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When to settle your differences, and when to seccede.

  1. Mar 8, 2005 #1
    I'm interested in all your viewpoints about this issue. If you have 2 (or more) groups within a country, and there is conflict between different areas, under what conditions is it appropriate for these different areas within a nation settle their problems, and under what conditions is it appropriate for these groups within a nation to split off into seperate countries.

    The position of the US government now is (obviously) to keep Iraq as one whole nation, even though the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds would probabally all be happy with each having their own autonomous nations where they are totally in control. Similarly, during the civil war, millions of people died to preserve the Union. However, China is seriously considering the idea of passing an anti-seccession act to make sure that Taiwan stays part of China, even though the Taiwanese mostly want independence, and it seems that the US government is on the side of Taiwanese independence.

    So where do you think two divergant groups should hammer out their differences, and when should they just split up?
     
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  3. Mar 8, 2005 #2

    Moonbear

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    As a first crack at the question, I'd say it's not an either/or choice, but a sequence of events to follow. In other words, if all attempts have been made to hammer out the differences, or at least to come to agreement on how to live together with those differences, and all attempts have failed, then it would be time to consider splitting up. However, consideration also would need to be given to whether the newly formed nations could truly function autonomously, or if there is a reason they need to function together. For example, how are natural resources distributed throughout a country? Are they uniformly distributed, or are there pockets of resources that would go to one side or the other but both really need to be autonomous?
     
  4. Mar 8, 2005 #3

    loseyourname

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    I honestly think that, in cases like Iraq, where we see disparate ethnic groups that have fought each other for the past 50 years at least, they should just form separate nations. In the case of the US, we had a policy difference. Many states felt left out because the man they voted in as president lost, and they knew that Lincoln's policies would change their way of life. In such a case, it's tought to say who was right. Obviously, many people will simply say that the south wanted to secede to maintain its practice of slave labor, which is morally wrong and they should not be allowed to secede for that reason. But if we extract the specifics, we are left simply with the abstract case of one part of a nation wanting policy that is different from another part. When the rift is great enough, it seems reasonable that if the people of a state agree, they should be able to form their own federal government and secede from the union. On the other hand, if we allowed this, we could easily see the slippery slope effect and end up with several thousand nations. Given the chance, Orange County would secede from California and the Valley would secede from Los Angeles. I know the slippery slope argument is a fallacy, but it remains a real concern in any nation with so many disparate opinions on policy. Imagine if the red states and blue states had split after last year's election. What then? We'd be left with two much easier targets with reduced power, plus the border never remain the same. What do we do with swing states and states that switch party allegiance from election to election? No state has ever voted the same way in every election. We'd end up segregating people according to their current political attitudes, which is never a good idea in a nation that thrives so strongly on a diversity of viewpoints. E pluribus, unum, and it should stay that way.
     
  5. Mar 8, 2005 #4
    If every attempt to maintain peace in the area has failed and people are taking actions that are threating not only the people in the country they are targeting, but neighboring nations as well, it would be to the benefit of everyone to divide the country into equal parts and go their separet ways. For example, the current conflict in Israel and Palestine could blow up into complete violence and chaos...more so than it already is. If that does happen, it would be in the best interests of both groups to separet and act as independent states. The same with Kashmere. It would probably be better for India, Pakistan and the area they are fighting over to just liveas three different states.

    However if people are just arguing because of difference of opinion, then that would be a waste of time, energy and effort. Many people disagree because of what they believe. Much of the tension in the world today is based on land disputes.

    People need to learn how to swallow their pride and compromise to meet everyone's best interests. Granted not every situation will be a win-win situation. People at least need to try.
     
  6. Mar 8, 2005 #5

    SOS2008

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    Another initial response, which follows along the line of what Moonbear posted...

    Using India as an example, it was partitioned along religious lines, with Hindu areas allocated to India, and Muslim areas to Pakistan. Nonetheless, the conflict has continued for more than 50 years now, with three wars.
    Pakistan now struggles economically while India is thriving. With regard to the U.S., it is said that if the South had succeeded, it would be a third-world country now.

