Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fear Not, Secessionist Does Not Spread Like an Oil Spill

I may have led folks (Sherrill) to believe that separatism in one place may lead to more separatism in distant places due to my blog post yesterday about Belgium.  Sherrill raised the question of whether Kosovo empowered the Flemish--either their leaders or their voters.  I would say nay.  And I would say nay if anyone were to link Kosovo or Belgium to a new round of Quebec separatism as well. Politicians and voters are reacting primarily to local dynamics.  The Parti Quebecois is riding high in the polls because the incumbent government has been in office a long time, is mired in heaps of scandals, and due to the economic problems that are actually not too bad here.  The point I did want to make is that those advocating a particular set of institutions as a solution to ethnic strife have lost a key example, as Belgium is clearly not a success story these days.

The good news is that this discussion has helped me figure out how to re-frame an old paper that is now going to be part of a new edited volume.  I will, once again, show that countries with their own separatist conflicts are more likely, not less likely, to support secessionist groups elsewhere, contrary to the conventional wisdom.  This will not prove that separatism is or is not contagious, but does show that fears of contagion do not seem to deter countries when other interests (ethnic ties or retaliation) compel them. 

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