20 March 2011

What is a Nation State?

The following is cross-posted from The Jacksonian Party.

The following is an opinion piece by The Jacksonian Party.

This is pretty simple, no?  Everyone has a good idea of what a Nation looks like, in form, even when that form varies from the early City States to the modern Nation State, we can definitely put our fingers on a few salient points that define Nations.

First off is that they have a declared government.  This can be anything from a Warlord putting his cohorts in place with an iron fist all the way to people on a small speck of land banding together to use a representative democracy to run a republic.  Either way a known set of people who work within a confines of a geographic area, with a people in it and an orderly system of government are key points in the Nation State business.  The Nation has accountable actors who act in the name of the people of that territory.

Second is that many Nations are born in blood from previous regimes that did not reflect the will of the people or who were deposed by invading armies or from the turmoil of an upset order that fell apart.  Peaceful change is to be sought at every turn, but not every ruler or government is willing to recognize the will of the people to get rid of them.    Thus fighting usually starts before an actual new government can get in place.

There is a critical juncture between the First and the Second and that is the ability to get help from the outside if you are fighting to depose a government.

Note that governments are only imposed after being on the losing side of a war: the winning side gets to dictate terms.  Coming to power with no governmental structure means you have no orderly means of actually running the Nation, even temporarily, until a new government is set up.  That is why many of the mechanisms of the prior government live on for months or years after the defeat of the prior regime: they are necessary to keep things going.  Hated?  Most likely.  Necessary?  By and large, yes.

To take two examples:

- In the American Revolution the build up to 1776 via prior incidents put forward a group of representatives willing to stake a claim for a new government.  They declared independence and the very next thing they did (beyond circulating the declaration) was put a new government in place.  That was the Articles of Confederation, which was the interim government that allowed other governments to back the new government.  Thus Poland would send us our first Light Cavalry and France would later give us troops, arms and cash to help against the British.  All that time fighting was going on, but a recognized chain of command from the new government to Gen. Washington was established.  It didn't work that well, but it did work and the form of accountability was put in place.

- In Iraq after OIF the government of Iraq dissolved.  Not by order, that was the after-thought, but by the civil service leaving their places in government and leaving a mess behind.  The loss of control meant a loss of order and looting ensued, as well as a general uprising against the old regime.  There would be long, long months to getting a local interim government put in place to help settle things down and then the agenda to get a new constitution passed would involve more months of bloodshed as scores were settled and outsiders attempted to thwart the standing up of the new government.  That interim government was responsible for the obligations of goods and services, so it gained recognition outside of Iraq from Nations wanting to have commerce with Iraq and support it.  That has been a messy route, yes, but necessary as letting the locals control their own destiny after deposing a genocidal tyrant unable to stick to his war-time treaty was no longer acceptable.

Both instances have timing involved - in America the revolution had basically started before independence was declared, yet in Iraq the government was removed by it being attacked and then dissolving in its very offices when defenses broke down.  Getting an interim government up was critical to both Nations, and they were Nations as they were they were considered sovereigns either by declaration (in the US) or recent custom (in Iraq).

In general it is not wise to support any uprising, rebellion or set of actors looking to overthrow a regime that does NOT put down their system of government, who is accountable and the territory they will oversee with consent of the governed.  That is why the US needed a government to survive the early months of its war with the mother country, and why the insurgents in Iraq were seen as puppets of foreign powers: the accountability system is the 'sniff test' of a Nation.

If you don't have it, you reek of barbarism.

You, as an individual, may not like certain Nation's governments, but that is for the people in the Nation to work out, not for you to help 'decide' from the outside.  I don't like despots, tyrants, dictators, and warlords overmuch, but if the people they are over can't figure out how bad they are and get rid of them, then there is little that I can or should do for them from the outside.   Sympathize with their plight?  Yes.  Beg my government to intercede?  No.  Opposition is one thing, interceding where the locals can't buy a clue is something else, again.

