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!
Wha for Scotland’s King and Law
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fa’
Caledonian! Let him on we’ me!

By Opression’s woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!
Forward! Let us do or dee!

5

dsquared 02.26.08 at 10:46 pm

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled

it just struck me while watching a video of Braveheart over the weekend how utterly hypocritical the Mel Gibson character is. He’s always banging on about “FFFFFFFRRRRREEDOOMMM!” but he is not actually proposing any such thing; his proposed system of government is an absolute monarchy, same as the English one, but with him in charge.

6

Chris Bertram 02.26.08 at 10:53 pm

If a nation wants to secede, all things being equal, why not just let them ?

Well, in the first place, you need to distinguish between what might be the best thing to do, pragmatically speaking and what principles ought to get built into international law….

In the second place, what’s this unexamined notion of a “nation” with a collective intention doing here? Where a group has been picked out by others and subjected to all kinds of nastiness, then I can see why we ought to let them go off and govern themselves, unbothered by the bullies. But self-defining “nations” complete with normalizing ideologies defining the true nature of their members? No thanks.

Multiethnic states if possible, separatism only if strictly necessary, ought to be the ideal. Holding out the prospect of “self-determination” to bigots, provided only they can get a majority,is an incentive to them to make life unbearable (or worse) for others.

7

dsquared 02.26.08 at 10:56 pm

I think there is potentially a very interesting question implicit in Chris’s #6 – forget about the Welsh, Scots and all the other lot with a history, what ought we to do if the British Muslims decided that they wanted to vote overwhelmingly to secede? Particularly as they might then decide to impose a legal framework that we wouldn’t necessarily like?

8

Chris Bertram 02.26.08 at 10:56 pm

Are you telling us that Scotland has not suffered injustice at English hands?

No, but utterly irrelevant. Scotland isn’t currently suffering any serious injustice at English hands, and hasn’t for some considerable time (except in the deluded imagination of some Nats of course).

9

Jared 02.26.08 at 11:10 pm

@7: Presumably they would be required to be a majority in a particular area that would become the territory of the new state.

In general, I think it would be useful to add some sort of condition preventing persecution of minorities in the newly formed state.

10

Shashank 02.26.08 at 11:11 pm

I think that one problem with this principle is that injustice is partly endogenous to the policy of the secessionist groups (or groups within it). In the Kosovar case, the KLA’s actions no doubt influenced Serb policy 1997-9. That’s not to excuse the violence against civilians on the Serb side, but simply to observe that had the KLA not pursued violent policies themselves (often in defiance of Rugova’s ‘government’) then it’s difficult to see how the Serb forces would have acted as they did. This relies, of course, on a questionable counterfactual. The point is that with any normative criteria for just secessionism, there will be potentially unexpected incentive effects on the part of the aggrieved people.

11

Mikhail 02.26.08 at 11:14 pm

So, when shall we draw the line then in terms of timing of injustices? How long ago must they’ve happened? What exactly should be instituted these days for the people’s desire to separate to be ignored? Kosovo sets a precedent not because it secedes, but because of the way it does it! It wasn’t just the albanians (which by the way, were not a majority in the region when the whole thing started…) wanting to separate. First a country was bombed (Serbia), then a region was isolated, then it was progressively separated more and more until the albanians became the majority and then the population voted to be independent. Does anyone here seriously believe that had the referendum been run immediately after the isolation of Kosovo from Serbia there would be anything close to a majority voting for independence there? Its independence is gained and voted for essentially by immigrants to the region. So much for fairness to the indigenous people…

12

P O'Neill 02.26.08 at 11:15 pm

I don’t see how the Buchanan principle would resolve the situation of the ethnic Serbs within Kosovo. They have suffered ground-level injustice at the hands of goons within the majority since the abortive Slobo clampdown. Do they get slotted in as one of Slobo’s sins and left to deal with being unwilling citizens of the new state? The NATO/EU security forces can’t be everywhere.

13

christian h. 02.26.08 at 11:15 pm

Kosovo isn’t independent, of course. It’s quite similar to Cuba before the revolution – a de facto colony with local Mafia rule. One big difference is that Kosovo also has Western-supported ethnic cleansing on a large scale.

14

Marko Attila Hoare 02.26.08 at 11:17 pm

“Holding out the prospect of “self-determination” to bigots, provided only they can get a majority,is an incentive to them to make life unbearable (or worse) for others.”

It’s not the ‘bigots’ who should be offered self-determination. Nor is it about ‘self-defining “nations” complete with normalizing ideologies’. Nor is it about international law.

Let us say the people of Scotland, for example, overwhelmingly vote to elect a majority of the SNP (hardly a party of bigots) to the Scottish parliament; the SNP majority votes to hold a referendum on independence; the overwhelming majority of the Scottish electorate votes for independence; and the Scottish parliament then declares Scotland an independent state on that basis. Well, it seems to me that supporting Scotland’s secession would be the only democratic option.

“what ought we to do if the British Muslims decided that they wanted to vote overwhelmingly to secede? Particularly as they might then decide to impose a legal framework that we wouldn’t necessarily like?”

Perhaps we could cross such a bridge when we come to it ? It’s always possible to think up hypothetical worse-case scenarios. I can’t think of any case where an immigrant community in an established democratic nation-state has actually attempted to set itself up as an independent state.

15

Righteous Bubba 02.26.08 at 11:22 pm

I can’t think of any case where an immigrant community in an established democratic nation-state has actually attempted to set itself up as an independent state.

Oh boy.

16

Matt 02.26.08 at 11:26 pm

_”So, when shall we draw the line then in terms of timing of injustices? How long ago must they’ve happened?”_

That’s a hard question and one that I’ve not seen a very good non ad-hoc answer to. Buchanan basically says that if it was long enough ago and things are okay now then past injustice doesn’t count any more (as otherwise no state would be legitimate). The reson to not grant recognition to states formed by recent injustice is to limit bad incentives, among other things, a worry that doesn’t really apply to very old injustices. But it doesn’t much tell us about what to think of cases that are, say, 30 or 40 or 50 years old.

17

Righteous Bubba 02.26.08 at 11:29 pm

Oh boy.

Allow me to calm my jerking knee.

18

David in NY 02.26.08 at 11:36 pm

There is another Kosovo problem. The NY Times compared it the other day to the hypothetical situation in Texas if immigrants managed to get recognition for a state in South Texas and took San Antonio and the Alamo with them. Or maybe better, if the Canadians were suddenly to get possession of Washington DC, the White House, the Capitol building, etc. There’s lots of symbolism in Kosovo for the Serbs, the site of their most ancient monuments.

Before recognizing Kosovo, I would have hoped that other countries would seek assurances that the UNESCO World Heritage Centers in Kosovo — the wonderful monasteries at Studenica and Decani, the Patriarchate of Pec, and other Serb monuments — would be protected and safe passage assured to them. So far as I am aware, there has been no attention to Serb sensitivity on these points, and it might perhaps have been arranged. It is perhaps less important than the Serb minority problem, but it seems that the Russians were resigned to an independent Kosovo if it could be done smoothly over time, and dealing with matters like this could make it work better, with less conflict, than otherwise.

19

dsquared 02.26.08 at 11:40 pm

That’s not to excuse the violence against civilians on the Serb side, but simply to observe that had the KLA not pursued violent policies themselves (often in defiance of Rugova’s ‘government’) then it’s difficult to see how the Serb forces would have acted as they did.

Given the behaviour of the Milosevic government and its almost-plausibly-deniable catspaws throughout former Yugoslavia, it’s not all that difficult.

Perhaps we could cross such a bridge when we come to it ?

perhaps we could not dodge the issue?

20

Aldous 02.26.08 at 11:42 pm

If Kosovo gets independence, they worry, then the Scots, the Welsh, the Basques and the Catalans won’t be far behind.

Please, please don’t forget the mighty Quebecois nation, one of the Nine Nations of North America.

21

Laleh 02.26.08 at 11:51 pm

Isn’t this all irrelevant without some discussion of international power asymmetries, the desires of great powers etc.? I mean I am sure Palestine and Chechnya meet all sorts of preconditions for declaring independence (vis-a-vis justice, condition of formation etc.), but are they going to ever be able to do so? Why not talk about the large scale power projections, alignments and re-alignments that allow Kosovo to declare independence?

22

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 02.26.08 at 11:57 pm

On British [Immigrant Group number x] seceding – where would you draw the borders? There’s plenty of gerrymandered electorates – wouldn’t secession result in gerrymandered nation states?

23

Jacob Christensen 02.27.08 at 12:58 am

Somebody may already have mentioned this somewhere in the comments, but if this is the premise

groups that have suffered serious injustice and sought and failed to obtain a remedy have the right to secession

then that raises two immediate questions

1. How about groups that are not geographically bounded? This would open for some nasty ethnic or political “cleansing” – India might serve as a case in point.

2. Is there in practice a way of operationalising serious injustice in a reasonably intersubjective way?

Oh, and the “if we allow Kosovo to secede then Muslim immigrants will try to secede here”-argument has been used

(I should perhaps add that I see the Kosovarian secession as the last step in a centrifugal process which may not have been caused, but which was definitively fueled by some very unwise policies and strategies by the Serbian leadership under Slobodan Milosevic)

24

Rob 02.27.08 at 12:59 am

I would imagine the real issue here is how Russia would react to the precedent this would set. Whilst Russia’s recognition of the self-determination claims of the numerous ethnic Russians in the Caucauses might be primarily geopolitical, these (large) minorities probably have about as much claim to independence as the Kosovars did (indeed perhaps moreso).

25

Nick Miller 02.27.08 at 1:21 am

shashank (#10) What you say would be more convincing if it weren’t for the fact that the KLA’s actions in 1997-1999 were not the whole story. Serbia’s inability to deal with a province that had a non-Serbian majority had been established by 1989, or 1991 at the latest. In my view, of course.

26

qb 02.27.08 at 1:33 am

Chris @ 6: In the second place, what’s this unexamined notion of a “nation” with a collective intention doing here? Where a group has been picked out by others and subjected to all kinds of nastiness, then I can see why we ought to let them go off and govern themselves, unbothered by the bullies.

what is with this unexamined notion of “we” doing here? free societies, global or otherwise, are built on the supposition that you need a justification for restricting individuals and groups from doing things they want to; the burden of proof is “yours” not “ours.”

the same is true for discrepancies between what “might be the best thing to do”–pragmatically or dare i say morally–and the principles that underwrite international law. it’s not as if the status quo of state sovereignty was handed down by god. maybe (as Buchanan is fond of pointing out) international law needs some serious revision. maybe even more than Buchanan himself would endorse.

finally, although the worry about incentives is well-taken, no one, not even unilateral secession folks, advocates allowing potentially genocidal or even extremely unjust groups to secede from minimally decent states.

