82 Why Countries Break Apart

Why Countries Break Apart.

The United States is a stable, prosperous country. Although we have our political disagreements, there is no chance our country will dissolve into a state of chaos and anarchy. The same, sadly, cannot be said for many other countries of the world. As the threat of international conflict lessens, the threat of internal conflict increases. The horrors of Rwanda and Bosnia should remind us how devastating these internal conflicts can be.

In this mini lecture, I want to discuss some of the causes break-up (dissolution). I want you to understand that geographic forces are at work in helping determine the chances a country will be successful or will dissolve into chaos.

Factors Associated With Increased Chances For Break-Up:

1. Rugged Physical Geography: Some countries just have too many physical features; mountain ranges, valleys, deserts, plateaus, etc. The people of these countries often are isolated from one another, reducing the chances for unity and nationalism. Find a map of the Balkans (southeastern Europe) and you will perhaps see why this region has long been a shatter zone (an area of continual turmoil and upheaval).

2. Complex Shape: The boundaries of a country are a function of physical geography, history, agreement, etc. The boundaries create the resulting shape of the country. Look at a world map and observe all the strange and unusual shapes of countries. Some countries are long and thin (elongated), some are split (fragmented), some have tails (prorupted). It should be obvious that the shape of countries in part determines the ability of the people to develop economically, build an infrastructure, and maintain connection; all important if the country is to survive.

3. Pluralism: Some countries simply have too many cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic groups. Pluralism is what has made our country great. in other countries it can be a disaster. Many ethnic minorities have a desire for independence (autonomy) within their current borders.

4. Underdevelopment: There is a direct relationship between economic devlopment and stability. Simply put, the rich countries of the world are not at risk of internal collapse.

5. Poor Governments: Too many governments are unresponsive to the needs of the people they are supposed to serve. These governments, often dictatorships or military governments, waste the resource of the country, and deny the people the opportunities to succeed.

6. Difficult Location: “3 things matter in real estate: location, location, and location”. The same can be said about countries of the planet. Some countries have a poor relative location (what places they are near), causing all sorts of problems. Poland may be a good example of a country with a good absolute location (near the sea, on a broad plain), but with a terrible relative location ( sandwiched between Germany and Russia).

7. Outside Influences: Modern history has been filled with examples of more powerful countries exerting their will on those less powerful. The history of Africa, for example, shows how the European countries, in the era of colonialism and imperialism, created a scenario of failure we see being played out today. Rwanda, for example, had little chance to survive. Belgium set up a country which contained two tribal goups, the Hutu and Tutsi, who should not have been together.

“Original document by Peter Turner licensed CC BY”


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