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Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont?
February 17, 2008 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Kosovo is technically part of Serbia, but it's been governed by the U.N. since 1999, after NATO militarily intervened to stop Slobodan Milosevic's brutal suppression and expulsion of ethnic Albanian separatists. Now that it has declared its independence (with US support), the elephant in the room remains: Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont? "Why is statehood OK for some people but frowned on for others?" There is no internationally accepted standard for independence. "This is the great hole in democratic theory."
posted by stbalbach (83 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Because the US federal government has not recently tried to kill large numbers of the Vermont population?
posted by jaduncan at 2:01 PM on February 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


Why Not Vermont?

Because you cannot build a nation on cheddar cheese alone.
posted by sour cream at 2:05 PM on February 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Knock on wood, jaduncan. We still have 11 months before this administration is out of office.
posted by The Loch Ness Monster at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Now, if the question were "Why not Florida?" there might be something to discuss.
posted by goatdog at 2:07 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]




Any right of secession would be grounded in the seceding people's lack of self-determination, but self-determination can be satisfied either internally or externally.

Self-determination is satisfied internally if a people have meaningful representation in the national government and protection for fundamental freedoms, as the people of Vermont surely do.

External self-determination, through secession, necessarily violates the state's interest in territorial integrity, so it's normally viewed as a measure of last resort.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:10 PM on February 17, 2008


Great read, but I'm surprised they didn't even mention Québec, a far more likely candidate for succession from Canada than Vermont from the United States.
posted by damclean2 at 2:13 PM on February 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think this is a really important issue, but the article was a little lack luster for me. Why not three Iraqs? Why is there such a strong push to ensure a single united country of Iraq. There are three distinct groups there, who want nothing to do with each other.

Just because an Empire was dismantled into distinct Countries/States doesn't mean those States should be set in stone if people in the region seem to think borders/countries should be redrawn.
posted by Arbac at 2:16 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Why is statehood OK for some people but frowned on for others?"

If you can't hold the ground by force of arms against all comers, it's not yours. Kosovo will exist as an independent country only as long as the U.S. and NATO are willing to defend it.
posted by tkolar at 2:17 PM on February 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


There's a Puerto Rican independance movement.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on February 17, 2008


tkolar - that's certainly why Luxembourg exists.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to take this seriously until they have their own blimp.
posted by grouse at 2:28 PM on February 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Federalism.
posted by Brian B. at 2:30 PM on February 17, 2008


Why not Vermont? for the same reason why njot Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina etc....some smarty ass Republican president like Lincoln won't go along with it.
posted by Postroad at 2:31 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


tkolar: So anything we can conquer is rightfully ours?
posted by agentofselection at 2:32 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be fair, that does appear to have been official foreign policy for the Bush admin.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on February 17, 2008


Given that more than 90% of Kosovans are ethnic Albanians, and given that they have been ruled by a wholly different people with highly nationalistic, war-mongering bent . . . well, I'm not sure how the comparison to Vermont really applies. Not to mention that there's an enormous difference in the number of Vermonters who truly want independence and the number of Kosovars who truly want independence.

Bear in mind also that Serbia, who started the whole series of Yugoslav wars (against Croatia and Bosnia - both of whom were internationally recognized independent nations, and against the quasi-autonomous province of Kosovo) was essentially *rewarded* for its aggression, despite losing all those wars. This was done to keep a certain tenuous peace; many of us who were victims of the war supported the Dayton Accord simply to stop the ceaseless killing of innocents. The agreement "froze" in place much of the Bosnian territory that Serbia had seized via its Bosnian Serb cousins, and one could argue that this emboldened them to continue warfaring, until the US and others put an end to it all.

Compare that to what probably ought to happen when states start wars and lose, i.e. Germany loses territory, Hungary loses Transylvania, and so on. So Kosovo is an "easy" loss - there aren't many Serbs there at all, and the Serbian government has done an exceedingly poor job at even paying lip service to the idea of protecting the Albanian-speaking majority. In short, they fucked up despite being offered a generous settlement, and now they're reaping their rewards. I hope that Kosovo will do a better job protecting the Serb minority, and I'm happy to say that at least they are publicly saying they will do so . . . more than the Kosovars got from the Serbs.

For the record, there probably should be more smaller states, but people have little faith in the likelihood of this happening even where the idea would make at least some sense. Iraq should be split in three.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:35 PM on February 17, 2008 [10 favorites]


> Because the US federal government has not recently tried to kill large numbers of the Vermont population?

There are Vermont separatists, but they're few and heavily equipped with tinfoil hats. Wait until they become a serious threat to succeed.
posted by jfuller at 2:35 PM on February 17, 2008


Don't forget, the EU is also supporting the independence (not just the US as the post editorialized).

I really don't see why people bring up Chechnya any more. The Russians have pretty much ground that small country into the dust.

I'll also agree that its surprising Quebec wasn't mentioned. Its one of those "go figure" examples, especially in North America.
posted by Atreides at 2:37 PM on February 17, 2008


Why not Lakota?
posted by dinty_moore at 2:41 PM on February 17, 2008


Great read, but I'm surprised they didn't even mention Québec

It's an American newspaper. Duh.

Given that more than 90% of Kosovans are ethnic Albanians, and given that they have been ruled by a wholly different people with highly nationalistic, war-mongering bent . . . well, I'm not sure how the comparison to Vermont really applies.


It doesn't. This isn't about reality, this is about selling newspapers.
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on February 17, 2008


Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont? "Why is statehood OK for some people but frowned on for others?" There is no internationally accepted standard for independence. "This is the great hole in democratic theory."

I kind of doubt most Vermonter's actually want to split from the U.S. If there was a strong cultural separation, it might actually happen, just look at what's going on with Quebec. If an overwhelming number of Quebecois wanted to separate, it could happen. Same with Puerto Rico, probably.

Remember, after the U.S. Civil war, there was a major effort to culturally bind Americans together with a common vision of the nation, rather then as citizens of various states. The pledge of allegiance is a part of that, and it worked pretty well. Most Americans in any state are unlikely to want to secede.

For the record, there probably should be more smaller states, but people have little faith in the likelihood of this happening even where the idea would make at least some sense. Iraq should be split in three.

That's probably a bad idea. Normally splitting nations with serious ethnic strife is a recipe for disaster. Just look at India/Pakistan or Israel and Palestine.
posted by delmoi at 2:42 PM on February 17, 2008


There is no internationally accepted standard for independence.

Sure there is: military success in revolution. That's why Ireland is independent, and Scotland is not.
posted by Class Goat at 2:46 PM on February 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of an independent Vermont.

I like the idea of having a little Vermontsterdam an hour away by plane, or a few hours by car.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Class Goat: But that's not really an accepted international standard. In some cases, other nations interfere to stop what would otherwise be a successful military bid, and in some cases other nations interfere to make an insufficient bid successful (Kosovo).
posted by agentofselection at 2:52 PM on February 17, 2008


Parts of Vermont want to secede to New Hampshire.
posted by Xurando at 2:52 PM on February 17, 2008


Alaska's really only sticking around for all the bridge-to-nowhere money.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:52 PM on February 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Class Goat: That isn't really an apt comparison. Scotland and Ireland have very different historical reasons for being in (or leaving) the union with England.
posted by boubelium at 2:57 PM on February 17, 2008


"So anything we can conquer is rightfully ours?"

Pretty much all of human history does seem to support this statement.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:01 PM on February 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why not Vermont? A larger diversity of local laws, culture and political focus would certainly be a boon for the individual. And what does the state properly exist to do but to cultivate individuals?
posted by refractal at 3:13 PM on February 17, 2008


Given that more than 90% of Kosovans are ethnic Albanians, and given that they have been ruled by a wholly different people with highly nationalistic, war-mongering bent.

The history of the area is way too complicated for that kind of black-and-whiteness. Albanians and Serbs have both attempted to "ethnically cleanse" the area going back several hundred years.
posted by Slothrup at 3:14 PM on February 17, 2008


delmoi: If there was a strong cultural separation, it might actually happen, just look at what's going on with Quebec.

Ech, nothing's going on with Quebec. Hasn't been a real threat for years. It'll always be a remote possibility and there'll be resurgences now and then but it's been in remission for some time.
posted by loiseau at 3:16 PM on February 17, 2008


Why Not Vermont?

sour cream: Because you cannot build a nation on cheddar cheese alone.

