Friday, July 27, 2007 07/27/07-Ethnic Conflict

In today's excerpt--ethnic conflict, which is more pervasive today than ever before, is tragically fundamental to history and is essential to understanding present-day Iraq:

"The list of ethnic massacres is a long one. A nonexclusive list of victims of ethnic massacres since the Romans includes: the Danes in Anglo-Saxon England in 1002; the Jews in Europe during the First Crusade, 1069-1099; the French in Sicily in 1282; the French in Bruges in 1302; the Flemings in England in 1381; the Jews in Iberia in 1391; converted Jews in Portugal in 1507; the Huguenots in France in 1572; Protestants in Magdeburg in 1631; Jews and Poles in the Ukraine, 1648-1954; indigenous populations in the United States, Australia, and Tasmania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Jews in Russia in the nineteenth century; the French in Haiti in 1804; Arab Christians in Lebanon in 1841; Turkish Armenians in 1895-1896 and 1915-1916; Nestorian, Jacobite, and Maronite Christians in the Turkish Empire in 1915-1916; Greeks in Smyrna in 1922; Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 1936; the Jewish Holocaust in German-occupied territory, 1933-1945; Serbians in Croatia in 1945; Muslims and Hindus in British India in 1946-1947; the Chinese in 1965 and the Timorese in 1974 and 1998 in Indonesia; Igbos in Nigeria in 1967-1970; the Vietnamese in Cambodia in 1970-1978; the Bengalis in Pakistan in 1971; the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1956-1965; 1972, and 1993-1994; Tamils in Sri Lanka in 1958, 1971, 1977, 1981, and 1983; Armenians in Azerbaijan in 1990; Muslims in Bosnia in 1992; Kosovars and Serbians in Kosovo in 1998-2000. To show how far from exhaustive this list is, the political scientist Ted Gurr counted fifty ethnically based conflicts in 1993-1994 alone. ...

"As Scientific American said in September 1998, 'Many of the world's problems stem from the fact that it has 5,000 ethnic groups but only 190 countries.' ...

"Ethnic diversity does not automatically imply ethnic conflict, violent or otherwise, it merely reflects the potential for such conflict, if opportunistic politicians try to exploit ethnic divisions to gain an ethnic power base. Apparently such opportunism is common. ... High ethnic diversity is a good predictor of civil war and genocide. The risk of civil war is two and a half times higher in the most ethnically diverse quarter of the [countries in the] sample as compared to the least ethnically diverse quarter.. The risk of genocide is three times higher in the same comparison. ...

"[However,] ethnically diverse countries with good institutions tend to escape the violence, poverty, and redistribution usually associated with ethnic diversity. Democracy also helps neutralize ethnic differences; ethnically diverse democracies don't seem to be at an economic disadvantage relative to ethnically homogeneous democracies."

William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth, The MIT Press, Copyright 2001 MIT, pp. 268-278.


Blogger Will Dwinnell said...

In Fascism in the Contemporary World, author Anthony Joes argues:

Military coups occur not because of characteristics of the military but because of characteristics of the society. It is not that the military is strong- it is that civil institutions are weak.

Generally, the focus when "installing" democracies has been on "free and fair elections", but this has obviously not been enough in Iraq and elsewhere.

What are the supporting civil institutions in a durable democracy? Former House Speaker Newt Ginrich suggests:

The rule of law, independent judges, the right of free speech, the ability to fire those to whom you loan power and private property -- unless you have all five of those in place, you don't have a viable democracy.

Ethnic divisions, like any number of other factors will be used as a pretense for division of human beings from one another only when other conditions (the lack of said civil institutions) permit them to.

After all, the United States enjoys a very high level of ethnic diversity, yet the possibility of widespread civil instability or armed insurrection in America could not be more remote.

7:45 AM  

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