Primacy vs. Partition

Earlier in this chapter we listed 42 successful secessions. Here we have 60 ongoing struggles. Together that's over a hundred, far too many to be called an exception. The drive for partition 
or secession --- something of an aberration during the Age of Empire --- appears to have become the rule. 
Economically, nation-states are coming together: witness the European Union, NAFTA, and ASEAN. Politically, however, more and more countries --- especially multicultural states ---
are being challenged by fragmentation. The Age of Self-Determination, far from having reached its apex, proceeds. This is thoroughly understandable: because the instinct for identity is as uni-versal as love of liberty, its drive is 
inexorable. If anything characterizes global geopolitics in this century, it is this: strife and struggle will continue to divide societies, challenge governments, and exact their price until the world's fabricated states learn to share power with their captive nations, or to set them free.
Partition --- whether by agreement of the parties concerned [e.g., Singapore's separation from Malaysia] or imposed by a superior external force [the internationally-mandated creation of Israel] --- is obviously and eminently preferable to secession. Many luminaries in the scholastic world offer partition as an immensely more acceptable alternative to the horrific cost of nearly all separatist conflicts. These include John J. Mersheimer and Stephen Van Evera ["When Peace Means War," 
New Republic, December 1995]; Chaim Kaufmann ["Possible and Impos- sible solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars," International Security, Spring 1996, and "When All Else Fails," International Security, Fall 1998]; and the eminent Samuel P. Huntington ["Civil Vio- lence and the Process of Development," London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1971]. To the influential theorist Donald L. Horowitz in Ethnic Groups in Conflict [Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985], where a given conflict

is so problematical, if the constraints on policy innovation are many . . . perhaps it is a mistake to seek accommodation among the antagonists. If it is impossible for groups to live together in 
a heterogeneous state, perhaps it is better for them to live apart in more than one homogenous state, even if this necessitates population transfers. Separating the antagonists --- partition --- 
is an option increasingly recommended for consideration . . .

In 1992, some of the world's leading geographers acknowledged this trend. "What we're dealing with is the re-creation of countries," said William B. Wood, the State Department's chief geog- rapher. Over the next 25 to 30 years, the world roster may increase by 50% or more. "There'll be more than 300 countries," predicted Saul B. Cohen, past president of the Assn. of American Geographers. . . . "

"Borders of present countries or so-called natural boundaries will increasingly lose their im- portance when they do not correspond to well-recognized linguistic and territorial identities," said Fabrizio Eva, an Italian geographer. . . . Commented George Demko, a geographer and director of the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, "The current changes in the political and economic geography of the world are as significant as what the world went through after the Treaty of Westphalia," the 1648 peace accord ending Europe's Thirty Years War and a turning point in the rise of modern states. "As we're challenging the traditional ideas of state sovereignty, globalizing economies and communications, and breaking up the last empires, the geography of the world is unhooking old connections and hooking up new ones." 

Among the break-ups they predict: the Catalan and Basque regions from Spain; Brittany from France; Punjab and Kashmir from India; Tibet and Xinjiang from China; Katanga from Zaire; and --- no surprise --- the Muslim region of Mindanao from our country. "What is striking" about the Philippines, wrote Demko, "is the configuration of a social formation disintegrated by class, language, ideology, religion, and colonial depradations," concluding that the net result of an en- forced and artificial unity is "the suffering of the majority of citizens." 

The customary reaction to the challenge of separatism --- captive nations asserting their polit- ical and cultural rights --- has been for imperiled governments to equate partitionist demands or secessionist struggles with sheer evil. The more fabricated the State, the more malevolence it attributes to separatism, whether as concept or as cause. As a result, it has become such a neg- atively-loaded word-concept. Thanks to political statements like George Bush's "Those who are not with us are against us," to a brand of journalism more committed to "patriotism" than to truth, and to largely gullible audiences, the critical distinction between secession and terrorism has become blurred --- all because there are extremists, as there always are, in virtually all mass movements. On July 6, 2000 --- long before the horrific events of "9/11" --- the 
New York Times reported:

Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Jiang Zemin of China joined the leaders of three Central Asian countries today in promising to fight terrorism, drug trafficking and separatism. 

In these two governments' perverted judgment, secessionists belong to the exact same category as drug traffickers and terrorists, and by inference deserve the same contempt. Washington has come very close to saying the same thing, but has so far declined to use identical language. Per- haps America hasn't forgotten that the men who drafted their Declaration of Independence and won freedom from England were all secessionists. "We must remember," writes Thomas A. Bailey, "that America was founded and built by generations of nonconformists."  Perhaps they realize, after all, that love of liberty is a fixed feature of the human soul, an embedded element 
of the human spirit, not a peculiar monopoly of the American psyche. There are unsung Wash-ingtons and Jeffersons in the Chechnyas and Tibets and Bangsamoros of this world, men and women branded as terrorists by their governments but whose true crime is struggling, bleeding, and dying for their nations' freedom.

For as long as captive nations are oppressed, they will resist. For every action constituting insti- tutional injustice, there will, over time, be an equal and opposite reaction. This is a reality that much of today's world has apparently refused, at severe social cost, to learn.

During the last century, the rallying cry of colonies striving for self-rule was "Independence!" Today, for a growing number of the world's captive nations --- awakened, provoked, and denied genuine power-sharing or demands for partition --- their battle cry is "Secession!" The second
is no less noble than the first. They are one and the same struggle. Both are driven by the uni- versally-acknowledged principle of self-determination. Both are inspired by the same impulse. What Americans refer to as their "Revolutionary War" or "War of Independence" was seces- sion in one of its finest and most admirable manifestations. And it all began when they no longer saw themselves, or called themselves, English or Dutch or Scots and so on. It all started when they recognized that they had forged an 
identity of their own, when they first began to call them- selves Americans.

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RP: Terrible Truths
Partitioning the Philippines