The first chapter sets the scene, providing a historical sketch of the creation of new states. This chapter also provides an overview of the world history of creating new states and of the problems they encounter – but also of how many have been successful despite dire predictions by their erstwhile parent states. The chapter – like the ones that follow it – is based on a blend of personal experiences of the author and historical examples.
The last chapter presents a summary and a checklist for what needs to be done if you want to establish a nation. It presents a political balance sheet and allows the reader to determine if they ultimately want independence – or if they are content to live in a perhaps unexciting relationship for a little while longer.
So, you are almost there. But you still need to build a country. You have successfully obtained your plot of land, but now you need to build the house and, to stretch the metaphor, make it a home. This means that you need to establish rules of the game and the institutions to go with them. You have to decide if you want to have a presidential system or a parliamentary one. If the new state should be a federation, and you have to find an electoral system – assuming, that is, that you don’t want to run it as a dictatorship. (Which would pose other problems.)
From Scotland to Somaliland, people want to create new states. This book provides a step-by-step guide to becoming an independent country, from organising a referendum and winning it to getting recognition in the international community. It is a difficult task to make a new state – but it can be done. Written in easily accessible language, the book delves into the legal, economic, and political problems and uses historical examples and anecdotes from all over the world to illustrate the obstacles to creating a new state. Based on the author’s experience as an advisor to the US State Department and the British Foreign Office, this book will be of interest to those who warn against states breaking up as well as to those who aspire to creating new states.
The first chapter sets the scene, providing a historical sketch of the creation of new states. This chapter will also provide an overview of the world history of creating new states, of the problems they encounter – but also of how many have been successful despite dire predictions by their erstwhile parent states. The chapter – like the ones that follow it – is based on a blend of personal experiences of the author and historical examples.
The international politics of creating a new state
So, we have covered the legal matters. But that is only the beginning. The second part is to finalize the divorce with the erstwhile partner country. That requires negotiation skills, and it requires friends in other places. To be recognised by the international community, you need to get the support of two-thirds of the members of the United Nations, and you also need to get a majority of the members of the UN Security Council on board. If you do not, you lose out on the perks associated with being an independent state, such as special drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund, the right to join international organisations, and the right to be protected by international law. It can be done, but it requires skill, tenacity, and a helping of good luck. The fourth chapter uses examples (in many cases ones that the author has been involved in) to show how states become recognized – and why sometimes they fail in this endeavour.
To establish a new state is not just about international law; it is also about making money. How can a new country start paying its own bills? What have other countries done? Do they have to settle the score with its erstwhile parent state? (The answer will surprise you! Basically, the new country can walk away from the partnership without paying a penny. Ireland graciously granted the United Kingdom one pound when the two countries split up in 1922.) The international community has, so far in vain, tried to develop rules that lead to a sharing of debt. But is it prudent to simply walk away? What have new countries done? And why? Another economic issue is that of the currency. The British government warned that Scotland could not use the pound after independence. In reality, the Scots can use whatever they like. (Several countries use the US dollar without asking Washington for permission.) But the new state does not sit at the table and will not be able to set interest rates. So, simply using another currency can be tricky. And this is putting it mildly.
Before you can even begin to think about “breaking free”, you need to start a movement and get momentum behind it. To become independent often takes decades of hard work. It is especially important to forge a sense of togetherness and a feeling among your fellow countrymen and women that you have a shared destiny. Some of this can be done through appeals to emotions, and for this reason you need, for example, films that glorify the shared past. Patriotic songs and cultural artefacts you can rally around are important, and so too is finding common grievances. These elements come together when you finally get to vote on independence in a referendum. At this stage, you need to be emotional rather than factual. You want to win, so you might need to be willing to sail close to the wind. Or, to change the metaphor, break the rules.
Breaking up is like a divorce settlement. And like in the family courts in the civil world, there are many rules associated with the establishment of a new state. Some of them deal with the right to file the paperwork in the first place. The first issue deals with the so-called right of self-determination. Is this a right? When are countries allowed to start the proceedings? As in the case of families, you have a right to leave an abusive relationship, but unlike in the civil world, there is not always a neutral mediator who can validate the facts. Further, once the conditions for starting political divorce proceedings are met, there are rules – some of them very old-fashioned and arcane – that have to be followed. The second chapter deals with these and provides a checklist for when the new state goes to their solicitor and starts the process.
This chapter focuses on Syria as a space where one of the region’s longest-running and most brutal civil conflicts has been subject to the penetration of external powers, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. In this chapter, the author asses the utility of different theoretical perspectives from international relations in explaining Iran’s comparative success vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia in Syria. The analysis shows that while structural factors clearly were important, the significance of domestic and ideational factors alongside them suggests that purely systemic answers are insufficient alone to explain the conflict’s outcome. The chapter concludes that a neoclassical realist interpretation offers the best explanation for Saudi Arabia’s inability to adapt to the changing external context and make the most of its advantages, due in part to the influence of domestic factors.