I, sir, submit that we have a duty to try. If successful, the results would be delicious.
posted by loiseau at 3:17 PM on February 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


Why the emphasis on cheddar cheese? An independent Vermont might gain a staunch ally if it went with maple syrup instead.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on February 17, 2008


A convoy of Kosovars and Albanians drove past my house an hour ago, honking their horns and waving their flags. Nice, if jarring. And what loiseau said.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:31 PM on February 17, 2008


Why not three Iraqs?
posted by nax at 3:43 PM on February 17, 2008


Independent Kosovo? Why Not Vermont?

Because we like pancakes and they have all the syrup.

I'm fine with the idea of an independent California, since California dosen't actually exist anyway.
posted by jonmc at 3:55 PM on February 17, 2008


A glance to wikipedia entry on kosovo provides some context, but expecially this this BBC site on the Kosovo massacres would provide some kind of rationale for the war. But I guess that the idea of "just war" can be abused at will, as it provides a convenient cover for all the human costs of war, suggesting that they are to be sweeped aside as the price of saving the oppressed.

If there's a constant in these divisionist war is that relentless activities of fearmongers, indentity mongers that do everything possible to pin the cause of a problem on a whole nation or a group of people, the "enemies" ; what usually follows is demonizations / dehumanization of the opponent. If ones mixes religion with this, as it appears to be the case with an alleged majority of muslim in Kosovo and of orthodox in Serbia, that's almost the same as pouring gasoline on fire. Add to this the relative poverty of the Kosovar region and a relativer minority of serbians who probably are as poor or in worse conditions that others, and you have breeding ground for ultranationalism.

Parallels in Uganda with Utu and Tutsi. Possibily an advance divisionism can be found in Quebec Nationalism , but also in Italy with La Lega Party , who is still using the secessionism propaganda, anti-muslims and hate/contempt rethoric to bolster their voting outcomes ; an attentive observer will notice that the Lega representatitves comfortably sit in the National Parliament and are more than happy to obtain the priviliges that come with the position, while attempting to allocate their own "yes man" in local position in other to bolster their own revenues, compromising happily with the major political forces.


"There is no internationally accepted standard for independence. 'This is the great hole in democratic theory.' "

Indipendence from what ? A rather locally famous italian singer, Vasco Rossi, sings :
Liberi liberi siamo noi
però liberi da che cosa
chissà cos'è?.......chissà cos'è!
Finché eravamo giovani
era tutta un'altra cosa
chissà perché?.......chissà perché!
Forse eravamo "stupidi"
però adesso siamo "cosa"...
che cosa....che?.....che cosa...se!..?...
"quella voglia", la voglia di vivere
quella voglia che c'era allora...
chissà dov'è! ........chissà dov'è!?
which roughly translated means:
We are free, we are
but free from what ..
I wonder what it is , I wonder !
Till we were young
it was really another thing
I wonder why, I wonder !
Maybe we were stupid
but now we are...what are we
something..what...something..if
that desire to live, desire to live
that desire we once had
I wonder where it is, I wonder
which is understood by some as that particular desire one feels, expecially when young, to be indipendant , free ! Yet exaclty , we don't really know
what we want to be free from. Notice how the word "FREE" is used, not "indipendant" which suggest that there is an understanding of what we are depending on, and we want to break free of this dependence.

Sometimes with maturity, not necessarily with ageing, one may recognized that some contrains we have felt weren't really so heavy a chain or a burden to carry, but the circumstance leading to this discovery may not be the happiest ; imagine, for instance, being in Cuba and suffering the U.S. led embargo . This is likely to teach someone the lesson that freedom doesn't always come for free, meaning that indipendence isn't necessarily without undersiderable or unbearable consequences.

Yet, exaclty like youngster, some people just want to be free..but they don't know exactly from what , or think that the route to this indipendence will be eased by freedom-loving nations, just to discover that getting rid of a dictator may come at the price of another dictatory, just a little less worse. Iraquis may be discovering this with their own sectarian violence, keeping them , apparently, well divided.