    In further response to the original thread, the other issue is foreign intervention. The indiscriminate changing of borders by foreign powers have often caused these problems in the first place. Perhaps the answer is that the countries will be split depending on what serves the interests of the world power(s) at the time.
     
  7. Mar 8, 2005 #6

    russ_watters

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    Very complex (good) question and very good arguments. Waste, I just want to add that the 3 situations that you listed are not directly analogous to each other (I'm sure you know it, its just no one has said it). In the US, our "Join or die," "if we don't hang together, we'll hang separately" mentality that predates our Constitution biases us toward preaching unity (and, in general, I'm a big fan of it), but other countries' situations are often far more complex, with their burden of history to deal with.
     
  8. Mar 9, 2005 #7

    Moonbear

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    This had crossed my mind as well, so I'm glad you brought it up. There may be some boundary or history I'm forgetting, but it just doesn't seem to work for an outside, third-party to come in and try to settle differences by drawing new borders on a map. This only seems to add fuel to the fire of resistance. Rather, dividing into separate nations seems to be something that needs to come from within, and boundaries settled internally (even if it means internal conflict or civil war), not external intervention. If only the parties directly affected by the division duke it out, it just seems acceptance of new borders may be more likely because there is a clear winner and loser. The "why can't everybody just get along" strategy just doesn't work for these long-standing conflicts. One side needs incentive to compromise and give in to the other side. In other words, we need a loser who will then accept the terms of the winner because accepting those terms gives them a bit more freedom and territory than what they would have if they continued fighting until truly eradicated.
     
  9. Mar 9, 2005 #8

    Astronuc

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    Perhaps one answer is found in -

    The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
    In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
    History of mankind has unfortunately been one of conflict among peoples of different tribes, clans, or otherwise different cultural or ethnic groups. Clans are often built around family (and extended family) ties. Tribes are usually larger groups.

    Conflicts are often driven by individuals (e.g. king, chieftan, etc) or small groups (e.g. nobility) desire to control (dominate/subjugate) members of another clan or tribe. And far too many people feel compelled to participate in warfare. My ancestors have been of both sides of many conflicts in England, Scotland and Scandanavia.

    The current national borders are simply arbitrary, and subject to change, and as SOS2008 pointed out "Perhaps the answer is that the countries will be split depending on what serves the interests of the world power(s) at the time." This situation is a continuing theme in history - whether it is the Sumerians (Babylonians), Akkadians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Mongols, Rus, Vikings, Greeks, Romans, Turks, etc.

    Refer to - worldhistory@fsmitha.com
     
  10. Mar 9, 2005 #9
    Of course the three situations aren't perfectly analogous, I just chose some random examples without trying to make them equitable to one another.
     
  11. Mar 9, 2005 #10
    I like city states much better then empires
    smaller the goverment the better
    and much closer to the will of the local people
    why do we need bigger units then a city state?

    as the greeks did when an outside empire threatens they can unite to repell
    invasions

    just what is the real point of big countrys in the modern world
    except to bully smaller ones?
     
  12. Mar 9, 2005 #11

    BobG

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    Actually, the "Join or Die" and the "If we don't hang together, we'll hang separately" reflected the level of severity things had to reach in order to convince thirteen independent minded states to bond together. The Constitution, with its Second Amendment, reflects how leary some states were about this all working out. They wanted to preserve their ability to back out if things didn't work out so well.

    Of course, in practice, the idea of backing out didn't work out so well, either, and the North's victory over the South is really the beginning of the United States as we know it today - where the federal government is more powerful than the individual state governments.

    (In fact, the threatened secession of the Western states prompted Congress to approve the Louisiana Purchase. If the US didn't buy the Louisiana Territory, the Western states were considering buying it and forming their own country, one that would have complete control of the Mississippi and the ability to bypass the Eastern states to deal with European countries directly.)
     
