January 29, 2007

Just like Scotland, I’m in the middle of an identity crisis (Niall Ferguson, 28/01/2007, Sunday Telegraph)

Having once been the best educated and most entrepreneurial part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has become a byword for big government, high unemployment and low achievement. Southern Ireland — once regarded by Scots like me as a benighted outpost of Popery and poverty — has eclipsed Scotland at everything from foreign direct investment to football.

The answer, argue the Scot Nats, is independence. And the “Celtic Tiger” is not their only role model. The SNP website also lauds the achievements of Australia, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Montenegro, New Zealand and Norway, all places where “independence has worked”.

It is, of course, a little premature to conclude that independence has worked in Montenegro, which has enjoyed self-government for less than eight months. Still, the point is superficially a reasonable one. There are indeed plenty of countries smaller than Scotland (population 5.1 million) that have prospered under their own flag. And it is not wholly implausible to imagine an independent Scotland as Finland West or New Zealand North.

On the other hand, there are plenty of countries with populations of around five million that have made rather less of a success of independence. Sierra Leone springs to mind. As does Eritrea. As does Turkmenistan. Small isn’t always beautiful. The question therefore arises: Just when does it make sense for a people to go it alone?

The past century has seen a remarkable global experiment in what used to be called “self-determination”, so we have plenty of evidence to go on. Back in 1913, around 82 per cent of the world’s population lived in some 14 empires. Nation states were the exception, not the rule. But two world wars, a depression and a spate of revolutions shattered the old imperial order, ushering in an era of almost incessant political fragmentation. In 1946, there were 74 sovereign states in the world. By 1995 there were 192.

It’s hardly a purely economic question, but from an economic perspective there is no question that an island people who were colonized by the Brits will succeed on their own and smallness is a huge boon.



January 26, 2007

Kosovo Wins Support For Split From Serbia: U.S., European Allies Agree to Secession With Ongoing International Supervision (R. Jeffrey Smith, 1/26/07, Washington Post)

Nearly eight years after NATO warplanes intervened in a bitter ethnic conflict between Serbs and rebellious Kosovo Albanians in the former Yugoslavia, the United States and its European allies have agreed to support Kosovo’s permanent secession from Serbia under continuing international supervision, according to senior U.S. and European officials.

The decision is likely to lead, possibly as early as this summer, to the formal creation of a new Connecticut-size country in southeastern Europe with membership in the United Nations and, eventually, its own army, the officials said. […]

Historically a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999. That year, a 78-day air campaign by NATO forced out the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, ending its brutal war against guerrillas fighting for self-rule for the province’s ethnic Albanian majority. Many members of Kosovo’s Serb minority have since fled Albanian retribution.

The new plan, a culmination of lengthy diplomatic consultations between nervous continental Europeans and more enthusiastic Americans and British, is meant in part to alleviate continuing intense pressure from the Albanians for independence. Western officials fear that without official action on the issue, new violence might break out this summer.

Officials say that finally allowing Kosovo to stand mostly on its own also has a major economic impetus: They anticipate it would open the door to private investment, new Western lending and aid, supplanting more than $2.5 billion already poured into the province by foreigners since 1999 with only a slight impact on a faltering and highly corrupt economy.

Kosovo has Europe’s largest deposits of lignite coal. Economic planners hope that the new state might build power plants and emerge as a primary supplier of electricity to its Balkan neighbors.

Some diplomats caution that achievement of consensus by the Western powers might not be the end of the tale: Serbia’s leaders have persistently and heatedly campaigned against any forced separation of one of their country’s provinces.

It’s a model for The Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, at a minimum.


January 23, 2007


January 23, 2007

Kosovo breakaway could raise Scot Nats’ hopes (Simon Tisdall, January 23, 2007, The Guardian)

The breakaway British region of Scotland could be among the beneficiaries of this week’s expected UN recommendation that Kosovo be granted provisional independence from Serbia, leading in time to full sovereign status. If the plan backed by the US, Britain and Germany is formally accepted by the UN security council, it will be taken as an important international legal precedent by would-be separatist movements from Georgia to Moldova to Chechnya, and possibly also the Scottish National party.

Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president who is the UN’s point man on Kosovo, will put forward his proposals on Friday, when he meets the Kosovo contact group in Vienna. If he follows the expected script and backs independence, the implications will be explosive not only for Serbia but for EU unity and Russia’s touchy relations with the west.

Kosovo has been part of Serbia since the Middle Ages. By comparison, the Act of Union binding Scotland and England dates back a mere 300 years, to 1707. Serbs view Kosovo as integral to their history and nationhood. Most are adamantly opposed to a breakup, as shown by nationalist success in Sunday’s election. But opinion polls suggest many English voters view the prospect of Scotland’s secession with equanimity.

To each “species” his own niche.


January 17, 2007

Rogue State America: Has America become a rogue state? (John B. Judis, 1/17/07, TNR Online)

What exactly are we doing in the Horn of Africa, where we have encouraged the Christian government of Ethiopia to invade Somalia and replace its Islamic government? As far as I can tell, we have violated international law, committed war crimes, helped Al Qaeda recruit new members, and involved ourselves in a guerrilla war that could last decades. It’s Iraq writ small. And it can’t be blamed on Donald Rumsfeld.

There’s an old principle of international law, going back to the seventeenth century, against one nation violating the sovereignty of another. It was often breached, but, after two world wars, it was enshrined in the United Nations charter. We criticized the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and justified the first Gulf war on these grounds. The purpose of this principle has been to prevent wars that could arise if more powerful countries simply took it into their hands to dominate smaller, less powerful ones. […]

In the 1990s, foreign policy experts, eager to identify a new enemy, hit upon the concept of a “rogue state.” A rogue state operated outside the bounds of international norms and had to be restrained. The obvious candidates at the time were Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. But the Bush administration has turned the United States itself into a rogue state. Tough-minded conservatives, flexing their “muscular” inclinations from comfortable sinecures in Washington, may dismiss concerns about international law and war crimes as inventions of silly panty-waist liberals. But these inventions, which, in the modern era, were championed by Theodore Roosevelt, were meant to protect Americans as well as other peoples from the wars and the inhumanity that prevailed for thousands of years. We ignore them at their peril, whether in Haditha or Ras Kamboni.

Mr. Judis is correct about the intervention being a mistake vis-a-vis the Somali people, but if he’s just now noticing that we’re a rogue state and sovereignty is a dead letter he doesn’t pay much attention to American history.


January 15, 2007

EU’s surprise far-right coalition (Alix Kroeger, 1/15/07, BBC News)

The first full session of the European Parliament this year gets under way on 15 January, with the inclusion of a new far-right group. […]

They say they are in favour of the “recognition of national interests”, a “commitment to Christian values… and the traditions of European civilisation”, and the traditional family. They oppose a “unitary, bureaucratic European super state”.

They call themselves Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty – or ITS, for short.

Most of the parties in ITS are vehemently anti-immigration, but they reject the “far-right” label. They say they are near the centre of the political spectrum.

“We got 25% of the vote at the last European election,” points out MEP Philip Claeys of Belgium’s separatist Flemish Interest party.

“We can hardly be described as extremists.”

The leader of ITS, Frenchman Bruno Gollnisch, is awaiting the verdict of his trial on charges of Holocaust denial.

…find a racist.


January 13, 2007

Intellectuals and International Relations (Harry Gelber, December 2006, Quadrant)

The first chair of an independent discipline of international politics was created in 1919 at Aberystwyth, and its first holder was Professor Sir Alfred Zimmern who, a number of years later, left Aberystwyth to take up another foundation chair in the subject, the first Montagu Burton Professorship of International Relations at Oxford.