27

John Quiggin 02.27.08 at 1:51 am

I’d say Kurdistan (the bit that’s in Iraq) is the next serious candidate, and has a pretty strong claim to pass the Kosovo test.

Of course that raises the problem that many of these candidate states aren’t neatly contained within an existing larger state.

28

leederick 02.27.08 at 2:50 am

I think they’re probably more worried that the declaration of independence creates a dangerous precedent for Serbian enclaves in Croatia and Serbian and Croatian areas in Bosnia, rather than the Scots and the Basques. I’m not sure Buchanan’s remedial right draws a sharp line there.

29

Andrew 02.27.08 at 2:51 am

Various European governments (and sundry commentators) are exercised by the Kosovan declaration of independence, on the grounds that this creates a dangerous precedent and will undermine the integrity of sovereign states.
Ah, the slippery slope fallacy rears its ugly head.

Alternatively, the Basques may see the fine example the Welsh are setting by not attempting to secede and happily remain Spanish nationals.
It is a bit silly to use the incessant mess in the Balkans as a measuring stick for the rest of the EU.

30

s.e. 02.27.08 at 3:05 am

I’m waiting for someone to answer laleh’s question. #21

31

anon 02.27.08 at 3:18 am

What do you guys make of this Indian perspective on Kosovo?

32

Donald Johnson 02.27.08 at 3:20 am

At least one person has mentioned this–the Serbs aren’t the only group in Kosovo that has practiced ethnic cleansing, from what little I know. (Which really isn’t very much–figuring out who’s doing the largest amount of bullshitting on the Balkans has never been high on my priority list, but my vague impression is that the stuff gets flung in all directions.)

33

PHB 02.27.08 at 3:25 am

I am sorry, but the Scots Nats are a party of petty bigottry. They are a small minded bunch whose parochial outlook compels them to propose reducing the size of the state to the point where a bunch of sad mediocrities such as themselves might be in a position to run it.

The argument is not very relevant to Kosovo however since the Scots and the Welsh have both had votes on independence. As with Quebec the people didn’t fancy the proposition.

Mel Gibson exploits a sad fact about American life. He can’t make movies that express his anti-semitic views because he would immediately become a pariah. But anti-British bigotry is an allowable form of bigotry in US life. Nobody is going to call out Mel Gibson for making hate movies directed at the Brits any more than they would call out Rudy Giuliani for giving ‘peace’ awards to the leader of a terrorist organization that attempted to murder Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet.

The idea that Droit de Signeur refers to defloration of virgins, as Gibbson asserts in Braveheart is a fable. There is no mention of defloration (as opposed to a bride tax) in any medieval texts, let alone evidence that it was a common practice. In Wallace’s time female virginity was highly prized as it was believed that virgins could intercede through the virgin Mary. The preference for virgin prostitutes was a later development that came when syphilis was imported from the new world. Nor is there any evidence that either side in the revolutionary war perpetrated the types of atrocities against civilians shown by Gibson.

The independence of Kosovo became inevitable for the singular reason that the Serbian leadership carried out a series of persecutions and murders of the non Serbian population in Kosovo.

34

Fats Durston 02.27.08 at 3:33 am

“I don’t hate the English. They’re wankers. We, on the other hand, were colonized by wankers. We Scots are the lowest of the low….”

35

Keir 02.27.08 at 4:30 am

Mel Gibson making a movie staring William Wallace is indulging in anti-british bigotry?

One thinks not; maybe there’s a different bigotry going on there?

(Also, that referendum on independence? Independence won. It just didn’t win with enough of the population. There’s a difference between that and `the people didn’t fancy it.’ And the SNP won elections quite democratically, while supporting independence, which might suggest a pro-independence feeling.)

36

nick s 02.27.08 at 5:24 am

Mel Gibson making a movie staring William Wallace is indulging in anti-british bigotry?

That and The Patriot makes it a trend. Plus, Americans seem to adore Braveheart, even though it’s a heap of bollocks.

The obvious point not yet made here, I think, is that the EU has, at least post-Maastricht, been very good to regions with distinctive cultural identities, and money can be a decent salve. The interesting question, for me, is whether regional disputes that offer barriers to EU membership might also be ones helped by it.

37

Keir 02.27.08 at 5:25 am

Let’s rewrite that first sentence, given that it’s a bit of a nonsense at the moment, no?

`Mel Gibson making a movie starring himself as William Wallace is indulging in anti-British bigotry?’

38

Keir 02.27.08 at 5:28 am

No. It doesn’t.

Think very carefully about how a movie about the glorious struggle for independence of the Scots can be anti-British.

(And, yeah, Braveheart is bollocks. But isn’t anti-British bollocks, unless you mean anti-Union by anti-British, which wouldn’t make much sense in the rest of the argument.)

39

Z 02.27.08 at 7:07 am

If Kosovo gets independence, they worry, then the Scots, the Welsh, the Basques and the Catalans won’t be far behind.[They have suffered injustices]but it is hard to see that they are now

How about the Serbs of Bosnia then? There have been several demonstrations, the largest drawing about 10 000 people, in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serb Republic of Bosnia, asking for the secession of their province from Bosnia. Undoubtedly, those people have suffered severe injustices in a very recent past. Is their demand legitimate in your (or Buchanan’s) opinion?

My opinion on the subject is that most if not all current nation states have been founded on massive injustices and confiscation of power, and most of them well within living memory, so that if a polity democratically acts towards secession, I see no particular reason to stop it. On the other hand, people seem to me to be rather reasonable with respect to that question, and no democratic state that I know has large vibrant real secessionist movement.

40

A. Y. Mous 02.27.08 at 7:42 am

I’ve been screaming hoarse on this for more than a decade. Time to play Cato. And my “Carthago delenda est!” is?

mons montis quod flumen!

41

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 7:53 am

Z. My view, fwiw, is that the Serbs of Bosnia are not the victims of severe injustice perpetrated by the Republic of B-H and that they therefore don’t meet the Buchanan standard for secession from B-H.

I do, by the way, think that it is rather important that the principle be that if X is to secede from Y then X then this should be on the grounds that people (individuals) with X-identity are the (continuing) victims of (in practice unremediable) injustice on the part of Y.

(This is rather different from the thought that if a group has been subject to injustice they have the right to their own state (somewhere).)

There’s a comment above somewhere above about non-geographically bounded groups. Giving such groups a right to s-d, even where they’ve suffered severe injustice, really is a recipe for decades of pain and violence.

42

quintin hoare 02.27.08 at 8:04 am

Chris,
The Buchanan principle is attractive and applicable to Kosova, but it is surely over-simple. Debates about self-determination – in principle and in practice – have a long history. The attempts at codification made by e.g. the Austro-marxists, Wilson or Lenin at the beginning of the last century(to go no further back)all invoked a multiplicity of criteria. And multiple criteria were certainly brought into play e.g. in the negotiations and dispositions following the two world wars.
So far as Kosova itself is concerned, valid historical, constitutional, national (‘ethnic’), political, security, moral, etc. arguments may all be advanced in support of the independence it proclaimed on 17 February 2008. Some of these can, of course, be contested, but the case is nevertheless over-whelming.
Quintin Hoare

43

abb1 02.27.08 at 8:12 am

groups that have suffered serious injustice and sought and failed to obtain a remedy

But they did obtain a remedy, and with a vengeance. It seems to me, if there’s no injustice now, there is absolutely no reason to secede.

Other than, of course, the usual ethnic nationalist reason. And that reason is absolutely illegitimate. In my opinion.

Also, if these criteria are accepted, then any small separatist group can easily achieve their goal: a couple of bombs and other atrocities here and there, inevitable backlash against the minority they represent and voila – time to declare independence.

44

quintin hoare 02.27.08 at 8:14 am

PS
And you are absolutely right, of course, about ‘non-geographically bounded groups’. Established borders constitute an important criterion.
Quintin

45

abb1 02.27.08 at 8:18 am

Ah, I see Chis already addressed the “past injustices” question in 41. But have the Albanians in Kosovo been suffering from any injustices in the last few years? I don’t get that impression.

46

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 8:25 am

There’s a comment above somewhere above about non-geographically bounded groups. Giving such groups a right to s-d, even where they’ve suffered severe injustice, really is a recipe for decades of pain and violence.

Lurking in the background of this whole discussion is one of the core problems with the modern conception of the nation state, namely that for at least most of history people have not lived in the neat, contiguous regions containing only other members of their ethnic group that the nation-state model assumes.

The creation of nation states has usually taken not only imagining traditions and communities, but also forcibly moving minority populations (both into and out of the territory) and culturally converting those populations that refuse to leave. For example, an enormous amount of blood has been spilled across central and eastern Europe to produce a German nation state that contains almost entirely German-speakers and in which live almost all Germans who don’t owe their allegiance to another German (or partially German) nation state (i.e. Austria or Switzerland).

Any principle that assumes that candidate new nation states will arise among perfectly contiguous and ethnically homogeneous peoples avoids the actual histories of nation-state formation.

47

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 8:31 am

Well indeed Ben. If only Woodrow Wilson had promoted the democratization of the Austro-Hungarian empire instead of national s-d, then the world would be a much better place.

(Of course, I’m assuming that something like that was a viable option, and I’m no historian.)

48

Z 02.27.08 at 8:33 am

The Serbs of Bosnia are not the victims of severe injustice perpetrated by the Republic of B-H and that they therefore don’t meet the Buchanan standard for secession from B-H. […] If X is to secede from Y then this should be on the grounds that people with X-identity are the (continuing) victims of (in practice unremediable) injustice on the part of Y.

I am not entirely sure that settles convincingly the case of Bosnian Serbs. I think someone could make the argument that Serbs violently displaced from Krajina to the Serb Republic of Bosnia are the continuing victims of injustice perpetrated by Bosnia in the sense that they are prevented from their own states from returning to their former homes and in the sense that Bosnia does nothing to compensate them (and in fact actively resist compensations, for perfectly understandable reasons of course) from the (very recent) injustice they have been the victims of.

