In today’s show, the focus was on separatism. Ethnic separatism is a latest malady inflicting our international political system. It started with Tsar Peter I of Russia (ruled 1682-1725) who was the first sovereign to force a province of Sweden, Finland, to secede for his own self-aggrandizing reasons–he wanted to open up an access for Russia to the Baltic Sea and attacking Sweden and annexing a part of its territory, ostensibly in the name of freeing its ethnic peoples, was the only way to do it. He thus went to war to force the Swedes, whose country was a powerhouse back then, and took a huge parcel of land from them. The Finns, who populated the land captured, had been completely integrated into the Swedish kingdom for several centuries.
Ironically, Great Britain, a the victim of separatism at the present and also the subject of today’s talk, had itself had used ethnic differentiation in order to divide up some old-world empires, mostly notably, the Ottoman Empire. She succeeded in separating the Arabs from the Turkic Ottoman domination. But unlike Russian attack on Sweden, Britain used subterfuge (remember Lawrence of Arabia?) and politics to achieve its end. Within the emerging nation-state international system, it was a sound decision; the Arabs although shared the same religion with the Turks, they nevertheless were ethnically and linguistically different from Turkic Ottomans.
But the problem with breaking up modern nation-states is that when the strategy is used incorrectly, it can only lead to catastrophic consequences. This is particularly true when totalitarian policymakers use this strategy to divvy up modern countries. One can only think back to the 1990s when Communist Yugoslavia broke up in the aftermath of the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the genocidal atrocities that followed the breakup.
In fact, ever since the precedence set by Tsar Peter I, the policy to divide up nation-states into smaller ethnic groups for the sake of a more effective domination has been used and misused most effectively by Communists after the establishment of the first Communist nation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union for short, in 1917. Since then, Communists the world over, have persistently used “ethnography” as an excuse to campaign for split up legitimate nation-states; this despite the fact that Communist governments themselves never refrained from imperialistic annexation of other nations’ territories; to wit, Soviet Union’s acquisition of Turkestan in Central Asia and Communist China’s acquisition of Tibet.
Decades before Operation Iraqi Freedom to ride that republic of its wayward dictator, Saddam Hussein, Lenin and his fellow totalitarian theoretician, Leon Trotsky, had schemed to stir up the ethnic pot in their southern border region, the Middle East. Their goal was to reap the of benefit of acquiring additional territory and gaining their natural resources, especially reaching the warm waters of the Persian Gulf; the frigid northern seaport by the Baltic Sea only allowed a limited gateway to the world that was yet, and hoped, to be conquered.
At the time of the Communists’ rise to power, the Middle East differed geographically from what it looks today. Except for Persia (Iran), the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), and Saudi Arabia there was no other independently well-organized countries in the Middle East; for instance, Iraq, had not even been established as a nation-state but was simply known as British Mesopotamia.
The warm waters the Persian Gulf in Iran still seemed very inviting to the Soviets especially ever since black gold or fossil fuel was discovered all around the Gulf. The Soviets, even while attempting to consolidate their hold on Russia itself, had planned on a future endeavor to attack the ancient Persian kingdom and to either wholly annex it or turn it into a satellite nation. They were eager and delighted that Persia ran geographically from Russian borders directly, all the way, to the warm water shores of the Persian Gulf. Since they faced formidable obstacles like the might of the Great Britain, the United States, France and the rest of the Free World, they opted for a different plan to take up Iran (Persia) a little at a time; namely, to stir up ethnic conflicts in the country, and then help divide it up into smaller states and then take each, one at a time.
However, the head of the new Persian dynasty, a Cossack himself by the name of Reza Shah, shrewdly read into the Soviets’ scheme and took the first steps to nullify Soviet attempts at inciting ethnic discord in his country. The many ethnic communities that made up his country had earned his nation the designation “the Land of 1001 nations” in many novels and literary works.
