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September 08, 2017


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"More generally, as I have said elsewhere, I am opposed to secession from democratic states save when recent violence has made reconciliation impossible. In concrete terms, that would limit the historical cases of justified secession from a democracy to only three: Ireland 1922, Algeria 1961, and Kosovo 2008. Cataluña does not clear that bar."

Noel, given this criteria, what would say about the Kurds in Iraq? Iraq has been a democracy recently and we're now witnessing Kurdish moves for secession in their referendum.

Personally I'm in full agreement with your principle, though in the case of the the three justified secessions I'm in less agreement:

* Ireland 1922 - sure, this one I agree with. The violence was bad, plus despite the UK being a democracy (or what was considered democratic at the time), Ireland was badly treated through discrimination (until Catholic Emancipation and more generally the acceptance of the idea of Home Rule)

* Algeria 1961 - I agree with this one for much the same reasons as Ireland

* Kosovo 2008 - I disagree with because of how recent democracy was in Serbia (and before it Yugoslavia). In the case of the UK and France, they were considered by and large as democratic states for decades leading up to the independence of Ireland and Algeria, whereas in the case of Kosovo the larger state (Yugoslavia) was communist run dictatorship barely two decades before independence and after that the larger state from which it seceded (Serbia/FR Yugoslavia/Serbia & Montenegro) was a dictatorship run by a former communist turned populist until just 8 years before (the attempted rigging of the 2000 election would suggest that the 1990-2000 period may only have had intermittent democratic votes that weren't tainted by rigging). I don't think that the new democratic state of Serbia-Montenegro (and later Serbia) was given enough time to show that reconciliation was possible. I think another decade would have been fair given you can't really do much in 8 years.

I agree, Kosovo's a special case because Serbian democracy was such a new thing! But to be fair, you can say the same about Britain and France: 1918 and 1958 respectively.

To explain: the U.K. had the rule of law but until 1918 only 60% of adult males could vote due to property restrictions; fewer in Ireland. In France, Algerian Muslims lacked the franchise before 1958. In other words, both were still pretty new democracies when secession happened, even by the standards of their time.

Those are fair arguments, but I think the Irish and Algerian cases are even stronger than the Kosovo case in that until the 1850s to 1880s, the British franchise was fairly standard (limited to males with some kind of property requirements) when compared to say the Australian colonies, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. The UK lagged after the 1880s, but it was more of a democracy between the 1880s and 1918 than SFR Yugoslavia was at any point before 1990. As such it's treatment towards Ireland warrants greater excoriation I feel since from the 1880s to 1918 it was essentially a case of democracy for Britain but less democracy for Ireland (basically by design or through no widespread motivation to change it), whereas 1945-1990 was a case of no democracy for Serbia and no democracy for Kosovo.

Algeria's situation with France is even worse because by 1958 there was definitely democracy in France....just only for France. It was a case of democracy for l'Hexagone but not for Algeria.

The UK and France were less new democracies and more newly equal democracies I feel. Unlike the Yugoslav/Serb case they were definitely democracies, but discriminatory ones geared towards the population in the core area (with Ireland and Algeria treated as colonies even though technically fully integrated). In pre-2000 Serbia/Yugoslav, this wasn't the case as until 1990 there wasn't even democracy and after 1990 it seems it was rigged elections which didn't even cater to real democracy for the core area (Serbia).

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