Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Monday, June 09, 2008

For values of "Africa" including "Russia"

On the principle of "what know they of England, who only England know?", this is not really relevant to Africa, except that it is, really, because it's yet another example of the main problem of that continent, the complete fucking inability of Great Powers to keep their Westphalian fucking noses out of the business of neighbouring states. And of the Strategic Victimhood Thesis of Alan Kuperman, which suggests that a major tactic of modern national independence movements is to try to provoke humanitarian atrocities or to do something similar in order to persuade a Great Power to intervene on their side. It's instructive to see one of these situations happening with the good guys and bad guys switched around a bit to keep your intuitions sharp about the general principle.

And thus, Abkhazia (and South Ossetia too). I think Yglesias and the LGM chaps have erred a little on the side of giving Putin[1] the benefit of the doubt. It's potentially true that the Abkhazians want to secede from Georgia, and have a legitimate ethnic and historical ground for doing so. They may be a ludicrous and clearly unstable bunch of Mafiosi, but it is not entirely illegitimate for them to point to the Kosovo precedent which shows that this should not be considered an insurmountable barrier to statehood (and of course, anyone who sees the justice in the Palestinian cause is also going to have to raise their standards for gangster tolerance). I think they've got a decent claim.

But, the means by which they're pursuing this claim are not legitimate; they're inviting Russia to start messing about in another state's sovereign territory. This is something which really really ought not to be encouraged, because it regularly and predictably leads to bad results - like aggressive war, it's one of those things that's not allowed because it's got a really bad track record. This isn't OK when the SLA/M does it in Darfur, isn't OK when the Kurds do it, wasn't OK when the Contras did it, wasn't OK when the Kosovans did it, wasn't OK when the Bosnian Serbs did it, etc etc etc. It's bad to involve foreign powers in your domestic politics[2].

And if you're lucky enough to be a great power, it's bad to take the political bait. Bad when France did it with Operation Turquoise, bad when the USA did it in Iraq, bad when Russia is doing it now. This is the sort of thing that ought to result in international sanctions; not war of course, that would be stupid, but definitely the sort of thing that makes it a lot more difficult to get what you want in other international negotiations. Of course, we have pretty few sanctions against the Russians at present, what with them having hydrocarbons and us needing them, but the principal's clear; at the very least, the tendency of Mother Russia to keep flaking bits off neighbouring countries has to be the sort of thing that is relevant to, say, discussions over Ukraine joining NATO. I'm quite a fan of Cold Wars if carried out sensibly; it's the shooting sort I don't like.

[1] By which of course I mean Medvedev … or do I?

[2] As opposed to involving foreign powers in your human rights struggle, which is much more OK precisely because these are universal rights, rather than particular and local disagreements over land.
19 comments this item posted by the management 6/09/2008 10:07:00 AM

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