Today I am going to propose the reader some exercises (which I hope to be amusing) on a sociopolitical situation. I will set forward a fictitious–yet plausible–scenario and then ask some questions. It may be a good way, I believe, to develop and reason our own points of view without getting too ‘distracted’ by our own biases, which we all have. So, here it goes:
Once upon a time there was a young independent republic called Katlunya; so young that it was still on the process of settling down and putting itself together. Despite much of its population’s decades-long yearning for secession from Iberka (the empire it had been a part of since the dawn of time), this republic eventually came up leaping at the chance when its fatherland was undergoing times of severe decline, and thanks also to a good deal of support from the Confederacy of Uropia, an alliance of rich countries and Iberka’s economical and political adversary.
However, not all of Katlunya’s citizens were that happy with the new status, partly because of the internal disagreements regarding their own identity–since many of them perceived themselves to be no other than regular Iberiks–and partly because, years before the breakup, their influential and semi-autonomous regional government had managed to broaden its territory at the expense of neighbouring Argos, another region inside the kingdom where there was no secession longing whatsoever and whose people did not, therefore, quite come to terms with the new rule they found themselves being subjected to. But such were things, and the young republic got its shiny new official institutions and democratically elected parliament and president; though it goes without saying that, since a good third of the population (mostly, but not solely, the Argosians) were not true secessionists, from Katlunya’s very inception its electorate was divided among two main political sides, the Enthusiast and the Quiescent, thus usually making for hard-fought presidential elections.
Exercise 1: Since a significant portion of Katlunya’s population and land did not partake in its ‘cultural identity’ and had been ‘acquired’ while being part of a much larger dominion, what do you think of its secession as a country inherently divided? Was it fair? Was it wise to secede without resigning Argos to Iberka?
By the time we peep into this fictitious scenario, Katlunya’s ruler–who had got an ample majority in the past elections–was trying to keep a fair balance between both political sectors; and the day we meet him, he was sitting at the presidential desktop pondering over two important, competing documents submitted to his government by Iberka and Uropia respectively, each offering a commercial agreement with the republic. Both offers being mutually exclusive, our concerned president had to make a difficult choice: Iberka’s proposal was clearly more convenient than Uropia’s for the national and the people’s economies, but then he feared that its signature might incense the Enthusiasts, who were more politically active and felt themselves indebted to the Confederacy for aiding to Katlunya’s creation. Besides, both competitors for the commercial association tried to exercise their respective ascendancies (and subtle threats) on the government: Iberiks appealed to their mutual brotherhood and roots (while subtly hinting to, otherwise, curtail necessary supplies), whereas Uropians vowed access to a superior sphere of enlightenment, freedom and prosperity (while subtly hinting to, otherwise, leave Katlunya by itself nearby Iberka’s–alleged–imperialist preying).
Our president chose Iberka.
Exercise 2: What do you think of this decision? Was it reasonable? Was it even legitimate?
The Confederacy, not ready to let go of the new republic it had fostered (which, besides, was to be used for another long-term plans), did not hesitate in organising a colour revolution for Katlunya: manoeuvres were made to arise the Enthusiasts’ reaction and, by means of agitation tactics, a long and incensed revolt was nurtured in order to oust its democratically elected leader. The scheme succeeded: the revolt escalated to bloody, the blame was put by international media (chiefly Uropia-controlled) on the brutal represion and shooting of demonstrators by government’s armed forces, and–for the sake of his own life–the president fled to and sought asylum in Iberka; upon which the Enthusiasts seized provisional power, dissolved the government and called a new voting, whose outcome–quite predictably–put in the presidential chair Uropia’s appointed candidate, more subservient to its interests than his predecessor. Among his first measures, he hastened to revoke the mercantile agreement signed with Iberka and replace it with his sponsors’ one.
But the Quiescents did not accept those elections nor the validity of any legislative or political act stemming from them, on the basis that the voting had stemmed from an outwardly manufactured rebellion and the unlawful eviction of the legitimate president, being therefore totally void.
Exercise 3: Would you consider such ousting of the former president to be legitimate? What about the new elections and goverment? Would you say the key to these question lies in ‘who triggered the violent escalation’, or this is not the main issue?
