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The more the merrier August 18, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

Until the rise of the large nation states, most areas of the world consisted of dozens, if not hundreds, of small political entities. City states or island states and such were common. In Europe, these lasted in Germany and Italy until the middle of the nineteenth century. The drive, mainly initiated by the European nations  diminished the number of nations in to well less than a hundred. The European ensuing extension of this philosophy throughout the world through their colonialization on every continent. The administration of regions was paramount, so the numerous nations of India, Arabia, and Africa were conquered and amalgamated into large colonies. Russia and China and the United States also had this policy, but were (and are) not thought of as colonialization because the conquests were on contoguous territories.

Now, even after the decolonialization of much of the world, there are only between 193 and 200 or so nations. Certain nations, like the Republic of China (Taiwan), Palestine, Western Sahara) are in an in-between status because they are de facto rulers of a territory (although in t5he cases of Palestine and Western Sahara) with not as much territory as they might legally claim) and are recognized by a fair number of nations. 193 are not in much dispute, the member states of the United Nations and the Vatican City.

There are a number of “secessionist” states that are not recognized internationally, but have de facto control of their territory – Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karahbak, the Trans-Dniester Republic, Somaliland. Each relies on ignoring border changes that made them part of a nation that they are ethnically different from or in the case of Somaliland, that they wish to undo.

My personal view is that there ought to be many more nations. The large nation states are a cause for greater ills in the world than if there were numerous smaller states. Easing of ethnic tensions is one gain. Another is a limiting of power. A large nation has more resources and population that if it were split into two, three, four, a dozen, or a hundred smaller nations. Yes, instability mihght increase because you have more governments and more chances for petty despotism (emphasis on the petty).

Iraq is a prime example. Three ethnic groups in different areas of the nation. Under the Ottoman Empire these were not joined administratively. Great Britain did that in its administration after World War I. The Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds have been fighting each other for centuries. Lebanon is an analogous hodgepodge nation created by the French. This is ironical since self-setermination had been a great theme during the War, especially espoused by US president Woodrow Wilson. Iraq and Lebanon each could readily have become three or more nations under that ideal.

Would this fracturing of nation states be unending? Maybe, but the creation of many new, smaller nations would be better than the few we have now.



1. The Chemist - August 18, 2009

I have to disagree. While I don’t think that self-determination should be completely done away with, I do think that we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into a certain intolerance for the possibilities of the multi-ethnic state, even where such states are possible, or even necessary to prevent conflict.

Overall I think far, far, too much importance is placed on what are literally imaginary lines on a map, and more problems could be resolved with a massive shift in attitude about what these lines mean anyway. What is an apartheid if not ethnic nationalism on a smaller scale with less moral ambiguity? I don’t think we’ll all join hands and start singing “Kumbaya”, but people should foster a popular hostility to being set apart, to what Vonnegut might have called “granfalloonery”.

2. fetzthechemist - August 18, 2009

There are few examples of the benevolent multiethnic state where the majority allows freedom of language, culture, and religion to a minority. If so, there would be no Palestinean-Israeli conflict. The Kurds in Turkey would be Kurdish Turks who had loyalty to the nation, but could speak their language and celebrate their culture freely. The same is true of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Tibetans in China, and many, many other examples.

This attitude that there ought to be a tyranny of the majority has not changed for millenia. Ethnic cleansing is not a new thing started by the groups in the shattered Yugoslavia.

That a larger entity can be both a dominating majority and through its sheer size a bigger threat to its neighbors is not a good thing. That in any conflict you have larger masses of people fighting and using more resourse for that military effort has made few wars small anymore.

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