Sunday, March 24, 2013
How War Creates Nations
War is an something that has long been present in human society. It has also been a major force in drawing and redrawing lines on maps and in the dirt. Since prehistory humans have been fighting against each other. There have been a great many volumes written on the subject, such as a very famous one by Sun Tzu (The Art of War, click here for full text). It should come as no surprise that wars can be destructive, ending many lives, but they also can be constructive in a more abstract way. That is, wars are consistently good at creating new nations.
There have been many famous civil wars: classic history speaks of the English Civil War, the French Revolution, The American Civil War to name a few- but none of these have successfully started a new country. Some of the belligerents in these wars certainly wished to start a new country but were unsuccessful. There have been other civil wars which have been more successful in creating new nations. For example, the Korean War may be considered a Civil War which created a new nation based on the fact that it was between two factions of a single previous country, and the conflict ended (or stalemated) with two nations. Some might argue however that the fact that other countries such as the United States played a role in this war that the term Civil war does not apply. This is more of a technicality, and the point that a war created a new country remains. There have been many civil wars in Africa, for example the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan (which also may not be called a civil war per se, more so because war may not be the correct term, but the concept still applies) has led to the recent creation of South Sudan as a nation on 9 July 2011. (Official website)
World Wars have played an interesting part in creating and destroying nations. Following World War One, the Ottoman Empire was destroyed, losing much territory, while Turkey was created with what remained. Austria and Hungary were also created as separate nations from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire along with two other countries, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Poland was recreated as a nation following World War One, as well as several Baltic states. Many of these creations of nations were focused on drawing the map to better reflect cultural divisions amongst peoples. The purpose of this was to keep peoples isolated in order to both keep them from fighting one another and keep them from forming alliances with each other.
Of course, keeping the European peoples from forming alliances did not work. Alliances had been what led to the First World War, and they would have an impact on the Second World War as well. Following the victory of the Allies over the Germany, Germany was divided into zones, which would eventually become two separate countries, East and West Germany. (Although, the German citizens did not have a say in the creation of these two nations because the two halves were administered by the Allies).
Although war may divide people, these divisions may have the benefit of keeping hostile people apart, creating (admittedly somewhat unsteady) peace. The converse of this may also be argued: separating people may lead them to foster even greater hatred for each other and increase conflict in the future. Generalizations don't work with regards to war and nations, only individual analyses on a case by case basis. War can be as much a constructive as a destructive force with regard to the creation of nations.