Hence, Katlunya was split in two more-than-ever irreconcilable bands (denying each other’s lawfulness): on one hand the Enthusiasts, corresponding to the–larger–eastern side of the country, the formerly Iberik Katlunya, and on the other hand the Quiescents, part of which lived in the east but mostly in the west, on what had been Iberik Argos before the independence. Since both antagonists thought or felt that justice was on their side, and were ready to spill their blood for their respective causes, a civil war ensued. The Enthusiasts being thrice as many, their territory thrice as large, besides holding the power, institutions and most of the army, the Quiescents–in a much weaker position–had to restore to hastily-levied militias and guerrilla-style fighting; although, realizing that–due to their plain inferiority–they would never be able to restore, for the whole country, what they believed to be the ‘legal order’, soon opted for a self-proclaimed independence in the form of another yet newer republic, which they called Argostan–thus giving up the name Katlunya to the ‘rebellious’ side.
But this move did not put an end to the hostilities: Katlunya, not ready to relinquish a single square inch of land to Argostan, ‘invaded’ it and antagonized their population in a very long war, fighting not only against its militias but also, having by then taken an increasingly xenophobic approach to Argosians, deliberately targeting and massacring civilians, under accusation of secessionists and infra-human ‘pro-Iberiks’.
Exercise 4: What do you think of East- and West-Katlunya? Which of them had a better right to claim themselves to be the ‘legitimate’ band? Which legitimacy should prevail: that of the previous regime, or that of the revolt and subsequent elections? Given the circumstances, would you esteem Argostan’s self-independence as rightful? Would you consider it a sovereign country?
On the other hand, since Katlunyans had seeked and gotten their secession from Iberka on the grounds of ‘being culturally and historically different’, shouldn’t they be ready to apply the same standard and grant the same right to a part of their own country?
Right after Argostans’ self-proclamed independence from Katlunya, and aware of their insignificance and weakness, they asked Iberka to accept their reintegration into the kingdom–but the request was rejected: after centuries of Uropia’s promotion of a black legend and anti-Iberka propaganda, the old empire’s international situation was rather precarious, and it feared reaction and sanctions on the part of the confederacy (and its other influential allies). As a matter of fact, Iberka did not even venture to recognize Argostan as a sovereign nation. For the same reason, the king also did not agree to send his troops–as he was likewise asked–for helping the Argosian militias fight Katlunya’s army (though he did assist by undercover delivering some arms and providing logistics and volunteers). Thus, the war went on for ten years, during which Argostan suffered fifteen thousand deaths, the vast majority being civilians.
Meanwhile, Katlunya and Uropia were taking increasing steps towards a mutual military alliance in order to restrain or at least prevent Iberka’s alleged imperialism, a belligerent program which the king finally understood posed and meant a real threat to Iberka’s own existence. Only then the old and decayed empire officially recognized Argostan a sovereign country, with the implications brought alongside this political decision: the undergoing war became from civil to a foreign attack, Katlunya’s troops became ‘an invader army’, and it was now legally admissible–and politically unavoidable–for Iberka to send its own military in support of its former Argos compatriots for liberating their land from the now considered ‘unlawful agressors’. And that is what the king did, upon which the course of the war changed drastically, Katlunyans retreated and, eventually, Argostan was fully ‘liberated’.
Exercise 5: In the said circumstances, did Iberka’s military intervention in the conflict constitute an invasion of a sovereign country (Katlunya) or, on the contrary, ought it be considered as assisting to the defense of an invaded sovereign country (Argostan)? In other words: was that intervention legitimate?
If so, since Iberka’s ‘brothers’ of Argostan were being massacred and killed in a genocidal war from the very beginning, should not the kingdom have adopted its political and military moves much earlier, thus sparing them thousands of lives? Was it morally acceptable to wait one decade and change the official position only when Iberka felt itself endangered?
Final questions: What is a sovereign country? Who holds or possesses the authority to judge over such an issue? From where, ultimately, such authority arises?
And that is it. Many readers will surely have seen evident analogies with at least two known conflicts; but before they hasten to tell me that ‘things were (or are) not the way you depict’, allow me to repeat that this is a fictitious scenario meant to stimulate a constructive debate and broaden our points of view and perception of reality. Try to imagine yourself as being a denizen of Katlunya, Argos, Uropia and Iberka. Of course I mean the analogies both with past, present and even future, predictable realities. That is my ultimate goal. But, for the purpose of building up opinions, everything in my story is supposed to be true. The posed questions are–I hope–worth being answered in any case.