Of course, the long list of human rights violations that have accompanied the formation of the state of Bosnia (a fair share of them perpetrated by the Serb Republic of Bosnia) renders practically impossible to compensate anyone, but I am not sure that one could really distinguish between the grievances of an Albanian Kosovar displaced before or during the NATO operation who then returned to Kosovo and who now supports independence and a Serb displaced during Operation Storm who ended up in the Serb Republic of Bosnia and now supports independence. If you want a near perfect parallelism, note that the Bosnian Army participated in Operation Storm alongside the Croatian Army so you can imagine that this (now Bosnian) Serb has been exiled by the Army of the very state she now wishes to leave.

In the end, all of this seems to me to reinforce my belief that recent history is so fraught with crimes that the legitimacy of states is quite weak.

49

neil 02.27.08 at 8:48 am

“If only Woodrow Wilson had promoted the democratization…”

I’ve long held the belief that if things had been better yesterday, they’d be better today.

Nation states are an imperfect way of organising people but prior to that we had tribalism which wasn’t any less problematic. And moving on from government by extended families (to Nation states – via monarchies, a variant on tribalism) has to be a step in the right direction.

50

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 9:08 am

Neil, I’m not clear why you think _nation_ states, rather than states _simpliciter_ are required.

51

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 9:15 am

Neil @ 49 makes a good (perhaps the best) argument for nation states.

But it might also be the beginning of an argument for resolving issues like Kosovo via ad-hoc utilitarian muddling through (i.e. identifying the solution that will, in this particular case, produce the least amount of human suffering), rather than trying to propound and apply the perfect set of universal principles for nation-state formation.

52

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 9:17 am

Chris, I took Neil to be arguing that nation states are, in fact, what arose. That they were (and are) better than what preceded them. And that one must play the hand that one is dealt.

53

Marc Mulholland 02.27.08 at 9:43 am

Chris Bertram’s assumption is that there are real, material deprivations (subjection to exploitative or violent rule), and there are un-real, immaterial deprivations (being denied institutional recognition of one’s deeply felt national identity). This strikes me as a liberal version of the old ‘false consciousness’ theory. It is no minor thing to be denied the right to self-determination by some paternalistic supra-national entity, whether benign or otherwise.

54

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 9:44 am

Ben. I don’t know how you would go about evaluating the claim that nation states are better than what preceded them, perhaps some of them have been. Your comment #46 suggests that it isn’t obvious what the general answer ought to be.

55

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 9:56 am

Mark #53, I’m not sure that I recognize myself in your comment …. Certainly I don’t see my own commitments as mapping neatly onto your material/immaterial distinction.

I’d also say (a) that a heightened consciousness of national identity is often the result of exploitative or violent rule and (b) that the fact that one “feels” a national identity (however deeply) strikes me as not being a sufficient reason for others to grant institutional recognition (or even to pay attention). I’m pretty lukewarm about Cornish or Occitan claims to nationhood, however steamed up some of the enthusiasts may get about their identity.

56

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 10:02 am

Chris @54, fair enough. But I think it’s possible to argue that the process of nation-state creation was deeply unjust while also believing that nation states, once established, are better than what preceded them. To be honest, I’m not sure whether or not I’d agree with that conclusion.

At any rate, what I was (very provisionally) suggesting @51 was that, beyond a commitment to basic human rights, perhaps one shouldn’t insist on general answers at all (and before anyone says it, yes, I realize that a commitment to basic human rights is itself a general answer, though for better or for worse it often fails to be dispositive).

57

ajay 02.27.08 at 10:25 am

I am sorry, but the Scots Nats are a party of petty bigotry.

Probably a reaction to the anti-Scottish bigotry on display in England. A majority of English people told the BBC that no Scot should ever be Prime Minister of Britain. Columnists in the English gutter press continually make references to “grasping, miserly Scottish politicians” like Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling which would be beyond the pale if directed at, say, Jewish politicians like Nigel Lawson.

58

Doug M. 02.27.08 at 10:40 am

“I am not sure that one could really distinguish between… an Albanian Kosovar displaced before or during the NATO operation who then returned to Kosovo and who now supports independence and a Serb displaced during Operation Storm who ended up in the Serb Republic of Bosnia and now supports independence.”

Well, for starters, a Serb displaced during Operation Storm wouldn’t be native to Bosnia. He’d be native to Croatia.

It would be like an Albanian pushed out of Kosovo moving to some other country (Macedonia, say) and then demanding independence for Albanians /there/.

Doug M.

59

Doug M. 02.27.08 at 10:53 am

I see “mikhail”, at #11, is repeating the old canard that “Albanians weren’t a majority when this whole thing started”.

There’s an incredibly persistent myth among the Serbs that Kosovo was majority Serb as recently as 1941, and that the Albanians only became a majority because of ethnic cleansing, killing, and immigration from Albania. T’ain’t so.
Albanians have been a majority in Kosovo for a long time. The 1921 Yugoslav census listed 439,010 inhabitants in the province, of which 75% were Muslim (329,502) and 66% spoke Albanian as a native language (288,907). The two figures are different because not all Muslims were Albanian (some were Turks) and not all Albanians were Muslim (some were Catholic), but still: it’s pretty clear who was in the majority.

And before anyone asks, *nobody knows for sure* what the relative populations were before WWI. It was a backwater province of the Ottoman Empire; the Ottomans classified their people only by religion, and they didn’t count them very well.

Doug M.

60

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 11:18 am

_A majority of English people told the BBC that no Scot should ever be Prime Minister of Britain._

Um, no they didn’t. They told the BBC that _no MP representing a Scottish constituency_ should be the PM, post-devolution. That may not be a sensible view, but it doesn’t equate to anti-Scottish bigotry. They would, presumably, have been perfectly happy for Teddy Taylor to have been Britain’s PM (though probably not, on other grounds).

61

Roy Belmont 02.27.08 at 11:36 am

The closest the question at #21 got to being answered, and it was the most cogent question in the whole post, was at #33, in pantomime.

62

novakant 02.27.08 at 11:40 am

For example, an enormous amount of blood has been spilled across central and eastern Europe to produce a German nation state that contains almost entirely German-speakers and in which live almost all Germans who don’t owe their allegiance to another German (or partially German) nation state (i.e. Austria or Switzerland).

Sorry, but I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to. The Austro-Prussian war of 1866? If so, I don’t think it serves as a very good example for your thesis.

63

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 11:48 am

novakant,

I’m referring to a couple centuries of efforts at German unification and expansion that resulted in, among other things, the Holocaust and the post-WWII expulsion of the German-speaking populations from e.g. the former East Prussia (i.e. the Kaliningradskaya Oblast’ of Russia), present-day Poland, and what is now the Czech Republic.

64

freshlysqueezedcynic 02.27.08 at 12:02 pm

The argument is not very relevant to Kosovo however since the Scots and the Welsh have both had votes on independence. As with Quebec the people didn’t fancy the proposition.

Um, no. The 1979 and 1997 referenda in Wales and Scotland had nothing to do with independence from the United Kingdom; they were about the creation of devolved legislatures for the two constituent nations. Secession from the United Kingdom was never on the cards at either time.

65

Charles Pooter 02.27.08 at 12:22 pm

These “priciples”, seem like ex post facto reasoning to me: “lets choose this ‘principle’ because it kind of justifies the outcomes we approve of”.

66

rhodri 02.27.08 at 12:49 pm

To post 29 (andrew): Unlike the Welsh and Scottish in Britain, the Basques and Catalans are not considered to be a nation by the Spanish State. Hence no sport national team, no self-determination rights, ban of any hypothetical referendum to decide on independence, no autonomy in health policy, education, transport, etc.

67

Doug M. 02.27.08 at 12:58 pm

Well, I posted this recently over at Jim Henley’s, but I suppose it fits here too.

“I’ll support a secessionist group when (1) it is distinctly different, (2) it has a just cause, (3) it would be better off as a separate country, (4) integration is clearly not a plausible alternative, (5) secession is not going to cause ugly side effects like crippling another country’s economy or starting a regional war, and (6) the secessionist group is not a bunch of complete assholes.

“If you give ten points to each factor? The Kosovars score about 45 out of a possible 60. Good enough.”

Doug M.

68

abb1 02.27.08 at 12:59 pm

As far as politics of this thing is concerned, it’s quite obvious what happened there: the Serbian state was attacked by NATO and weakened – and that’s the the short and the long of it; just like the Iraqi state is likely to lose Kurdistan.

But it’s still interesting to try to figure out under what circumstances a nationalist separatist claim can be deemed legitimate. If any. I doubt it.

69

Dr. Minorka 02.27.08 at 1:04 pm

“But it’s still interesting to try to figure out under what circumstances a nationalist separatist claim can be deemed legitimate.”
It is question of friends. Choose the heavy guys and your claims will be the legitimate ones.

70

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 1:04 pm

#59: I’m not repeating an old canard, I’m stating while not a fact, but the prevailing position in the slavic world which in and of itself has to be dealt with if you’re gonna interfere in internal affairs of another state (which is what the EU & US did).

As a person close to linguistics, let me state upfront that language censuses mean absolutely nothing. They are as unreliable nowadays as they were when they were invented. The notion of a native language is so vague, and completely detached from the notion of nationality. Also are you saying that Serbs cannot be muslim, or Albanians christian? Nationality is best quantified by asking the Serb/Albanian question directly, but I’m sure it wasn’t in the data you refer to… This is causing an amazing amount of confusion in the Ukraine right now – nobody can agree on how many people speak Russian vs Ukrainian and whether that would be grounds for a second government language…

As to why the view exists in the slavic world – Kosovo is hallow ground for Serbs, not Albanians. Why is that? Why do they have (correction – had before they were destroyed by we all know who…) an enourmous number of churches, religious and historic sites on that land while it doesn’t have such significance to the Albanian population? And if that’s the case, whose land is it? Remember, this is no Jerusalem where everything is so intertwined…

71

Dave 02.27.08 at 1:08 pm

Really, anyone who thinks ‘national self-determination’ ought to be the principle to judge any political dispute has let the mythology of essential ethnicity cloud their mind. And since we are talking here specifically about instances in which that very mythology has been used, ad lib, to justify the perpetration of vile abuses of human rights, such an obfuscation is not merely deplorable, but lamentable.

