(Berkaitan dengan upaya pemisahan diri seperti Kosovo kemarin, di bawah ini ada sebuah tulisan bagus. Semoga menambah wawasan Anda)
The Rules of Secession
Four Principles by Which to Judge Your Breakaway Brethren
Is there a right to secede? Many Chechens, Acehnese, Montenegrins, to name but a few, evidently believe so, and it is not hard to see why. Governments exist to serve their peoples, not vice versa, so if a group of people wish to be governed in a unit different from the one presented to them by history, why should they not arrange their affairs according to their wishes? This is simply the principle of self-determination. Abe Lincoln disagreed with it, but times have moved on. Modern, sophisticated states are no longer neurotically attached to bits of territory. If Norway wants to leave Sweden (1905), Ireland to leave the United Kingdom (1921), 14 republics to leave a Russian-dominated Soviet Union (1991), Slovakia to leave Czechoslovakia (1993) or Eritrea to leave Ethiopia (1993), they can do so without a civil war. Good luck to them.
But what about the people they leave behind, and those they take with them against their will? If Catalonia pulled out of Spain, or “Padania” out of Italy, would it owe nothing to the country it had abandoned? If Quebec quit Canada against the wishes of its indigenous peoples, would it just be tough luck for the Crees, whose lands make up almost half the province? Or should they then secede? And who, incidentally, is “they”? Does any self-selected group anywhere have the right to declare independence? If so, the richest corners of many a country—the Acehs, Katangas, Biafras and Bougainvilles, maybe even the Belgravias and Beverly Hills—have a licence to go it alone, and thus to impoverish their ex-compatriots. Even if greed is ruled out as an acceptable motive for secession, in favour of mere nationalism, a new profusion of tiny tribal states might make the world an uglier place.
Or a prettier one? A few principles are needed. The first is that secession should neither be encouraged nor discouraged. However painful, it is in itself neither good nor bad: like divorce, it may make people more content or more unhappy. Second, it should be carried out only if a clear majority (well over 50%-plus-one of the voters) have freely chosen it, ideally in an unbiased referendum held in tranquil circumstances. That means that some time should elapse before any vote is held in Aceh, so that Indonesia’s new government can show itself to be more benign than its brutal predecessor.
Third, the secessionist territory must offer guarantees that any minorities it drags along—Crees in Quebec, say, Russians in the Baltic states, or English in Scotland—will be decently treated. Common assets must be divided fairly and compensation given for any losses. Some new countries should also accept restraints upon their sovereignty: Palestine should forswear an army, Montenegro might offer Serbia access to the sea, Chechnya should respect pipelines across its territory.
Enough? Not quite. These three principles still leave the way open for selfish groups to gouge out micro-states at will. It is possible to argue that the resulting world would be no worse than the world as it is. After all, globalisation and the new supranational clubs mean that sovereignty is increasingly diffused and nation-states are not as self-sufficient as they were. And if Chechnya, say, broke away, so what? Few other Russian republics would follow suit, and they would anyway be places of little consequence. True, Aceh’s secession might lead to a more general unravelling of Indonesia, and Africa’s fragile polities might crack up completely, but maybe that, in time, would all be for the better.
The trouble with fission
Maybe. But in the meantime a secessionist free-for-all would surely lead to violent instability. States that have successfully reassured their minorities would suddenly become tense, as formerly quiescent groups (Turks in Bulgaria, Ibos in Nigeria?) came to be eyed as potential secessionists. Old-fashioned territorialists, such as China, would go berserk. And if the bullies turned nasty, neither the big powers nor the supranational clubs could be counted on to come to the rescue. They did, eventually, and amid much bloodshed, in Kosovo and East Timor. But don’t bet on similar noble ventures in half a hundred other places.
A fourth principle is needed. It is that the secessionists should be able to make a reasonable claim to be a national group. Nations need not be ethnically based; few are. But most have a unifying glue that is the product of language, oppression or some other force of history. On this—admittedly subjective—measure, Chechnya would qualify as a nation. So would Montenegro, which is a republic of Yugoslavia, as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia once were. East Timor would likewise qualify: until Indonesia grabbed it in 1975, it was a Portuguese colony. Aceh, by contrast, would not: little except its wealth differentiates it from other Indonesian provinces. A Utopian might wish it otherwise, but the world is not yet ready for secession on demand.