Saturday, March 08, 2008

Foreign Affairs Article on Ethnonationalism and Partition

The cover story from the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine explains much less than it promises:

Us and Them
The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism
by Jerry Z. Muller


Muller is certainly not defending ethnic bigotry or other prejudices, nor is he calling for ethnic partition as a desirable result; I certainly don't want to imply any dubious motives or beliefs on his part. However, if Muller possesses any particular expertise or wisdom in the admittedly broad area of inquiry, I see little evidence here.

Before I criticize the article's weaknesses, I should acknowledge the strengths Muller possesses. He certainly knows the sweep of modern European history well, and understands that forced population transfers and worse have been an integral part of the creation of modern European nations. His initial argument--that ethnonationalism is a more powerful and deeply-rooted force than Americans have often understood--is persuasive. He is absolutely right to note that dismissals of ethnonational identity as a "construction" are misleading, since what gives ethnic nationalism its power is the perception of legitimacy.

However, the conclusion he draws--that a humane, internationally sanctioned partition might be the least-worst option in certain cases--seems very rushed, and ill-supported by the preceding pages. Explaining that forced population tranfers and genocide have generally accompanied the creation of relatively homogenous nation-states in the past does little more than illustrate a prior disregard on the part of the international community to assume any responsibility for the rights of affected individuals.

Ultimately, Muller can only lamely conclude that the separation of ethnic groups within a multiethnic state, while an expensive undertaking, will ultimately be less expensive than humanitarian intervention, and will lead to greater stability. Some of the points he raises are worth further exploration--the idea that Western Europe has enjoyed peace and stability at least partially because the work of "partitioning" ethnic groups into their own nation-states should not be dismissed out of hand, even though I remain unconvinced. But the concluding thoughts on partition seem hasty and almost predetermined.

15 comments:

Daniel said...

"In the Ottoman Empire, mass deportations and murder during the war took the lives of a million members of the local Armenian minority in an early attempt at ethnic cleansing, if not genocide."

While Srebrenica genocide does have judicial backing, Armenian allegations of "genocide" do not have such backing. Armenians have repeatedly refused to settle the issue in front of the international courts. The other term they use is "Armenian Holocaust", thus far insulting Jewish victims of WWII Holocaust.

I have no reason to stand with Turkish side, because Turks pretty much devastated Bosnia by populating it with Serbs, and look what happened: we lost territory as a result. Turks were enemies of Bosnia, and I don't side with them, but Armenian historiography is no different than Serbian. Just go and do some research and you will see.

Kirk Johnson said...

Daniel, I really don't understand where you are coming from. I have read a little on the Armenian genocide (no need for quote marks), and I'm quite certain it was what it was.

Your insistance that Armenians must submit to international courts or admit they have no case strikes me as slightly sinister, as does your collectivist dismissal of Turks for allegedly having devestated Bosnia "by populating it with Serbs" is the sort of selective, decontextualized, us-versus-them/compete-to-see-who-the-biggest-victims-are mentality I usually associated with Serbian ultra-nationalists.

Please reconsider your sentiments, my friend.

Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor said...

Armenian Genocide might or might not have happened, but there is no evidence (aside from Armenian historians' claims) that 1.5 million people died. What Armenians are trying to do is to diminish significance of Holocaust and I don't think that's right. Some Armenian activists even use the term "Armenian Holocaust" to refer to their genocide. I don't think that's right. Nobody has right to use the term Holocaust in political purposes.

Where are the names of 1.5 million people who died? ID#s? Addresses? DNA proof? They have nothing, and you are taking their writings for what they are, not asking for proof.

Only Srebrenica genocide victims were asked for detailed documentation so researchers could lower the figure of 10,000 dead in Srebrenica down to 8,100. At least we have all proper documentation for our dead, including DNA proof. What do the Armenians have? Nothing. And that's what pisses me off.

I stated only facts that Turks populated Bosnia with Serbs. Up until the mid 19th century, the term Bosniak was used for all inhabitants of Bosnia regardles of faith. During the 19th century (Austro-Hungarian period), the Bosniaks of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths acquired Croatian and Serbian national identites and came to be known as Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs.

Turks were enemies of Bosniaks and enemies of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They brought nothing but suffering to Bosniak people. Well, they brought Islam too, but all religions rather strike me as evil.

And I don't care who is the biggest victim politics. All I care is Srebrenica Genocide. To be honest with you, I don't care about any other part of Bosnia. My only concern is Srebrenica.

Owen said...

Dan, I now you're a stickler for using the term "genocide" for crimes proven under the Genocide Convention, as at Srebrenica and Rwanda.

Nevertheless I don't think it's unreasonable even when there's not been a legal finding for people to argue that events were in conformity with the principles set out in the Convention and the analysis interpretations offered by the two ICTYs, as long as they're not claiming legal status.

Can you explain what you mean by "Armenians have repeatedly refused to settle the issue in front of the international courtts"?

Owen said...

