I’ve written before about whether South Sudan’s secession might inspire hope in other regions, like Somaliland, that hope for independence and autonomy. Here are two further perspectives on the issue, representing stances for and against a wave of secessions.
The AP says South Sudan’s secession “is likely to set a dangerous precedent in an Arab world looking increasingly fractured along sectarian and ethnic lines”:
Already, there are growing secessionist sentiments, exclusive enclaves and intensifying calls for autonomy in some Arab nations such as Iraq and Yemen. In countries like Lebanon and Egypt, the fault lines are widening between ethnic and religious groups, threatening to split loyalties.
Apart from the Sudanese vote, some of the fractures already existing in the Arab world have grown deeper.
In Iraq, leaders of the embattled Christian minority, citing the failure of security forces to protect them, are calling on the government to establish a new province they can claim as their own to escape attacks by Muslim militants who have killed hundreds of Christians and forced tens of thousands to flee the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In Yemen, a secessionist movement is gaining strength in the south of the country, once an independent state that became part of a unified state in 1990. The south sought secession again in 1994, staging a revolt that was ruthlessly put down by the government in northern Yemen.
In Lebanon, whose survival on a delicate power-sharing formula filters down to the army and most government departments, haunting memories persist from the 1975-1990 civil war when Christians and Muslims turned against each other.
The New America Foundation’s Parag Khanna sees the issue differently, writing in “Breaking Up Is Good to Do” that Sudan’s referendum sets a worthy example:
All the world’s influential powers and diplomats should seize a new moral high ground by agreeing to prudently apply in such cases Woodrow Wilson’s support for self-determination of peoples. This would be a marked improvement over today’s ad hoc system of backing disreputable allies, assembling unworkable coalitions, or simply hoping for tidy dissolutions. Reasserting the principle of self-determination would allow for the sort of true statesmanship lacking on today’s global stage.
In Sudan, the United States has certainly placed itself on the right side of this trend.
The entropy afflicting the post-colonial world will not stop anytime soon. States like Congo, Nigeria, and Pakistan, which are internally diffuse and often intentionally unevenly developed, will soon be too large to manage themselves. It is less likely that they will gather the competence, capacity, and will to become equitable modern states than that they will continue to inspire resistance to the legacies of centralized misrule.
The coming partitions must be performed with a combination of scalpel and ax, soft and hard power. Above all, the world must recognize that these partitions are inevitable. Our reflex is to fear changes on the map out of concern for violence or having to learn the names of new countries. But in an age when any group can acquire the tools of violent resistance, the only alternative to self-determination is perpetual conflict.
NPR has a follow-up interview with Khanna.
What do you think?