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A nation's right to self-determination and independence... is it an absolute right?


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Old 05-07-2006, 11:20   #1
freddie freddie is offline
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A nation's right to self-determination and independence... is it an absolute right?

Since it's the 4th of July - that time of the year when people on the other side of the pond make the pyrotechnics industry very happy I'll pay a little tribute to the relativity of international politics. Where's that line drawn when someone's labeled as a freedom fighter instead of a terrorist? How absolute is a nation's right to sovereignty? And when does it become an act of terrorism. Don't get me wrong... I'm not labeling those fuckers who cut people's heads off and send other people to blow themselves up as freedom fighters. Far from it. If anything those are nothing but opportunists.

I'm talking about more subtle issues. When does an ethnic /political entity or a colony deserve it's right to independence from it's motherland? There're no clearly defined rules about the subject in international politics. It's all impromptu. A case of diplomacy and often even armed conflicts. Sometimes (and when I say sometimes I mean always) subjective reasoning prevails when other countries decide whether to indorse the plight of a nation struggling for independence. It all depends on what these other countries gain from a new political alignment (as we established in the Sommes Battle thread). So sovereignty is de facto definitely not an absolute right. If that were so Lusatian Sorbs as a Slavic minority in Germany would get their own state as well. So would Taiwan gain independence from China, Chechnya from Russia, Kosovo Albanians from Serbia not to mention Basques which are a totally independent ethnic entity inside Spain.

However since numerous international law charters do state that nations have a right of self-determination and soverignty it's at least a de iure absolute right. However an interesting paradox arises when we label it as a wider human right . Is this right imperial to all other human rights including the right to life, liberty and security of a person? Because armed conflicts are almost a necessity in some cases and it clashes with other rights which are bound to be breeched (by a country which for the time it does not gain international recognition is legally still a political non-entity). And here's where we start talking about that thin line between a freedom fighter and a terrorist again.

I'm not trying to promote either way of thinking here. I just think international politics should be more clear regarding what rights a nation without it's own country has. It's a ridiculously sensitive issue though, since you'll bound to collide with sovereignty of other countries that already have well established political and territorial sovereignty. If the UN (and The League of Nations as it's organizational predecessor) made those conditions clear about 70 years ago I think there'd be no Middle Eastern nor Balkan crises. The vagueness of international politics works against peace sometimes. There's too many selfish interests countries have in shaping the political landscape. Something should be done about it NOW. Koffi Annan are you listening?
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Last edited by freddie; 06-07-2006 at 11:24.
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Old 06-07-2006, 01:11   #2
PowerPuff Grrl PowerPuff Grrl is offline
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Very interesting topic!

IMHO, I think the right to independence and self-determination can be exerted and justified only with reference to representation (or lack thereof). Most violent separatist movements are caused due to a lack of representation of a group of people; from the American "no taxation without representation" Revolution, to the civil war in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil minority, Pakistan/Bangladesh, East Timor, Oromia in Ethiopia, the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, etc, etc...

However, ethnic groups that do have representation very rarely ever become violent. Case in point the Quebec independence movement involved terrorism initially during the 1970s and the second a political party was formed to represent the interests of the Quebecois, the violence stopped, there was no need for it.
On the flip side, Eritrea (my country of heritage) had no violent leanings when signed over (by the British backed by the UN no less) to Ethiopians during the 1950s under the condition the we'd belong to a federation while still maintaining some political autonomy. When Emperor Haile Selassie decided that federation was bullshit and tossed it and our autonomy out the window, then the violence started.
(And Ethiopia is still experiencing separatist movements within the country even today, specifically from the Oromos who make up 40% of the population and have zero representation.)

So I guess my opinion in all this would be that if a nation has no representation then it has a right to self-determination and independence. Not that I'm saying that I support those without any influence in government the license to kill anythone in their way of independence or anything. But I just see the violence as something of a last resort. I doubt any government would ever just let anybody separate from their country without a fight so violence is inevitable.
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Old 07-07-2006, 15:07   #3
freddie freddie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerPuff Grrl
So I guess my opinion in all this would be that if a nation has no representation then it has a right to self-determination and independence. Not that I'm saying that I support those without any influence in government the license to kill anythone in their way of independence or anything. But I just see the violence as something of a last resort. I doubt any government would ever just let anybody separate from their country without a fight so violence is inevitable.
Sometimes it happens! Happened recently when Montenegro gained independance from Serbia. But in most cases it's true countries would be very reluctant to give up large chunks of their territory. Sometimes they're even reluctant to give ethnic minorities fair political representation. Why? It can be a double-edged sword for them. Because it often only increases appetites of the minority in question. Catalans got their so desired authonomy recently and some of their political leaders think this is just the first small step that'd eventually lead to independence. That's why countries are very wary and bargain hard when it comes to giving any sort of right to a national entity within a state. It's like a vicious cycle where no one wants to give in. That's why UN should really take care of these issues once and for all.
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Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Last edited by freddie; 07-07-2006 at 17:15.
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Old 13-11-2006, 18:50   #4
haku haku is offline
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What is currently happening in South Ossetia and how the world is reacting to it show how "relative" the notion of self-determination can be. What's the difference between South Ossetia and Kosovo for example? What makes South Ossetia unworthy of self-determination while Kosovo is allowed to contemplate independance? Why is the world saying that Georgia's territorial integrity must be preserved while Serbia's territorial integrity can be cut into pieces?