On preview , quoting from

nax writes "Why not three Iraqs? " link
Washington has made serious mistakes in Iraq, and they may lead to civil war. Dividing Iraq, however, is virtually certain to make things worse. It would convey the message that America has been defeated and that it abandoned a nation and a people. Even if one could overlook the fact the United States effectively broke Iraq and has a responsibility to its 28 million people, it is impossible to deny that leaving behind a power vacuum in an already dangerous region is hardly a viable strategy.
So let' see : if one keeps iraqui divided , as they apparently already are in practice, it's easier to keep them busy fighting each other. On the other hand, one central puppet government would allows to secure even more firmly the control of oil, but would give a common enemy for the iraqui to fight against if the troops were to remain.

Solution: leaving a very strong puppet government , letting the tribes do their own killing away from cameras. Basically, Saddam Deux.
posted by elpapacito at 3:56 PM on February 17, 2008


A more relevant comparison in North America would be an independent Quebec.

WWI really screwed up europe, and they're still trying to get over it. No wait, Napoleon really screwed up Europe and they're trying to... Holy Roman Empire? Ummm, yeah.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:58 PM on February 17, 2008


agentofselection ...
So anything we can conquer is rightfully ours?

Conquer and hold. Iraq did a good job conquering Kuwait a few years back, but Kuwait had had strong allies.

Tibet however, will remain part of China indefinitely.

And then of course there's Israel. Israel wouldn't last a day without the internal and allied military resources to defend itself. It's neighbors would cheerfully conquer it if they could.
posted by tkolar at 4:02 PM on February 17, 2008


There is no internationally accepted standard for independence. "This is the great hole in democratic theory."

That's not entirely true. International Law generally respects historical borders, which were often set up arbitrarily by colonists. For example, East Timor would not be independent today if it hadn't been a Portuguese colony, as opposed to the Indonesia, which was Dutch.

Other than that, ethnolinguistic identity provides a strong basis for independence or semi-independence. you can see this in places like India, in which most of the states are set up broadly along linguistic lines. They've even created new states recently, like Uttarakhand, which was formerly part of Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar state. And there's long been a campaign for a separate state called Gurkhaland, for the predominantly Nepalese & Tibetan peoples of the foothills & mountains of West Bengal, around Darjeeling.

Not that you even need a separate cultural identity to bolster secessionist arguments. In Australia, for example, we've been trying to get rid of Western Australia & Tasmania - the irrelevant states - for years.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:34 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no internationally accepted standard for independence.

Sure there is: military success in revolution.

CBut that's not really an accepted international standard. In some cases, other nations interfere to stop what would otherwise be a successful military bid...


That just makes those revolutions unsuccessful; it doesn't really negate the standard. It is accepted internationally that whoever wins the war gets the land. It's not always accepted as fair, but it is accepted as realistic.
posted by scottreynen at 4:41 PM on February 17, 2008


I thought the Civil War was the reason why Vermont couldn't leave the union; the War being the case study of leaving the Union being officially illegal and all.

The mention of Vermont as secessionist really makes me scratch my head. Within the US there are plenty of more relevant independence movements like the one for PR (as previously mentioned).

I find throwing Vermont in there as a "WHY NOT?!!? HMMMMMMMMMM?!?! never thought of it did you!?" was really trivializing to the Kosovar declaration. As there's no such thing as an "ethnic Vermonter" it's a bit insulting to the secessionist movements who rely on ethnic identity apart from the other, dominant culture to declare their sovereignty.

I also found the article rather lame. I snickered a bit at the part about Belgium. I understand the point the author is trying to make about how countries are constantly warring with nationalism in some sort of an ironic way (nationalism made the country which is fighting other nationalists who want to make a nation of their own), however I think the author did it super poorly.
posted by Gular at 4:46 PM on February 17, 2008




> WWI really screwed up europe, and they're still trying to get over it. No wait, Napoleon really
> screwed up Europe and they're trying to... Holy Roman Empire? Ummm, yeah.

We had a real nice little hunter-gatherer-megalith-builder thing going here until those damned Indo-european farmers showed up. Always slash'n'burn here, grub in the dirt there. And they're fat, they got way too much to eat. And sweaty and smelly. They invented overalls, you know that don't you? They ain't good for a damned thing except farmer's daughter jokes.
posted by jfuller at 5:00 PM on February 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Do you people really want jessamyn to have to deal with homeland security every time she comes to a meetup? Get some perspective, willya?
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:15 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Vermont sounds delicious.
posted by empath at 5:16 PM on February 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


A three state Iraq would never work, What are you going to do with the multi ethnic cities like Kirkurk and Bahgdad? You think the Sunni are just going to sit in the middle of the country with no oil? I could see a free Kurdistan and a Shiite dominated south happening though.
posted by afu at 5:48 PM on February 17, 2008


Madeline's Choice

Srbe na vrbe!
posted by Curry at 5:51 PM on February 17, 2008


Is there something wrong with Metafilter today? No new fpp for several hours? Or are we just bored?
posted by etaoin at 6:17 PM on February 17, 2008


etaoin:
I thought it slow too and then realized everyone is off beating a dead horse.
posted by boubelium at 6:49 PM on February 17, 2008


wow. failure.
horse now grazing here.
posted by boubelium at 6:51 PM on February 17, 2008


Is there something wrong with Metafilter today? No new fpp for several hours? Or are we just bored?

Mondays are often slow, because it's still Sunday in the US. If the weather's fine, the USians are all off doing something else.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:09 PM on February 17, 2008


Another reason why three Iraqs doesn't work: Kurdistan, the lands inhabited predominantly by Kurds, overlaps both Iraq and Turkey (due to Turkey being granted land on their eastern frontier at the end of WWI as compensation for Turkish land given to Greece). The original treaty breaking up the Ottoman Empire would have established an independent Kurdistan, but when some of it was ceded to Turkey, the rest was included in Iraq's borders.

In short, making the northern portion of Iraq an independent Kurdistan would be destabilizing to Turkey's adjacent frontier, which would have a high likelihood of seceding and attempting to join Kurdistan. Turkey is a key ally in the region and the U.S. will not do something so blatantly belligerent to them as to destabilize their borders by establishing an independent Kurdistan.

There are interesting parallels between the histories of Kurdistan and Poland; both were to be given independent nationhood at the end of WWI. In Poland's case, they were established as an independent nation but after WWII became a Soviet satellite nation for 40+ years before extricating themselves from the Soviet Bloc. Kurdistan would have been similarly established as an independent state if the never-ratified Treaty of Sèvres had been put into effect. Instead, the Treaty of Lausanne divided Kurdistan between Iraq and Turkey. The parallels between Poland and Kurdistan make a strong case for creating an independent Kurdistan, but it just isn't feasible in the regional political climate.
posted by Doohickie at 7:10 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


boubelium, thanks very much. congratulations on figuring it out. some thread!
posted by etaoin at 7:32 PM on February 17, 2008


George_Spiggott writes "Do you people really want jessamyn to have to deal with homeland security every time she comes to a meetup? Get some perspective, willya?"

Why is this a problem? Has she got something to hide?
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2008


Because the US federal government has not recently tried to kill large numbers of the Vermont population?

Vermont leads in per capita Iraq war deaths
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:48 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kosovo will exist as an independent country only as long as the U.S. and NATO are willing to defend it.

This is, I agree, how the world works, until history brings its weight to bear and the balance of power and tradition changes in that region of the world.

As mentioned above, similar dynamics are in play with Israel and, of course, Taiwan.

Kuwait was an artful creation of the Kuwaiti emirs who extended their control over Kuwait City into a de-facto nation state, with the crucial backing of the British, in the fall-out of the Ottoman Empire.

Anyhoo, we Californians already've got the flag for our Republic, bitches.
posted by panamax at 8:13 PM on February 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why Not Vermont? "Why is statehood OK for some people but frowned on for others?"

Vermont already is a state, fyi. (ba-da-bing) Seriously though, I'll be damned if I'm going to pay import taxes on Ben & Jerry's. I wouldn't miss Alabama or Wyoming, but Vermont's a keeper.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:45 PM on February 17, 2008


Back in 1979 some high school friends of mine tried to, as a prank, secede. They sought to split off their families 5 acre plot that they kept a couple of camper trailers on up near Blaine Washington. They created a flag, a coat of arms, and a governmental logo. I can't remember the name they gave the country. Anyway. They it put on some stationery and sent out these letters to various governmental offices. They got no responses.

