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Artificial States. Do they exist?

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Artificial States. Do they exist?
    Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 21:04
A common refrain heard these days is that many of the mid east problems are due to "artificial states" created by colonialism or post-colonialism. States like Iraq and Pakistan. Outside the middle east the Belgian government crisis brought that nations divisions into sharp relief.
 
My question is are these (or indeed any states) really artificial and thus deserving of dimantling. Certainly the problems, Iraq and Pakistan face would suggest so, yet it should be pointed out that in the mid east before 1989 Iraq, was the most successful nation, it developed a good public infrastructure, education system, had a high standard of living, certainly much more successful than "natural" Iran or Egypt. Pakistan has ethnic and secetrian strife, it lost a large bit of territory in 1971, yet this was an area which was disconnected from it geographically by 2 million sq km of hostile territory, and it is a nuclear power and while not industrialised has a large industrial base (esp when you considere that there was not a single factory in what is now Pakistan in 1947). Belgium became industrialised fairly quickly, and remains so, became a player on the world stage as a colonial power itself, while natural Ireland was the poorest in Europe for 70 years.
 
Switzerland, a mix of peopls with such friendly history like Germans, French, Italians, has been highly successful.
 
And of course the most artificial nation of all, the UK is probably the most successful one in history, yet the history of conflict in it is well known.
 
So do artificial states exist? Or is it just that a states chance of success do not depend on it being a "natural entity".
 
 
*Natural state being defined as a country with historically and or geographically defined boundries and a common identity based upon language and or culture and or shared history.
 
 
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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 21:32
If we had to quantify this issue, I would say that the great majority of state entities on the world map are artificial states.
 
Virtually all the African states are artificial with tribal and cultural identities confusingly intermixed.  Some may be more cohesive than others, but if there were states based on tribal/cultural factors in Africa there might be even more balkanized states there.
 
India with all its languages and religious varieties is more a civilization that a state.  However, from the modern beginning in 1947 it has retained a sense of cohesion, perhaps because of English language used by elites transcending the cultural kaleidoscope.
 
IMO the states of central America could all be considered artificial.
 
Many of the older European states have been relatively homogenious in language and culture at least since WW I, but that has changed since the influx of immigrants.
 
The US and Canada are perhaps more a combined state of mind than states, but that is subjective.  There have been so many immigrants from so many places that it is hard to make that call.
 
Interesting thought, but the question seems to go more to an approach like civilizations rather than states.  Perhaps artificial states are OK if their populations are relatively satisfied, and failures when certain interests monopolize everything.
 
Those considerations will affect politics, domestic and foreign.
 
 
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 21:36
India has 17 active insurgencies and dose not control something like half its territory. Yet it is hardly a failed state yet.


Edited by Sparten - 06-Jun-2008 at 21:38
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 22:02
Hello to you all
 
Well, Iraq is not artificial for the simple reason that these are the natural borders of Iraq since time immemorial. From the time of the Sumerians till the Ottomans came, Iraq was all the lowlands from the gulf to the mountains. It was that in the time of the Assyrians and the time of the Arabs and when the turks came, they divided it into three provinces and for the first time Iraq had three capitals rather than one. However, culturally, Iraq was still one, Baghdad was still the main center and even the Turks left major administrative powers across Iraq with the governor of Baghdad. when the Brits came they didn't force any body to unite into one country, actually it was by popular demand. Only some Kurds in the mountains wanted to establish an independent state but the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the three provinces didn't even have to discuss anything else but a union, there was no movement for independece outside the Kurdish territories and no argument for "this is our oil and we spend it on ourselves".
 
On the other hand, India, not Pakistan, is the real artificial state in the world. Non to my knowledge have ever united it, unlike Pakistan which was united numerous times before, in one state. It has hundereds of ethnicities and a multitude of active insurgencies yet it is still held by some unusual force of some sort. I know an Indian from Goa who knows only english and Potuguese yet he is proud to be Indian though he needs some one to translate for him in Delhi.
 