  13. Mar 9, 2005 #12

    russ_watters

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    Well, the failure of the Articles of Confederation certainly reflects "the level of severity", but I never have bought into the idea that the 2nd amdendment was meant as giving the states the right to secede. If it was, why didn't it just say so? Further, if the states were meant to have the right to secede, the Civil War (started by the north) would have been illegal and could have been challenged in court.
     
  14. Mar 9, 2005 #13
    Moonbear you're right when you say that the must be a loser, but really is there any way to have a country to swallow their pride and accept the terms of the agreement. Personally, I think it is improbable.

    This is a good point that the both of you have raised. Actually I was under the impression that we have an example of the situation you both speak of. As far as my understanding takes me, the current arguement between Israel and Palestine fits this pretty good. There are even multiple third parties involved; the U.N. and the United States. This senario can also actively applies to the situations involving India and Pakistan as various people have mentioned. China and Taiwan might not be a bad couple to mention either.

    One thing that I have been wondering is, how would any of these problems be solved, looking out for not only the best interests of the countries that are having this arguement, but for the world powers as well. Why would the interests of the world powers need to be considered as well beyond protecting one of their allies? What would their motivation be to get involved? When would be the right time, if there is one, for a third party to step in. When would they stop acting as mediaries and more as someone who is looking to get something out of it? Because when that happens, more problems are usually in-tow. How would you get a country who is unbiased to either side to act a mediary? The United Nations is only unbiased to a point. After that it seems to be pretty deadlocked. Then there steps would need to be taken to reach a concensus there before preceeding could return to the original agenda.

    I don't know how clear that is or how ignorant it sounds, but those are some of the questions I have had enter my mind while reading this forum and watching the news. I tried to be as clear as I could. :redface: I hope it makes sense.
     
  15. Mar 10, 2005 #14

    BobG

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    By who? If the South had the right to secede, then they weren't US citizens anymore and didn't have the right to challenge it in a US court. If they didn't have the right to secede, the secession was invalid and they still had the right to challenge it in court, but would lose.

    Actually, the idea was to preserve the capability. If the states were stronger than the federal government, both economically and militarily, the federal government couldn't stop them.

    Besides states like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky using the threat of secession as a little extra encouragement to approve the Louisiana Purchase, I think New England used that threat successfully a couple of times to influence Congress one way or the other on a couple of issues.

    Before the War of 1812, it would have been ludicrous to think the US could stop any state from seceding. Seeing the capitol in flames changed a lot of people's thinking about how strong the federal government should be. I guess one could say the transition had already taken place by the time the Civil War took place, but if it was obvious, the South wouldn't have tried to secede.
     
  16. Mar 10, 2005 #15

    BobG

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    When you think about it, Iraq's situation isn't that different than the early days of the US.

    Economically, it's definitely to the benefit of both the Shiites and Kurds to maintain one country. Considering the problems the Kurds would have with Turkey, Iran, and the Sunnis, you could toss in security, as well, in their case.

    Culturally, none of the groups are going to be willing to give up very much and will be very nervous about a central government strong enough to do to them what Hussein did. They're all going to be very distrustful of each other and that's going to make any kind of strongly unified country a tough task.

    It can be done, but it's going to take a long time and will evolve rather than be something that can be implemented right off the bat.
     
  17. Mar 10, 2005 #16

    russ_watters

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    No, the choice do do anything comes before you do it. They could have, say, passed a law in Congress (signed by the President) authorizing them to secede. They could have simply sued the government in court the way people sue for divorce. Either would have been legal.

    I'm not saying it would have worked - to the contrary, I'm saying they made no effort to work within the system and that, to me says they knew it was not legal.

    HERE is the "Ordinances of Secession" of the 13 states that seceded. Of note is that most did not state any justification, they just said 'we're out.' The Constitution is a signed contract and unless it is specifically stated in the contract, a contract cannot be unilaterally voided (that would defeat the whole purpose of a "contract").

