By Julio Godoy* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
BARCELONA (IDN) - If you take a careful look at the world map of today, and compare it with that of, say, the mid 1960s, you will at least notice one thing: The number of sovereign states has augmented drastically. In the 1960s, depending on the year you are looking at, the number of states amounted to some 170. As of today, there are 206 states: Judging by the membership at the United Nations, there are now 193 undisputed sovereign nations, and additionally there are two observer states, and 11 other states, which are not recognised by several or numerous other member states.
This growth is most evident in Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as in Central Asia, as consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia. Many of the new states have numerous factors in common: They emerged when unscrupulous figures fomented or abused the nationalism, irrational or justified, of their populations. Many states have remained dominated by autocratic or downright despotic regimes. The alleged democratic and state structures, in particular justice and law enforcement, that in some cases were built after the independence are weak and most times controlled by elites that have become enormously rich in a suspiciously short notice.
These states typically have small territories and practically no or decaying industries, suggesting that they will have enormous difficulties to survive as economically feasible states. Many are ridden by ethnic conflicts. In some cases, the territories are historical curiosities, such as the island of Cyprus, divided between Turkish and Greece populations; the northern part of the island is a state nobody recognises as sovereign – except Turkey. In others, the emergence of new states was consequence of geopolitical considerations, such as in Kosovo, which gained independence from Serbia in 2008, despite the evidence that the new entity is most likely unable to survive sovereignly and, worse still, that the territory is controlled by thugs and serves as basis for organised crime.
Something similar occurs with South Sudan: The new state emerged only in 2011, after a long struggle, and was rapidly recognised by practically all other world states, although it was clear that the brutal ethnic conflicts that have characterised the Central African region, and the multiple foreign interests that complicate the crisis, would lead it to the present nightmare. Western states fuelled the conflicts, for they have been providing weapons to the numerous ethnic groups since decades.
Both in Kosovo and in South Sudan, the rapid recognition of the new states found surely favour in the fact that the countries which suffered the amputation of their territories – Serbia and Sudan – were international pariahs. Sudan, an oil rich country, is ruled by the infamous Omar al-Bashir, whom practically all Western nations consider an outlaw. Serbia throughout the 1990s and until the year 2000 was ruled by the equally notorious Slobodan Milosevic, whom the same Western countries officially consider the sole responsible for the bloody secession wars that destroyed Yugoslavia.
It is not a coincidence that the very same Western countries did not have scruples to supply military and financial aid to controversial protagonists of the conflicts: to Franco Tudjman in Croatia, a despotic nationalist, who certainly contributed as much as Milosevic to the balkanisation of Yugoslavia; and to both Salva Kiir Mayardit and Riek Machar in South Sudan; both lead the now confronted factions that maintain the country as a killing field.
Beyond the apparent myopia of Western nations to support such suspicious figures, what strikes the most is the swiftness with which both states, Kosovo and South Sudan, gained international recognition. The pace of these processes suggests that if there is political will among the most powerful political global structures, it is possible to create and support the emergence of a new state rather rapidly.
Dramatic shift of the Israel-Palestine borders
Another striking finding of the comparison of the world Atlases of 1965 and 2014 is the dramatic shift of the borders between Israel and Palestine. In 1967, before the so called Six Day war, Palestinian territory was divided in two parts: the West Bank and Gaza, mostly following the Green Line, the demarcation border established in 1949. After the Six Day war, Israel gained control of a substantial chunk of the West Bank and of Jerusalem, and has been expanding this occupation ever since, under the friendly supervision and direct or indirect aid of the United States and Western Europe.
As of today, the Israeli leftover of the West Bank territory consists of a myriad of more or less small patches of land, many of them unconnected to each other, many of them isolated by walls or barbed wire. It does not need to be remarked that a future Palestinian state constructed upon this disparate territory would constitute an intolerable mockery. And yet, very few Western leaders dare to refer to the borders of 1967 as condition sine qua non for a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine.
And when they do, as U.S. president Barack Obama has done several times, they have experienced the powerful retaliation that Israel has ready for anyone courageous (or silly?) enough to urge it to respect international law.
To have an idea of this retaliation, you only have to read the recent comments by Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post (mind my emphasis):
“Obama, too, thought he would be the one to author Middle East peace and confidently gave himself a two-year deadline. But his strategy was disastrously misguided. He made freezing Israeli settlement construction the focal point of U.S. diplomacy and calculated that a public confrontation with Netanyahu would bring it about. He succeeded only in poisoning his relationship with the Israeli leader, who cruised to re-election last year while continuing to expand settlements. Obama’s effort yielded only a handful of sterile meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.”
In other words: Barack Obama, what an idiot you were! How could you think you would be able to convince Israel and Palestine to negotiate a meaningful peace, while demanding an end to the Israeli settlement policy?
One last rhetorical question: What has Kosovo, a territory controlled by ruffians, that Palestine doesn’t?
*Julio Godoy is an investigative journalist and IDN Associate Global Editor. He has won international recognition for his work, including the Hellman-Hammett human rights award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting Online by the U.S. Society of Professional Journalists, and the Online Journalism Award for Enterprise Journalism by the Online News Association and the U.S.C. Annenberg School for Communication, as co-author of the investigative reports “Making a Killing: The Business of War” and “The Water Barons: The Privatisation of Water Services”. [IDN-InDepthNews – January 07, 2014]
Top image credit: Wikimedia Commons | Bottom Picture: Julio Godoy - Credit: ICIJ
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