Democracy and human rights first, borders and ethnicity second. We have tried it the other way round for centuries. It doesn’t work. Or rather, it ‘works’ all too well if you happen to be the one with the gun and the bad attitude. But we’re supposed to be better than that, aren’t we? [And ‘we’, in this question-begging context, means everyone, that’s why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is just that, universal.] Otherwise, give up, go home; genocide? Change the channel…

72

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 1:12 pm

#66:
This is fantastic…
#4 – clearly, integration is not a plausible alternative, because they haven’t lived together for hundreds of years… and if you bring up the thesis about “ethnic cleansing”, look at the history of the region during WWII and which side the Albanians were on and what they did to the Serbian population…
#5 – again, clearly, it’s already not starting anything of the like. What do you think the whole Balkan’s war was about?
#6 – no comment other than I’d be curious as to the method of estimating this curious parameter and from whose point of view?… :)

73

novakant 02.27.08 at 1:26 pm

I’m referring to a couple centuries of efforts at German unification and expansion that resulted in, among other things, the Holocaust and the post-WWII expulsion of the German-speaking populations from e.g. the former East Prussia (i.e. the Kaliningradskaya Oblast’ of Russia), present-day Poland, and what is now the Czech Republic.

You have it exactly backwards: the push for a unified Germany was initially and continued to be (though obviously not exclusively) a progressive cause aimed at overcoming the reactionary forces of both local rulers defending their respective fiefdoms and the divide et impera policies of the imperial players. There would have been a lot less bloodshed had Germany been united earlier and it is also widely acknowledged among historians that the disastrous turn the German nation took in the first half of the 20th century wasn’t due to it having finally unified in 1871, but rather the opposite, i.e. the fact that nationhood was achieved comparatively late.

74

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 1:32 pm

“look at the history of the region during WWII and which side the Albanians were on”

Albania was attacked and colonised by Fascist Italy in 1939. The Albanians then produced one of the most successful anti-fascist resistance movements in occupied Europe.

It’s a record that compares rather well with that of the Soviet Union, which signed an alliance with Hitler in 1939 and joined with him in destroying Poland.

75

Russell Arben Fox 02.27.08 at 1:33 pm

Chris (#47),

If only Woodrow Wilson had promoted the democratization of the Austro-Hungarian empire instead of national s-d, then the world would be a much better place.

Exactly what sort of “democratization” do you imagine could have taken place that wouldn’t have involved a fair amount of national “imagining,” to use Benedict Anderson’s phrase? I’m not weighing in on the general question regarding whether or not the modern nation-state is an “advance” (suggested by in #49); there are interesting arguments out there which prefer decentralized, uneven (and therefore usually unequal) confederations over modern democratic states. However, the scholarship which suggests that pretty much everything most of us consider to be worthwhile about democratization today (mass participation, “popular sovereignty,” at least some gestures towards treating citizens equally and generating egalitarianism, etc.) has been historically tied, in one way or another, to national development (Anthony Smith, Bernard Yack, etc.) is pretty persuasive. Your downgrading of “consciousness of national identity” (#55) as a legitimate factor in demands for recognition is, I think, in fact a downgrading of what historically has been a fairly consistent precondition for democratization. Do you think there ever could have been, or could be now, some form a democracy–a form which we’d recognize as worthwhile–that could come into existence entirely without that kind of expressive element?

76

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 1:38 pm

There would have been a lot less bloodshed had Germany been united earlier and it is also widely acknowledged among historians that the disastrous turn the German nation took in the first half of the 20th century wasn’t due to it having finally unified in 1871, but rather the opposite, i.e. the fact that nationhood was achieved comparatively late.

Novakant,

You seem to acknowledge here that the actual process of the creation of the modern German nation state (“late” though it may have been) resulted in the death and displacement of tens of millions of people. This was the principal point I was making.

However progressive the forces for German national unification might have been in 1848 (and before), it’s not clear to me how the greatly dispersed population of Germans in eighteenth or nineteenth-century Europe could have been brought together into a unified nation state without significant bloodshed, especially if one proposes also ridding the German-speaking lands of the reactionary forces of the Prussian and Austrian monarchies.

77

Phil 02.27.08 at 1:40 pm

‘If we follow Allen Buchanan, and see secession as a remedial right for groups that have suffered serious injustice and sought and failed to obtain a remedy’

Buchannan probably goes into more detail into this. But the problem, to me, seems to be defining what is a reasonable attempt at seeking another remedy and identifying when it has failed. As you say there are areas of the world now that had a more legitimate claim to cessesion than they do now.

78

Phil 02.27.08 at 1:41 pm

secession even.

79

Russell Arben Fox 02.27.08 at 1:45 pm

Dave (#70),

Democracy and human rights first, borders and ethnicity second.

Sorry, but that is much too quick, and much too simple. Democracy requires a demos, and a demos has to be able to identify and recognize itself as such. This means borders; this means some expressive/aesthetic component (perhaps ethnicity, perhaps not) that a people can lock on to and use as a foundation (or a founding). As for human rights, history suggests that consciousness of them is premised upon prior consciousnesses–of the civil and political and moral rights granted to one’s countrymen–and precede outward from there. Not even Kant imagined that we could rationally determine universal human rights without the midwife of communities and states along the way.

80

Dr. Minorka 02.27.08 at 1:50 pm

# 73:
notwithstanding the Albanian anti-fascist, there were numerous Albanian fascist as well, and they murdered Serbians. (It belongs to history, I mentioned it only as a historical fact.)

81

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 1:50 pm

#73
Albanians then produced one of the most successful anti-fascist resistance movements in occupied Europe.

That’s debatable. By what measure?

It’s a record that compares rather well with that of the Soviet Union, which signed an alliance with Hitler

So did Romania, Hungary and Spain. So? One could argue it was a delaying tactic on the part of Russians?… And after all, the Soviet Union did defeat Germany. Otherwise much good would there be for resistance.

More to the point, I never talked about Albania, actually… :) I specifically said “region”! It’s one thing to talk about population on home soil resisting an aggressor. And another to consider what happens when there is an opportunity to repay old debts or grievanes to your neighbour…

82

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 1:52 pm

Russell (#74), like I said, I’m no historian. But there also seems to me to be a lot of room for being slippery here. There can be a sense of shared membership and citizenship that isn’t dependent on some notion of ethnic and cultural normalization, and I’m fine with that. So American national identity is, clearly compatible with a wide variation in other ethnic identitities. British and French rather less so, but even here there’s a certain primacy to citizenship over ethnicity. The German concept of a “people” is at the other end of the spectrum, and that’s where a lot of the really bad stuff comes from.

(BTW, promissory note: there’s some really interesting stuff on this in Franz Neumann’s Behemoth which I’ve been meaning to blog about for some time.)

83

PHB 02.27.08 at 1:59 pm

On the Gibson issue, it seems fair to me to judge an actor a bigot on account of a history of making purportedly historical movies that include invented atrocities that somehow always seem to target the same groups of people, moreover, often the same groups of people disliked by the somewhat peculiar church his father belong to.

Such activities are hardly harmless. D. W. Griffith was more or less responsible for the recreation of the Klu Klux Klan in the 1920s and 30s in the wake of ‘Birth of a Nation’.

On the question of whether the more odious Scots and Welsh nats are bigots, that was certainly a very common judgement on the Welsh nats in the part of Wales near to where I grew up. What is the difference between Cymru Annibynnol’s ‘Wales for the Welsh’ and the BNP slogan ‘Britain for the British’? I can’t see one.

Of course these days the idea of Welsh separatism is not really an issue even within Plaid Cymru. The separatist wing decamped to Cymru Annibynnol after Wyn Jones slapped down talk of ‘English immigrants’. And Salmond’s performance as first minister is not exactly likely to convince Scotland of the benefits of independence.

Like George W. Bush, separatists use patriotism as a shield for their cowardly selves. When they are called out on the essential fascism of their political views they start squealing that it is Scotland or Wales that is being attacked. Not so. One can criticize the ‘rev’ Ian Paisley as a bigot without making any comment on the Irish or Irish Protestants as a whole.

It is also worth noting that the first thing that the Irish set about in the aftermath of independence in the South was a bloody civil war costing 2000-3000 lives.

84

James Wimberley 02.27.08 at 2:22 pm

Nobdoy has mentioned the possibly relevant fact that led by Ibrahim Rugova the Kosovars took to non-violent separatism, in response to Serb oppression, as early as 1989. The violent KLA only came to dominate the resistance movement after a decade of this. The “what about the KLA?” debating point doesn’t affect the Buchanan scorecard.

85

dsquared 02.27.08 at 2:42 pm

I’d also note that it’s a bit weird to be talking about secession movements without having ever mentioned the biggest, bloodiest and most historically important two there have ever been, the first being an independence movement for a non-democratically represented colony of the British state, and the second being a politically-motivated secession of half of the state created by the first. On the basis of Marko’s “overwhelmingly voted for” criterion, I think you end up supporting the wrong side in the American Civil War; Buchanan’s criterion keeps you on the right side there, but also gets you on the right side of the American War of Independence, which doesn’t really make much sense at all on any ethnic criterion.

86

nick s 02.27.08 at 2:43 pm

Your downgrading of “consciousness of national identity” (#55) as a legitimate factor in demands for recognition is, I think, in fact a downgrading of what historically has been a fairly consistent precondition for democratization.

The English example may be anomalous here, but the 1689 Bill Of Rights came a year after the 1688 Import A Dutch Bloke. Admittedly, there were nationalistic underpinnings in the perceived threat of a Papist king, but the demos was defined, in many ways, to fit its democracy. Likewise, as Chris suggested, the primacy of the state in France has its historical basis in a set of reforms that challenged old regional identities.

I’m much more sympathetic to ben alpers here, given the persistence of regional tensions in central and eastern Europe, often in those areas where Germans were driven out. That’s not to say I’m nostalgic for the Habsburgs, but I do think that the short history of the nation state doesn’t offer a great model for political stability.

(My wife did wonder how long it would take for Kosovo to receive high marks from the Serbian voters in Eurovision. That may take a bit longer than the other former Yugoslav states.)

87

Marc Mulholland 02.27.08 at 2:54 pm

Chris, it seems to me that you’re creditably trying to avoid perverse incentives in regulatory international norms. So, we don’t want to encourage ‘narrow-minded’ nationalism etc.

