Kurdistan Goes Ahead
One of the controversial points in the exchanges with Turskish scholars and politicians was the Kurds. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party was recently banned by the Turkish Constitutional Court, forcing its 20 members of parliament to act as "independents". Just before my presentation I was warned by the organizers not to use the word "Kurdistan" in public, and refer, in case of necessity, just to "the Kurds".
Now the editor in chief of the political weekly magazine Gulan, which is edited in the "autonomous region of Kurdistan" in Iraq, has published an interview in which we discuss the successful experience of rebuilding a country with democratic principles in the context of a larger union.
جۆزیپ كۆلۆمەر بۆ گوڵان: پرۆسەی بونیادنانەوەی نەتەوە پێویستی بەكاری دەستەجەمعی هاووڵاتیان و كۆدەنگیی
See the original version in Kurdish language:
Weekly Gulan Magazine
Ferhad M. Hassan, Editor in Chief
Interview with Josep M. Colomer, Professor of Political Science
* Nation Building process is one of the hardest stages in any given society. Many of the observers think that the leader of the nation plays an effective role in the process of Nation Building. So, the question is; according to your opinion; how far do you think that the existence of a qualified leader may lead to the success of the Nation Building Process?
- Yes, all organized societies need leaders. These are people who have the capacity to identify common goals for the citizens of the country; they also need good communication skills and organizational capacity.
* In the process of Nation Building, organizing the structures of the country is everybody's duty, and all the individuals should participate in this process. And the question is; in the very beginnings of nation building process, how far do you think that the potentials and abilities of the individuals in the society can be stimulated in building the structures?
- Building a country implies building collective rules and institutions that all (or at least a very broad majority) of citizens can accept and comply with. This requires collective action and large social consensus, which are favored if people share similar economic, social and cultural characteristics. Generally, members of small countries can be more effective in obtaining their desired collective goals than large, disperse, and heterogeneous groups. Within each small group, individual members may have incentives to participate actively because their voice or their vote is likely to have an influence, and because interactions are relatively easy and frequent.
* When the post-war countries start with nation building process, and not all of them succeed, but of course there are successful examples, such as; Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore. While on the other hand, African countries and Latin America failed. The question is; what are the reasons behind these differences?
- Some countries, such as some you mention, have been successfully built or rebuilt after suffering military defeat, occupation, and reconstruction. In contrast, other former colonies of European powers have failed, in my opinion because they tried to replicate the typical European “state” form of government of the former colonial metropolis in inappropriate contexts. Nowadays the traditional model of “sovereign” state is being abandoned even in Europe, by building the European Union as a large federation of states. Instead of a single source of “sovereignty”, the current world requires multiple levels of local, state, and federal government, each with different responsibilities. Great countries can be better organized if they adopt a federal structure. Successful collective action can result from the union of a number of small, autonomous units.
* Many, if not all, of economists and politicians are connecting the success of the Nation Building Process with applying Market Economy and Free Economy, and they focus less on democracy processes and the liberties. And the question is; since they are emphasizing the most on the economical aspect. So, do you think that a strong economy paves the way for democracy?
- A strong economy does pave the way for democracy. But a strong economy needs two foundations. One is economic freedom; in the current world with large scale transports and communications a small country can prosper only if it is open to international trade and exchanges. But the other element is the provision of public goods, including infrastructures, security, justice, and schools, which must be provided by public powers.
* Iraq is a post-war country where the United States of America is closely and directly following its nation building process. But the U.S failed in Iraq regarding to this matter. While on the other hand; and within Iraq's frame, the Iraqi Kurdish population has succeeded in rebuilding their country. Thus, the question is; according to your opinion, why does the U.S failed in Iraq?
- The U.S. failed in Iraq because they tried to apply the doctrine that the establishment of democratic regimes requires nation-state building. This is mistaken, since democratic forms of government have existed and exist in many different forms of community, not necessarily nation-states. In the Arab region, to strengthen states would be a very hard endeavor, especially in the most ethnically heterogeneous countries, such as Iraq, but also Afghanistan or Lebanon. If sovereign units were strengthened in isolation from each other, a higher degree of stateness could, paradoxically, jeopardize the chances of freedom and democracy, since it might revive or foster new inter-state rivalries and mutually hostile relations. In particular, Iraq can be either a federation of self-governing territorial governments or a new failed state. The federalization of Iraq implies undoing what the British colonialists did when the Ottoman empire collapsed at the end of World War. I think Kurdistan is nowadays a very good example of rebuilding a country with democratic principles and in the context of a larger union.
* How far can we consider the processes of Nation Building in the Eastern Asian countries as successful examples, in particular South Korea and Taiwan? And according to your opinion; how is it possible to learn and take advantages from these examples in order to make the processes of Nation Building in the developing countries be succeeded?
- I think these two are not very good examples, because South Korea is only a part of Korea, and the Northern part is separated and in the hands of one of the worst dictatorial regimes in the world, while Taiwan is an island, and formed by emigrated Chinese from mainland China.
* So far, the standard for the success of the Nation Building Process was restricted within an idea that says; the country should be as developed as the western countries, then the nation building process will be succeeded. According to your opinion; do you think that this standard is right? And what are the reasons?
- In some aspects, the traditional “West European model” of building nation-states is obsolete in Europe itself. Europe suffered long periods of prolonged conflict and internal warfare among states and achieved democratization and peace-making only thanks to the building of a continental Union able to save most states from the task of building their own centralized bureaucracies, armies and borders controls. In the Arab world, democratization and peace-making could be more successful if it also ran in parallel to the establishment of large-size areas of free trade and military and security cooperation. A union of Arab democracies, in several cases organized as federations of smaller units, like the project for Iraq, could be a more effective model than the attempt to build sovereign national states.
--New book, available from here
The processes of building the United States of America since the late-eighteenth century and the European Union since mid-twentieth century are among the major claims for the possibility of a vast, continental-size polity based on democratic principles. While the European Union project is still full of uncertainties, the previous experience of building the United States of America offers the best reference for advancing towards a democratic federation.
In this new volume from the Economic Studies Series of the Research Department of ”la Caixa”, Josep M. Colomer shows that the territorial limits of the European Union, like those of the American Union in the past, are not determined by geography or destiny but reflect the union’s capacity to assimilate and institutionalize its components. Building an empire from previously existing states implies renouncing a single source of sovereignty in favour of dividing power among multiple levels of government.
The booklet (barely 100 pages) is available here: