Saturday, February 16, 2008

Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont?

Kosovo is about to declare independence. This fact has generated an interesting and problematic article which has gone out across the AP Wire. William J. Kole has written an article titled Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont?

Kole begins, "Sean Connery thinks a Scottish nation is a bonnie notion. How about Spain's Basque country becoming a REAL country? And what's wrong with a People's Republic of Vermont? Kosovo's looming independence raises all those questions and more. For starters: Why is statehood OK for some people but frowned on for others? After all, isn't the right to self-determination the essence of democracy itself?"

Unfortunately, I feel Kole does supporters of Kosovo's Independence an injustice. Why Kosovo and not Vermont? For starters, the people of Kosovo overwhelmingly support independence. To boot, many other nations (including the USA and the most members of the European Union) are going to recognize the validity of Kosovo as an independent nation. Only a small percentage of people in Vermont want indepedence. Further, no nations are ready to recognize the independence of Vermont. Kole is contrasting the proverbial apples and oranges.

Kole does this repeatedly throughout the article. He mentions fringe separatist movements in Texas, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Gagauzia and mixes them with more serious groups in Scotland, Nigeria, Moldova, and Russia. There invariably will be new states in the future. However, these states will only be legitimate, accepted, and successful if the majority of the people of the region (the higher the percentage the better) and the international community are ready for the new state. For this reason, none of the American separatist groups have any shot of independence in the near future and may wait generations (if ever) to be independent.

Kole also wrote, "You can let the people decide...but first you have to decide: Who are the people?"

Indeed. Many separatists movement are in the extreme minority and are little more than fringe. They claim to represent the "people" by using sophisticated arguments based on historical and legal sophistry which reduce the majority of the population to illegal occupiers and declare that the region in question has never been legally acquired by another nation. Hence, these groups claim they are not seceding but seeking restoration. See the Legal Status of Texas article at Wikipedia for a good summary of this type.

My congratulations to Kosovo for what appears to be imminent independence. However, let's not use this occurrence to lump every separatist group in the world under the same status of legitimate. There are big differences between them and some (if not most) will never be successful.

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