Friday, January 30, 2009

Borders in the Paris Peace, Primer, Part I

OK, well I accidentally mentioned changes of boundaries and frontiers in the last post. I can't avoid using that as a lead-in to the territorial issues of the Peace. Still, I wouldn't want anyone to get hurt (or worse!) by a long disquisition on border changes--not on my blog watch, by golly!! So, I will try to lay out a few ideas about peacemaking and borders without being too prolix.

Somewhere close to the inner core of every war--in their Clausewitzian heart of causation/aims/goals--is territory. Real estate. Land.

Broad issues of world power, imperial dynamism, even ideology and religion, may shape all kinds of issues in starting and stopping wars. But wars tend to begin and end with territorial changes as both war aim and peace aim. At the end of the wars these changes tend to reflect new power relationships.

Stated baldly, the power of the victors over the vanquished at the end of a war is almost always expressed in changes of boundaries, since the vanquished almost always lose territory to the victors or their clients. Often the war begins over a chunk of territory. Sometimes, the very movements of armies in war creates new territorial claims. Frequently in the history of Europe, territory changes hands (that is, borders are altered) at the end of a war because in classical European statecraft, territory and population meant strength. Hence, after winning a war, in addition to various other claims, you wanted to weaken the enemy by taking away territory and population. By the same token, you wanted to strengthen yourself and your friends by gaining territory and population.

Now, the issues facing the Paris peacemakers were legion, but they fell into three basic categories. The Allies wanted Germany disarmed and disabled from attacking her neighbors again. The Allies wanted to deal with vast financial issues (having to do both with making Germany pay for the war and with a new kind of financial order, based on recent international and domestic financial regimes). And then there was Territory.

So, to end this very Primer, let's just say that the territorial issues of the Paris Peace were huge. They involved the breakup of each of Central Powers' empires (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire) and the breakup of the Russian Empire too, even though Russia had been an Entente partner. Each of these empires fell into pieces. Put another way, large pieces of their territories were up for grabs, often by rival grabbers. The Paris peacemakers desired to regulate all this, but as we shall see, such issues are usually extremely complicated and may usually be viewed from extremely varied perspectives.

All of this was complicated by the nineteenth-century doctrine of "nationalism" and the early twentieth-century version of it dubbed "self-determination" by political scientists and publicists in the years before World War I. But we should save that for Primer, Part II.

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Design of a Violent Century by Hunt Tooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.