Sunday, February 13, 2005

Separatist Movements

A few days ago, in a post related to states that didn't make it, I linked to the web site of the Republic of Texas. Today's New York Times has a story about the movement to reestablish the Republic of Texas.

The organizers of the Republic of Texas "government" headquartered in Overton, Texas are--and I say this as a Texan with considerable sympathy for Texan nationalism--a couple of tacos short of a combination plate. Their movement has no chance of doing anything more than making Texas law enforcement officials wary. (Eight years ago, members of the group took hostages and were involved in a dramatic standoff with police in the mountains of West Texas. These days, members sometimes present Republic of Texas passports rather than drivers' licenses during traffic stops.) But don't all independence movements invite casual dismissal in the beginning?

To put the question differently, what does it take for a separatist movement to go from being entertainment buried deep in the paper to being front-page news? Violence is the easiest way to get attention, but it is not necessarily efficacious. Basque separatists, after all, have tried for decades to bomb their way to autonomy. What is required both for the success of a separatist movement and for eventual international recognition of the state that results is popular support. The Texans clearly lack popular support at this point.

Popular support is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for independence. There remains the requirement of success in a revolution--or the political will of the existing sovereign to accept devolution. The Chechen rebellion probably meets the requirement of popular support; it has not (yet) broken the will of the Russian government to rule over Chechnya.