However, what your scheme implies is that a well-organised national community, already habituated to substantial self-government, and practised in negotiation and compromise will fail your ‘deserving sovereignty’ test. The egregiously oppressed national community, in contrast, with a shattered civil society, wracked by grievance and thus unable to reach accommodation with the metropole will succeed in passing the ‘deserving of sovereignty’ test.

These criteria provide pretty obvious perverse incentives. It is a well trodden path for extremist minorities to radicalise a national community by goading the state power into violent repression. Such communities, once through the tortuous process of national liberation, are not rarely ill-equipped to function democratically.

88

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 2:59 pm

#80 “One could argue it was a delaying tactic on the part of Russians?…”

“It’s one thing to talk about population on home soil resisting an aggressor. And another to consider what happens when there is an opportunity to repay old debts or grievanes to your neighbour…”

When Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov said, after the Soviet and Nazi armies had crushed Poland together, that they had destroyed “the ugly offspring of the Versailles treaty”, this clearly had much more to do with “repaying old debts or grievances to a neighbour” than with any delaying tactic…

89

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 3:03 pm

#85 “On the basis of Marko’s “overwhelmingly voted for” criterion, I think you end up supporting the wrong side in the American Civil War”

Unless I’m mistaken, the secession of the Southern states that led to the American Civil War was about attempting to preserve the system of slavery, not about a Southern American desire for national self-determination.

National self-determination, like any other democratic right, is open to abuse. You wouldn’t oppose freedom of speech just because it can be abused by inciters of racial hatred ?

90

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 3:12 pm

#88
Oh, come on! Poland was totally and clearly setting up a buffer zone. Yes, it occupied the country, but again, it was clear at that stage that a conflict between Russia and Germany was imminent and as such setting up buffers between yourself and the enemy is just good sense! And when it comes to protecting your own country vs preserving interests of someone else, the answer is always clear to any nation… I disagree that this had anything to do with repaying old debts. True, Russians aren’t particularly fond of the Poles, but there is an enmity like there is between Serbs and Albanians for example.

91

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 3:18 pm

Btw, I should add that in history and politics one should never listen to what people say, but only look at what people do! Talk is cheap, but actions reveal true intentions…

92

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 3:21 pm

#91 In that case, Mikhail, you’ll understand if we just ignore you.

93

Daniel 02.27.08 at 3:25 pm

Unless I’m mistaken, the secession of the Southern states that led to the American Civil War was about attempting to preserve the system of slavery, not about a Southern American desire for national self-determination.

Well it was both, wasn’t it?

You wouldn’t oppose freedom of speech just because it can be abused by inciters of racial hatred ?

As far as I can see this is an argument for reasonable limits on free speech (such as banning incitement to racial hatred) and so I don’t see how this would be an argument against a criterion for putting reasonable limits on the kind of national self-determination we’re going to allow. There’s a live issue in Nigeria at the moment about the potential secession of the North over the issue of sharia law, for example.

I think Marc has a point that we need to be very careful about what kind of incentives we’re providing to potential secessionaries; the example of Darfur in Sudan shows exactly the sort of thing that a “hardship” criterion can give you.

94

Russell Arben Fox 02.27.08 at 3:26 pm

Chris (#82),

But there also seems to me to be a lot of room for being slippery here. There can be a sense of shared membership and citizenship that isn’t dependent on some notion of ethnic and cultural normalization, and I’m fine with that.

Unless you’re loading something into “normalization” that I’m missing, then what you’re getting at here seems to be the well-worn distinction between ethnic and civic nationalisms, or liberal and “illiberal” nationalisms. I’m sure you’re familiar with the literature on this. Suffice to say, I’m unpersuaded (despite the best efforts of Liah Greenfeld, et al) that the sort of affectivity that both builds national units and plays a not-insignificant role in engendering popular demands for sovereignty and democracy can be clearly categorized into American/British/French camps on the one hand, and German/Volk camps on the other. Language, religion, shared history and all the rest of the elements of “identity” always seem to inevitably creep in, no matter how one defines citizenship. I’m not saying all national units are made equal, of course; just saying that nationality and sovereignty and democratic citizenship are, I think, a bit more of a package deal than some would like them to be.

95

Russell Arben Fox 02.27.08 at 3:36 pm

Nick (#86),

The English example may be anomalous here, but the 1689 Bill Of Rights came a year after the 1688 Import A Dutch Bloke. Admittedly, there were nationalistic underpinnings in the perceived threat of a Papist king, but the demos was defined, in many ways, to fit its democracy.

I’m not sure about that. There are, to be sure, all sorts of historical debates here that I’m not qualified to wade into, but more than a few scholars (Adrian Hastings, etc.) see English national feeling–and thus the slow-but-sure development of English demands for rights, recognition, respect for common law, etc.–expending as far back as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, if not even further. The very-faint-but-still-real democratic demands and assumptions that went into and came along with the Restoration were therefore arguably grounded in a sense of peoplehood that had been in place for centuries by then.

96

novakant 02.27.08 at 3:37 pm

ben, I am not unsympathetic to some of your points, but I still am having a hard time figuring out what exactly you are referring to with regard to the creation of the German nation state.

Since you are mentioning the “death and displacement of tens of millions of people“, you must be referring to the Third Reich, but when Hitler took power, Germany had already been a nation state for 60 years and after Hitler’s downfall Germany was divided again.

The creation of the German Reich was preceded by two wars, that can be directly linked to its inception, namely the Austro-Prussian and the Franco-Prussian war. While these were certainly bloody, they were also not exceptional in their extent. Also, while they certainly were material in the creation of a unified Germany, they weren’t wars fought exclusively with the intent of creating such a political structure, but were also fought to simply defend Prussia’s position in the European balance of power. Similarly the creation of a unified Germany was as much nationalistic wish-fulfillment, as it was a pragmatic act of realpolitik designed to establish a central European power that wouldn’t be threatened by its rivals.

97

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 3:38 pm

Chris: you can feel free to ignore me, but I don’t think a sane person can disagree with my statement in #91…

98

Chris Bertram 02.27.08 at 3:49 pm

Russell, I’m sure there’s something right about what you say. But there’s a big difference between “inevitably creep in” and central to the very idea. The German nationalist aspiration was such that the German state asserted the right to speak for all true members of the ethnic community (Sudeten Germans for example) even when those people happened to be citizens of other states. And those who happened to be born in Germany but lacked the ethnic provenance, well so much the worse for them (right up until recent reforms of the citizenship laws).

Even making allowance for some moves (or creepings in) in this direction (de Gaulle and Quebec), the French, British, etc states have not usually claimed the same kind of connection to their ethnic diasporas.

So even though there’s some Volkishness in both cases, there’s a real difference concerning which has primacy: Volk or citizenship.

99

abb1 02.27.08 at 3:52 pm

Minorities in various states are being oppressed all the time. They can be women or Korean business owners or Syrian workers or Eastern-European girls. There must be solutions for alleviating and ending these things.

A border-case situation when these oppressed people happen to form a homogeneous group residing alone inside clearly defined territory is, obviously, an anomaly. We are talking about solution for a very specific case, and even in this seemingly best-case-scenario-for-secession it’s still very controversial. Because redrawing borders is a recipe for disaster. Tensions and wars and more wars and tensions.

100

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 3:56 pm

#93

“As far as I can see this is an argument for reasonable limits on free speech (such as banning incitement to racial hatred) and so I don’t see how this would be an argument against a criterion for putting reasonable limits on the kind of national self-determination we’re going to allow.”

Yes, I agree. Democratic rights are not absolutes. But the default position should be to permit them rather than to restrict them.

101

novakant 02.27.08 at 4:05 pm

Chris, the jus sanguinis is alive and well in many countries.

102

franck 02.27.08 at 4:11 pm

I agree with novakant in #96. I don’t understand what ben alpers is talking about.

The unification of the German state in 1871 was precisely based on not bringing together all the German peoples of Europe into one state. That’s why the German-speaking people of Austria-Hungary were left out and the “Kleindeutschland” option was created. At the time the Kleindeutschland was created, it was overwhelmingly German and far more of a nation-state than France or the UK or Russia or Austria-Hungary or Turkey (essentially any of the great powers of Europe except, arguably Italy). The only significant minority was a Polish one in the east that did create problems later on.

It was only after World War I and the creation of nation-states designed to punish Germany and including large numbers of Germans outside of at least partially German-speaking states that German minorities became a significant issue. That isn’t related to the creation of the “Kleindeutschland”.

103

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 4:26 pm

#90

“Poland was totally and clearly setting up a buffer zone. Yes, it occupied the country, but again, it was clear at that stage that a conflict between Russia and Germany was imminent and as such setting up buffers between yourself and the enemy is just good sense!”

Well, Stalin wasn’t exactly expecting the German attack when it came…

If you want to justify Soviet collaboration with the Nazis, then you don’t really have the right to criticise the Albanians who collaborated with the Nazis.

104

Dave 02.27.08 at 4:26 pm

@79 “Democracy and human rights first, borders and ethnicity second. Sorry, but that is much too quick, and much too simple.”

Pardon me, but the hell…

Nationalism is political cancer, we ought to be getting past it, not encouraging ever-proliferating forms of it. No good can EVER come of it – no lasting good, that is not illusory, or merely a relief from a situation that comes from another, equally heinous, force such as imperialism. How many times has this pattern repeated in history: step one, demand ethnic autonomy from larger unit, step two, gain autonomy, step three, assert ethnic superiority over neighbours/minorities, step four – we all know step four…

Whatever argument you might make about the specific and historically-contingent role of ethnic nationalism in the emergence of European and early post-colonial public spheres and whatever the correct plural of demos is, I cannot see how an ethical approach to such questions can now, post-g*d-knows-how-many episodes of ethnic genocide, be anything other than trans-ethnic in aspiration.

about 80% of discussion on this thread so far just proves the point, it’s been about “who can find an example of the benefits of nationalism that doesn’t turn to cr*p in their hands”, followed by “actually your example does turn to cr*p, if you look at it right…”

105

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 4:31 pm

“Soviet collaboration with the Nazis” … ;-)))

106

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 5:00 pm

“Soviet collaboration with the Nazis” … ;-)))

http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/tr-pact.htm

I’m sure the Polish people in 1939 found it equally funny, Mikhail…

107

Dan Kervick 02.27.08 at 5:12 pm

But as I’ve blogged before, there are other candidate principles that we could invoke.

