Kosovo, Kurdistan ... why support what?

Recent events have me asking.

When is an independence or secession movement something that should be supported, when is it something that should discouraged, and how do those criteria differ from what we actually do?

Please feel free to illustrate with case studies ranging from Kosovo to proto-Kurdistan to America’s birth to America’s Civil War.

Are there any standards to go by other than Realpolitik?

Since Reagan? I’m not sure. There are still a lot of people who think that he single-handedly took down the Soviet Union.

Idealistically, I’d like to see the Kurds have their own country. People would flock there from Turkey and Iran. But their oil resources might become a target. And there are many non-Kurds in northern Iraq.

Also, in Kosovo, there are some Serbs. What would happen to them? Ethnic nationalism sucks, because so many places are so mixed. That’s why I like Los Angeles: aside from the occasional riot or two, we “get along.” Nobody’s talking about secession.

(Actually, no, the Valley is talking about secession. I won’t miss them much, however.)

I’m not sure you can have a one-size-fits-all approach. Creating a Kurdistan, for example, would be a messy and bloody affair. It’s bad enough that we’re engaged in Iraq at all. Imagine what would (will?) happen if Kurdistan suddenly declares its intention to rise on Iraq’s ashes.

Kosovo, on the other hand, was pretty easy. We don’t like the Serbs anyway, and feel like we can afford to give them the finger. And we’re gambling that the Russians won’t go much beyond bitching.

Hmm… maybe it is all realpolitik and nothing more. Wilsonian self-determination is all well and good, but it’s true, as guizot says, that there are few places that are ethnically pure. And anyway, who says it’s a good idea to splinter the world into ethnic states? Personally, I think the answer is simply more democracy, and an end to ethnic oppression. That’s where much of the impulse towards ethnic nationalism comes from anyway.

Well I’m not looking for one size fits all, just some sort of a set of principles to guide the thought process.

If any exist.

Is creating states based on ethnic identity to be discouraged in general? Encouraged if cohabitation has led to violence? Unless seperation would lead to more or somehow adversely affect our own national interests?

How is it justifiable to simultaneously endorse Kosova while facilitating Turkish action against Kurdish seperatists? How does it differ from the Basques or various other seperatist movements?

There are any number of factors involved.

Is the state from which the group wants to secede a dictatorship/democracy/other?
Within the framework of the state is the group represented and are they treated fairly?
Can the move be made without bloodshed or destablising effects?
I’m sure there are a huge amount of other variables.

In the case of Northern Ireland, the separatists (ie the Irish Republicans) had several legitimate problems with how Northern Ireland was run, job discrimination, gerrymandering etc. Although the “regime” in Northern Ireland was never as severe as that of the apartheid regime in South Africa there was a group exercising sectarian dominance over a significant minority (a minority that formed part of the majority group on the island as a whole). After the violence started, internment and the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972 seemingly legitimised the cause of physical force republicanism in Ireland. The Troubles as the period is called in Ireland and Britain led to the deaths of nearly 4000 people and Northern Ireland isn’t really any closer to becoming a part of the Irish Republic than it was 40 years ago. However, the sectarian injustices in NI society now are no longer tenable and legislation exists to limit discrimination based on religion.

Throughout the period (and even still) there was significant support and sympathy for the republican movement internationally, especially in the United States.

I think there is reason to support the Kurdistan cause in a way but then as you have all talked about above, realpolitik comes into it. If it will lead to the deaths of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands is it a move that should be supported by the wider international community?

Kosovo and Turkey may in the future both become members of the European Union and although member states do not cede all their autonomy it makes national causes, especially based on ethnicity/culture, seem somewhat moot.

Having said all that I know the allure of nationalism and however irrational it is, it courses through the veins of many people.

To further add, the cases of devolution in the UK and Spain are interesting because as individual parts want further autonomy from the centres of power nationally, each of these nations is being brought ever closer to the other states and to the EU centres of power in Belgium, France et al.

The standard is “nobody gets to declare independence unless both parties agree to it.”

In practice, what happens is that if the separatists have stronger realpolitik allies than the government, they get their own country.