31 July 2003

Just borders

How does one justly draw boundaries between two states? How does one justly partition a formerly powerful but now fractious empire? Wherever one places the boundary, people will inevitably believe they are on the wrong side and feel hard done by. Worse, they may suffer persecution and outright death. This happened in India in 1947 when the British territory was divided into muslim and hindu states. It happened at the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1991. Then, of course, there is the forced partition of Cyprus in 1974. Now Ethiopia and Eritrea face a similar dilemma, as reported in this CNN report: "UN warns of 'another Cyprus' over Eritrea-Ethiopia."

There is a burgeoning subfield within political science dealing with the problems of secession, and the Beiner volume I mentioned some days ago carries some essays on this subject. Suffice it to say that virtually all boundaries, particularly when they are first demarcated, cause problems and result in injustices. I would love to see an effort by reformational scholars of politics to address this issue in systematic fashion.

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