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

By Stephen M. Saideman | Go to book overview

7
Findings, Future Directions and
Policy Dilemmas

As Yugoslavia disintegrated, states debated which sides to support and to recognize, causing scholars to wonder whether the international norms of boundary maintenance were obsolete. Because of the failure of the conventional wisdom to anticipate or explain the international relations of Yugoslavia's demise, we are tempted to ignore the past and consider each ethnic conflict either as a unique event or as a harbinger of escalating identity conflicts—the “Clash of Civilizations.” 1 Instead, this book suggests that the past was poorly understood, and that revisiting it is helpful for understanding today's conflicts. Rather than proving that there is something new going on, this book demonstrates the continuities in states' reactions to ethnic conflict. Ethnic politics shapes the foreign policies of many states, causing them to take competing sides, making international cooperationdifficult, although not impossible.

In this chapter, I first compare the case studies to consider what they shared in common and what caused them to differ. Indeed, one puzzle remains to be explored. If international norms and vulnerability did not cause states to support the territorial integrity of the Congo and Nigeria, why did most states support the host states in these conflicts? Second, I address a limitation of the case studies—I only address secessionist crises—by reviewing the quantitative analyses and suggesting case selection strategies for future research. As I revised this book, a “new” war broke out in the former Yugoslavia—the Kosovo conflict. I examine this conflict briefly as readers may have questions that are unanswered by chapter 5 and to demonstrate

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