Well of course. The range of possible principles one can adduce to cover all of the cases one wishes to cover and exclude the cases one wishes to exclude is wildly underdetermined by the paucity actual historical circumstances and developments, and the radically subjective and unclear moral-legalistic judgments about the various group “rights” that are supposed to be implicated in these developments.

There really is no end to this game. If Scots and Catalans aren’t covered by the principle you just formulated, then I’m sure with a little thought we can attend identify certain unique characteristics of those two groups, and use those characteristics to formulate some new principle with equal intuitive plausibility. Which is just to say that this sort of intuitionistic principle mongering, especially in the realm of informal global norms which are rarely buttressed by firm and institutionalized positive and negative sanctions, and which seem susceptible to easy ad hoc modification to suit the latest majority whims and interests of the dominant members of the international community, is no way to decide real questions of international politics.

Endless debates about which groups constitute a nation and which don’t; which groups constitute a people and which don’t; which groups constitute an ethnic group and which don’t; the extent to which a single nation or people or ethnic group holds some sort of dominion over a particular chunk of territory; and the supposed national, popular and ethnic rights that can be intuitively descried from the inscriptions upon invisible philosophical tablets – these debates are a recipe for endless global mischief and conflict.

I really think it would be a good thing for all of us to de-emphasize abstract deontological principles and try to focus more on empirically ascertainable or predictable consequences of various decisions, and evaluations of those consequences in terms of reasonably universal and uncontroversial values pertaining to life and death, prosperity, administrative practicality and the prevention of conflict.

There appears to be an overall trend in the contemporary world toward increased nationalism and ethnic or sectarian identification, fragmentation of existing states, and the disparagement of hard-won political unions. This is a dangerous and destabilizing trend. Intellectuals and global opinion leaders should strongly resist this trend and do more to re-emphasize a less romantic, and more enlightened emphasis on the political, and on and a more practical, more economic, more contractarian understanding of political community.

Nations, such as they exist, are really just the remnants of the political communities of the past. Placing such a strong emphasis on them, as was the case in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is increasingly the case today, is an inherently reactionary tendency, which expresses an unjustified prejudice for the political communities of the past rather than the political communities of the present, and which indulges an anarchic and adolescent longing for perpetual “liberation” from challenging political obligations.

108

Mikhail 02.27.08 at 5:14 pm

#107
I’m not going to argue this point any further aside from making these comments.
The link is not the greatest resource on WWII history, of course, but we’ll make do with what we have. Reading through that summary of events:
– the Western allies essentialy pushed Stalin to negotiate with Germany as the only means of trying to prevent or postpone a conflict
– Poland did the same as Russia – obtaining a portion of Chechoslovakiya under collaboration with Germany just a year before (1938)
– Poland refused to sign a military agreement with Russia, thus sealing its own fate…
– Stalin’s gain from the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement was exactly what I’d said – a buffer zone between Russia and Germany
– finally, I hope you can understand a difference between a non-agression treaty and a collaboration…

109

Russell Arben Fox 02.27.08 at 5:22 pm

Dave (#104),

Nationalism is political cancer, we ought to be getting past it, not encouraging ever-proliferating forms of it.

Or, nationalism is one way–the dominant (though by no means sole) modern way–of expressing the fundamental human need for membership, community, and belonging. Maybe–I say maybe–forms of human organization and socialization are evolving or have evolved in such a way that our “imagined communities” from here on out truly need not have any aesthetic/affective component, by which I include language, religion, shared histories, and yes, sometimes, ethnicity. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the “don’t-call-it-a-nation”-nation-building taking place through the European Union today over the next several decades. My bet? Don’t count the nation-state out yet.

No good can EVER come of it–no lasting good, that is not illusory, or merely a relief from a situation that comes from another, equally heinous, force such as imperialism.

Beethoven would disagree with you, among others.

110

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 5:24 pm

#96 and #102: I suppose I just don’t think it’s possible to stop the clock in 1871 and say, right then, we have a Kleindeutschland that resolves the “German question.” It simply didn’t…at least not for very long.

111

Russell Arben Fox 02.27.08 at 5:31 pm

Chris (#98),

But there’s a big difference between “inevitably creep in” and central to the very idea….[E]ven though there’s some Volkishness in both cases, there’s a real difference concerning which has primacy: Volk or citizenship.

You’re certainly correct there, and I don’t dispute your example (though I would argue that a lot–not all, but a lot–of what is often blamed on “romanticism” in the German case is actually an obsession with the state being backloaded onto earlier romantic claims). My only point is to insist that, if we’re looking for democratic states–if our hope is for democratization and the like–then we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand all expressions of Volkishness, as something has to ground the demos, and the pure idea of “citizenship”–as opposed to the affective notion of “us: the citizens of this place”–doesn’t often seem to do the trick.

112

Marko Attila Hoare 02.27.08 at 5:32 pm

#108

“I hope you can understand a difference between a non-agression treaty and a collaboration…”

See Wikipedia:

“Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was supporting Germany in its war effort against Western Europe through the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement, with supplies of raw materials (including phosphates, chromium, iron ore, mineral oil, grain, cotton, and rubber). These and other supplies were being transported through Soviet and occupied Polish territories, and this allowed Nazi Germany to circumvent the British naval blockade.”

Furthermore:

“On September 1, barely a week after the pact had been signed, the partition of Poland commenced with the German invasion. The Soviet Union invaded from the east on September 17, practically concluding a fourth partition of Poland and violating the Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact signed in 1932. Polish troops were already fighting much stronger German forces on the Western front, desperately trying to delay the capture of Warsaw in the hope that France and Britain would stand by their agreements and start military activity against Nazi Germany, and consequently were not able to significantly resist the Soviets. The Soviet Union marshalled 466,516 soldiers, 3739 tanks, 380 armored cars, and approximately 1,200 fighters, 600 bombers, and 200 other aircraft against Poland.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov-Ribbentrop_Pact

Sounds like Nazi-Soviet collaboration to me.

113

franck 02.27.08 at 5:33 pm

ben alpers,

I don’t understand what you mean. The German question isn’t just about German minorities, it was about dealing with the rise of German power in the middle of Europe. If Austria-Hungary had stayed together and WWI hadn’t occurred in the same way – for example, if Britain had stayed neutral or allied with Germany instead of France, there wouldn’t have been the same issues with German national minorities that you make such a big deal of. It was a contingent question.

114

franck 02.27.08 at 5:39 pm

I should state the point more forcefully.

There is not a straight line from the unification of Germany in 1871 to WWI to the Holocaust to the post-war expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe to the current borders of Germany.

Since one can view the founding of Germany as a clear reaction to the depredations of France in German-speaking areas, are you seriously suggesting that the French Revolution and Napoleon made the Holocaust unavoidable?

115

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 5:44 pm

I’m not suggesting anything was unavoidable. History is very contingent.

What I am suggestion is the path that in fact led to the contiguous German nation state of today is strewn with blood, much of it spilled over various iterations of the German national question.

116

Ben Alpers 02.27.08 at 5:45 pm

Erp…that’s “What I am suggesting…”

117

Matt 02.27.08 at 5:48 pm

Novakant- _jus sanguinis_ need not imply volkish views in any offensive way. In fact, it’s probably a requirement of a just naturalization/citizenship policy that it be included in some form. (For example, without it the children of Turks living in Germany when they had no option to naturalize would have been stateless, not just not German citizens.) Most states limit this principle in such a way so that it doesn’t pass to the second generation born outside the country of the parents never established themselves in the country. This seems reasonable. What’s unreasonable is the practice that used to be the case in Germany (limited somewhat now) of giving citizenship nearly automatically to those who are “ethnically german” even though they have no other connection to Germany and neither did their parents, etc., while refusing to give citizenship to most everyone else.

Russell- have you read Walzer’s _What it Means to be an American_? I suggest it. He (surprizingly, to me) suggests that a civic approach to citizenship is perfectly possible and even desirable. Of course citizenship is _geographically_ bounded, but it need not depend on a national idea beyond a civic view.

118

novakant 02.27.08 at 6:28 pm

What’s unreasonable is the practice that used to be the case in Germany …

Yes, that was unreasonable and the whole mindset behind it was often reactionary and revisionist – you’ll certainly get no argument from me in this regard and I am in favour of a civic approach to citizenship.

But could we please acknowledge a bit more that there were German minorities in the Eastern bloc who weren’t treated very well and thus preferred to emigrate, that Germany for ten years now has had governments which have taken a different approach and that the laws have been changed.

Also, do you really know the citizenship laws of all the countries mentioned on the page I linked to? I certainly don’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were similar to those German laws being criticized.

Yet whenever this topic comes up it is only, somewhat ironically, Germany and Israel that are mentioned.

119

Matt 02.27.08 at 6:39 pm

Novakant- I don’t know the citizenship laws of all countries, or known them fully of many countries, but since I’m in the process of writing a dissertation chapter on citizenship now, and so have been reading a lot on the subject, I know that quite a lot of countries that have _jus sanguinis_ element in their citizenship laws have the sort of limits I mention, and that the German case is one of the extremes. Not everyone on the internets is just making shit up (or just going by wikipedia.) I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that ethnic germans in post WWII eastern europe didn’t face persecution, nor that it was unreasonable for West Germany to take in legitimate refugees. But the German citizenship laws of the objectionable sort go back at least to 1913, and went well beyond the need to protect legitimate refugees. Part of what made the German laws particularly offensive is that while they offered near immediate citizenship to German volk they made it near impossible for others to gain citizenship. (The idea that only German or Israeli laws are so criticized is false, as well, as anyone who reads a bit in the area knows.) That said, citizenship laws in Germany have improved quite a bit after 2000, to the point where, while they are not great, they are better than many other countries.

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abb1 02.27.08 at 6:45 pm

Even from the short description in wiki it seem relatively clear that most (tho notably not all) of these states are trying to make a connection between the applicant and his/her ancestors’ citizenship. Citizenship is a real, legal characteristic, unlike the metaphysical ‘identity’ thing.

121

Seth edenbaum 02.27.08 at 6:56 pm

Again as laleh asked (100 comments up the thread):
“Isn’t this all irrelevant without some discussion of international power asymmetries, the desires of great powers etc.? “

The discussion in the language of academic legalism is not a discussion of the underlying issues themselves. If a biased judge makes an arguably (and only arguably) correct decision not only the decision but the context is the issue. If the right or moral action is illegal is it still the right action? Is vigilantism appropriate? And what are the consequences for the rule of (in this case: international) law? How many other countries have committed far worse crimes than anything committed by Serbians in Kosovo, and done so with impunity, or even support from the US. A discussion of Scotland and Wales and Mel Gibson[!?] but no discussion of Palestine?
Expressions of moral superiority vis-a-vis those who engage in mythologizing is fine, that is unless someone else catches you doing the same. One can and should oppose mythology but you can’t ignore it, or refuse to deal with it. What’s being mythologized here is academia.

Shorter Matt: “Guns are good things to have because other people have guns.”
Jus Solis is the only valid modern model but it can’t be applied by outsiders or by fiat.

122

Seth edenbaum 02.27.08 at 6:59 pm

“Yet whenever this topic comes up it is only, somewhat ironically, Germany and Israel that are mentioned.”

Israel was founded by Germans.

123

Matt 02.27.08 at 7:03 pm

Seth- I know you like to make make things up and that you don’t let the fact that you’ve not read or understood something get in the way of your making strong comments, but really, what part of what I’ve said can _possibly_ be interpreted as saying or implying what you say?

124

anon 02.27.08 at 7:12 pm

As easy as Kosovo

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Posted online: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 2330 hrs IST

It is difficult to shake off the feeling that the birth of Kosovo is really the culmination of a series of old and unhealthy trends in global politics. Major powers of Europe seem to relish the fact that for the first time a small Muslim majority state has been carved out in Europe, thus testifying to Europe’s progress. But the truth is that the birth of Kosovo is also a profound testament of the failure of the nation state form in Europe to accommodate ethnic diversity. As Michael Mann, in an important article on the “Dark Side of Democracy” had noted, modern European history has built in an irrevocable drive towards ethnic homogenisation within the nation state.

In the 19th century, there was a memorable debate between John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton. John Stuart Mill had argued, in a text that was to become the bible for separatists all over, including Jinnah and Savarkar, that democracy functions best in a mono-ethnic societies. Lord Acton had replied that a consequence of this belief would be bloodletting and migration on an unprecedented scale; it was more important to secure liberal protections than link ethnicity to democracy. It was this link that Woodrow Wilson elevated to a simple-minded defence of self-determination. The result, as Mann demonstrated with great empirical rigour, was that European nation states, 150 years later, were far more ethnically homogenous than they were in the 19th century; most EU countries were more than 85 per cent mono-ethnic.

Most of this homogeneity was produced by horrendous violence, of which Milosevic’s marauding henchmen were only the latest incarnation. This homogeneity was complicated somewhat by migration from some former colonies. But very few nation states in Europe remained zones where indigenous multi-ethnicity could be accommodated. It is not an accident that states in Europe that still face the challenge of accommodating territorially concentrated multi-ethnicity are most worried about the Kosovo precedent. The EU is an extraordinary experiment in creating a new form of governance; but Europe’s failures with multi-ethnicity may yet be a harbinger of things to come. Kosovo acts as a profound reminder of the failure of the nation state in Europe.

Kosovo also sets a dangerous precedent in international law. A unilateral declaration of independence has been recognised without an appropriate form of institutional mediation; every unsavoury separatist is gloating. Milosevic represented barbarism of the highest order and that history has a profound bearing on Kosovo’s claims. But it should be a matter of some regret that a democratic post-Milosevic government was not given opportunity to find a workable and just solution. Indeed, there is more than ample evidence that the way in which the major powers like the US framed the issue, there was little prospect of any accommodation between the Serbs and Kosovars. For it appears that any solution short of independence was ruled out right from the start. The assurance that the US and major European powers would back independence surely would have altered the structure of internal negotiations.

Europe may think it is expiating guilt over its mishandling of Bosnia. Some even suggest that it might win brownie points by being seen to facilitate the creation of a small Muslim majority state. How this turns out remains to be seen. But the truth is that US and European support for Kosovo’s independence in this form is nothing but unprincipled and opportunistic. It is unprincipled because there is no way of distinguishing the Kosovo case from dozens other cases that could be subject to similar treatment. When Europe and the US try and assure countries struggling with the challenge of accommodating multi-ethnicity that this is simply a one-off case, what do they mean? Since when has a “one-off” instance become a principle of international law? All that it can possibly mean is that we, the US and three powers in Europe, decide what case is fitting for recognition — world opinion, international law or a prudent analysis of consequences be damned. In some ways the Kosovo crisis is yet another reminder of how the major powers have broken the back of the global governance system, and ad hoc power is filling the vacuum.

Vladimir Putin is, by no stretch of the imagination, a savoury character. But there is something extraordinary about the extent to which the West is going all out to humiliate Russia and marginalising it from the world system. It is true that if genocide is an imminent possibility, the sensitivities of one or other great power will have to be ignored. And the Russians, it could be argued, have no locus standi in the matter. But the same could be argued for the US in most parts of the world. With what locus standi does the US counsel restraint to Taiwanese who want to declare independence? (It may not be a wise move, but Taiwan’s case is probably stronger than Kosovo’s.) But under current arrangements, with Kosovo already under European protection, that was hardly the case. Yet the blatant disregard for Russian sensitivities has become part of an unhealthy Western engagement with Russia. Indeed, as commentators have pointed out, there is marked asymmetry between the way in which the West treats Russia and China. On this view Russia is to be contained and restrained at all costs; while China is to be accommodated as far as possible. The truth is that Russia is a sulking great power, and if the West, in its profound arrogance, does not give Russia its due space, it is setting the world up for a great deal of mischief. Nothing is more dangerous to the world system than a former great power being humiliated. Even after 1999, the West took some steps to placate Russia on Kosovo; it will need to do the same.

And India has been again caught in a familiar foreign policy stance: pusillanimous napping. It is not in India’s interest, for peace in the subcontinent, that the Kosovo precedent be recognised in the form it has. Make no mistake: this precedent has all kinds of unsavoury implications for the subcontinent. It is absolutely extraordinary that India has taken so long to respond to an event of such importance. Whether this is sheer indecision, or yet another instance where we dare not openly come out against the Americans, remains to be determined. But even if we resign ourselves to the birth of a new nation, we ought to worry about the manner in which it has been engineered.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research

pratapbmehta@gmail.com

125

franck 02.27.08 at 7:22 pm

seth,

What are you talking about?

David Ben-Gurion – born in Congress Poland, then part of the Russian Empire.

Ze-ev Jabotinsky – born in Ukraine, lived in Switzerland and Italy

Theodor Herzl – Austro-Hungarian (born in Pest), though from a German-speaking family.

Chaim Weizmann – born in Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire

Abraham Isaac Kook – born in Lithuania

No German citizens among them, and only one is arguably a “German”, though that might be pushing things.

126

Seth edenbaum 02.27.08 at 7:27 pm

“jus sanguinis need not imply volkish views in any offensive way. In fact, it’s probably a requirement of a just naturalization/citizenship policy that it be included in some form. (For example, without it the children of Turks living in Germany when they had no option to naturalize would have been stateless, not just not German citizens.)”

So Jus sanguinis protected people from the effects of Jus sanguinis. True enough.

127

Matt 02.27.08 at 7:36 pm

That was one example, Seth, where it had a decent effect. You could, if you wanted to be completely unreasonable, take that to be a full argument. Of course we’ve established that you’re unreasonable so it doesn’t surprise me that that’s what you do here. Another example might be where a citizen of one country moves to another with her family for work for a temporary period and has a child. W/o some for of _jus sanguinis_ rule this child would not be a citizen of her parents’ country, and would have to apply for citizenship. But that would be stupid. So some sort of _jus sanguinis_ rule is necessary to avoid simple stupidities and injustices. This would be clear if you were not either dishonest or stupid.

128

nick s 02.27.08 at 7:49 pm

Marko @89:

Unless I’m mistaken, the secession of the Southern states that led to the American Civil War was about attempting to preserve the system of slavery, not about a Southern American desire for national self-determination.

But try saying that in rural north Georgia.

Russell @95: Point taken on the perceived national legacy of political rights, but that’s complicated post-1707 (and especially post-1714) by the cultivation of a British identity to accommodate two yoked nations with a Hanoverian.

It might also lead to the Burkean conclusion, stated very broadly, that the American secessionists had the benefit of drawing upon a political heritage from Locke to Magna Carta, while the Frenchies didn’t. (The relationship between universal rights and ones drawn from national tradition in the late 1700s is a complex one.)

In any case, I’m in agreement with dan kervick.

