Separatist Wars, Partition, and World Order
Fearon argues against ad hoc partition as an ideal end to ethnic civil wars. He argues that there are two incentive problems with implications beyond the partitioned territory. First incentive is that taking violence as a criterion for interventipon. This is likely to encourage other separatist movements to resort to violence. Second incentive is about the international system. Since the second world war, states respect territorial integrity of existing states. Partitioning can undermine this rule. Without considering how to and with which principle repclace this norm can have dire consequences.
Western powers tend to argue that separatist movements start because of poorly drawn borders. If two peoples cannot live together, separating them is the most viable option. Therefore the best option is to let nations to have their own state if they cannot get along well with the ethnic groups they live with. This is known as Wilsonianism. Fearon believes that Wilsonianism is misleading. Granting a state for all proper nations is not practical for Fearon because identifying a proper nation is a political question and parties cannot reach consensus easily, if possible.
He is skeptical of partition as a general solution to nationalist wars. He argues that there are three problems with ad hoc partitions.
First problem is about efficacy and justice. As a result of partition, some members of an ethnic group remain in the partitioned state and some are left in the main state. Such a process is very likely to leave some unhappy and fearful communities that are minority in the newly formed state. Advocates of partition defend population exchange in such cases. Fearon believes that this idea is loathsome because it can be often practiced by opportunist thugs. Some argue that without partition more people will die in the war. Fearon does not think that population exchanges is a right option because it will cause many displaced people and refugees. Fearon argues against this contention and suggests that we should consider tradeoffs rather than making the number not killed the only value.
Second problem is about incentive for insurgency and counterinsurgency. Application of partition to one troubled state may produce more violent separatist nationalist movements elsewhere, and make existing nationalist wars more difficult to resolve. He cites Kosova case as an example. Prior to Dayton Agreement, Kosovan Albanians were hesitant whether to start a violent insurgency or a peaceful civil disobedience. Kosovars thought that Dayton Agreement rewarded the violent Serbs with independence. Hence, Kosovars started a guerilla campaign.
Third problem is about incentive for interstate competition. Incentive effects of imposing partition apply both to relations between insurgents and governments and relations among states. A tacit bargain exists among states since the 1950s: if you don’t seek to change interstate borders by force, then neither will we. If a state is militarily strong and considered as major power, then its territory is secure. Forming coalitions and carving up weaker states will create a system in which even major powers are not secure. It is not responsible to undermine this bargain without finding another applicable formula to replace it.
In conclusion, Fearon strongly criticizes ad hoc imposition of partition because it will be an incentive for future separatist movements and make the international system less secure by setting a precedent. As an alternative, he argues that the international community should make sure that if the partition is necessary, consent of all parties should be sought for. Finally, this article can be considered as a response to an article by Chaim Kaufmann (1996), possible and impossible solution to ethnic civil wars. It is worth to read both to have a better understanding of the issue.