Israel is another artificial state and I don't think I need to elaborate.
 
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  Quote xristar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 22:56
I disagree on your definition of an "artificial" state.
To me, an artificial state is the state that a big part (or even the majority) of the composing elements of which, do not want to be part of this state, but are forced by other factors to be. (that's one definition, but not the definitive one)

An artificial state was Yugoslavia, both as a kingdom and as a communist republics' confederation. At a time of weakness it collapsed.
Switzerland is not artificial. All of its communities are happy to be part of Switzerland.
Iraq isn't artificial, because the majority of its people are iraqi arabs.


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  Quote Maharbbal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2008 at 23:48
I strongly disapprove with xristar.

A state is the materialisation of a communality of destiny. Basically, what will happen to one person in one given state is more likely to happen to another in the same state a few hundreds of kilometers away than to another person who his just a few kilometers away but on the other side of the border.

A state creates rules that in turn shape people's life. The artificiality of a state arises from the fact that sometimes people do not wish to share their experience with another set of people. Basically "we" are not like "them" and "we" want an experience that is made for "us" by "us" and that has nothing to do with "them".

The key to the degree of artificiality of a state is the percentage of the population that think of themselves as the "we" that governs that country. On the other hand an artificial country is a country where a large chunk of the population doesn't consider itself as a member of this "we" that governs the country.

Of course the source of the feeling of belonging to a group varies from one case to another, there is ethnicity, religion, politics (cf Switzerland), history, etc. It is important to remark that it is a dynamic process. A state can be artificial at one point but gradually move towards more consistency. Similarly, a consistent state can gradually become artificial.

That is why states have a lot at stake in convincing their citizens that they belong to the "we" ruling the country. Unified education, matrimonial strategies (cf Alexander the Great), promotion of a single language, etc. are all devices made to convince people that they belong here and nowhere else.

Very often the point is that here you have the best deal you could get anywhere. That is why for instance most people from X would happily give up a limb rather than moving to Z even though that would certainly better their living standard. The others' system is not made for them, their may be less efficient, but it is fair. Of course this takes a lot of convincing to reach such conclusion.

That is also why (artificiality being an organic process) people from seemingly the most artificial states gradually acquire a feeling of togetherness. In South Africa for instance, despite the fact that the country is totally artificial and deeply unfair, still there is a feeling that "us" is not "them" (the foreigners). This is what led to the recent massacres.

Finally, you can say that every state is artificial, it is only a matter of degree. Of course, the smaller the state the least artificial as the feeling of togetherness is easier to create with 300 000 citizens than with 100 million.
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  Quote xristar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 02:14
I fail to see how you "strongly disapprove with" me.

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  Quote Maharbbal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 03:42
Of course I did not make a mistake or anything of the sort, but one could say that I made a mistake and that I didn't read your message carefully enough. Of course one would be wrong, but they could pronounce these words.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 06:33
Originally posted by Maharbbal

I strongly disapprove with xristar.

A state is the materialisation of a communality of destiny. Basically, what will happen to one person in one given state is more likely to happen to another in the same state a few hundreds of kilometers away than to another person who his just a few kilometers away but on the other side of the border.

A state creates rules that in turn shape people's life. The artificiality of a state arises from the fact that sometimes people do not wish to share their experience with another set of people. Basically "we" are not like "them" and "we" want an experience that is made for "us" by "us" and that has nothing to do with "them".

The key to the degree of artificiality of a state is the percentage of the population that think of themselves as the "we" that governs that country. On the other hand an artificial country is a country where a large chunk of the population doesn't consider itself as a member of this "we" that governs the country.

Of course the source of the feeling of belonging to a group varies from one case to another, there is ethnicity, religion, politics (cf Switzerland), history, etc. It is important to remark that it is a dynamic process. A state can be artificial at one point but gradually move towards more consistency. Similarly, a consistent state can gradually become artificial.