Until. At some point they sent a letter to some Chinese or Russian consulate inviting the consulate to inspect their property for the potential stationing of nuclear weapons or something. They got ratted out by the commies who didn't want even a joke for an international incident.

Any way. LSS. I guess the State department takes that shit pretty frigg'n seriously. The State department guy they talked to said kids do this stupid stuff all the time and what you DON'T want is the actual attention of the government for this kind of prank. becuase the response is automatic and unstoppable. It brought down a shit storm of threats of IRS audits and jail time all sorts of shit. Not so funny.
posted by tkchrist at 8:57 PM on February 17, 2008


California (and its massive economy) would probably secede from the United States before Vermont — it can afford to.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 PM on February 17, 2008


I heard some analysis of this on NPR. I think it was either World Have Your Say or Talk of the Nation, can't remember. Anyway, it was clear that the criteria for independence are fairly arbitrary. It seemed to have more to do with favorable social/historical conditions than rights and needs.
posted by wastelands at 10:20 PM on February 17, 2008


tkolar: So anything we can conquer is rightfully ours?

It would be ours. I don't think tkolar was talking about 'rights', whatever they mean when dealing with inter-state conflict.
posted by magic curl at 11:15 PM on February 17, 2008


I don't see that it's a hole in democratic theory per se. After all, if a country is a democracy, it would/should respect a stable democratic decision to secede - this is what the UK Government has said about Northern Ireland and Scotland, and I'm sure the same would apply for Cornwall, Padania, Brittany, etc. if there were a broad-based democratic movement supporting it rather than just a handful of independent thinkers.

The EU is changing the terms of the game in Europe, of course, in that the collapse of economic and now currency barriers to trade between nations removes some of the constraints against independence ("Scotland would never survive economically as an independent nation" has less weight when it could adopt the Euro and trade with the rest of Europe freely).
posted by athenian at 1:56 AM on February 18, 2008


In a way, Kosovo's independence means that the disintegration of Yugoslavia has come full circle. It was in Kosovo that the Yugoslav Wars kicked off; or at least had their dramatic prelude.1

It was Slobodan Milošević's inflammatory speech at Kosovo's Field of Blackbirds that signaled the rise of Serbian nationalism and also the rise of one of the worst statesmen to ever befoul the Balkans. Milošević lost every stupid war he stupidly entered, fumbled away Kosovo, failed to create anything even closely resembling a "Greater Serbia," and transformed what was once the most prosperous country in Eastern Europe into an economic shit heap. He was pretty wily as a politician at home, but otherwise about as subtle as a brick to the face.

Crucially, Serbia's crackdown on Albanian self-determination in Kosovo spooked Slovenes and Croats in the north and fed their latent desires for independence. Granted, each of Yugoslavia's groups was suspicious of the other, and each of them was high on the idea of starting their own solo career, but when Slovenes and Croats saw Albanians getting smacked down, it didn't take much for them to imagine that they were next if they didn't get out, and get out fast.

So, no, you can't compare a tinderbox like Kosovo with Vermont, unless they start unearthing mass graves there and Vermonters start turning up with bottles up their arses.

In short, I think the really interesting question is not whether Vermont should or could declare independence, but whether Bosnia's Republika Srpska should leave that unhappy federation. Part of me fears that Kosovo's declaration of independence yesterday means the end of the Yugoslav Wars but the beginning of a whole new chapter of disintegration and loss.

------

1 Milošević's mentor, Ivan Stambolić, said that the day Milošević spoke in Kosovo was "the end of Yugoslavia" -- even though it remained territorially intact for a while longer.
posted by Ljubljana at 2:04 AM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The secessionists couldn't even get a proposal to discuss secession on the Town Meeting Day ballots. I think Vermont secession won't happen unless, say, other parts of New England (New Hampshire? Maine? way-upstate NY?) think the same way, or in some kind of assiciation with Quebec. There's a lot of cross-border investment/ownership. Quebec already owns most of our natural gas system here (Gaz Metro bought Vermont Gas recently). And we get some electicity from Hydro Quebec. And trade between Quebec and Vermont is booming. Just stop in any big box store on the American side some weekend--you'd think you're still in the Eastern Townships.
posted by paddbear at 5:00 AM on February 18, 2008


Heh, count the Vermont comments and talk about US-centrism (even though the new state is largely American handiwork).

