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Brief Essays on Different Topics

(A) Do all national or ethnic groups have the right to independence? In the best of all possible idealistic worlds - such as that envisioned by American president Wilson immediately after World War I - the answer would have to be "Yes." This not being an idealistic world, however, this writer must take the position of those in the Realistic school of international relations and conclude that, no, independence for every national/ethnic group cannot be a right.

This conclusion is based upon two factors: fear and the "balance of power" perspective. Fear is a difficult motivation to concede, but it is a reality nevertheless. Bosnia, the dissolving ex-Soviet Union and the Palestinian diaspora unbalancing the Middle East all stand as examples of how ethnic nationalism works against international peace and stability. In "moral" terms, of course, one must recognize the right of the individuals in every ethnic group to have opportunities of expression and accomplishment within the state in which they reside, i.e. basic human rights. Those basic rights, however, do not necessarily extend to a pro forma acceptance of an ethnic group on the state level.

As a matter of balance of power, not all states can be equal - and not all ethnic groups can be accepted as states. Size does matter on the international stage: the larger the state, the more easily it fits into balance of power equations. (Again, this is from the Realist's perspective, which seems to most logically evaluate this particular issue.) A small, unstable state - such as those emerging in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union - potentially upsets the international peace in one of two ways: by presenting a weak, easy target for expansionist neighbors (e.g. Bosnia), or by fostering an aggressive irredentism (e.g. Serbia). In this latter case, the pan-Islamic fundamentalism-spread-through-terrorism of Iran and Sudan are also indicative of aggressive irredentist tenden...

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