That is why states have a lot at stake in convincing their citizens that they belong to the "we" ruling the country. Unified education, matrimonial strategies (cf Alexander the Great), promotion of a single language, etc. are all devices made to convince people that they belong here and nowhere else.

Very often the point is that here you have the best deal you could get anywhere. That is why for instance most people from X would happily give up a limb rather than moving to Z even though that would certainly better their living standard. The others' system is not made for them, their may be less efficient, but it is fair. Of course this takes a lot of convincing to reach such conclusion.

That is also why (artificiality being an organic process) people from seemingly the most artificial states gradually acquire a feeling of togetherness. In South Africa for instance, despite the fact that the country is totally artificial and deeply unfair, still there is a feeling that "us" is not "them" (the foreigners). This is what led to the recent massacres.

Finally, you can say that every state is artificial, it is only a matter of degree. Of course, the smaller the state the least artificial as the feeling of togetherness is easier to create with 300 000 citizens than with 100 million.
 
So what I can deduce from your post.
 
1) The very existance of a state gives it a certain naturalness in the minds of its citizens.
 
2) Because of this , citizens of country X who in theory should want to break away or join with country Y, may decide that overall its best to stay as it is, since they know their place in X, while they will need a whole new dynamic as a new country or as part of Y.
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  Quote Maharbbal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 10:09
Exactly. I mean people from the poorest places in the UK could easily find a job (at least until two months ago) in Ireland, better paid, better living conditions, etc. There was no language barrier, hardly a big leap from home and still not that many did it… Why?

People love the place they live in. It is quite logical, so far nothing too bad happened to them (proof is they are still alive) why would they take any risk. Human beings are hard-wired into avoiding the unknown. Best illustration being these people who refuse to leave their houses when they know the flood is coming.

Myself I have knee-jerk reaction very often. I don't like football, and yet I do support the national team. I loath my government and consider the constitution rotten to the core and the state as little more than a colonial power designed to enrich a few and enslave the rest. Yet, I'll always assume  that system is better than any other until proven wrong. However bad that system allowed me to reach the point I am in today.

But don't believe me, check the massive support the football Iraqi team is getting from every groups of the population. See how difficult it was for the Jews to leave Poland while there was still time.

Personally, I support the independence of Corsica and I believe the logical arguments are overwhelming. Corsicans have all the reasons in the world to support separatist parties, but instead of saying: "wonderful, a fresh new start" the only reaction you get is "it is just not possible". People are afraid, we are hard-wired into being afraid of the unknown, I am sure there must be some good evolutionary reason for it, but the result is that we never maximize, we play safe.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 10:55

About Iraq, a few years ago in college (this was after 2003 invasion) we had a Model United Nations and there was a team from Iraq and there were Iraqi expats. I met two Iraqi Kurds; one a local, the other an expat, the former was very firm that Kurdistan was part of Iraq, while the expat very badly wanted a Kurdistan. . The guy who lived in Iraq dismissed seperatist idea with a "but then I'll need a visa to go to Baghdad"!

 
This made me think that many of the "local people" pundits you see in the media are actually expats, and their ideas may not reflect what is the reality on the ground.
 
Hardly the most representative sampling, but definatly thought provoking.
 
 
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  Quote deadkenny Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 11:26
I suppose what you've really highlighted with your premise is that 'artificial' doesn't necessarily imply 'failure' while 'natural' doesn't necessarily imply 'successful'.  Even Yugoslavia may have been a 'success' (or at least 'survived') if not for remaining a communist dictatorship that many were trying to escape.  The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire into supposedly more 'natural' nation states was not very successful.  One of the key aspects that appears to undermine an 'artificial' state is if disparate groups with no natural affinity for one another are 'lumped' together and there is resulting prolonged conflict.  On the other hand, sometimes separations intended to avoid just such a lumping together (e.g. India and Pakistan or Northern Ireland and Ireland) fail to eliminate the conflict, the result is simply 'external' as opposed to 'internal' conflict.