The EU is changing the terms of the game in Europe, of course

True. Doing the economic planning in regions also helps. Then you've got the benefits for the external sovereignty of a newborn state, though these are largely in the air as the EU is too lax a political unit.
posted by ersatz at 5:28 AM on February 18, 2008


I thought the Civil War was the reason why Vermont couldn't leave the union; the War being the case study of leaving the Union being officially illegal and all

The Civil War's the de facto reason; Texas v. White is the de jure reason.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:33 AM on February 18, 2008


Interesting to see that amongst the EU dissenters is Spain - presumably worrried about future Catalan secession?
posted by patricio at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2008


And Basque secession. Ceuta and Melilla must also be an issue.
posted by ersatz at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2008


Wikipedia entry for University of Priština helps to understand where this nationalism springs from. Like in many small nation states, great part of national identity comes from youthful enthusiasm turned to history.

"Outside observers have noted that the dispute over the fate of the national education system parallels the greater debate over the future of Kosovo itself, with the two sides seeking to establish their own rival visions rather than compromising on a shared approach"
posted by Free word order! at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2008


It appears to me that pretty much all the countries opposed to Kosovo seceding are those who have some internal possibilities of unruliness themselves; Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Rumaenia.
posted by Catfry at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2008


I was in Manhattan yesterday and saw a family of 5 walking around, all dressed in matching T-shirts that had the outline of Kosovo with the legend, "Now I have a nation too." It made me smile.

(And I agree that the "Why not Vermont?" question is dumb and trivializing.)
posted by vitia at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2008


tkolar: So anything we can conquer is rightfully ours?
It would be ours. I don't think tkolar was talking about 'rights', whatever they mean when dealing with inter-state conflict.


Actually I'm hard pressed to think of any nation that isn't sitting on conquered land. Hold any land for enough generations and everyone will accept your "right" to it.

Even a tiny place like Japan started as a slew of feudal states and stayed like that until one of the warlords was able to conquer the whole place. The political descendants of that dynasty now claim the right to rule the whole place.
posted by tkolar at 11:24 AM on February 18, 2008


think of any nation that isn't sitting on conquered land

Yep. "possession is 9/10ths of the law" is a saying that came from English common law, a source the drafters of the US Constitution used.
posted by stbalbach at 12:32 PM on February 18, 2008


Do you people really want jessamyn to have to deal with homeland security every time she comes to a meetup?

I would make the sacrifice!

Seriously though, Vermont was an independent republic for fourteen years back in the day and decided it made more sense to be part of the emerging union. Women have had the vote in Vermont almost since there was a Vermont. terrapin has a nice list of links to other things we have here. The interesting debate here lately is whether Vermont can feed itself. Unfortunately the secession movement here has close ties to other recession movements that are a little less savory (aka white supremactist stuff, not that that angle is relevant here -- VT is a little homogenous in that regard which is too bad -- but still, ick) and I think when those allegations came to light and were not decently refuted, the sort of feel-good vibe of the Vermont Republic Redux no longer sustained the sort of support it might have otherwise had.
posted by jessamyn at 12:46 PM on February 18, 2008


And Basque secession. Ceuta and Melilla must also be an issue.

Off the cuff I would venture a guess that the most fervent Spanish nationalists live in Ceuta and Melilla.
posted by sour cream at 1:02 PM on February 18, 2008


I think I come at this one from a different perspective from most of you. Last year I had two students who were from Serbians from Kosovo. I know at least one of them returned to Kosovo after she graduated from high school. So, while I do think this independence is long overdue, I find myself worrying for the safety of the Serbs still there.

(These kids remembered the 1999 Kosovo war as the time when they had to leave middle school and hide in bomb shelters. While their parents might be faulted, these kids were just getting to the point where they could decide about this sort of thing.)

