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Journal Precis - Chaim Kaufmann's Article on Ethnic Civil War

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This precis aims to outline a critical evaluation of Chaim Kaufmann's article on ethnic civil wars. The outline will start with an overview of the key points of the article which lead the author to reach the conclusions he does. The second part will situate the author and his work within the wider context of the literature on ethnic conflicts and their resolutions in particular, proposing sources to account for the analyses before and after or in response to the article in consideration. The precis will be finalised by conclusions as to the role the article is likely to play in the future of the debate on ethnic conflict resolution.

Kaufmann constructs his arguments around the point that once mass killing of members of rival ethnic groups within a state occurs, the only resolution of the situation is the demographic separation of these groups. He argues that ethnic identities are fixed by birth and thus are almost completely rigid and unlikely to change(Kaufmann, 1996, p. 140). Moreover, territory is the primary objective in ethnic wars and total military control over all territories populated by co-ethnics is equal to victory (Kaufmann, 1996, p. 147). The security dilemma reinforces the need for partition as each side takes measures for defense which serve as a threat to the opposing side and it triggers a spiral of aggression(Kaufmann, 1996, p. 148).

As a result of the violence of ethnic conflict, individual loyalties are hardened and the trust between the two entities is seriously damaged so neither communication nor cooperation are likely to be facilitated. Therefore, the alternative options for resolution such as reconstruction of identities, power-sharing or state-building, most widely applied by the international community, will hardly be useful(Kaufmann, 1996, pp.155-158). The other alternative Kaufmann considers, that is, allowing the complete victory of one side and suppression of the other, is dismissed as a carrier of too much aggression and lacking guarantee against rebels by the suppressed groups(Kaufmann, 1996, p. 151).

The only solution to the problem, according to the author, is ethnic partition which can eliminate the security dilemma as it removes the imperative for ethnic cleansing or rescuing of co-ethnics(Kaufmann, 1996, p.159). He also holds the belief that as long as the groups are physically separated, the fear for survival in their members is eliminated and the sovereignty of the territories they occupy is secondary. This allows the different groups to occupy autonomous regions of the same country with ethnically homogeneous population(Kaufmann, 1996, p. 137).

Articles by John Mearsheimer and Robert Pape on one side, and by Stephen Saideman on the other are useful to put the analyzed article in context. Mearsheimer's 1993 collaboration with Pape indicated the rise of views deliberated on later by Kaufmann. It established that the most viable solution to the Bosnian conflict is partition. Later, Saideman commented that partition advocates, including the three mentioned, tend to belong to the Realist school of thought noting that they demonstrate an untypical belief in third states' willingness to cooperate in the partition processes(2002, p. 75).




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