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International Relations
in the Age of Empire

 Kosovo: The global significance of independence
Bruce Fein: Independence promotes stability

24 February 2008

at YouTube

Bruce Fein is the founder of the American Freedom Agenda, that works to restore constitutional checks and balances. He served in the US Justice Department under President Reagan and has been an adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a resident scholar at the Heritage Foundation, a lecturer at the Brookings Institute, and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He is an advisor to Ron Paul.

Source: The Real News Network


Bruce Fein, Founder, American Freedom Agenda:

The reason why the Kosovo independence is so significant is because it addresses an issue that's prevalent throughout the world, for example Sri Lanka, where you have a minority that has been oppressed by the majority.

And we�ve always had rather blurry lines in knowing, well, when does the oppression reach a sufficiently intense and egregious level that you're entitled to walk away from a sovereign and establish your separate statehood? And Kosovo certainly creates a benchmark.

We all saw on TV, you know, ten years ago, the ethnic cleansing of Slobodan Milosevic, all these Kosovar Albanians being deported, if you will, to other neighboring states. We had the beatings of the Kosovar Albanians, the end of their regional autonomy in Serbia, that collection of wrongdoing that ultimately culminated now in an independent state.

And now we look at many, many other countries, which are confronting comparable kinds of divisiveness and brutality by the central government. And the question's raised: well, is the United States and the European Union and the world also going to accept statehood demands from minorities that are suffering comparably or greater than Kosovo.

There's always a worry that this will perhaps spin out of control and it'll create more convulsions than otherwise. But I think that's the opposite. I think when you force a minority to live under a brutal regime; it continues a convulsed state of affairs.

And with Sri Lanka in particular, with which I'm familiar, we've had almost 50 years of oppressions of a Tamil minority at the hands of a Sinhalese majority. At present there's indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in the Tamil north of Sri Lanka. You've got the Rajapaksa brothers. They're the ones who run the government at present with a General Fonseka, accused of egregious human rights violations. You can commit crimes against Tamils with virtual impunity.

Over decades there's been maybe or two prosecutions for disappearances for kidnappings, for arbitrary arrests, that sort of thing. They've got preventive detention laws that make it a police state in the north where the Tamils reside. It's almost a black hole. No foreign reporters permitted there. No TV reporters. No UN presence there. No ambassadorial presence there. And the issues are always raised, Well, we cannot authorize, you know, any kind of statehood as in Kosovo, because then it will cause an unraveling of the nation state system.

But I think we need to go back to our own declaration of independence that gave birth to the United States of America. It announced this principle that's been accepted since then: when a government becomes exceptionally oppressive and evinces a design to exercise absolute despotism or tyranny over a minority, there is a right to establish your own separate form of government.

And that's what we're seeing in many places of the world, these struggles, and it's too often, in my judgment, that it's power politics rather than a recognition of this natural right to statehood when you're oppressed that takes precedence. A Buddhist in Tibet is not going to receive statehood, because China will never let that happen. The Chechens in Russia will never receive statehood.

Now, you've got a different situation in Sri Lanka and other countries where you've got minorities that are not confronting superpowers.

But surely I think the Kosovo independence should shine a spotlight on these areas of the world, because I think in the long run separate statehoods create greater stability. It's not greater convulsions.

Think, for example, after the separation of Yugoslavia, where you at one time when you had Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia trying to dominate the other provinces�Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia. You had constant turmoil and friction. Now, with separate states, it's much more peaceful.

The political stability in-ground is much more conducive to human rights and all those aspirations that we hold sacred in the United States. And I think that we've got to get away from this idea that we need to support the central government everywhere because it's always preferable to have a unified state rather than different ones.

And I think that carries also some ramifications for Iraq. Why is it that it has to stay unified? Why not a Kurdish state in the north, a Sunni state in the centre, a Shia state in the south. Forcing people together when it's shown over a long period of time that they don't have the homogeneity the common DNA to live harmoniously seems to me utter nonsense. It's a formula for disaster.

And so the Kosovo, I think, message is we need to look at places like Sri Lanka and Iraq and other places where we've got constant convulsions, to see whether or not it makes sense to redraw boundaries.

