Wednesday, May 18, 2011

IR is Not Fair

Nor is it a meritocracy.  Somaliland is functional yet unrecognized.  Somalia is the epitome of a failed state but has a seat at the UN.  Still, we should say to Somaliland: Happy Birthday!!  The linked piece is an excellent short summary of the accomplishments of Somaliland with comparison to Somalia.

Does the fact that nobody recognizes Somaliland mean that I am wrong about the vulnerability thesis?  That is, I have long argued that countries are not so restrained by the fear of secession and are willing to support secessionists elsewhere (see my dissertation, really, go ahead, we can wait.  Ok, just buy my first book).  Um, not quite.  I argued that countries will support secessionists if they feel as if it is in their interests, especially domestic political ones, and that vulnerability to secession will not restrain them.

So, the question I have to answer is why no one is compelled to support Somalia.  The problem with the ethnic ties argument (again, see my dissertation, my book, and nearly everything I wrote before 2009) is that it is indeterminate in this case.  That is, nearly anyone that has ethnic ties to the folks in Somaliland also have ties to Somalia as the major differences between the two hunks of land are not racial, religious, or linguistic (perhaps a bit linguistic but not much), but of kinship (clan) and of history (pre-1960, the Brits colonized the north and the Italians the south).*
*  Is it an accident that the most dysfunctional part of Somalia was previously ruled by the Italians?  I am not suggesting or implying that.  Just noting the correlation.
 So, fear of vulnerability can trump ethnic politics because ethnic politics is not pushing anyone to do anything.
Still, folks are willing to see Sudan fall apart, so why not recognize Somaliland at last?  Because international relations is not about merit (we can suggest other realms are also merit-free, lets move on).  Taiwan is more functional than 97% of the countries in the UN, but China says nay. 

Anyhow, let's all celebrate Somaliland's birthday by not recognizing it happening.   Ooops.

1 comment:

MSS said...

"Is it an accident that the most dysfunctional part of Somalia was previously ruled by the Italians?"

That would be a great comparative study! OK, so who will step forward to do the fieldwork?

Thanks for "recognizing" Somaliland's birthday!