Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Balkanization, the wave of the future?

with 5 comments

The world, 2031? I doubt it. This in fact was touted as a “random Balkanization map,” and it looks pretty random to me. I’m willing to bet though, that like my proposed map of the Middle East post, sooner or later a commenter will think it’s completely serious and take great umbrage. Stay tuned.

Why a random map? To illustrate Balkanization. What is Balkanization? It’s when a big country breaks up into smaller countries. It came into popular usage after World War One, when the Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires were broken up. A lot of this happened in the Balkans. According to Wikipedia, the term Balkanization is usually used as a pejorative. Curious. In any event, this topic is more current than many people, especially in the USA, realize. Over the past few decades there has been extensive Balkanization in Europe, the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia being the foremost examples.  Czechoslovakia also split in two. A map of Europe now is considerably different than the one I grew up with.

Now however another wave of European Balkanization seems to be on the horizon. Spain, Belgium, and Great Britain all have very serious separatist movements that are gaining in popularity. In Great Britain it’s primarily Scotland, but the Wales independence movement is getting stronger. Flanders (in Belgium) and Catalonia (in Spain.) Then there’s Venice, an independent republic for centuries before it was conquered 156 years ago. I mean, Spain, Britain, or Italy could break up? Anything is possible, the incredible scope and breath of human history shows that.

Why does Balkanization occur? For the most part, nationalism. A people, culture, or ethnic group decides they would prefer to have their own government and run their own affairs. Seems reasonable enough, right? Sadly, no. Reasonable as it may be, governments tend to be adamantly opposed to peoples and territories under their control declaring independence. In fact, that encompasses much, if not most organized violence on the planet, now and historically. Sometimes countries break up peacefully, more often than not violence is involved.

What does the future hold? My guess is a lot more Balkanization. There are two reasons for this. First, there are thousands of ethnic groups on the planet, and only a few hundred governments. Many of these thousands of people would prefer to have their own nation. Few, if any, of the hundreds of governments want to give up people and territory. And modern communication is increasing nationalism, or at least a  case can be made that it is facilitating it. On the other hand, modern propaganda is ever more effectively blurring the boundary between people and government. In some cases, governments and peoples more or less overlap. Many of the European nations. A handful of small nations around the globe. In much of the rest of the world, governments and peoples have little relation. And while the masses in the west are propagandized into thinking that “Libyan, Syrian, Somalian, Iraqi, Mali, etc.” are describing real peoples, the peoples living in these regions are not confused. These “nations” are are lines drawn on maps by the western colonial powers. People are setting themselves on fire in Tibet to demand their own state for god’s sake.

So we have some problems. Compounding this argument, is the idea that smaller is getting more powerful. As I have said before, gunpowder ended feudalism as a way of life. Smokeless gunpowder ended overt colonialism. It’s looking like a combination of computers (in the broadest sense of the word) and the IED/RPG/AK47 are ending the era of neocolonialism. As evidence look at Afghanistan. The USA, the greatest military power the world has ever known, has fought it’s longest war ever against a rag-tag insurgency that has no major international supporters. The Viet Cong had China and Russia at their back, the Taliban has nobody. And yet the USA is no closer to vanquishing them than ever.

In other words, I see a lot more Balkanization in the future. And a lot more violence. Not a terribly sophisticated argument, but one of many that flies in the face of rosy predictions that The End of History is here and western, especially American, confidence that overwhelming military power will solve all our problems internationally. No, no it won’t, the age of gunboat diplomacy is long over, no matter how powerful our gunboats.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Yadda yadda, yadda. The credit and copyright may belong to someone who goes by the Internet moniker Thespitron 6000. Notice how I subtly snuck in that now the US Navy is building drone warships.)


Written by unitedcats

November 8, 2012 at 6:16 am

5 Responses

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  1. I think history will say the Teleban had Pakistan backing them all the way while we gave the Pakistan Government Billions in cash and arms.


    November 8, 2012 at 7:35 am

    • Yes, well, the Taliban certainly does have some backing from elements in Pakistan and elsewhere. They AREN’T getting boatloads and trainloads of modern weapons, or even recognition, from major powers such as Russia and Russia. — Doug


      November 8, 2012 at 8:21 am

  2. I always liked how cardboard cutouts defeated our billion dollar targeting systems. The power of human ingenuity. Who was it that said you can’t sleep on bayonets?


    November 8, 2012 at 9:39 am

  3. I agree with what you’re saying about balkanization, Doug, and for the most part I support the trend. Why have so many people been shoved together within nationalistic boundaries, forced to compete in new ways foreign to them, compelled to comply with paying taxes to support governments they didn’t help bring to power, encouraged to assimilate to a wider culture they reject fundamentally? The strife that’s brought about is no small matter, and I agree that military might alone won’t prove sufficient to hold these nation-state projects together indefinitely. And why try keeping together what wishes to be separate? I realize the answer is because large governments require the power and resources afforded them through larger land grabs, but these governments are a major problem all unto themselves. They’ve grown too big, too complex, too overwhelming and dictatorial, and people don’t want to go for that, believing themselves competent to manage their own communities without this sort of government oversight. Though bloodshed may prove inevitable as countries break up, it means enough to the people to go that route and pursue freedom, and I can’t begrudge them that desire.

    The U.S. may follow suit eventually as well, and probably for the best. We’re stepping on one another’s necks, stressed to the hilt over the ways of life deemed our only alternatives in this day and age, and that anger will boil over as we keep bickering and factions therein aim to force their will on the rest. It’s a ludicrous setup we have in modern times, and it doesn’t fit with fulfilling actual human needs. People’s productive energies are stifled in favor of the money-making machine that determines all of our options and choices, telling us how we will work, how children will be schooled, how food production will be handled, how we’re expected to behave, even laying out our voting options in accordance with what suits Big Banks above all else. It’s BS, and it’s all driving people mad. In the U.S. and Europe our gender and family relations have been transformed by competition encouraged to promote business interests, to the point where we’re all so divided, so unhappy, growing alienated and disillusioned. Why must humans continue doing what isn’t working for us? We can better control smaller communities and economies, whereas it appears the larger our nations become and the more we’re sucked into global markets, the fewer choices we have to be anything but new-age slaves and serfs required to keep these systems alive. Meanwhile, quality of life is disintegrating, taking collective sanity with it.

    I hope people prove successful at breaking up countries and governments that have illustrated they’re too big and unwieldy for citizens to reasonably control and direct. Because all the resentment brought about gets redirected toward our fellow humans right here on the ground, and we’re driving one another nuts!


    November 8, 2012 at 9:57 am

  4. For a laugh in the face of reality, read about the Conch Republic.


    November 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm

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