Sunday, May 9, 2010

Prospects for Stable Democracy in Iraq: Concluding Thoughts

To the countries discussed in Parts III-VI can be added Trinidad and Tobago, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Congo, Nigeria, Fiji, Surinam, Indonesia-East Timor, Chechnya-Russia, Morocco-West Sahara, Malaysia, Mauritius, Belgium, and other ethnically-based separatist movements.

Throughout much of their respective histories, the preceding conflict-ridden, multi-ethnic countries were held together by colonial or foreign rule.  Only a few managed peaceful separation or accommodation among the internal ethnic groups.

Confederation has been broadly established in Belgium in the form of regional assemblies and executives, and also in Bosnia.  Malaysia has managed to hold its multi-ethnic coalition together through entrenching Malay political rights in exchange for according the Chinese rights in education and economic opportunity.

The creation of homogeneous societies is exemplified in Yugoslavia’s dissolution and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Amelioration of ethnic tensions is illustrated in the peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in January 1993 when Czechs and Slovaks chose to establish separate homelands. Another is the devolution of a greater local autonomy to Scotland and Wales in the United Kingdom, institutionalized in the establishment of regionally elected assemblies. Spain has conceded an increasing degree of autonomy to several provinces, Catalonia, the Basque region, and Valencia, with approval for local languages. Some devolutions have gone more smoothly than others. The Basque region in Spain with its armed wing ETA, for example, is still a source of strain and conflict with the central government in Madrid.

Conflict and separation are far more prominent than peaceful, stable democracy in multi-ethnic countries.  For Iraq to hold together when most or all of the remaining U.S. troops have been withdrawn in 2011 will ttake heroic efforts of compromise and conciliation.  As seen in this series of posts, such an outcome would be a remarkable achievement.

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