Over the years, as we have watched the
Soviet Union disintegrate, Yugoslavia implode, thousands die from the
persistent struggle for Tamil independence and dozens of other low-grade
but nevertheless brutal and deadly civil wars around the globe, we have
become convinced of the existence of something that can only be called
a Right of Secession.
In the past, the United States has had formative, first-hand
experience with both sides of the Secession issue. "When in the course
of human events" set the table for the birth of a nation, without which
we would all still be loyal subjects of the upcoming King Charles dynasty.
"Four score and seven" years later, the nascent nation was riven by secessionism
itself, and over half a million died to keep the nation whole.
But given the increasingly deadly weapons in which the
world is awash, and the geopolitical repercussions of even localized
warfare, a right of peaceful secession, in cases where the democratically
expressed will of a like-minded group of people has been clearly expressed,
is the only, and necessary, escape from an escalating cycle of violence.
The fact is that today, there is no such thing as localized
war. The internet carries the voices of the combatants and their messages
around the world at the speed of light, and the transportation system
can carry the warriors wherever they want to go almost as quickly.
New weapons, from bio-engineered viruses to fiendishly
brilliant computer viruses sneer at borders or distances, and can spread
in a matter of days, even hours. Television pumps moving images of the
fighting and the destruction and the human misery into the kitchens and
bedrooms of every family in America, where they haunt our dreams if not
our waking hours.
So we can no longer afford this endless rash of ethnic,
religious, racial or language-based warfare. Even legitimate national
aspirations can no longer justify the suffering and needless deaths of
millions of invaluable human lives.
Groups or regions that choose to secede will find
there is a price to their independence. The world is a competitive place
these days, and every country is effectively competing against every
other. Clearly, there is advantage to size. In Europe especially, but
also in Latin America and Asia, we are seeing tentative steps towards
union and coordinated economic cooperation. Going your own way does not
always represent the road to a rosy future, as many of the ex-Soviet
Republics will testify.
The essential point is that just as people can freely choose to come together, they must be allowed to freely part ways, when the historical dynamic demands, without the attendant bloodletting so unfortunately common when the integrity of a nation-state is threatened.
The key to making this viable is the concept of the
democratically expressed will of a like-minded group of people. How
to determine who qualifies? What constitutes "democratically expressed
If modern history teaches us anything, it is that the
democratic process is a delicate mechanism, prone to breakdowns and open
to manipulation. From gerrymandering, to laws outlawing all or
some political parties. to voter qualifications and requirements, to
rigged slates of candidates, to stuffed ballot boxes, to unfair control of the media, to outright buying of votes, to intimidation
of candidates, to assassination of opponents, the list is endless and
limited only by opacity of the press and the ingenuity of the participants.
Ex-President Jimmy Carter, the last moral man to sit
in the White House, and for that reason the last man the Dowbrigade was
proud to call our President, has the right idea. Insuring the honesty
of elections is perhaps the most important achievable step in clearing
the path to a war-free and dearmed future, which is starting to look like the only kind of future that can work.
But one ex-President cannot do this on his own. Fostering
Democracy around the world will mean insuring the honesty of hundreds
of elections around the globe every year. In fact, as much as neo-cons
will hate it, the only body with a prayer of a chance to take on the
job is the United Nations. They need to become experts in organizing,
implementing, supervising and tallying elections in a variety of geographic,
political, economic and technological conditions. And they need to create,
or rather earn, a level of trust such that if your election
isn’t United Nations Certified, no one will take it seriously.
We are coming to a point in human evolution where we
either give up childish things like warfare and genocide, or let the
obsessions of the few destroy the future of us all. When an internally
cohesive group decides they no longer want to be a part of a greater
state, they cannot be held back by force. This is the source of terrorism,
of ethnicide, of civil war, of disease and famine.
This vision of a Right of Secession depends on fair
and independent elections, which must be supervised by a respected global
presence. We feel that this is one of three roles which must be assumed
by the United Nations if it hopes to play a role in saving the species
from the the cliff over which it is being driven by a handful of power-mad
The other two roles have to do with resolving the conflicts
which currently afflict our sorry race, as well as those which will inevitably arise during the gradual transition to a post-warfare world. One, on a military level,
the UN must develop the capacity to swiftly deploy anywhere on the planet
and establish a secure, defensive perimeter within which humanitarian
workers can create havens for noncombatants, especially women and children,
caught up in sectarian warfare.
Maybe the world cannot stop impressionable young men
and twisted fanatics from blowing each other to bits, but it can no longer
stand by while innocent women and little kids are also slaughtered. It
is too electronically in our faces to be ignored.
Two, on a diplomatic level, the United Nations needs
to turn itself into the largest School of Negotiation in history. At
the same time they are protecting the innocent, they must apply all possible
diplomatic, economic and cultural pressure possible to bring the combatants
first to the negotiating table, and then to an equitable agreement.
Look for future postings on these two essential new
roles for the UN.