Canada’s Official Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

There was some uncertainty in seminar a few days ago regarding the Canadian government’s official stance on the Armenian genocide, which began in 1915. In short, Canada as of 2004 officially recognises the Armenian genocide. From a 2004 CBC story–“Canadian Parliament Recognizes Armenian Genocide”:

The House of Commons has reversed a long-standing policy and passed a resolution denouncing the Turks for committing genocide against Armenians in 1915.The vote passed easily, 153-68.

The motion said: “That this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity.”

For decades consecutive Canadian governments have dodged the sensitive issue by calling what happened in eastern Turkey a “tragedy,” stopping well short of referring to the events as “genocide.”

The U.S. dropped a similar resolution a year earlier after the White House warned it could hurt U.S. security interests.

Before Wednesday’s vote in Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham issued a statement saying “Canada has had friendly and co-operative relations with Turkey and Armenia for many years. The Canadian government is committed to make these relationships even stronger in the future.

For a transcript of the debate in the House of Commons, go here.

Does Africa Need a New Map?

In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, G. Pascal Zachary argues that it’s time to redraw Africa’s political borders, which are “unnatural” and a legacy of 19th and 20th-century colonialism. As is well-known the newly independent states that comprised the Organisation for African Unity met in 1964 and agreed that the extant international borders in Africa were sacrosanct, believing that this would best guarantee stability on the continent. It worked, to a degree. While there have certainly been very few international (i.e. inter-state) wars in Africa in the intervening 45 years, the continent has been ravaged by intra-state (i.e., internal, or “civil”) wars during the same period. What are the potential benefits of redrawing Africa’s borders to make them more coterminous with ethnic boundaries (as has been done recently in, amongst other places, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union)? Zachary’s claim:

Borders created through some combination of ignorance and malice are today one of the continent’s major barriers to building strong, competent states. No initiative would do more for happiness, stability, and economic growth in Africa today than an energetic and enlightened redrawing of these harmful lines.

How important is for for state strength and stability for ethnic and political border to be coterminous? The redrawing of borders–and it is obvious that the mechanism would be military force–would almost certainly lead to tremendous suffering and bloodshed, with competing campaigns of ethnic cleansing. But, as Zachary notes, since the start of the post-colonial era millions of Africans have died in internal conflicts, and:

Rethinking the borders could go far to quelling some of these conflicts. Countries could finally be framed around the de facto geography of ethnic groups. The new states could use their local languages rather than favoring another ethnicity’s or colonial power’s tongue. Rebel secessionist movements would all but disappear, and democracy could flourish more easily when based upon policies, rather than simple identity politics. On top of that, new states based on ethnic lines would by default be smaller, more compact, and more manageable for governments on a continent with a history of state weakness.

Assuming that the political will to achieve this goal were to evolve, what would be the best mechanism? What would Herbst’s argument be? Is this even feasible? Where would one draw the new boundaries? How would one define an ethnic group? Refer to these two maps to get a sense of the near impossibility of the task at hand. While there are about 50-odd states in Africa, there are literally hundreds of geographically-concentrated ethnic groups. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of inter-mingling of ethnic groups as well.


Events/Lectures that may be of Interest

I’ll use this blog to keep you informed about lectures and events that may be of interest to you that are taking place on campus or in the greater Vancouver area. There are two events this week that are relevant.

This evening, Monday September 13th, at 7:00pm the Philosophers’ Cafe is kicking off the first event of its fall series at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts at Deer Lake in Burnaby. This evening’s discussion is titled “Mixed Up: Is Canada’s cultural mix more like a melting pot, mosaic or matrix?” We’ll be addressing issues of identity and culture in about two weeks time in IS 210. The admission is $5, and the event will be moderated by Randall Mackinnon, who has served as a president, board member, executive and consulting staff for a diversity of community service organizations since 1970. For more information about tonight’s event and directions to the venue, click here.

The second event is a one-woman show entitled Miracle in Rwanda, which is showing all of this week at Pacific Theatre Company and will also have a two-week run on Granville Island beginning later this month. To learn more about the show, and to purchase tickets, go here.

Update: The website I linked to above links to the wrong page. Miracle in Rwanda is part of this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. Here’s the correct link to information regarding show times and tickets.

External Threat and State Capacity

We addressed the history of state-formation in continental Europe and learned that, as Charles Tilly has noted, war and state-making were interconnected.  The stronger the nascent state, the better it was able to wage war and vice versa.  War-making, of course, required strong coercive and extractive (in the form of taxes and other renumerations) of the state vis-a-vis its domicile population.  Mix in a little bit of nationalism and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a strong state.

