The Strange Politics of Independence Movements

The Strange Politics of Independence Movements

For those who have been paying attention to the press this past week, there have been two interesting independence movements, both involving breakaway provinces from strong U.S. allies. In Spain, Catalonia staged a vote this weekend, and in the northern reaches of Iraq, the Kurds held a vote earlier this week. In both cases, the central governments worked feverishly to annihilate the vote, and are now working overdrive to undermine their legitimacy post-ballot.

I get why central governments want their nations to remain whole, so it hardly surprises me that Spain and Iraq are using such aggressive tactics to squelch these movements. What is more surprising to me (or depressing depending on how you look at it) is how strongly the U.S. is also opposed to these movements, particularly given our own history of separating from a central authority.

I get that there are very challenging politics, particularly in regards to Iraq. We need their support in the war against ISIS, to stop Iran, to provide some stability in the region among many, many more reasons. That’s completely legitimate reasoning. But to my mind, there has been far too little action on our part to actually promote self-determination to more people around the world, at a time when democracy has been in retreat around the globe.

Some more political fragmentation is actually a good thing, particularly when a group of people with a shared culture, history, and language are starting to demand accountability to themselves for building their own prosperous future. If people are willing and able to take on the risks of being their own political power, I don’t see a reason why we should be reflexively opposed to that.

Much like my thinking around Brexit, I think it is also worth asking why these people feel that secession is the best course of action anyway, particularly in Catalonia. Why are people so ready to risk a separation rather than to work within the existing system? Humans are by default fairly conservative creatures, so the fact that they are willing to take radical action is something that should be recognized and heavily investigated.

I’m on the side of more countries being more democratic. If we can create one bright light in any of these regions, more power to them.

Photo by Don McCullough used under Creative Commons