Field of Science

If Kosovo, why not Washegon?

The right to self-govern and the right to self determination are fundamental principles of democracy, so the Current Occupant, representing as he does our entire country, has recognized the Republic of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. One can hope their document is as high-minded, and that their ideals are not as often betrayed by political ideologies as ours. Of course most recent examples of newly independent republics display a splintering along ethnic, tribal, and/or religious lines, which hardly seem in keeping with democratic principles. But leaving that aside, a far more interesting question arises. Where do you draw the line in supporting such principles?

Let us suppose that the people of an independent minded region grew tired of the federal government’s heavy hand. They weren’t allowed to legalize marijuana for medical use (scientific evidence in favor of its use is a federal anathema at present), to permit physicians from assisting terminally ill people commit suicide to end their suffering (against federal ideology, and to declare every rare sunny, cloudless day a state-wide holiday. With this suppression weighing heavy upon them, the residents declare Washegon an independent republic. Upon receiving this document the Current Occupant calls a press conference and wishes them and their descendants an apple, hop, and salmon filled future.

Want to bet about the response? Of course not. The shoe would now be on the other foot and the federal government of the USA would now be the Serbia and Washegon the Kosovo. Although hypocrisy is a well known conservative trait (what’s good for them isn’t necessarily good for us), this does raise an interesting question. Where do you draw the line in supporting such democratic principles?

What about Cajuns? The federal government hasn’t done much for this ethnically, linguistically, gastronomically unique group. Following Washegon’s example, they might decide to form Acadia figuring they couldn't possibly be worse off. And next might come the Providence of Upper Peninsula, which is so geographically isolated it is hardly part of the contiguous states even now. And before the ink is dry on the UP’s declaration, those independently minded Alaskans might decide to form Sewardia.

The last time such a secession was attempted in our country, the episode got more than a little out of hand. The response and outcome of this one example is clear. The Confederacy lost the War of Southern Independence, and the secession was quashed, although not forgotten. Does our democratic republic support the use of force to maintain a nation of states, even against the wishes of people seeking self determination? The answer clearly depends whether you are talking about them or us.

Our government encouraged the independence movements of many Soviet Republics resulting in the partial disintegration of the USSR, but have no doubts about our government's response to Washegon’s declaration of independence; it would be pure hypocrisy because now it’s happening to us, not them. Why one might even think such decisions were based upon antedated cold war ideologies, and not real democratic principles at all.

1 comment:

Larissa said...

We'll be discussing these very issues in my international law class tonight. Here's a little something I'll contribute -

The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, ratified by 16 Western Hemisphere countries (including the United States), provides in Article I: "The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent populations; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states."

that should clear it all up! ; )