Monday, 11 August 2008

Nothing to gain from territorial conflicts

WHEN THE SOVIET UNION FELL in 1990 and the Slovakian half of former Soviet satellite Czechoslovakia wanted to secede, they agreed to go peacefully.  Both halves flourished, and peaceful relations maintained.  This was a god thing all round.

A swift perusal of history (and of the Balkan conflict that erupted at the same time further south) will demonstrate how unusual this is.  A check of today's headlines from Georgia and South Ossetia, and the pictures of death and destruction that are the result of this conflict, will reinforce the point.

Arguing with guns, tanks and planes over the sovereignty of small patches of ground leaves nobody the winner, and everybody involved either a loser, or dead.  Nobody won in the wars that were fought over the likes of Alsace-Lorraine, Port Douglas and the Amur River.  Whatever gains that were hoped for by either side were wiped out the in the resulting death and destruction, and by the materiel and manpower expended in the conflict.  That lesson should be learned by the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan in their decades-long sabre rattling over Kashmir -- any conflict over which will leave both belligerents many times poorer than anything they can possibly gain from sovereignty of Kashmir.

The latest lesson in that vein is now being given in Georgia.  Nobody will gain from it anything that was worth the expense, or the carnage.

THE SOVEREIGNTY ARGUMENT BETWEEN Georgia and the Ossetians has been bubbling for decades, but it too erupted in 1990 with the collapse of communism and the end of Soviet rule. While the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed to break up and achieve prosperity peacefully, the two sides of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict continued to spar, seeking some deluded form of prosperity from sovereignty of this province. 

Once again, the result is death and destruction and waste.  The lesson of the likes of Czechoslovakia's 'Velvet Divorce' is obviously too clear for the belligerents in these various brushfire conflicts to take.  Instead of pouring money and manpower into military materiel to assert some conflicted sovereignty, all sides have more to gain from applying that energy more productively.

D'you think that lesson will ever be learned?

UPDATE: If you want to understand why the Caucasus is riven with inter-tribal conflicts that go back for centuries, have a look at the patchwork quilt that is the ethnic makeup of the area.  Like the Balkans, another patchwork of generational hatreds, it is beset by tribalism (which as Ayn Rand points out "is the best name to give to all the group manifestations of the anti-conceptual mentality") and like all of the sadder parts of the world benighted by such 'balkanisation' is, as Rand says, "a long history of caste systems, of national and local (provincial) chauvinism, of rule by brute force and endless, bloody wars ... [of] nations, which are perennially bent upon exterminating one another over minuscule differences of tradition or language."


  1. Instead of pouring money and manpower into military materiel to assert some conflicted sovereignty, all sides have more to gain from applying that energy more productively.

    I hope that Tame Iti wouldn't follow such tactic by declaring that Tuhoe's territory secedes from the rest of NZ?

    The question is, what would be the difference if Tame Iti and the rest of his tribes do such a move by declaring independence and those similar ones that lead to wars as in Bosnia & Georgia? Are these hypothetical/real scenarios the same or not?

    PS : It was raised in the NZ Herald article last week, that Tame Iti had raised the idea that Tuhoe should have self-autonomy. If the government accepted this, their next move is to declare independence, one doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

  2. Well put PC I was going to say a little about this futile conflict myself. Neither side is innocent, but it bodes poorly for the future.

  3. I am pleased you mentioned it is a small piece of put this into context, it would be like a conflict in New Zealand based on the Buller region seeking to go its own way.

  4. Falafulu

    If Tame Iti wants self soverignty for the Tuhoe, let them have it. It's fair enough they do go out and live independently on their own. Good luck to them. All that is necessary is that they do not initiate force, fraud or coercion against anyone else. That means no more welfare...


  5. Good post.

    "I hope that Tame Iti wouldn't follow such tactic by declaring that Tuhoe's territory secedes from the rest of NZ?"

    Would this really matter? As long as the two nations are free to trade with each other I don't see any problem with this.

    Ultimately the idea of a nation is a abstract construct that can be used to try and screw other people over for the benefit of the group. This in turn leads to a prisoners dilemma.

    If there was some way we could build co-operation outside of the context of a nation, I think everyone would be better off.

  6. LGM: Total agreement there. I can't understand why Peter is opposed to Tuhoean Sovereignty, (so long as they do not stop people from emmigrating).

    I do not know which government is more legitimite (protects it's citizens rights, Ossetia, or Georgia. If the Ossetian govt is more libertarian than Georgia, then good on the Ossetians.

  7. Hanso

    I don't think there actually is an Ossentian government. This is about what the Russian government wants.

    Now that Russia has a stronger economy than previously (due mostly to the increases in energy and mineral resource price) the government has decided to resort to type. In the short term the West will do little but over the longer term this action will cost Russians dearly. Government actions of this sort usually have a way of doing that.

    Also, beware of the bubble.



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