Twenty-Five Years after Balkanization

We have a phobia, a very wrong-headed phobia, of the consequences of the disintegration of large nations into smaller nations.  The term "Balkanization" is commonly used to describe this process.

Twenty-five years ago, the remnants of communist Europe splintered into the new nations of the dead Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.  Czechoslovakia would also peacefully break in two soon after.

Balkanization has proven a great blessing and not a curse.  The breaking of large nations or collectives of nations, like the European Union today, has proven the solution to many problems.  We ought to view the British (or, perhaps, the English) exit from the European Union in this light.  When people feel oppressed by a large governing authority, independence from that authority is the best alternative.

Indeed, the larger nations grow in population, the more like empires the bureaucrats and politicians of their capitals become.  When our nation was founded, Washington was small and close to most Americans, and the federal government was tiny and limited.  Today, Washington is a remote imperial city that looks down on the governed and tramples the rights of those subjects and their disempowered state governments.

The Balkanization of America – whether that meant a formal separation of our nation into regional polities or the dramatic decentralization of federal power (Congress permanently relocated to Wichita, for example, or all federal regulatory agencies moved to Little Rock) – is the only real solution to the problems we face, unless the constitutional powers of the states are restored and the improper encroachment of federal power into everything is undone.

Balkanization is also the solution to many of our most thorny international problems.  Iran, for example, is an empire with many oppressed nationalities.  Were this empire broken, the power of the hateful mullahs who run it would be dramatically weakened, and the new nations freed from the yoke of Persian rule would be friends of their liberators (and defenders).

Iraq is also an empire that logically ought to be three separate (and happier) states.  How much blood, treasure, and influence has America spent to keep this artificial creature, "Iraq," a single unhappy nation?  Balkanize Iraq along with Iran, and we might well include Syria and Turkey, especially if Turkey is pulled from a secular state into an Islamist state. 

Kurdistan, a land that would have an estimated population of 28 million, should be carved from the lands in all four of those empires.  We ought to champion the Kurds, who, like the Israelis, are our natural friends in the region.

Pakistan is also an empire with a number of different ethnic groups and languages.  Part of the instability of Pakistan is precisely that internal tension.  Indeed, Bangladesh was once "East Pakistan," half of this artificial nation, which felt, rightly, oppressed by "West Pakistan."  The successful rebellion of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh reduced tensions on the Indian Subcontinent, but even India is more an empire than a true nation and the problems of Sikhs and minorities in Kashmir, as well as other parts of this empire, remain natural sources of tension.

Indonesia is an entirely artificial creature of Javanese hegemony over a vast archipelago that has more distinct language groups than any nation in the world.  Burma is essentially an empire.  Most of Asia is a collection of empires that force different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups into a state that is simply the residue of old European colonial borders. 

Nigeria is a large empire, and natural tensions among the tribal groups and the religious groups divide this empire into several parts.  The Congo is an empire of many tribes and languages.  Angola is an empire as well.  Indeed, most of the larger nations of sub-Saharan Africa are simply empires with ruling tribes and religions.  Giving these peoples their own nation naturally removes a major cause of discontentment and makes true peace much easier. 

Some nations have resolved their problems of empire by the mutual consent of the different regions in the nation.  Switzerland, a confederacy and not a federal state, is one example, with language and religion allowed to be determined by cantons.  Belgium exists because the Flemish and Walloon nationalities are content with that nation.  Canada accommodates the Quebecois to keep them in Canada.

What America ought to do in the world is to champion, wherever they are, those peoples trapped in empires.  This will weaken these empires, which is good, and it will reduce the source of conflicts in the world, and it will make us, again, rightly seen as the champion of the oppressed. 

Twenty-five years ago, with our blessing and support, the empires and cobbled nations of Eastern Europe went through the process of "Balkanization."  It worked – an important lesson for the future.

We have a phobia, a very wrong-headed phobia, of the consequences of the disintegration of large nations into smaller nations.  The term "Balkanization" is commonly used to describe this process.

Twenty-five years ago, the remnants of communist Europe splintered into the new nations of the dead Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.  Czechoslovakia would also peacefully break in two soon after.

Balkanization has proven a great blessing and not a curse.  The breaking of large nations or collectives of nations, like the European Union today, has proven the solution to many problems.  We ought to view the British (or, perhaps, the English) exit from the European Union in this light.  When people feel oppressed by a large governing authority, independence from that authority is the best alternative.

Indeed, the larger nations grow in population, the more like empires the bureaucrats and politicians of their capitals become.  When our nation was founded, Washington was small and close to most Americans, and the federal government was tiny and limited.  Today, Washington is a remote imperial city that looks down on the governed and tramples the rights of those subjects and their disempowered state governments.

The Balkanization of America – whether that meant a formal separation of our nation into regional polities or the dramatic decentralization of federal power (Congress permanently relocated to Wichita, for example, or all federal regulatory agencies moved to Little Rock) – is the only real solution to the problems we face, unless the constitutional powers of the states are restored and the improper encroachment of federal power into everything is undone.

Balkanization is also the solution to many of our most thorny international problems.  Iran, for example, is an empire with many oppressed nationalities.  Were this empire broken, the power of the hateful mullahs who run it would be dramatically weakened, and the new nations freed from the yoke of Persian rule would be friends of their liberators (and defenders).

Iraq is also an empire that logically ought to be three separate (and happier) states.  How much blood, treasure, and influence has America spent to keep this artificial creature, "Iraq," a single unhappy nation?  Balkanize Iraq along with Iran, and we might well include Syria and Turkey, especially if Turkey is pulled from a secular state into an Islamist state. 

Kurdistan, a land that would have an estimated population of 28 million, should be carved from the lands in all four of those empires.  We ought to champion the Kurds, who, like the Israelis, are our natural friends in the region.

Pakistan is also an empire with a number of different ethnic groups and languages.  Part of the instability of Pakistan is precisely that internal tension.  Indeed, Bangladesh was once "East Pakistan," half of this artificial nation, which felt, rightly, oppressed by "West Pakistan."  The successful rebellion of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh reduced tensions on the Indian Subcontinent, but even India is more an empire than a true nation and the problems of Sikhs and minorities in Kashmir, as well as other parts of this empire, remain natural sources of tension.

Indonesia is an entirely artificial creature of Javanese hegemony over a vast archipelago that has more distinct language groups than any nation in the world.  Burma is essentially an empire.  Most of Asia is a collection of empires that force different ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups into a state that is simply the residue of old European colonial borders. 

Nigeria is a large empire, and natural tensions among the tribal groups and the religious groups divide this empire into several parts.  The Congo is an empire of many tribes and languages.  Angola is an empire as well.  Indeed, most of the larger nations of sub-Saharan Africa are simply empires with ruling tribes and religions.  Giving these peoples their own nation naturally removes a major cause of discontentment and makes true peace much easier. 

Some nations have resolved their problems of empire by the mutual consent of the different regions in the nation.  Switzerland, a confederacy and not a federal state, is one example, with language and religion allowed to be determined by cantons.  Belgium exists because the Flemish and Walloon nationalities are content with that nation.  Canada accommodates the Quebecois to keep them in Canada.

What America ought to do in the world is to champion, wherever they are, those peoples trapped in empires.  This will weaken these empires, which is good, and it will reduce the source of conflicts in the world, and it will make us, again, rightly seen as the champion of the oppressed. 

Twenty-five years ago, with our blessing and support, the empires and cobbled nations of Eastern Europe went through the process of "Balkanization."  It worked – an important lesson for the future.