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October 27, 2017

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Do you think he will show restraint?

No. But that’s on the basis of past behavior. I’m confused as to why. Puigdemont appears more fanatical and held a far more precarious position, yet he walked back from the brink. Not so Rajoy.

I suspect he believes Catalan politicos will back down and that without leadership, any mass resistance will dissipate. He’s right on the first. He’s gambling on the second.

Could we really get civil war in Spain though? I'm trying to picture it and it's difficult. How do we get there? Having the catalan police fighting the Spanish police and eventually the Spanish army? It would seem like such a civil war wouldn't last very long. Unless we are talking about a short war between both sides followed by a ETA/IRA style insurgency/terrorist campaign.

https://warontherocks.com/2017/10/what-political-science-tells-us-about-the-risk-of-civil-war-in-spain/

^ The above article looks at least not non-insightful.

Interesting article. Also interesting that it makes out parallels with Yugoslavia (especially pointing out that in essence one root cause was Slovenia and Croatia being miserly as I noted in a previous discussion). A couple of differences though are that in Yugoslavia, the republics' territorial defence were equipped with military weapons (even if most were outdated or even obsolete) and were able to acquire weapons (from Yugoslav army stores and smuggled in) and had foreign sympathy (notably from Germany when it recognized them).

In the case of Spain, it would seem extremely likely that if shooting ever started, a blockade would be declared and properly enforced and Catalan police and any militia would be without the weapons needed to fight. And I can't see Germany or any other Western state recognizing Catalonia.

I can only imagine shooting working in the favour of Catalonian separatists if it involves Spanish police or military forces shooting peaceful and unarmed people.

"I suspect he believes Catalan politicos will back down and that without leadership, any mass resistance will dissipate. He’s right on the first. He’s gambling on the second."

You got it, here. I will simply note that it's not necessarily a bad gamble. Given that support for secession is limited, divide and conquer (call it option 3a) seems like a possibility.

The game tree assumes that Madrid will peacefully resist attempts to create a parallel state. I could have put that in as a choice, but since Rajoy's response is certain I didn't bother.

Successful "divide and conquer" would be the "Fail" box on the game tree. I didn't put a flag on the choice because the success of the strategy doesn't entirely depend on Madrid: in game-theory speak, "nature" gets a move.

It's not a terrible gamble, I agree, but only for the short-term. If you define success as keeping Spain united, then Rajoy has sacrificed certain success in the short-term in order to have a lower probability of success in the long-term. (Not a typo.) Put that way, his decision is a bit inexplicable.

At the risk of repeating the logic of the post, I can only rationalize Rajoy's decision in three ways:

(1) He did not realize that a strategy of restraint before the referendum would succeed. That, however, would also require him to be stupid, and the Prime Minister is most certainly not stupid.

(2) Rajoy is playing an entirely different game.

(3) Rajoy believes that the Catalan resistance will fold with probability 1 ... and he believes that his actions will lessen rather than increase the probability of future secessionist action in the future.

I can see why he would believe (3), but he is incorrect on both counts. Which isn't to say that the probability of the Catalans folding is zero! It ain't. It's high. But it ain't one.

The second clause in #3 is understandable in some historical contexts. Québécois separatism, maybe?

Bernard, that Québécois separatists would back down?

I do not know. As I blogged yesterday—Noel saw the post—to a non-rational extent Québécois were relatively indifferent to things like the decline of Montréal as a national economic centre. The ethnolinguistc split in Montréal was such that Francophones really did not care about national issues, and were more concerned with local issues. The welfare of a modernizing Francophone population, engaged in its own entrepreneurial no as the old Anglo establishment declined, was more important.

Now, from what I know about Catalonia and Spain, the ethnic difference between Catalonians and other Spanish people (or, Catalanophones and Hispanophones?) Is not nearly so stark. Catalonia is engaged economically with the rest of Spain, to its benefit, in a way that Québec ne'er was with Canada. (I do not think Québec has ever been a have province, Montréal notwithstanding.) Catalonia has things to lose. Then again, Canada and Québec never had anything like the Franco dictatorship with its demonstrable efforts to marginalize Catalan culture. This could work for separatists, too.

I suspect it is nastier. Rajoy deliberately plays with Catalan crisis for domestic (i.e., Castillian) political reasons. What he is really after, is screwing PSOE. He thinks he can manage Catalonia right around boiling over: but he does not care that much if it does.

I'm not Spanish so I could be missing political nuance, but Rajoy seems to be acting as if time is not on his side. Perhaps there's a calculation that the odds of violent Catalan resistance increase over time and that a rapid aggressive response is less risky than a cautious slow response that gradually reaches the same decision (forceful confrontation). Rajoy may be balancing coalition politics and Catalan outcomes in determining which decisions are viable.

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