That now brings up Egypt, Libya and other fun places with insurrections going on, like Tunisia and even China.  What should the US policy be?

Well, how about requiring the locals to get serious, first off?  Insurrection, rebellion, revolution are all parts of changing a government you don't like, but the ballot box should work as well.  If you don't have elections and the government will not recognize that the people are the sovereign actors of the Nation to create a Nation, then you get the bloodier, nastier way of doing things.  That is all understood.  So what, exactly, do these upstarts want to replace the old system with and what is the territory they will be held responsible for, and who is doing this stuff?

That gets to the crux of the matter, that junction between First and Second: if you don't know what you want or who is being trusted to run the show then why, exactly, should anyone on the outside recognize such a rebellion as in need of 'help'?  You may not like the dictator, despot, tyrant, regime, warlord, etc. in charge, but if those in opposition won't stand up for something other than being anti-regime, then you aren't likely to get a good outcome.  Quite the opposite as that is how such notorious regimes usually start: rebels without a clue beyond wanting power.

Thus in Egypt the people had a general uprising against the regime and it, finally, stepped down and handed running the show over to the military.  Now there are drafts for a new constitution coming about, with a more or less legitimate interim regime in place.  Its strange that those wanting the regime change couldn't say, exactly, what they wanted to replace it.  It is one thing to have a government deposed by outside forces who then get to figure out what to do and quite another when you take to the streets without a clue as to what you really want as a form of government.  That path to mob rule isn't pretty and usually lasts until a dictator or junta can kill its way to power and get some cronies to be strongmen for the new regime.  And if that starts to sound like the old regime... well... if you don't know what it is, exactly, you want then you are unlikely to get something to make you 'feel' better in this realm.

In Tunisia the dictator has fled, but what of the government?  It is in disrepute but a newer system hasn't really come about, yet.  For such a well educated people they should be able to figure out the cart - horse order of things.

Things are less well formed in: Yemen, KSA, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Syria.

Iran has the Green Movement (not an environmental movement) but that seems stalled on the verge of doing things and its leaders are being rounded up by the thinning old regime.

China is cracking down and paying people to stop the insurrection's communications.  Good luck on that, I tellya.

Libya has the problem of rebels who were very successful and were even rumored to be putting a constitution together.  They really, and for true, should have done that.


It could be announced as part of foreign policy that the old regime was no longer recognized as sovereign and the new regime was.  Money, arms, supplies and all the rest of it could flow from Nations recognizing the new government and then blockade the old one.  What took months back in 1776 now takes minutes to hours.  Rebels with a constitution, putting on identifiers and generally having a recognized chain of command means they are serious about getting a new government in place, even on an interim basis, and can be supported.

They didn't do that.

We can't recognize them as a government as they aren't one.

See that part about what happens when you are clueless about what you want to do once you win after fighting?  That is where Libya is.  Egypt, at least, has a government that knows it is interim.  Libya has a government under the old regime, and the rebels are unable to figure out that they need a new form of legitimacy to get things rolling their way.

Rebels without a clue.

Putting the cart before the horse.

Helping the clueless when they demonstrate they are clueless usually doesn't end well for all concerned.

I don't like He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled Consistently.

I have no good feeling about the current rebels, at all.

Wanting to get rid of a tyrant is all well and good, but could we have the guarantee, in writing, that you actually do have an idea of what it is you want afterwards?  Otherwise this is just your standard tyrant swap during a coup.

Put up and demonstrate your morals and ethics, and your willingness to be held accountable.

Or don't.

The first gets you a new government, and that can have a bloody end, but at least you are willing to stick up for your fellow citizens and a better way of doing things.

The latter is tyranny for tyranny, despot for despot, and coup after coup.

Thus America's answer should be: put up a government, draw your line in the sand, be held accountable, put on uniforms and then we will think long and hard about supporting you as you are showing you are willing to do the hard work of creating a better government after the show is over.

That is, however, sane and rational.

I'm not expecting that any time soon, and we will rue the day we gave up being civilized for transient ends.

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