In what must sound like a familiar refrain to all regular readers of LibertyGibbert, I’m up to my eyeballs in work, and have had no time for writing. This is a pity, for there is a very great deal I’d like to talk about at the moment, not least of which was the new solar cyclic theory of David Evans. I must confess it will be a month at least before I’ll have the chance to even begin reading it in detail.
The discussion on the previous thread inevitably turned to the breaking news of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, over a region of Eastern Ukraine currently controlled by Russian-backed separatist rebels. The aircraft, in which all 298 passengers and crew lost their lives, was almost certainly destroyed by a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile system, supplied to the rebels by the Russian government, trained in its use by them and—just possibly—operated by a Russian national as well.
In expressing the international outrage felt most keenly by those countries who have lost citizens, in particular the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia, it is important not to conflate the act of mass murder with the wider geopolitical issues involved. I have reflected a little more on Izen’s comparison to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a bit of a gap in my own knowledge has emerged. I hope someone here might try to fill it:
You see, so far as I’m aware, no-one has ever tried to set down the ethics of separatism. Whether it be the Palestinians in Gaza, or the Kurds on either side of the Iraq-Turkey border, or Bouganvillian islanders seeking independence from Papua New Guinea, what are the ethical guidelines? Or preferably, the ethics consistent with the principles of Liberty? Is anyone aware of any writings that treat the issue generically? And if not, what do you think should those ethics be?
There seem to be two classes of secessionist movement: those whose separatists are allied to a neighbouring country either racially, ethnically or linguistically, and those who seek to unite stateless ethnic groups which either straddle a national border, or are completely surrounded by a dominant state. In the former category, you would include eastern Ukraine (Russia), Bougainville (Solomon Islands) and possibly Palestine (neighbouring Arabic nations). In the latter, you might include the Kurds (Iraq, Syria and Turkey), the Basques (France and Spain), the Timorese (Indonesia) and Kashmiris (India). I was shocked to see the wiki list detailing just how many separatist movements there are around the world, although their article on separatism, per se, was far from helpful. I think I’ve heard of less than half of those movements myself.
So: if an ethnic enclave wants autonomy, on what criteria should we judge their cause just? Should we take into account their economic viability as an independent state? Or the level of oppressive behaviour of the dominant state? Or, for that matter the dominant state’s level of investment in the enclave, in both blood and treasure? What about their history of independence? If an enclave was independent 50, 100 or 200 years ago, should that count for anything? How about Paine, in Rights of Man, who articulated the principle that no parliament may bind its successors? What if a enclave’s parliament votes to abolish itself in favour of dominion by a neighbour, eliminating any future independent, unique voice of that people?
Hopefully that’s enough conversation starters. I look forward to your views. Plus, I’ll use this thread to discuss any updates to the MH17 investigation.