129

~~~~ 02.27.08 at 8:16 pm

Mel Gibson downplayed the torture of William Wallace in Braveheart. In the film, there was no emasculation.

130

pico 02.27.08 at 10:44 pm

I’d like to return to Dan’s comment above (#107), because I think he used the key word in this comments discussion: “intuitive”. That intuitive nature of deciding the rules for sovereign self determination, combined with laleh’s comment (#21) about who’s supporting secession and why, goes a long way towards explaining why this whole mess is, indeed, a mess. Buchanan ostensibly provides a prescriptive set of criteria, but are they really any more or less intuitively developed than the others?

In other words, is the discussion of any secession and self-determination an inevitable invitation to this kind of tortuous debate, because the circumstances naturally invite it?

131

Geoff Robinson 02.27.08 at 10:56 pm

The odd international law principle has been that units of a federation are entitled to secession but not their sub-units. In the ex-USSR the former Union republics have been recognized as independent states but not the Autonomous republics within them. If Stalin had decided in 1946 to make Belarus an autonomous republic rather than a Union republic would it be an independent state now? If the Karelian Union Republic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karelo-Finnish_SSR) had not been incorporated into the RSFSR in 1956 would it not be an independent state now?

132

PHB 02.27.08 at 11:33 pm

Mel Gibson downplayed the torture of William Wallace in Braveheart. In the film, there was no emasculation.

That is an oversight that can (and should) be remedied. Would give a whole new meaning to “Director ‘s Cut”

A serious point to bear in mind however is the fact that the memory and political repercussions of torture can last for centuries. A fact that is forgotten in the Jack Bauer fables presented on Faux Network.

133

notsneaky 02.28.08 at 12:02 am

This whole, patently ridiculous attempt at white washing Stalin comes up periodically (for some reason often at Matt Yglesias):

“the Western allies essentialy pushed Stalin to negotiate with Germany as the only means of trying to prevent or postpone a conflict”

Ah yeah. The Western allies made Stalin grab half of Poland in 1939. He didn’t want to do but was unwillingly forced into it.

“Poland did the same as Russia – obtaining a portion of Chechoslovakiya …”

Poland grabbed a very small piece of land that had been disputed since WWI. It was a shitty move but it was unilateral and not in any way in collaboration with Germany.

“Poland refused to sign a military agreement with Russia, thus sealing its own fate… “

Uh, yeah. A military agreement that amounted to a de facto loss of sovereignty as it would have allowed for Soviet troops to be stationed on Polish territory.

Yeah the diplomatic negotiations (West n Russia, Poland n Russia) were not carried out in good faith. But you got your sides flipped.

“Stalin’s gain from the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement was exactly what I’d said – a buffer zone between Russia and Germany””

Buffer it may have been. It was also roughly half of pre Polish territory compromising roughly (more than) the territory the SU “lost” (if it was theirs to own in the first place) in the 1919-1921 Polish-Bolshevik war.

134

Seth edenbaum 02.28.08 at 2:46 am

I thought this was funny

Hamas and Israelis Trade Attacks, Killing Several
JERUSALEM — In a sudden surge of violence, an Israeli civilian was killed Wednesday in a rocket attack by Hamas militants from Gaza, the first such fatality in nine months, and at least eight Palestinians, militants and civilians, were killed in Israeli airstrikes before and after the rocket attack.

I think this has something to do with the language of this post. Variations on a theme:

135

Roy Belmont 02.28.08 at 4:21 am

#127:”W/o some for[m] of jus sanguinis rule this child would not be a citizen of her parents’ country, and would have to apply for citizenship. But that would be stupid. So some sort of jus sanguinis rule is necessary to avoid simple stupidities and injustices.”
You could say that it points to the stupidity and injustice, and inadequacy, of the present concept of nationhood generally, given the mobility and non-geographic nature of modern existence. You could say that and it would be true, but then someone else would say “Oh we have to do it this way, because no alternatives exist that won’t make us uncomfortable.” And then you could go back to erecting these complicated little architectural models of a world that’s only partially real, and mostly virtual.
Taking refuge in that modeling can be a form of intellectual cowardice, and after a while the debate about all those tiny figures for all its rigor and complexity sounds like teenage boys arguing body counts and tactics in distant wars that were unbearable nightmares of death and destruction.
Which is why #21 has gone unanswered, except by #33, in pantomime.

136

virgil xenophon 02.28.08 at 4:22 am

Not too long ago a British Under-secretary of “something” (I don’t remember what) in the Foreign
Office commented that the main obstacle to any kind of settled “peaceful arrangement” in the Balkans is the fact that all sides (a minimum of three, often up to seven when Russia, Greece, Albania, et al, are involved) always bring their own set of history books and maps to the table. The discussion here only seems to underscore that observation.

My personal point of view is that both the Balkans
“problem” and the Palestinian “problem” are due to
all parties involved ignoring a basic law of Physics, i.e., two bodies cannot simultaneously
occupy the same point in time and space. But of course, they intuitatively full well realize
such things without a PhD in particle physics–hence all plans A-Z inevitably fall back on the “God is on the side of the bigger battalions” theorem. A theorem that has stood the test of time at least as well as anything Newton or Einstein managed to conger up.

137

Chris Bertram 02.28.08 at 8:04 am

_#21 has gone unanswered_

Because it wasn’t worthy of an answer.

138

abb1 02.28.08 at 8:27 am

134 This whole, patently ridiculous attempt at white washing Stalin…

To avoid the whitewashing altogether, one could note that everybody collaborated with the Nazis: the UK, the US, France, Switzerland, the Soviet Union, Zionists, probably Poland too. They all were trying to manipulate the Nazis to their advantage: get them to move East, to move West, to get their money, to expel Jews to Palestine, etc. If there was some political entity in Europe that didn’t collaborate with the Nazis, that’s only because they couldn’t find a way.

That’s called ‘politics’.

139

notsneaky 02.28.08 at 8:44 am

Uhhh… yes. But some of the “collaboration” was of the “leave us alone” kind, and some of it was “leave other people alone” kind and then there was “would you like to join us in on this gang rape?” kind.

If you’re gonna call everything that states do “politics” – as long as they’re acting roughly in their own self interest – then what’s the point of this discussion? You can look after your own interest and do so in ways that aren’t despicable, and then, you can look after your own self interest in ways that trample on others. It’s silly to pretend the two are in the same category.

(and yes, yes, yes, it’s not a black or white sort of thing)

140

notsneaky 02.28.08 at 8:58 am

And just to put the whole “SU needed a buffer” argument to rest: before Sept 1939 Poland would’ve made a perfectly good buffer for the SU against Germany. All Stalin had to do was offer an alliance to Poland on non-ridiculous terms (like not demanding that Soviet troops be allowed to occupy Polish territory). An independent Ukraine would’ve made a good buffer against Germany for the SU. Of course neither of these was in the cards because, in 1939, Stalin wasn’t thinking “buffer” (granted, maybe that was Stalin’s thinking in say 1943 and afterwards), he was thinking “territory”. If anything the Ribbentrop-Molotov in this way brought the Werchmacht closer to Soviet borders.

And the whole “buffer” argument is pretty much admitting that the whole thing was bunk. Suppose for a crazy second that the Guatemalans got crazy and US started to worry about them and said “ok, look Mexico, we’re worried about the Guatemalans so we’ll just take half your country as a “buffer””. Now maybe the US fears of the crazy Guatemalans would be justified. But why should they get a buffer at Mexico’s expense?

141

abb1 02.28.08 at 9:04 am

Fair enough.

Though the political philosophy (or whatever the discipline is) issue being discussed here is hardly relevant to Europe circa 1939. I dunno, it just seems silly to bring it up; you know, like: was it despicable for Genghis Khan to invade China?

142

notsneaky 02.28.08 at 9:56 am

Yeah, it was sorta despicable of him.

143

ajay 02.28.08 at 10:42 am

141: exactly. Occupying Poland abolished the buffer, it didn’t create one. Coupled with Stalin’s idiotic strategy, that almost lost Russia the war: in the first five weeks of Barbarossa, two million Soviet soldiers went into the German POW cages, and 90% of the Red air force was destroyed. This was made possible because the Wehrmacht start line was the Soviet border, with much of the Red Army massed along it ready for encirclement. If the Wehrmacht had started at the pre-1939 Polish border, they would have had another three hundred miles or so to advance, and two major rivers (the Vistula and the Neisse) to cross – territory that they took four to five weeks to take in 1939, even with Soviet help.

How much better could the Red Army have done with four weeks’ warning of the invasion, rather than four hours?

But to the Russians, Stalin’s still a hero. Which, in a way, answers the question above about why the West is still apparently so determined to constrain Russia – because they’re bloody dangerous, that’s why.

144

abb1 02.28.08 at 11:11 am

What nonsense, Ajay. Everybody is a great strategist 60 years after. What about the Maginot Line?

Everything is a gamble, maybe (probably) Stalin expected Germany to invade the British Isles and planned to attack Germany himself at that time. If that had happened, would it then validate his strategy as brilliant? Nobody knows the future.

145

seth edenbaum 02.28.08 at 3:29 pm

“#21 has gone unanswered… because it wasn’t worthy of an answer.”
And the US government that claimed in horror that 500,000 Kosovar’s had been killed, claimed in relief that only 40,000 Iraqi’s have been; and of course there’s always Albright and the Sanctions. We imagine our government is reinvented every 4 or 8 years; the rest of the world sees mostly continuity. Who’s the better judge?
CB, your moral clarity in Kosovo is mirrored in your moral clarity on Palestine. That clarity is what results in language like that I quoted in #135

146

novakant 02.28.08 at 3:51 pm

What nonsense, Ajay.

Not nonsense at all. Almost everybody agrees that Stalin was caught with his pants down and that the SU military was in a terrible state.

because it wasn’t worthy of an answer.

Why? I thought he made a perfectly reasonable point.

147

abb1 02.28.08 at 4:10 pm

He was, he was. But so was the Franco-British entente when they were attacked in 1940 after betting on Hitler to go East (the ‘phoney war’, remember?).

Nothing remarkable in what Stalin did there; it was a very simple game – to pit Hitler against the other side and let them bleed – and in the end they all lost. But it has nothing to do with anything here.

148

lurker 02.29.08 at 8:17 am

Rather late, but here’s some nationalist trolling:
Dan Kerwick in 107 writes of “an unjustified prejudice for the political communities of the past rather than the political communities of the present”.
Quite often there is no political community at present – what community do the Serbs and the Albanians have in common? You can’t create by fiat communities out of people who do not want any such community, that leads to lunacies like the suggested one-state solution to Israel/Palestine – a state that only foreign liberals who do not have to live there want. People have to want the community to work or it won’t, and that means mainly the people who’d be a part of the hypothetical community, not well meaning liberal imperialist outsiders.
Anti-nationalist Liberals seem to give a free pass to the nationalists who got their nationalism in first and already have national states. They put the burden of proof on e.g. the Tibetans to prove that the Chinese central government will always screw them if it serves Chinese interests rather than vice versa. One commenter here (post 83) apparently thinks that the Irish Civil war (2-3000 dead) should count for more in assessing the desirability of an independent Ireland than the way the government of the United Kingdom twiddled its thumbs as millions starved to death. Marginal, no-account people have every reason in the world to want a government of their own and to distrust any government dominated by others.

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LogicGuru 03.01.08 at 4:02 pm

Multiculturalism at work. As long as ethnicity, defined by bloodlines, is taken seriously there will be ethnic cleansing. As long as ethnicity is taken seriously people will know that they can’t enjoy first-class citizenship, or be safe, in countries where they’re in a minority.

Pragmatically, because most of the worlds population is tribal ethnic minorities have to be accommodated somehow in the short run. But in the long run ideally, since the world is organized politically on the basis of geographical nation-states the solution is to promote assimilation and form thick national identities for individuals regardless of blood kinship, including immigrants.

This doesn’t mean promoting some generic cosmopolitanism–there will always be local loyalties and special interest groups but encouraging the formation of more porous pseudo-ethnic identities that track geopolitical lines more closely and are, at least to some extent, voluntary.

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