    Alabama lays out reasons for their secession. They state that the North violated the Constituion - a breach of contract that would be a basis for suing to void the contract (and several others mention voiding the "compact"). But no one sued - all unilaterally stated that the contract was now void. Again, you can't do that.
    Do you have any context for that? Since the states can only have a "militia", not an "army" (or navy) like the federal government, that would seem unlikely.
    I think it was obvious the South knew what they were doing was not legal. The entire reason that the Articles of Confederation failed was the Fed didn't have enough power: secession at that time was irrelevant - no need to secede from the union if you could simply ignore it. With the Constitution, the Fed now had the power and power of secession would have undermined that power.

    Regarding that first part you posted, about "if the South had the right to secede....", its an interesting dilema, but I think it cuts the opposite way from where you think it does: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and no state may pass a law that usurps that power. The ordinances of secession are illegal - but more importantly, void - at face value.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2005
  18. Mar 10, 2005 #17
    Hi, Bob,

    This is an interesting question that you bring up. I'm not sure that I completely understand it. I'm not sure I understand why it would be better economically for the Kurds and the Shiites to remain connected.

    Wouldn't it be better if they just separated and form their own democratic states? That way they can elect officials who wouldn't repeat the mistakes Hussein made. Then they could carry on their own cultures as they pleased and they would be unified under different flags.

    I don't know very much about the Kurds. I'm not going to pretend that I do. So to enlighten my ignorant mind: What problems would the Kurdish have with the Turkish, Sunni, and Iran? Did they do something to insult those countries or do people just hate them?
     
  19. Mar 10, 2005 #18

    BobG

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    I agree that the South didn't have any more legal authority to secede from the US than the US has any legal authority to withdraw from membership in the UN. I doubt that would stop us. Legally, we couldn't invade Iraq without UN authorization, a fact we kind of acknowledged by taking our case to the UN in the first place. If the organization only has power on paper, it doesn't mean a whole lot.

    You're also right about why the Articles of Confederation failed. It's just that we didn't immediately jump from a government as toothless as the UN to our present state. They gave the federal government more power on paper, but real power took a lot longer.

    And you underestimate the importance of militias back then.

    Virtually the entire Confederate army consisted of militias. Although they had originally planned to have a regular army of about 10,000, supplemented by volunteer and state militias, the Confedrate regular army wound up being only about 1750 men. The rest was a well organized conglomeration of state and local volunteer militias.

    The Union relied a lot on volunteer and state militias, as well, but unfortunately for the North, that didn't work nearly as as well as it did in the South. Any local yokel could wind up a general of his own army and wind up responsible for training it. It was part of the reason the South beat up the North so bad at the start of the war. The North quickly reinstating a little discipline into the organization of its Army had as much to do with turning the tide of the war as the North's advantage in resources.
     
  20. Mar 10, 2005 #19

    BobG

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    Whatever gets the oil flowing from Iraq to its customers fastest is what's best for the Shiites and Kurds, since just about all the oil fields lie in their territory. That makes any fighting in Iraq bad for them. Better to settle their differences and get about selling oil.

    Turkey and Iran have a lot of Kurds in their own country (one of the drawbacks of Europeans drawing up the borders during colonization instead of the indigenous population). Neither would be willing to give up part of their land as an independent Kurdistan. Neither can really afford a mass emigration of Kurdish labor from their country, either. Both strongly oppose an independent Kurdish state, probably strong enough to intervene militarily. If the three main Iraqi groups formed their own country, the Sunnis would be left without any oil fields and would be transformed from Iraq's ruling group to an impoverished third world nation (losing Hussein was bad for the Sunnis, hence Sunni territory being the center for insurgency and terrorism - the rest of the country has problems, but isn't in nearly as bad a shape). The Sunnis be more than happy to step in and control Kurdish territory for the Turks and/or Iranians.
     
  21. Mar 10, 2005 #20
    Thank you for the explanation. This is going to sound ignorant. However I'm asking because I want to know.

    After the second world war, when countries where being acknoledged as independent, the Kurdish should have gotten their own country. I understand the position with the concern for the military intervention. Who and why would they attack anyone? Couldn't the League of Nations (or the U.N. I can't remember who was around then) just keep an eye on them?
     
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