Staying Alive

Is a state by any other name still a state? Nations’ risky operations to maintain de facto status.

Issue: Mar-Apr 2008

SITTING AT the edge of international attention are states in all but name. Although existing as highly functioning nations, they rest also on the edge of extinction. Taiwan. Kurdistan. Somaliland. Kosovo. With little meaningful international diplomatic recognition, each still often exercises effective self-rule, frequently possessing a vibrant economy and a unified body politic. But they face one unremitting threat: the ownership papers for many of these twilight states are held by others. China won't let go of Taiwan. Iraqis are slow to relinquish control of Kurdistan. Serbia and Russia won't accept an independent Kosovo. Each of these de facto states could claim independence and spur international crises. The threat of wars over these disputed territories is ever present. And once started, conflicts could draw in other powers. The only solution for these twilight states is to lie low and find satisfaction in the cohesion they continue to enjoy.

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