Kirk, without wanting to sound too much of a conspiracy theorist, might this article be part of a programme of academic justification for plans to withdraw from Iraq based on ethno-religious homogenisation?

Shaina said...

Kirk, haven't been responding for sometime, but wanted to had a belated praise- you have been doing some great analysis and blogging (as always)
Also: I'm not sure if you have read it yet, but I recently checked out the book "Terrible Fate: Ethnic Cleansing and the Making of Europe."
be back next weekend.

Kirk Johnson said...

Daniel, I would remind you that Raphael Lemkin was originally inspired to begin his quest to make the extermination of ethnic/cultural/national/religious groups a crime--and to coin the word 'genocide' in the first place--by his outrage at the Armenian genocide.

If you don't care about anything or anyone other than the victims of Srebrenica, how are you different from a Serbian nationalist who doesn't care about anyone other than Serb victims of Jasenovac?

Kirk Johnson said...

Owen, I would suspect that is EXACTLY what this article is about.

Shaina--thanks for the encouraging and flattering words.

Daniel said...

Kirk, I stated I don't care about any other part of Bosnia except Srebrenica. In other words, Srebrenica is my primary concern. Your analogy that I don't care about victims rather strikes me as surprising. I care about victims of genocide.

You cannot ask me to accept figure of 1.5 million when there is no single shred of evidence to prove it. You cannot compare Srebrenica Genocide with Armenian Genocide because the victims of Srebrenica genocide have all been properly documented; as you know, we properly accounted for over 8,100 of our victims - there is even a DNA evidence.

What kind of evidence do Armenians have for their figure of 1.5 million dead?

I am perfectly willing to accept that genocide happened in Armenia, but no reasonable academic will ever accept the overblown figure of 1.5 million.

I am proud of Lemkin and his work, but my disagreement is not with him. My disagreement is with overblowing figures of dead for political purposes.

I hope you understand my point, as I am being perfectly reasonable.

Owen said...

Dan, you can't quote Al-Khasawneh talking about patterns and inference and the problem of unrecorded victims at Srebrenica and then demand certificates specifying genocide as the cause of death for Armenians.

Daniel said...

Go ahead. Believe in Armenian tales without requesting any proof for invented 1,5 million dead.

I will stick to cold hard facts with respect to Srebrenica Genocide, which is supported by a mountain of evidence, including international courts.

Armenians are attempting to diminish significance of real genocides, such as Srebrenica genocide.

Armenians refused to settle their claims in front of the International Courts because they know they would lose. What would they say in front of a judge when asked about a list of 1.5 million dead? Come on people, this is my last response, I don't even wanna consider this Armenian rubbish.

They are same as Serbs, same culture with respect to Greek Orthodox ultra-nationalism and mythology, same mentality, same self-inflicted perception of victimhood... I am sick of these people and I am not afraid to say it.

Daniel said...

Jewish organizatons were very upset about the U.S. Senate's recognition of Armenian Genocide.

JDL - Jewish Defamation League REFUSED to recognized Armenian Genocide for the same reasons I mentioned above.

I stand with Jews on this topic.

Daniel said...

correction, it was Anti-Defamation League (ADL), not JDL. They were against the US Senate Resolution. In the past, they refused to acknowledge Armenian issue, but they recognized it several months ago under pressure and Abraham Fox scandal. However they underlined their opposition to the resolution:

"Having said that, we continue to firmly believe that a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation..."

I wonder, why do you - Owen and Kirk - have an urge to accept an Armenian allegation of 1.5 million dead without cold hard evidence? At least Srebrenica genocide offers cold hard evidence, while Armenian claims are rather shaky.

What if Armenian scholars came up with a number of 3 millioin dead, would you still accept their figure without reasonable evidence?

Is it not reasonable to ask for a list of dead, including their age and other information?

It is extremely difficult to establish a genocide in the court, and that is the reason why Armenians refuse to participate in judicial proceedings. They know they would lose.

Two international courts confirmed Srebrenica Genocide; zero Armenian.

Daniel said...

One should keep in mind that mass deportations do not constitute genocide as judicially concluded during Srebrenica genocide deliberations. Armenian ultra-nationalists should refrain from classifying mass deportations as part of genocide.

There is no consensus as to how many Armenians lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide, there is general agreement among western scholars that over 500,000 Armenians perished between 1914 and 1918. Estimates vary between 300,000 (Turkish claims) to 1,500,000 (Armenian claims).

Daniel said...

One more thing: I APOLOGIZE for my tone in above comments. I recognize Armenian Genocide, but I do NOT recognize a number of 1.5 million dead, because our victims of Srebrenica genocide were forced to come up with proper documentation to account for the dead - while often violent Armenian ultra-nationalists throw estimates of dead as they please.

Armenians even calculated extremely overblown estimates of Armenian mass deportations into genocide, and mass deportations do not constitute genocide - as concluded during Srebrenica genocide deliberations.

Do you get my point? I care about victims, but I hate violent Armenian ultra-nationalists. They make me sick.