A recent article in the Journal of Peace Research [subscription only] by David Lektzian and Brandon Pine, demonstrates the empirical validity of the state-making/war-making nexus.  The argue that the larger the perception of “external threat” the more latitiude do leaders have in increasing the capacity of the state.  Here is the abstract to the paper:

Taming the Leviathan: Examining the Impact of External Threat on State Capacity

This article argues that the systemic security environment influences the structure of domestic political and economic institutions. If states have been primarily created to protect one group from predation by another, then the state may visibly change as external threats rise and fall. The authors argue that political elites respond to threatening environments by enhancing the ability of the state to extract resources from society in order to protect itself. Using data from the Armed Conflict Dataset, Banks’s Cross National Data Archive, and COW data from 1975 to 1995, the authors find evidence that supports the conjectured relationship between threat and state strength. As a response to a more threatening environment, the authors find that states significantly increase their capacity in terms of revenue, government spending, and military spending, but they do not easily relinquish these gains. The authors also observe that nation-state security is heavily influenced by regional regime-type patterns. State capacity increases as the regional neighborhood becomes increasingly autocratic. This suggests political elites not only regard violent conflict in the region as a serious concern to national security, but also appear to consider political change a threat as well.

Citizenship, Jus Soli, and “Anchor Babies”

As we learned in Chapter 3 of O’Neil, there are two (main) types of citizenship (remember that citizenship describes the nature of one’s relationship to the state): jus sanguinis and jus soli.  Like many states, the United States of America grants citizenship to individuals on the basis of both (and also on the basis of naturalization).  The principle of jus soli gives persons citizenship status on the basis of being born on territory that the state formally controls.  

The legitimacy, efficacy of jus soli has increasingly become questioned in some political circles in the United States (and in other countries that grant citizenship on that basis.  Watch the clip below on the “anchor baby” phenomenon between U.S. Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) and his challenger:

Ganguly on Structural Sources of Authoritarianism in Pakistan

In Intro to Comparative Politics, we devote a considerable amount of time to understanding regime types–what factors contribute to differences amongst authoritarian regimes, why democracies find it difficult to build deep roots in some places, what are the sources of authoritarianism and democracy.

Sumit Ganguly, an expert on nationalism, and south Asian nationalism in particular, recently gave a talk at a round table organized by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (which is based in New Delhi) on the sources of authoritarianism in Pakistan.  The recent decision by embattled Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to step down draws further attention to the nature of the political regime in Pakistan.

Ganguly evaluates, then dismisses, three standard arguments about the structural sources of authoritarianism, then proceeds to offer an alternative, which he believes more successfully accounts for the persistence of authoritarianism in Pakistan.  Ganguly argues that the most compelling structural explanation can be found in an analysis of three main components of the national movement in Pakistan–its structure, ideology and organization,

“The Pakistan movement stood in sharp contrast to its Indian counterpart which, under the towering influence of Gandhi and Nehru, had been democratized and came to represent a cross section of the populace. The Congress had also cultivated ideas of democracy through debate and compromise which were not alien to its leadership at the time of independence. On the other hand, the Pakistan movement under the tutelage of the Muslim League suffered from an extremely limited base confined geographically to what broadly constitutes the modern day state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The socio-economic profile of its leadership was confined to the ranks of UP notables who largely hailed from feudal backgrounds. Against such a setting, M.A Jinnah successfully built up the Muslim League centered on his personality and the idea that the Congress would not guarantee the rights of Muslims.”

Newsweek Editor Fareed Zakaria Says “No” to Olympic Boycott

In a recent column, Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria argues that the US should not boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.  He argues that it would have the opposite of the intended effect.  Here are some snippets:

Public humiliation does not work nearly as well on the regime in Beijing as private pressure. At first glance, China’s recent crackdown in Tibet looks like a familiar storyline: a dictatorship represses its people. And of course that’s part of the reality — as it often is in China. But on this issue, the communist regime is not in opposition to its people. The vast majority of Chinese have little sympathy for the Tibetan cause. To the extent that we can gauge public opinion in China and among its diaspora, ordinary Chinese are, if anything, critical of the Beijing government for being too easy on the Tibetans. The real struggle here is between a nationalist majority and an ethnic and religious minority looking to secure its rights.

In these circumstances, a boycott of the Olympics would have precisely the opposite effect that is intended. The regime in Beijing would become only more defensive and stubborn. The Chinese people would rally around the flag and see the West as trying to humiliate China in its first international moment of glory. (There are many suspicions that the United States cannot abide the prospect of a rising China.) For most Chinese, the Games are about the world’s giving China respect, rather than bolstering the Communist Party’s legitimacy…

…Some want to punish China for its association with the Sudanese government, which is perpetrating atrocities in Darfur. But to boycott Beijing’s Games because it buys oil from Sudan carries the notion of responsibility too far. After all, the United States has much closer ties to Saudi Arabia, a medieval monarchy that has funded Islamic terror. Should the world boycott America for this relationship?

Woodrow Wilson at the White House

Here is some fascinating (silent) footage of Woodrow Wilson at the White House, no doubt thinking about his Fourteen Points.  I think he’s on the phone to Clemenceau debating the merits of Point Nine.  It’s interesting how many of the points refer to the establishment of new nation-states (getting nations congruent with borders) and/or adjusting borders to more adequately cohere with notions of justice.

