Nationalism and conflicts


Nationalism is a strange thing. It's quite the opposite of imperialism, even though both coincide quite often.

Imperialists want to rule over others.
Nationalists tend to not be willing to live with "others".

It's no wonder that a schizophrenic combination of these desires caused much violence in modern history.

Europe pretty much got rid of the "imperialism" desire in the 40's to 70's when the final grand attempts to build empires failed and later existing overseas empires were falling apart. The only exception seem to be the Russians, who still stick to an apparently instinctive desire to have a huge buffer between Moscow and major foreign powers - including dominance over foreign people.

Nationalism didn't go away as well. The Yugoslavian Civil War showed quite well what can happen if nationalism means that minorities are not being tolerated.
The relatively weak far right wing movements and parties in most of Europe thrive on the same basis and remind us that the seeds didn't go away.

That's a quite unsettling view because demographic maps look extremely confusing all over the world.

Afghanistan and Iraq aren't exceptions - they're normal. It's a sad normality that several ethnic groups of people identify themselves as distinct from others and compete for power - even with violence.

Linguistic map of Europe - see here for details

More linguistic maps:
Africa, Asia, SE Asia, Latin America and another map of Europe

Peace and stability policy should not be satisfied with non-aggression treaties, a ban of wars of aggression, U.N imposing cease fires and sending "peacekeepers". We've got the interstate conflict problem quite under control so far (until U.S./UK forget their own experiences again and launch the next stupid war).

We don't have the inter-group violence under control, though (and the suppression of inter-state violence requires permanent maintenance).

I've been looking at many historical conflicts that circled around contested borders and minorities, and year after year I believed to see a possible solution.

First we need to exploit the fact that no nation or other defined group of people is really united. There are always different opinions, particular interests and such. There are always moderates and extremists.
Solutions need to be stable - a win/win solution is very desirable, but usually not possible with extremists. That's why the inner division of groups is so important; solutions need to be win/win for majorities of all major involved groups. Such a solution could therefore be prepared by empowering the moderates and to pull the rug from under the extremists.

A phase of cooling down violence and provocations is very important - there lies the wisdom of the New Testament's quote:

Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. [Matthew 5:39]
This quote has often been ridiculed by simple minds who don't understand it. It's certainly no sustainable stance, but it's great for de-escalation in many situations.

OK, so what if the conflict calmed down, what next?

A cooled down conflict pretty much equals strengthened centres and weakened extremists.

This is the opportunity to develop an agreement that is a win/win for all major parties involved.
This agreement needs to be good enough to be an insurmountable barrier for a revival of the conflict. Too many people need to lose what they hold dear if the agreement is broken.
That's how the critical mass of support for the agreement can be secured even after decades. Insight, apathy and friendship would probably be insufficient support.

Imagine two states with minorities along the common border. These minorities are probably even local majorities.
A settlement could include border corrections that add and take away territory for both. The remaining minorities could get significant minority rights (equal on both sides of the border), including the passport of and the ability to vote in their group's state (without living in it).
These minorities, supposedly the ones on whose behalf the conflict could be revived, could get such good conditions that they would fear a revival of the conflict rather than appreciate it.

Their rights could even extend to the application of their group's jurisdiction for affairs among themselves.

The details of the agreement aren't important, though.

The milestones are

* enlarge the center/moderate share of the conflict groups

* create a win/win agreement in respect to the centrists/moderates

* keep many dependent on the advantages of the agreement to keep a pro-agreement lobby

This looks rather like preventive diplomacy and a need for neutral and selfless middleman powers than like the established conflict prevention mechanics.

The traditional approach of the U.N. (as it was designed by its founding nations) respects the existing borders too much. The U..N. isn't a proper middleman anyway as it hasn't the assets to motivate the conflict groups to execute the conflict cool down phase with its enormous discipline requirement.

This all sounds very similar to the failed 80's and 90's attempts of establishing peace in and around Israel, right?
Well, maybe the failure doesn't disprove the concept. Those negotiations were rather negotiations to establish a peace for Israel than to establish a peace in the region. There was no selfless and anywhere near-neutral middleman after the Camp David Accords.
The extremists were also smart enough to understand that the procedure as laid out above would be their political defeat - and did their best to heat the conflict up. The cool down phase was aborted again and again by extremists on both sides; the fight against a peaceful settlement of the conflict coined the past fifteen years more than the conflict itself.
Too many people turn to the moderates? Shoot a few rockets, drop bombs or do a few raids.

The world is full of impulsive, shortsighted people who will follow their instincts and agree to play the pointless violence game.

- - - - -

There are many conflicts in the world without such a setup, though. Hundreds of conflicts are lingering at very low heat, and get very little attention. It would be a great service to mankind if these less intense conflicts were settled before they turn hot.
Think of Ruanda/Burundi BEFORE they exploded.

A political defeat for extremists is almost always a victory for the vast majority. If only someone could convince European foreign politicians to pay attention to the remaining nationalism-driven conflicts in Europe instead of muddling in a land-locked, remote medieval society at the end of the world...

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: It's sometimes a good idea to simply split a state into several ones. The new borders and post-split minorities should then get the treatment as laid out in the text.

No comments:

Post a Comment