07/27/07 - ethnic conflict

In today's excerpt - ethnic conflict, which is more pervasive today than ever before, is tragically fundamental to history and is essential to understanding present-day Iraq:

"The list of ethnic massacres is a long one. A nonexclusive list of victims of ethnic massacres since the Romans includes: the Danes in Anglo-Saxon England in 1002; the Jews in Europe during the First Crusade, 1069-1099; the French in Sicily in 1282; the French in Bruges in 1302; the Flemings in England in 1381; the Jews in Iberia in 1391; converted Jews in Portugal in 1507; the Huguenots in France in 1572; Protestants in Magdeburg in 1631; Jews and Poles in the Ukraine 1648-1954; indigenous populations in the United States, Australia and Tasmania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; Jews in Russia in the nineteenth century; the French in Haiti in 1804; Arab Christians in Lebanon in 1841; Turkish Armenians in 1895-1896 and 1915-1916; Nestorian, Jacobite and Maronite Christians in the Turkish Empire in 1915-1916; Greeks in Smyrna in 1922; Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 1936; the Jewish Holocaust in German-occupied territory 1933-1945; Serbians in Croatia in 1941; Muslims and Hindus in British India in 1946-1947; the Chinese in 1965 and the Timorese in 1974 and 1998 in Indonesia; Igbos in Nigeria in 1967-1970; the Vietnamese in Cambodia in 1970-1978; the Bengalis in Pakistan in 1971; the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1956-1965, 1972 and 1993-1994; Tamils in Sri Lanka in 1958, 1971, 1977, 1981 and 1983; Armenians in Azerbaijan in 1990; Muslims in Bosnia in 1992; Kosovars and Serbians in Kosovo in 1998-2000. To show how far from exhaustive this list is, the political scientist Ted Gurr counted fifty ethnically based conflicts in 1993-1994 alone. ...

"As Scientific American said in September 1998, 'Many of the world's problems stem from the fact that it has 5,000 ethnic groups but only 190 countries.' ...

"Ethnic diversity does not automatically imply ethnic conflict, violent or otherwise, it merely reflects the potential for such conflict, if opportunistic politicians try to exploit ethnic divisions to gain an ethnic power base. Apparently, such opportunism is common. ... High ethnic diversity is a good predictor of civil war and genocide. The risk of civil war is two and a half times higher in the most ethnically diverse quarter of the [countries in the] sample as compared to the least ethnically diverse quarter.. The risk of genocide is three times higher in the same comparison. ...

"[However], ethnically diverse countries with good institutions tend to escape the violence, poverty and redistribution usually associated with ethnic diversity. Democracy also helps neutralize ethnic differences; ethnically diverse democracies don't seem to be at an economic disadvantage relative to ethnically homogeneous democracies."


William Easterly


The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics


The MIT Press


Copyright 2001 Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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