Thus, Reza Shah in 1935 promptly requested at the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations, that his country’s name be officially changed from Persia to Iran. In this fashion, he followed Great Britain’s example when Britain became a united kingdom and all of its citizens then came to be known as British rather than Englishmen.
Nevertheless, the tenacious Communists would not give up and used their Persian-speaking Soviet citizens, acquired centuries earlier through conquests by Tsar Ivan IV (r. 1533-1584) all the way to Tsar Alexander I (r. 1801-1825), in order to penetrate Iran and inflame and incite ethnic discontent and discord.
Decades later, in the aftermath of World War II, after having captured Northern Iran in cooperation with the United States and Great Britain, the Soviet Union violated designated authorized sphere of influence in Iran, entered the Iranian capital, Tehran, and shelled the Iranian Parliament, the Majles. They had meant to signal the hard-headed Iranian Cossack-turned-monarch how displeased they were with him. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill forgave the Russians for their “one-time” discretion especially when they withdrew their forces from Tehran and positioned their forces north capital in Qazvin.
After termination of World War II, however, the Soviets refused to leave Iran but eventually did so when President Truman threatened Stalin with a nuclear attack on Moscow in 1947! In the aftermath of their departure, the Soviets installed two ideologically-converted puppets in charge of two fabricated “Peoples Republics” in ethnically-mixed Iranian provinces of Kordistan and Azarbaijan.
Of course, this latest scheme did not succeed either as Reza Shah’s young son and successor, Mohammad Reza Shah, having strengthened his military forces through French, British, and American assistance went forward and smashed through the puppet Communist “republics” and freed his citizens from the Soviet yoke.
Today, however, the Communists have weakened tremendously the world over and only a handful of countries still clink to that bankrupt ideology; namely, mainland China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Zimbabwe in Africa. A few other countries dabble in Communistic ideology such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Equator. And, the humongous former Communist Soviet Union, known today as the Russian Federation, is currently governed with the iron fist by a former Communist who used to work as an agent in the dreaded Soviet secret police, the KGB. His name, Vladimir Putin.
Through propaganda and empty emotional appeals, the Soviet Communists have managed to ingrain the notion of ethnic singularity, or ethnography as they call it, into the minds of countless free thinkers and professionals around the world. This despite the fact that many ethnic groups in Russia yearn to be free of Russian control. For instance, in 1992, sixty percent of voters, almost all Muslims, in north-central Russian “republic” voted for independence from the Russian Federation. Their electoral decision was met with a stern warning from Moscow reminding Tartarestan residents of consequences they would suffer that would not to be dissimilar by those who wished to secede in the former Communist Yugoslavia years earlier.
Some free thinkers in our modern world have become so comfortable with the idea of splitting up nations that of practice of advocating splitting modern nation-states that when faced with national tragedy in a particular country, they rush to advance the idea of splitting it up. Recent forced breakups in Ethiopia and Sudan have left the two countries isolated and cut off from access to the sea and in dire conditions. Iraq has been the latest example whereby pundits from Left and Right have proposed splitting it along dangerous ethnic and religious boundaries.
Even in the advanced world, attempt at such practices have not ceased. For example, the topic of this week talk show concerned the referendum for independence of Scotland from Great Britain. One wonders what went through the mind of the the Right Honourable Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland who reports directly to the British Prime Minister.
Could it have been the influence of radical historians and writers in academe that influenced Mr. Salmond’s decision? There have been many negative literature, or better said misinformation, conveyed in journals and books and then published against Great Britain. In an odd reverse-xenophobic fashion, many have gone as far as berating the whole Anglo-Saxon race for the world’s troubles, issues, and traumas.
The old saying that history is written by the victor is true to some extent but a logical, impartial, and analytic examination of history reveals some very surprising and opposite summaries. For instance, to whom does America owe its tradition of freedom and democracy? Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith were the original champions of the concept of free thought on basis of whose ideas such great American thinkers as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and John Dewey based their own formulation of the American democracy.