Working in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, Zimmern was very much an idealist in the mould of his contemporary, the US President, Woodrow Wilson. He believed deeply in the mission-oriented Wilsonian approach that has suffused so much of international relations studies ever since: the search, on the basis of the self-determination of peoples1, for peace and conflict resolution. Ever since Zimmern, a central concern of international relations scholars has been the resolution of differences on the basis of these two principles, with international order resting not only on the traditional tools of diplomacy and inter-state treaties but also, and strongly, on the creation of powerful international laws and institutions.

But that effort, from its beginnings, has been based on a profound and probably insoluble contradiction that has caused increasing philosophical and practical difficulties for its devotees. It has been like a house built on a geological fault-line. Wilson’s approach to ensuring peace might mean the invention of a League of Nations to keep the peace and avoid another world war. But the units of the Wilsonian construct were national: nation-states, separate and sovereign. Neither the League nor its successor, the United Nations, has had any authority over individual states and neither has been able to do more than use moral and political persuasion against recalcitrant sovereigns, unless its officers could persuade major state members to act on its behalf. Indeed, the United States itself famously (or, depending on one’s point of view, notoriously) refused to have its decisions fettered even by joining the very League for which Wilson had worked2.

That contradiction remains unresolved. The process by which new states were brought into independent and sovereign being by the dissolution of the old empires between 1918 and the 1960s, especially in Asia and Africa, was quite often encouraged by the former imperial powers themselves. They had become tired of the economic, let alone the political, costs of looking after the colonial peoples. At the same time, one need hardly point out that the movements of “national liberation” in regions like East and South-East Asia, or the Middle East, movements with which very many people in the West deeply sympathised, rested critically on Wilsonian ideas of national self-determination and the proposition that identifiable ethnic and linguistic groups were entitled, as a matter of course, to run their affairs in a state of their own, governed by their “own” people. That reflected a universalist approach inherent in American thought and policy from the Declaration of Independence onwards.

Once established, moreover, the new states have insisted on nothing more strenuously than their sovereign status and rights. They have almost invariably been highly suspicious of any idea that those rights should be subordinated to the votes or decisions of any outside party, let alone any international entity. Indeed, well before the end of the twentieth century it had become a matter of debate whether even the trade and aid policies of the major and advanced powers might not amount to damaging new forms of “colonialism”.

In Europe itself, the territorial policies of National Socialist Germany were, for many years, based on Wilson’s own notions of national self-determination. As late as 1938 many good people believed that it was entirely reasonable of Hitler to want to unite all Germans in a single German state. It was only in 1939, with the German occupation of the plainly non-German regions of rump-Czechoslovakia, that opinion turned. Even later, the postwar settlement of Europe in 1945-47 relied strongly on Wilsonian principles–only this time not by moving borders but, instead, by moving people: in other words, “ethnic cleansing”. By 1950 one person in five in the brand-new West German state was a refugee or “expellee”, having been expelled from the new Poland or Czechoslovakia or elsewhere.

Nor have these beliefs weakened since. By the 1990s, for example, NATO intervened militarily in the Balkans, largely in order to avoid letting Christian Serbs clear Muslim Albanians out of Kosovo. The net result has been that, under the government of a NATO military protectorate, the Albanians have almost totally cleared Serbs out of Kosovo, which some people regard as “progress”. Similar things have happened elsewhere. The recent travails of the Sudan have very largely to do with the desire of the Christian and black south to free itself from the Islamic and Arab north.

It has, then, been very rare for any of the old or new sovereign states to be willing to subject their rights of decision to others, let alone to treaty regimes they regard as undesirable. That point has become clear even in the case of the European Union, arguably the group in which existing states have gone furthest in pooling sovereignty, or subordinating their own freedom of decision to a commonality of policy and even law. It was two of the Community’s oldest members, the Netherlands and France, who in 2005 rejected the proposal for a new European Constitution. A much larger majority rejected proposals, in 2006, for subordinating domestic criminal law to majority voting within the EU. Further cases in point are the recent behaviour of North Korea and Iran over nuclear developments.