And another area where this cries out for attention is in Africa, where perhaps the entire continent is driven by convulsed states because boundaries were drawn arbitrarily without any sense of homogeneity, unity of history, tradition, religion, or otherwise, and we see the result.

But there's the anxiety that the sacredness of the boundaries means we can never touch this kind of situation. Now, it wasn't true in Ethiopia. It spun off Eritrea. And so I think the main international ramification from Kosovo to be we need to rethink the customary support we give for unity, and blinding ourselves to the oppression, to the misery that's inflicted on minorities and creates civil warfare, if you will, as in Sri Lanka, that will persist forever, until there's finally an ability to create a separate statehood that will be able to conduct its own affairs in ways that satisfies its own domestic constituency and is harmonious with its neighbors.

It is in the national security interests of the United States to do that. Take for example in Sri Lanka, where the Tamils have offered with a separate statehood to form an alliance with the United States. They have economic resources.

And history teaches that a country doesn't out of spite stop trading or economic relationships, even if they think that they've been unfairly treated. Iraq will sell us oil, no matter who is running it. When Saddam Hussein was there, they'd sell oil to us. You know, Iran will sell oil on the market. It will get to us. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela sells us oil. So I don't think we need to be worried about antagonizing the country that's remaining after there's a separation.

Now, some would say, well, we had our embassy burned in Serbia after the recognition of Kosovo and some other states. But as heinous as that is, these are one-shot affairs. It does--there's no suggestion that Serbia's now going to walk away from the European Union and to give up trade or anything of that sort.

Remember the wisdom of Lord Palmerston: nations don't have permanent friends and enemies; they have permanent interests. And the interests the United States regularly is in recognizing these separatists�if you want to call them separatist moments for statehood, really, because it furthers political stability. And of course when we recognize these new states that subscribe to the principles of democracy and free enterprise, it gives us a new ally.


American Enterprise Institute at Source Watch - A Project of the Centre for Media & Democracy

"The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is an extremely influential, pro-business right-wing think tank founded in 1943 by Lewis H. Brown. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism[1], and succeeds in placing its people in influential governmental positions. It is the center base for many neo-conservatives... More recently, it has emerged as one of the leading architects of the Bush administration's foreign policy. AEI rents office space to the Project for the New American Century, one of the leading voices that pushed the Bush administration's plan for "regime change" through war in Iraq. AEI reps have also aggressively denied that the war has anything to do with oil." more

Heritage Foundation at Source Watch - A Project of the Centre for Media & Democracy

"Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a New Right think tank. Its stated mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of "free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." It is widely considered one of the world's most influential public policy research institutes.

The Foundation wields considerable influence in Washington, and enjoyed particular prominence during the Reagan administration. Its initial funding was provided by Joseph Coors, of the Coors beer empire, and Richard Mellon Scaife, heir of the Mellon industrial and banking fortune. The Foundation maintains strong ties with the London Institute of Economic Affairs and the Mont Pelerin Society.

With a long history of receiving large donations from overseas, Heritage continues to rake in a minimum of several hundred thousand dollars from Taiwan and South Korea each year. In autumn of 1988, the South Korean National Assembly uncovered a document revealing that Korean intelligence gave $2.2 million to the Heritage Foundation on the sly during the early 1980s. Heritage officials "categorically deny" the accusation. Heritage's latest annual report does acknowledge a $400,000 grant from the Korean conglomerate Samsung. Another donor, the Korea Foundation - which conduits money from the South Korean government - has given Heritage almost $1 million in the past three years." more

Brookings Institute at Source Watch - A Project of the Centre for Media & Democracy

The Brookings Institution, whose predecessor was founded in 1918 by Robert Brookings, was probably the first think tank in the USA. Initially centrist, the Institution took its first step rightwards during the depression, in response to the New Deal. In the 1960s, it was linked to the conservative wing of the Democratic party, backing Keynsian economics. From the mid-70s it cemented a close relationship with the Republican party. Since the 1990s it has taken steps further towards the right in parallel with the increasing influence of right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. more



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