On states’ rights and wars of independence

I take the standard libertarian view that coercing another person is (almost) always wrong. Many people extend that view of the wrongness of interpersonal violence to world affairs, where they think it wrong for one state to conquer another.

Perhaps where I differ from most people is that I think state on non-state violence is just as wrong as any other kind of violence. I do not believe states have “rights” to the territory that they control. Think about it. Why is it wrong to acquire power through force (i.e. invasion), but not to maintain it through force?

Take Russia’s actions in Chechnya. In an effort to put down a separatist rebellion, Russia shelled market places, shot up buses full of civilian refugees and basically destroyed the city of Grozny.

Does Russia have a right to do this? No!
Does it have any right to rule Chechnya at all? No!
Am I saying governments should let anyone leave who wants to? Maybe!

If the Chechens were to carve out their own state from Russia, I would still say that they don’t have a right to rule it. But neither did the Russians before them. And it may even turn out the Chechens are worse off in some respects after independence.

But ask yourself this key question: under what circumstances is Chechen independence so terrible that the Russians are justified in using large-scale state terrorism to prevent it?

This is my view of wars of independence in general.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “On states’ rights and wars of independence”

  1. ATurner Says:

    I disagree with you here. International law allows for states to protect their sovereignty with military force. Chechens don’t have a right to carve up their own country in Russia using terrorism/force. Should they have that right by international law? No, there are many good reasons why that law exists. It’s not that Chechnya is important to Russia’s economy, it’s that it doesn’t want to set a precedent for other ethnic minorities (such as the Kurds in Iraq, or other provinces in Russia) that have no right to secede. Should the South have seceded from the Union?

    And sometimes might makes right. That’s the world we live in.

  2. Andy Hallman Says:

    I disagree with you here. International law allows for states to protect their sovereignty with military force.

    What are states? States are entities that seek a monopoly on the use of violence in a specific territory. Over time, states have drawn up rules in an effort to co-exist with other states, one of which is, as you mention, the protection of each states’ monopoly on violence in its borders.

    The notion of sovereignty is a convention that exists between states, not between the state and its subjects. To talk about a state that has a right to coerce its subjects owing to its sovereignty is a misunderstanding of the term.

    It’s not that Chechnya is important to Russia’s economy…

    There is a major oil pipeline that runs through Chechnya.

    Should the South have seceded from the Union?

    I think that’s the wrong question because the Confederacy was content to break off from the North without a war. So, it seems to me that the North should give a reason for why the continuation of the union was so important it could justify something like Sherman’s March to the Sea.

    And sometimes might makes right. That’s the world we live in.

    Yes, that is the world we live in, but a bold assertion of power is not moral reasoning.

  3. ATurner Says:

    My argument is more practical than moral, although there is moral reasoning.

    Border inviolability/territorial is a subset of sovereignty law. While secession within a single state is a domestic matter, not covered by international law, there are logical parallels between the two.

    http://www.hku.edu/law/conlawhk/conlaw/outline/Outline4/2625.htm

    “(d) The territorial integrity and political independence of the State are inviolable.”

    “Nothing in the foregoing paragraphs shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as described above and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction as to race, creed or colour.”

    The UN charter doesn’t really go into details on the use of force, only that internal law be equal to everyone in the territory and that massacre of civilians is not okay. Generally secession is only legal if some community or peoples suffered certain injustices.

    The problem with the Chechyna is that it was treated mostly on an equal basis with other territories in Russia before it tried to secede. So while some civilians have died in the war(s), the cause of their death was trying to secede, not initial oppression.

    It would be nice if everyone could form their own country, and/or not pay taxes. However, this impractical. Take for example Kurdistan, Tibet, the other breakaway Muslim province in China, and others. You can’t set a precedent of allowing groups like these to secede. If Kurdistan seceded, both Turkey and Iran said they would invade and crush Kurdistan because they don’t want the Kurdish minorities in their countries seceding. Tibet has no legal claim to secession–the people there are treated equally as any other Chinese. I know this is controversial, but it’s true–the same with the other Chinese province.

  4. ATurner Says:

    The continuation of the union was definitely worth Sherman’s March to the Sea. Sherman’s March to the Sea was actually one of the least violent, and most effective strategies during the entire war.

    What army would have faced the Nazi’s during WWII? Only a northern army? Or maybe the south would have sided with Nazis, and attacked the north. They (the south) provide taxes and people, which goes to use back then and today.

    The culture of the south would have stayed backward–it would not be economically developed like it is today, without Union conquest during the civil war. Slave cultures tend to be deeply stagnant, economically. The south’s economy would have resembled something like modern day Brazil or worse had the Union not taken over. So short-term suffering paled in comparison to the long term gains of a Union take over.

    And, moreover, the south deserved to have their a** kicked. To hell with the nonviolence.

  5. Andy Hallman Says:

    The UN charter doesn’t really go into details on the use of force, only that internal law be equal to everyone in the territory and that massacre of civilians is not okay. Generally secession is only legal if some community or peoples suffered certain injustices.

    Why are we bringing the UN Charter into this?

    You seem to suggest that it’s wrong to acquire power through force but acceptable to maintain it via force (even through large scale state terrorism). It sounds like you’re saying that it would be wrong to rob a bank, but not wrong to spend the money after you steal it, because by then you’ve already acquired it.

    What army would have faced the Nazi’s during WWII? Only a northern army?

    Quite possibly no army at all, at least not from North America. Then again, if there’s no United States, Wilson doesn’t offer the “14 points” to the Germans as a condition for surrender, the Germans don’t feel betrayed, don’t support the rise of Nazism, etc. etc.

    The culture of the south would have stayed backward–it would not be economically developed like it is today, without Union conquest during the civil war.

    Burning southern cities was the north’s idea of economic development?

    Slave cultures tend to be deeply stagnant, economically.

    Isn’t that part of the reason the rest of the world had already abolished slavery by 1861? I’m not sure how much deeper I want to get into this slavery argument, but my impression is that the south would have followed many other countries in the world within a few decades by phasing out the practice.

  6. ATurner Says:

    I only believe in improving the lives of people on the planet. I prefer anything over suffering. The details don’t matter.

    I think allowing groups to secede without strong initial cause will create a bad precedent (in the sense above), making the world more unstable/violent place as other groups around the world then follow suit.

    Well, then we would have had a German empire, and who knows what the consequences of that would have been? Probably not good. But I see your point.

    Yes the south probably would have abolished slavery within a few decades. However, the rate of progress for black rights (even with abolished slavery), human rights, education, and in turn free thinking, science would have been greatly retarded. From what I understand, not many people actually died as a cause from the March to the Sea. It just made it impossible for the south to support its armies. The north (Union) should have made that their strategy from the get-go, they probably would have won much faster and saved many lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: