Home/Daniel Larison/Why Should Americans Worry About Peaceful Separatism in Western Europe?

Why Should Americans Worry About Peaceful Separatism in Western Europe?

The Washington Post boldly opposes Scottish independence:

Does it make sense for Scotland to become an independent nation, ending 300 years of union with England and Wales? And would it make any difference to Americans?

The answer to the second question is an unfortunate yes: An independent Scotland would significantly weaken the foremost military and diplomatic ally of the United States, while creating another European mini-state unable to contribute meaningfully to global security.

Scottish independence would mean that Britain is somewhat less powerful than it was, but this is most important to those who think that the purpose of the U.S.-British relationship is to rely on British support for every new and unnecessary foreign war. There are probably enough other problems associated with Scottish independence that it won’t happen anyway, but fears that it and other regional and national independence movements in Europe will undermine American interests or European global clout should not be included among the reasons not to pursue it.

It never ceases to amaze me how many of the same people who have insisted that the right answer to foreign conflicts is often partition and separatism find national independence movements most “worrying” when they are likely to be peaceful and create viable, thriving states in western Europe. If a separatist movement’s success will likely produce a poorly-governed or failed state (see Kosovo or South Sudan), they will cheer it on, but not when it simply seeks greater self-government for the people of an industrialized Western country. Generally, I think it is usually a mistake to encourage revisions of national borders, but it is most dangerous to do so when those revisions will produce regional instability and conflict. Independence for Scotland, or for Catalonia or Flanders for that matter, won’t produce either of these things.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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