The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

Synopsis

Ethnic conflicts have created crises within NATO and between NATO and Russia, produced massive flows of refugees, destabilized neighboring countries, and increased the risk of nuclear war between Pakistan and India. Interventions have cost the United States, the United Nations, and other actors billions of dollars. While scholars and policymakers have devoted considerable attention to this issue, the question of why states take sides in other countries' ethnic conflicts has largely been ignored. Most attention has been directed at debating the value of particular techniques to manage ethnic conflict, including partition, prevention, mediation, intervention, and the like. However, as the Kosovo dispute demonstrated, one of the biggest obstacles to resolving ethnic conflicts is getting the outside actors to cooperate. This book addresses this question. Saideman argues that domestic political competition compels countries to support the side of an ethnic conflict with which constituents share ethnicities. He applies this argument to the Congo Crisis, the Nigerian Civil War, and Yugoslavia's civil wars. He then applies quantitative analyses to ethnic conflicts in the 1990s. Finally, he discusses recent events in Kosovo and whether the findings of these case studies apply more broadly.

Excerpt

Why do states support some ethnic groups but not others? Why do states support some states resisting secessionism, i.e., host states, but not all? The conventional wisdom is that states that are vulnerable to ethnic conflict are inhibited from supporting separatists in other states, and that this weakness will cause states to develop and then respect international organizations and norms. This argument has at least two significant flaws: it fails to explain why a state would support a secessionist movement and some do; and, many vulnerable states have supported separatist movements, as case studies in the subsequent chapters demonstrate. A likely alternative argument would be that the search for security motivates states, so a state will consider whether supporting a particular separatist movement is likely to improve its security. The neorealist focus on balancing behavior suggests that a state will support secessionist movements in those host states that threaten it, and oppose separatists in its allies. This book proposes a different argument, focusing on domestic politics. I develop a theory of ethnic politics and foreign policy, arguing that the interaction of ethnicity and domestic political competition produce incentives for politicians to support one side or another of ethnic conflicts in other states. According to this argument, the existence of ethnic ties between decisionmakers' supporters and the combatants in conflicts in other states will greatly determine the foreign policies of states. Consequently, this chapter presents competing explanations based on, respectively, international norms and organizations, security, and domestic politics. After discussing each approach, the last section of this chapter presents the book's research design.

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