Edited by deadkenny - 07-Jun-2008 at 11:26
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  Quote omshanti Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 15:06
I can understand how  ''artificial state'' and ''natural state'' are used/defined by various members in this thread, but isn't a state by definition an artificial creation regardless? Even the seemingly ''natural'' states must have been ''artificial'' at some point in time, meaning that the drawing line between ''artificial'' and ''natural'' as they are used in this thread is not clear really. If we look at it this way, that all states are artificial creations by definition, I can understand Sparten's frustration at his country Pakistan being called an ''artificial state'' as if others are not.




Edited by omshanti - 07-Jun-2008 at 15:13
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  Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 15:09
In many cases, the only reason why some people want independence is so that they become dictators in the new state they formed. Just look at the former "freedom fighters" of Africa and learn.
 
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 15:20
lol, I am not frustrated.
Originally posted by deadkenny

 I suppose what you've really highlighted with your premise is that 'artificial' doesn't necessarily imply 'failure' while 'natural' doesn't necessarily imply 'successful'.  Even Yugoslavia may have been a 'success' (or at least 'survived') if not for remaining a communist dictatorship that many were trying to escape.  The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire into supposedly more 'natural' nation states was not very successful.  One of the key aspects that appears to undermine an 'artificial' state is if disparate groups with no natural affinity for one another are 'lumped' together and there is resulting prolonged conflict.  On the other hand, sometimes separations intended to avoid just such a lumping together (e.g. India and Pakistan or Northern Ireland and Ireland) fail to eliminate the conflict, the result is simply 'external' as opposed to 'internal' conflict.
That is true. But a few observations.
 
1) Until the late 80's Yugoslavia was seen as a model of a successful state, and was seen as a natural one since it was essentially a state of slavic peoples. One of the reasons the international community was so shell shocked at its dissolution.
 
2)Up till the post war era the being a homogenous entity was considered  vital to being a successful nation state, the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Ottomons were the sick men of europe since they were so polygot (a dirty word at the time), the only exception to this requirement was when one ethnicity was so dominant, like the Russian or German empires.
It is true that natural dose not always equate success, and artificial necessarily condemn one to failure, but it has been the general consideration that unless a state is natural its long term viability is suspect, unless it can carve out a niche for itself. Like Belgium or Switzerland in Europe or Thialand in Asia.
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  Quote omshanti Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 16:04
Sorry Sparten.
I thought you were frustrated at Pakistan being called an ''artificial state'' and its internal problems being attributed to its ''artificiality''.
My stance is that all states are artificial any way, so their ''success'' or ''failure'' has nothing to do with the ''artifciality'' of a state. However it does seem like using the name of an ethnicity or a group of ethnicities for a state, gives the illusion of unity therefore being ''natural'' and thus ''success''.


Edited by omshanti - 08-Jun-2008 at 01:19
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 22:05
Too often people assume every state or country is built on the same principles.  Different states are formed differently.  They are influenced by their history and culture among other things.  Even major policy makers make the mistake of being insensitive to these differences.  Take the example of the neighbors Thailand and Malaysia.
 
The "Thai" identity was built upon 3 basic principles and they are Language, Religion and the King.  If you possess all 3 then you are Thai.  That was what the nation-state was built upon for the last hundred years or more.  Of course that tends to alienate certain "minorities" by making it more difficult for them to integrate and become "Thai".
 
Malaysia, a collection of former British colonies, was built on the idea of several "races".  In theory the dominant race would be the "indigenous" Malay peoples.  All of this is of course just as artificial and arbitrary as any other identity.  But, nevertheless Malaysia is a society that is constantly reminded of its "racial" differences.  Very different type of nationhood from the one Thailand adopted.
 
Here's an article by Dr. Charles Keyes comparing the different path taken by Thailand and Vietnam in regards to nation building.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2008 at 22:13
In regards to the "problematic artificial states" of the present.  Well, they haven't had much time to form a coherent identity yet.  It took Europe centuries of warfare and mass migration in order to establish themselves into coherent nation states.  How can we assume that other places would not go through a similar process?
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