And, let us dig deeper into the British democratic heritage—the calm and stable nation-states of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand all stand as testimony to the civilized contributions of Great Britain while the rest of the world has been tinted, in the past 100 years, by they barbarities of Nazism, Fascism, Communism, and more recently by religious fanaticism and terrorism.
Even the British colonies, from the onset of their birth, became strongholds of democracy: India in Asia and Kenya in Africa. Even the racially-divided South Africa, once it became a new country, taken over through free ballot by black South Africans, it did not suffer any of the atrocities of other former colonies such as those that were held by the Spanish and Portuguese in either the Americas or Africa. Neither was the black takeover in South Africa followed by any kangaroo-courts to condemn people to public hanging, execution, or prison terms. In fact, in the democratic lessons learned from the English, the locals have even allowed whites-only enclaves to survive in the new Republic of South Africa!
In so far as Great Britain itself is concerned, the English or what the radical writers purposely and irreverently call “Anglos” have extended their hand of friendship and brotherhood to the residents of Scotland, Northern Island, and the Wales by incorporating those other ethnic communities’ flags into their own thus creating the modern Union Jack:
They further renamed their national law enforcement agency, the Scotland Yard, in honor of their Scot brethren. Scottish bag pipes and kilts have become the hallmark of everything that is British or touched by the British from start of official ceremonies in United Kingdom itself to the American main street parades, to parades and marches in Canada, Australia, even in Arab kingdoms of Jordan and Kuwait in the Middle East! Great Britain even went so far as designating the English monarch’s male successor as the “Prince of Wales.”
Of course, every community, tribe, state, and nation has had a dark history. Without exception, it includes the white Latins from Europe (whose ancestors today prefer to be called Latinos or Latinas), the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, Germans, the Arabs, the Persians, and the Turks, ad infinitum. In other words, no human group has been snow-white clean throughout its history.
The thinking world rejoiced when the Right Honourable Alex Salmond’s referendum failed resoundingly when 55.3%, out of 84.6% eligible voters disapproved of his plan to secede Scotland from Great Britain.
But the measure of a nation’s sense of justice is assessed by its present-day treatment of its citizens and subjects. One can only look at the White House and see how a black American, whose racial group constitutes only 13% of the population in the United States, could become an elected President. Or, how the remnants of the British Empire, white as well as nonwhite, could become bastions of stability and humanity in our today’s turbulent world.
The great American humanitarian, Abraham Lincoln, had a simple solution to the idea of splitting up modern nations. His formula consisted of a simple and resounding, “Nay.” If force was needed, then that just would have to be!
In modern democratic nations, the idea of force to keep nation-states intact is unthinkable. However, self-serving politicians continue to strive for separatism despite the fact, for instance, in Britain, there was a Union Act of 1707 in which the four kingdoms of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland were integrated into one United Kingdom. Legally speaking, the British Parliament should not have even allowed the referendum to be put on the ballot.
Passionate American appeals as those expressed by Hollywood in the high-budget movie, Braveheart, have not been helpful. In fact, one can assume the widely-seen movie played an important part in tickling the emotional sides of some Scots. The movie only focused on one aspect of history; namely, the conquest of Scotland without any regards to the integration of Scotland into the United Kingdom over the past 3oo years.
And, what was to become of the British flag, if heavens forbid, Scotland voted to secede? Obviously, the British flag would have had to be re-drawn. BUT, and yes, that is a big but, what of other flags that incorporate the British flags into their own flags such as those of Australia and New Zealand? Would they also have had to change their flags? The answer is obviously “yes.” And, how about some of the state and provincial flags that incorporate the Union Jack such as that of British Columbia in Canada and our own beloved Hawaiian flag?
Of course, Mr. Salmond would not allow such trivial matter preoccupy his mind. Thank God, Scotland comprises of many thinking men and women. Love Live the Queen and may the sun never set on Britain!