As for what constitutes a state deserving of independence, I don't know. Chechenya deserves it. I'm not so sure about the Basque and I feel the Tamil's really don't. Part of it stems from the tactics that the group in question has used vs. the tactics that have been used on them. Which I know is horribly unfair, but that's how I tend to see thing.
posted by Hactar at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2008


And Basque secession. Ceuta and Melilla must also be an issue.

Off the cuff I would venture a guess that the most fervent Spanish nationalists live in Ceuta and Melilla.


Thanks for calling me out on that, temporary brain malfunction.
posted by ersatz at 2:14 PM on February 18, 2008


"possession is 9/10ths of the law" is a saying that came from English common law

Oh yeah? From where?
posted by grouse at 2:55 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the Pacific Northwest here's long been a Republic of Cascadia movement -- barely deserving of the term -- which is occasionally cheerfully adopted by liberals mainly as a pose: they only notice by-and-by the sort of company it puts them in: property-rights libertarians of the "whaddaya mean I can't build a dam on my property to deprive downstream neighbors of water, cut down the last stand of redwood on Earth if it's on my land and defend my home with flamethrowers and nerve gas?" variety. Be careful what you wish for. Look at your neighbors and ask yourself if you really want to be locked in a room with them with no recourse to any authority of last resort. Sometimes the answer is yes, but don't assume it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:43 PM on February 18, 2008


if you can defend your borders and mint currency, 'ave at it mate :P

also, fwiw, re: poland, here's anne applebaum's review of wajda's katyn:
Unofficially, the mass execution was widely assumed to have been committed by the Soviet Union. In Poland, the very word "Katyn" thus evokes not just the murder but the many Soviet falsehoods surrounding the history of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. Katyn wasn't a single wartime event, but a series of lies and distortions, told over decades, designed to disguise the reality of the Soviet postwar occupation and Poland's loss of sovereignty.

Wajda's movie, as his Polish audiences will immediately understand, is very much the story of "Katyn" in this broader sense. Its opening scene, which Wajda has said he has had in his head for many years, shows a group of refugees heading east, crossing a bridge, fleeing the Wehrmacht. On the bridge, they encounter another group of refugees heading west, fleeing the Red Army. "People, where are you going, turn back!" the two groups shout at one another. Soon afterward, Wajda shows Nazi and Soviet officers conversing in a comradely manner along the new German–Soviet borders—as surely they did between 1939, the year they agreed to divide Central Europe between them, and 1941, when Hitler changed his mind about his alliance with Stalin and invaded the USSR. On the bridge, Poland's existential dilemma—trapped between two totalitarian states—is thus given dramatic form...

Wajda was asked several times to explain himself. Why Katyn? Why now? ... Most of those who actually remembered the events of 1939 were now dead, he explained—Wajda himself is eighty-one—so the film could no longer be made for them. Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach "those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd."
cf. cosma shalizi's review of gellner's -- "every culture must have its state" -- nations and nationalism:
Agraria [post-neolithic/pre-industrial civilisation] was a mess of partially overlapping ethnic, religious, linguistic, political and cultural distinctions. On the issue of language alone, Gellner calculates that the Old World contained several thousand dialects, each of which could have been the basis of a formalized literary language. (This calculation excludes Papua New Guinea.) Nations are constructed, in a highly arbitrary way, out of this raw material, often with a great deal of false consciousness (e.g., thinking one is reviving peasant culture and folk traditions, while actually creating a formalized, school-dependent High Culture) and outright fabrication. It is an error to suppose that nations have always existed, or even that modern nations are very old. (Serbo-Croat, for instance, was created as a literary language in the 19th century; in the last decade it has "officially" become two languages, Serb and Croat, which obstinately persist in being mutually intelligible.)

To recap: industrialism demands a homogeneous High Culture; a homogeneous High Culture demands an educational system; an educational system demands a state which protects it; and the demand for such a state is nationalism. The theory is coherent, simple, widely applicable, convincing, and empirically testable (which tests, to all appearances, it passes).
and btw turtles can fly...
posted by kliuless at 6:40 PM on February 18, 2008


Chomsky intvu with Radio Serbia
posted by hortense at 10:26 PM on February 19, 2008


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