There is no consistency in the way the powers that be deal with self-determination, and that ruins the credibility of that supposedly universal right.

I'm not saying South Ossetia should be allowed to self-determination though, i'm just comparing two similar situations that are treated differently.
I am absolutely not convinced that the ever going balkanization of the former Yugoslavia has been a positive process for example. Was it really worth it to disintegrate a country in aways smaller pieces (not to mention kill thousands of people) only to end up all together again in the EU 10 to 20 years later? I very much doubt it. If Yugoslavia had remained one, the whole country would have most probably joined the EU by now, and would people's lives be any worse than they are now in independant countries, most probably not, they'd most likely be better actually.
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Old 13-11-2006, 20:00   #5
Argos Argos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
What is currently happening in South Ossetia and how the world is reacting to it show how "relative" the notion of self-determination can be. What's the difference between South Ossetia and Kosovo for example? What makes South Ossetia unworthy of self-determination while Kosovo is allowed to contemplate independance? Why is the world saying that Georgia's territorial integrity must be preserved while Serbia's territorial integrity can be cut into pieces?
Is that so hard to comprehend? It's this black, evil stinking brew from the Caspian Sea. Tskhinvali is 30 km away from the pipeline, which means more independence from Russian oil. That's why USA and EU so heavily support Georgia which suppresses minorities in the most reprehensible way. With the terror tactics of the Georgian army about 100.000 Ossets fled to Russia. Now there are only about 70.000 people living there. See it as it really is - Brussels is the home of unscrupulous greed-throats!
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Old 13-11-2006, 20:49   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Argos
Georgia which suppresses minorities in the most reprehensible way.
Georgians were also a minority in the USSR, and caucasian minorities have never been treated very nicely by Moscow. Moscow's sudden interest in Ossetian people is only motivated by geostrategy, not the well being of a minority.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Argos
Brussels is the home of unscrupulous greed-throats!
Blaming a foreign policy decision on Brussels is complete nonsense, the EU has no foreign policy, there is no "foreign policy commissioner". Under current EU treaties, foreign policy remains completely in the hands of national governments, this is what has allowed the UK to go to war in Iraq while France and Germany were opposed to it for example.
So you can blame Paris, Berlin, London or any other government whose foreign policy decissions over South Ossetia makes you angry, but blaming Brussels for something over which it has absolutely no control whatsoever is pure irrational euro bashing.
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Old 13-11-2006, 22:19   #7
Argos Argos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
Georgians were also a minority in the USSR, and caucasian minorities have never been treated very nicely by Moscow. Moscow's sudden interest in Ossetian people is only motivated by geostrategy, not the well being of a minority.
Nobody said that Russia is any better! The whole Caucasian situation was always very complex and neither Russia nor Georgia are very 'loved' by the minorities. Interesting only, that both Abchasia and S. Ossetia want more to be in Russia's hands than in Georgia's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
Blaming a foreign policy decision on Brussels is complete nonsense, the EU has no foreign policy, there is no "foreign policy commissioner". ...
So you can blame Paris, Berlin, London or any other government whose foreign policy decissions over South Ossetia makes you angry, but blaming Brussels for something over which it has absolutely no control whatsoever is pure irrational euro bashing.
There goes quite a lot of money from Brussels to Tbilisi, money from EU citizens, for which Saakashvili found thankful words regularly. Both USA and EU countries give much military support to Georgia, prepare NATO membership and do everything to maintain integrity in a country that is hopelessly corrupt and is most likely to fall completely apart if no foreign country does interfere.

If EU would have put pressure on the government to comply with international standards of treating minorities there would have been chances for peace in that region. But the lobbyists sitting around in Brussels don't want to wait, they want their profit NOW. Foreign policy is coordinated in the EU, though there is not always agreement, like in the Iraq-war. Don't belittle the power of Brussels in foreign affairs, they can be quite effective if there is consense of the most powerful nations.

Finally, it's not 'pure irrational euro bashing', it 's only the realization, that EU politics in general is based on profit and moral authority is only seen if it doesn't cost.
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Old 14-11-2006, 00:45   #8
freddie freddie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haku
I am absolutely not convinced that the ever going balkanization of the former Yugoslavia has been a positive process for example. Was it really worth it to disintegrate a country in aways smaller pieces (not to mention kill thousands of people) only to end up all together again in the EU 10 to 20 years later? I very much doubt it. If Yugoslavia had remained one, the whole country would have most probably joined the EU by now, and would people's lives be any worse than they are now in independant countries, most probably not, they'd most likely be better actually.
Oi. I think you're wrong there. Yugoslavia in it's former Belgrade-centralized loan-ladden state would never be able to exist for more than it did. It was a pressure cooker just waiting to erupt. Also I think you're underestimating the deep rooted hate between Serbians & Croatians (both notorious for their fanatical nationalism).

I think Russia's been pretty consistent with how it's treating both Kosovo and Ossetia. It's against both. You have to understand though that Kosovo had a lot of political privileges even inside the former Yugoslavia - it's not just a region with an Albanian majority, like Ossetians in Ossetia. It's been an autonomous Albanian region for 50 years - with some political establishment separated from other socialist Republics of Ex Yugoslavia. Ossetia was just a region swallowed up by the huge USSR. Back then no one even talked about Ossetia as an entity. That only came after the collapse of the Warshaw pact.
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Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
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