Ethnic Conflict and Strife

A couple of days ago all blog posts seemed to be related to the theme “the social logic of politics”. Today, there seems to be a surge in episodes of inter-ethnic conflict worldwide. First, we learn from the Washington Post, that there is unrest and violence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, where a week of increasing confrontations between native Tibetans and the Chinese government have turned violent, with native Tibetans battling with Chinese police and troops and also attacking ethnic Han Chinese, which is either unprecedented or extremely rare.

BEIJING, March 14 — A week of tense confrontations over Chinese rule in Tibet erupted in violence Friday, as hundreds of protesters clashed with police and set fire to shops in the center of Lhasa. Doctors reported dozens of wounded streaming into area hospitals, and one witness said the downtown area was “in a state of siege.”

The rare breakout of violence, the worst in 20 years in the capital city of a remote mountainous region that is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, posed a challenge to the Chinese government as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games in August. Seeking to make the Games a worldwide celebration of its swift economic progress during the past three decades, the Chinese government has steadfastly attempted to project an image of harmony and stability, even while tightening its grip over the restive region.

“This spiraling unrest has triggered the scenario the Chinese prayed would not happen,” said Robbie Barnett, director of modern Tibetan studies at Columbia University. “Now we’re just watching the clock tick until people get off the street or the Chinese open fire.”

In a different part of the world, Malaysia, in which once again ethnic Chinese are involved, the New York Times reports on post-electoral tension on the island of Penang:

PENANG, Malaysia — Chanting “Long Live the Malays!” several hundred members of Malaysia’s largest ethnic group gathered Friday on this largely Chinese island, defying a police ban on protests and raising communal tensions after sharp electoral losses by the country’s governing party.

Newly elected state governments have moved rapidly to abolish some of the long-held privileges of ethnic Malays. Those efforts have challenged the core of Malaysia’s ethnic-based political system and inflamed the sensibilities of Malays. Until the March 8 elections, Malays thoroughly dominated politics through the country’s largest party, the United Malays National Organization, known by its initials, U.M.N.O.

The opposition parties that beat U.M.N.O. and its partners in five states say affirmative action should be based on need rather than ethnicity. But the opposition, too, is struggling to contain fissures along ethnic lines as a Chinese opposition party competes with its Malay counterpart.

“We’re living in very sensitive times,” said Tricia Yeoh, director of the Center for Public Policy Studies, an independent research center in Kuala Lumpur, the capital.

The affirmative action program favoring the Malays has been in place for more than three and a half decades and gives Malays everything from discounts on new houses to 30 percent quotas in initial public offerings of companies. It is known as the New Economic Policy.

Finally, in Iraq, where in the last four years the minority Christian community has been decimated, either through targeted killings or ethnic cleansing, we hear news of the killing of a prominent Catholic Bishop:

bishop_rahro.jpg BAGHDAD, March 13 — The body of a senior Christian cleric was found Thursday in the northern city of Mosul, two weeks after gunmen abducted him there and killed three of his associates.

The death of Paulos Faraj Rahho, 65, archbishop of Mosul’s Chaldean community, prompted expressions of remorse and condemnation from the Iraqi government and Christian leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a message to the Chaldean patriarch in Iraq, called the killing an “act of inhuman violence that offends the dignity of the human person and seriously harms the cause of fraternal coexistence among the beloved Iraqi people.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said it was a crime of “aggression aimed at inciting sedition among” Iraqis.

What Does One Have to do to Become Irish?

We had a (sometimes spirited) discussion in intro to comparative yesterday about patriotism, nationalism, citizenship and immigration. You may, therefore, find today’s story in the New York Times about a young 11-year-old lad who was born in Ireland and is about as culturally Irish as they come, except for the fact that his African born parents are illegal citizens in Ireland. As a result, his parents face the prospect of being exiled back to Africa, which would force the boy to go also. Quoting the NYT:

nigerian_irish_boy.jpgDUBLIN — Cork-born and proud of it, George-Jordan Dimbo is top to toe the Irish lad. He studies Gaelic, eats rashers, plays hurling, prays to the saints, papers his walls with parochial school awards, and spends Saturdays at the telly watching Dustin the Turkey, a wisecracking puppet, mock the powerful.

If the Irish government has its way, he may soon be living in Africa.

George, 11, is an Irish citizen and has been since his birth when Ireland, alone in Europe, still gave citizenship to anyone born on its soil. [Do you remember what the legal term for this is?] His mother and father, Ifedinma and Ethelbert Dimbo, are illegal immigrants from Nigeria, who brought him back to Ireland three years ago, judging it the best place to raise him.

Since then, the unusual trio — the Irish schoolboy and his African parents — have shared a single room in a worn Dublin hostel while facing a prospect dreaded by children on both sides of the Atlantic, a parent’s deportation.

“Dear justice minister,” George wrote when he was 9. “I heard my Mommy and Daddy whispering about deportation. Please do not deport us.”

“Remember,” he added, “I am also an Irish child.”

P.S. Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what rashers are!