Tuesday, October 07, 2008

From the Academy: Secession and Self-Determination

Now that I am back to being an academic, I find I have more time to read (for the sake of reading). I checked out from the library an edited volume, Yugoslavia Unraveled: Sovereignty, Self-Determination, Intervention, which was published five years ago.

The editor of the compilation, Raju G.C. Thomas, concluded his introduction by noting, “In choosing between the principle of the right of self-determination and the principle of the territorial integrity of sovereign states, the “international community” has now established the following self-contradictory and dangerous precedent and principles in the Yugoslav case: (1)The internal boundaries of a sovereign state will automatically become international frontiers without change if that sovereign state is taken apart through new state recognition policy; and (2) These newly recognized international frontiers of the newly created sovereign states that have been recognized will be preserved and enforced at any price, thus contradicting the earlier decision to take the international frontiers of the preexisting sovereign state part based on the right of self-determination and secession.”

Alan Kuperman’s contribution to the volume is quite thought-provoking; looking at case studies in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo, he notes that the gap between the West’s rhetoric on intervention and its actual willingness to commit blood and treasure creates two very negative dynamics: weaker groups in an ethnic conflict try to find ways to provoke outside intervention on their behalf; stronger groups try to set “facts on the ground” to persuade outsiders that it would be futile in the end to intervene. In other words, this mismatch between statements and action creates conditions which facilitate rather than retard violence. An interesting quote in the notes of his paper: an advisor to a secessionist politician noting that how his group’s bid for aid and sympathy “depends how we look on CNN.”

...the inevitable consequence of laying the burden of the decision to intervene on a government's popularity rating.

Its the same all over the democratic world: belligerence effectiveness ever hindered by demagogy and fluctuating popular (uninformed apathetic and uninterested by its very nature) support...
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