Protests have returned to Kashmir, and so have demands for self-determination.
I write in late December 2011, as the United States finally withdraws combat troops from Iraq, and the likely Republican nominee for president in 2012, Mitt Romney, criticizes President Obama for his “precipitous” withdrawal. Nearly nine years in Iraq in a disastrous war of choice is apparently not enough for dead-ender hawks like Romney, who, undaunted by the long debacle, continue to insist that the United States should leave up to 30,000 troops in the country–perhaps in partial fulfillment of John McCain’s suggestion that the United States remain in Iraq for 100 years.
On July 9, 2011 South Sudan is expected to become an independent state, Africa’s 54th. Prior to that date, much preparation must be done to establish a vigorous economy, stable government, and peaceful society. The name and capital of the country have yet to be officially declared. Issues of debt, oil, aid, and borders also remain undecided.
The United States has spent nearly a trillion dollars over the past seven years, fighting two wars in vastly different places. A small portion of this effort has been dedicated to what has commonly been called nation-building. In fact, our mission has been a mixture of both state-building, which further develops the institutions of government, and nation-building, which constructs roads, schools and other projects. This approach is not entirely new, but these initiatives have become an important and accepted paradigm for the conduct of war in this century.
China take heed: a new generation of Tibetan youth is coming of age and these young people have little interest in playing by the rules of the game to which you are accustomed. As protests evolved into riots and riots turned into violence over the last several weeks in Tibet, it became increasingly clear that Tibetan youths do not plan on maintaining the status quo ante that has characterized Sino-Tibetan relations over the last generation. The recent escalation of violence between China and Tibet illustrates why China cannot continue to react to Tibetan discord in a typically authoritarian manner, particularly in light of the increasing role of exiled Tibetan youths in Tibet’s independence movement.
The power dynamics of militarism in the Asia-Pacific region rely on dominance and subordination. These hierarchical relationships, shaped by gender, can be seen in U.S. military exploitation of host communities, its abuse and contamination of land and water, and the exploitation of women and children through the sex industry, sexual violence, and rape. Women’s bodies, the land, and indigenous communities are all feminized, treated as dispensable and temporary. What is constructed as “civilized, white, male, western, and rational” is held superior to what is defined as “primitive, non-white, female, non-western, and irrational.” Nations and U.S. territories within the Asia-Pacific region are treated as inferiors with limited sovereignty or agency in relation to U.S. foreign policy interests that go hand-in-hand with this racist/sexist ideology.
Reflecting on the absurdity of ever newer claims around the world for self-determination and separate statehood, novelist Salman Rushdie wrote sarcastically in Shalimar the Clown, “Why don’t we just draw a circle around our own two feet and call it Selfistan?” The recent Western-backed declaration of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia and its ramifications are making Rushdie sound prophetic. Despite Washington’s assertion that Kosovo is an exceptional case that does not set precedents, demands for self-rule have received a shot in the arm from this latest act of dissecting the Balkans. Sensing that the international climate is favorable, fresh demands based on reinvented identities may also crop up in the future among populations that feel alienated from their respective nation-states.
Was the United States too hasty in recognizing the new state of Kosovo? Ian Williams and Stephen Zunes have different takes in this strategic dialogue. To see the original essays, follow these links to Williams and Zunes.
Even among longstanding supporters of national self-determination for Kosovo, the eagerness with which the Bush administration extended diplomatic recognition immediately upon that country’s declaration of independence on February 17 has raised serious concerns. Indeed, it serves as a reminder of the series of U.S. policy blunders over the years that have compounded the Balkan tragedy.