Tuesday 2 February 2010

Half a state, we pontificate, is ipso facto half not state

Graeme Wood at Foreign Policy nicely summarizes the problem of cargo-cult states: quasi-autonomous regions that hope to become states by acting like them. Abkhazia, Khalistan, Somaliland and others.
In years past, such breakaway quasi-states tended to achieve independence fast or be reassimilated within a few years (usually after a gory civil war, as with Biafra in Nigeria). But today's Limbo World countries stay in political purgatory for longer -- the ones in this article have wandered in legal wilderness for an average of 15 years -- representing a dangerous new international phenomenon: the permanent second-class state.

This trend is a mess waiting to happen. The first worry is that these quasi-states' continued existence, and occasional luck, emboldens other secessionists. Imagine a world where every independence movement with a crate of Kalashnikovs thinks it can become the new Kurdistan, if only it hires the right lobbyists in Washington and opens a realistic-looking Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its makeshift capital. The second concern is that these aspirant nations have none of the rights and obligations of full countries, just ambiguous status and guns without laws. The United Nations is, in the end, binary: You are in or you are out, and if you are out, your mass-produced miniature desk flag has no place in Turtle Bay.
The article is interesting throughout.

HT: BK Drinkwater

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