Monday, September 21, 2009

Steve is Occasionally Right: All Is Not Swell in the Larger EU

One of the key claims in Kin and Country is that the conditions imposed by the European Union to ensure the good behavior of the applicants are not as imposing or lasting as others averred. Is it wrong for me to be glad to see events that support our claims even though these events are, well, bad?
On 21 August 2009 the Slovak government declared the Hungarian head of state persona non grata and denied him entry to the territory of Slovakia. This step marked the height of renewed acrimony between Hungary and Slovakia since the passage of the amended Slovak State Language Law in June. Such level of tensions between two Schengen zone EU states is without precedent and grows beyond the framework of bilateral relations. With this decision the Fico government wanted to bring a resolute response to Hungarian manifestations of dissent concerning the language law and made it clear that backing away from its policy is not an option before parliamentary elections.

As a result of the 2006 parliamentary elections the radical nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS) became member of the governing coalition, and periodically made offensive statements against Hungary and the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. The self-styled Social Democratic party, Smer (Direction) led by Prime Minister Fico has not kept extremist anti-Hungarian sentiments from gaining ground but has instead allowed them to become part of mainstream politics.
, an admittedly biased observer, but the facts are, as they say, the facts)

Yep, the Slovaks passed a language law that dramatically reduces the rights of Hungarians to use their native tongue in Slovakia, despite being a significant minority--and this law ran counter to what they had previously promised and what the EU had expected. Now, Slovakia has stopped the Hungarian president from participating in a ceremony to dedicate a statue of Saint Stephen (my favorite saint) who founded the Kingdom of Hungary [Thanks to Zsuzsa Csergo for the link--see her book on language politics]

It just goes to show that keeping someone out of a club is a lot harder than shaping the behavior of members.

And while we are on the theme of "Steve is occasionally right," Brigadier General McMaster (author of a key book on the Joint Staff's role in producing Vietnam), who was an innovator in Counter-insurgency in Iraq and adviser to Gen. Petraeus, is now arguing:

there was "a failure to recognize" that the security problem in Iraq had shifted from insurgency to a communal struggle for power. .... What looked to some like a government, he explained, was instead a situation where different people had captured parts of the government structure. "So in effect our strategy in 2006 was a rush to failure," and even was intensifying Iraq's problems, he said.
This points to the key problem in many civil wars--that the government or elements of the government are combatants (rather than being merely absent as portrayed in the ethnic security dilemma). So, the question then becomes how to restrain the government (or parts of it) from preying upon the society while simultaneously building its capacity to thwart those who are threats to the citizens and the government? My recent edited volume with MJ Zahar addresses this challenge. Ok, we raise the challenge, but perhaps do not provide clear remedies.

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