January 11, 2007

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Arab nationalism's last gasp: Saddam Hussein’s execution likely means the end of the foolish secular Arab nationalism movement (Robert D. Kaplan, January 7, 2007, LA Times)

[J]ust as communism exit[ing] the European stage exposed for what it always truly was — fascism without fascism’s ability to make the trains run on time — secular Arab nationalism will exit the stage revealed for what it always was: a despotic perversion of the western nation-state that lasted as long as it did mainly because of secret-police techniques imported from the former Soviet Union.

Arab nationalism’s roots go back to the revolt against European colonialism in the early decades of the 20th century. But as it developed, it faced a serious problem: Because it was organized around the artificial national borders that these same colonialists had drawn — which generally ignored ethnic and sectarian lines — the result, in too many cases, was multiethnic rivalry and the subjugation of one part of the population by another.

In Iraq, for instance, the national borders created a state in which the majority Shiites were subjugated by the minority Sunnis (as we all now know). In Syria, the majority Sunnis came to be subjugated by the minority Alawites, who constitute a branch of Shiism (and who had been favored in the armed forces by the French). In Lebanon, it was the Shiites who ended up subjugated by both Christians and Sunnis.

No sooner were these independent new states created than the ties of faith and tribe were undermining them. A fragile unity of sorts could only be achieved by recourse to secular nationalism, which, on paper at least, aimed to transcend those bitter rivalries.

Indeed, the more artificial the state, the more extreme the secular ideology had to be to hold it together. To secure unwieldy tribal assemblages, for instance, an austere state socialism was required in Algeria, and a form of “Dear Leader Absolutism” in Libya. Because Syria and Iraq were also artificial constructs, these two states resorted to Baathism — another bastardized form of state socialism.

Contrast all this with places such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, which were age-old civilization clusters whose identities, rather than artificial, harked back to antiquity. It should be no surprise that these places produced more benign forms of secular government.

The two extremes in the Arab world became Tunisia and Iraq. Tunisia, a small country of Sunni Arabs with no internal divisions, which traced its borders back to ancient Carthage, produced Habib Bourguiba, the Arab version of the enlightened Turkish modernizer Kemal Ataturk. Iraq, a Frankenstein monster of a country assembled from warring ethnic and sectarian groups by the British, produced Saddam Hussein, the Arab Stalin. […]

Those who proclaim today that the only real solution to the Arab dilemma is political freedom are correct. The problem is that they are describing a process that could encompass several bloody decades. After all, it took centuries for stable democracy as we know it to evolve in Europe. In this Darwinian shaking-out process, the new forms of political legitimacy may more closely resemble militarized social welfare organizations such as Hezbollah and the Al Mahdi army than the ramshackle contrivances of the European model that we saw in the post-colonial era.

…he even gets the Darwinism analogy right.


January 9, 2007

Pakistan should crack down on Taliban, UN official says (Abdul Waheed Wafa, January 9, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Pakistan should do more to restrict the activities of Taliban leaders in and around the border area with Afghanistan in keeping with a UN resolution that considers its leaders to be terrorists, according to the deputy chief of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

The resolution, passed in 1999, listed 142 Taliban leaders as terrorists, but only a handful have been captured or have had their whereabouts established in the last six years, said Chris Alexander, the former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan and now the deputy director of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, speaking Monday.

The resolution, which has been renewed every year, calls for governments to prevent the entry or transit of the individuals listed and for their assets to be frozen, and requires all states to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms or military equipment to those individuals, he noted.

A region that the Pakistani government is incapable of exercising sovereignty over is, by definition, not part of Pakistan.


January 9, 2007

If you’re going to be near a computer this evening, you can access an interview about the book on:

Twin State Journal, a live radio program that broadcasts from 6-7 in the evening on WNTK Talk Radio from Lebanon, NH