Ethnic Conflict in History -- Part Two

By Lee Madland
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 13, Number 2 (Winter 2002-2003)
Issue theme: "Reports from the XXVI Annual Writers Workshop"

The Modern Period (c.1500 - 1970)

The Modern era may be defined as lasting from the great voyages of discovery until the pullout of the European colonial powers, which began after World War II, substantially completed by 1970. European powers had been politically predominant in far-flung areas of the world for centuries, directly or indirectly, starting with the Portuguese and Spanish and consummated by the British, French, Dutch, and Russians (with minor or later players including Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, and Italy). Europeans also came to be the dominant population element in three overseas continents (the Americas and Australia) and gained varying degrees of control in much of Asia and later in nearly all of Africa.

The modern European empires, with the major exceptions of the Russian and Austrian, were different from previous ones in that their holdings were scattered around the globe and held together by sea-lanes as their connecting web. The usual concept of an "empire" as opposed to a mere "state" is that an empire is a large political unit that includes a number of distinct regional ethnic groups under its sovereignty, the latter usually occupying distinct homeland territories that may truly be called nations. The European empires of this era qualify in this respect. Overseas lands were not usually deemed part of the home state, however, and the degree of political control varied widely, but all used the word "empire" proudly, at least until recently.(21)

Inter-ethnic tensions and conflict, though present during all of human history, can be better discerned in detail during this era than in those preceding, not only because they reach into our own time and historians are now more interested in them but also because the volume of historical information for the era is much greater.

While overseas empires were being gained by European countries the main Asian-based empires during this era were the Chinese, the Mughal in India, and in the Near East the Ottoman and its rival the Safavid Persian. In Africa even Morocco gained an empire in 1590 by sending a force across the Sahara to overthrow the native Songhai kingdom of the middle Niger River area.

The Ottoman Turks broke out of northwest Anatolia by the late 1300s and subjugated most of the Anatolian and Balkan peninsulas before the century was out, bringing their own ethnicity and Muslim religion to further complicate the Balkan demographic mix. During the next two centuries, besides pushing farther into Europe (Hungary and Transylvania then falling to them) they swallowed Mesopotamia, the Levant, most of Arabia that mattered, plus Egypt, and swept west along the North African coast to subdue Algeria, all by the mid-1500s. If the Ottoman Empire didn't encompass the entire Mediterranean as had the Roman, its land area was fully as great as Rome's. It was a critical threat to the heart of Europe, besieging Vienna itself in 1529 and 1683. (To the east, the Safavid Persians had prevented them from bringing their full force to bear on Europe.) In any case the Ottoman Empire, like that of Rome, endured for over half a millennium. It finally collapsed only at the end of World War I.

Around 1500 a group descended from Timur's Muslims who proudly called themselves Mughal ("Mongol," although like Timur they were culturally Turkic) were forced out of the Fergana region of Central Asia by remnants of the Golden Horde who were then migrating eastward. The Mughals (or "Moguls") in their retreat pushed south to capture the Kabul area of Afghanistan. Descending through the Khyber Pass to enter India, they went on to conquer most of the Ganges plain by mid-century, becoming a powerful Islamic empire that came to encompass nearly all of India.

The Mughal Empire began to disintegrate early in the 1700s. Within a half-century the collapse was nearly complete, its territories lost to native Hindu Marathi rebels in the southwest and central regions, a Persian invasion in the northwest, and the British who were ready to expand inland from their trading base at Calcutta. The Mughal legacy in India includes the famed Taj Mahal but a more important result was to intensify the Hindu-Muslim split that led ultimately to the present partition of the subcontinent (which even so has left a huge Muslim minority within India today).

Even while European states were acquiring overseas empires and footholds around the globe, during most of the early modern period (c.1500-1800) the world's greatest single power was China, first under Ming and then Manchu rule. The Manchu tribes, of Tunguistic (Siberian) origins, united and swept southward from Manchuria across the Great Wall to overthrow the Ming dynasty and conquer China by the mid-1600s while making vassal states of Korea, Taiwan, Annam (North Vietnam), Laos, and Burma - and later turned west to subjugate Mongolia, Tibet, and Central Asia as far as Lake Balkash in present Kazakhstan. At the same time, Russians were penetrating across Siberia to form an empire that loomed even larger than Manchu China on the map, though most of it sparsely populated. After Cossacks set up posts on the Amur River in the Far East, the Manchus expelled them in 1689 and held the large region north of it for a century and a half before the Russians returned. But like earlier invading nomads Manchus were never numerous compared with the Chinese, and by the 1700s had been assimilated to the point that they became culturally Chinese themselves. (Numbers matter!) Today their visible remnants are minuscule. The Manchu Empire was to retain most of its huge territories until about 1900 but by then it was in terminal decline; the dynasty was finally overthrown in 1912 and the Republic of China was established.

We cannot more than briefly outline here the major European empires of the time overseas colonization began with the Portuguese, the first mariners to round Africa in search of trade routes to the Far East that could bypass Muslim control of the intervening land routes. And find them they did. After Diaz rounded Africa's southern tip in 1487-88 and Vasco de Gama followed ten years later to reach India, the way was opened to establish Portuguese coastal trading stations there, in the Indies, China, even Japan, and on African coasts along the way. Spain quickly followed with the voyages of Columbus and others, hoping to find a more direct route by sailing west. Discovering that America was in the way (as the Portuguese did also in finding and founding Brazil), the Spanish who initially landed only a few hundred adventurers using an incredible mix of audacity, skill, guile and luck, conquered both of the powerful Aztec and the Inca empires - each then ruling millions of people - during the first half of the 1500s.

The Spanish and Portuguese successes were followed by those of the British, who during the 1600s established farming settlements in North America and island outposts for sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and also set up trading bases in India. The French settled mainly in Canada to practice farming and fur hunting, and set up sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The Dutch, besides some less fruitful efforts in the New World, achieved major success in the East Indies and the spice trade, where they soon overshadowed the Portuguese. At the same time, the Russians were expanding overland across Siberia with independent fur hunters (promyshlenniki) and especially Cossacks ("free warriors") in the vanguard, effectively extending the Czar's holdings at no cost to him. Cossacks reached the Pacific by 1643 via the Amur, thus bringing Europeans to share a frontier with China. Bering's voyage of 1741 discovered Alaska, resulting later in the addition of Russian America to the Empire. Meanwhile, the British extended their settlements in North America, as did the French in Quebec although ejected from Acadia (Nova Scotia) by the British. The French were later also to lose political control of Quebec to the British (in 1763), though not demographic predominance there.

In the Americas, invaders and settlers alike were aided mightily by European diseases such as smallpox, to which the indigenous peoples had little biological resistance, which caused widespread depopulation. In Asia, the little coastal trading stations could be protected by mobile seaborne firepower. Later whole coastal cities could be cowed by cannon bombardment if deemed necessary. By 1650 the Dutch had established a firm and growing presence on most of the more important Indonesian islands. And during the second half of the 1700s the British East India Company extended its control well inland from the Bay of Bengal as the Mughal Empire crumbled. When the British lost their richest thirteen North American colonies to the Revolution they compensated by increasing their efforts in India and elsewhere.

Tropical Africa, by contrast, long had been protected from European incursions by the same factor that had been a nemesis of America's original inhabitants but with the shoe now on the other foot: deadly diseases, especially malaria, to which Europeans had little immunity or remedy. For centuries the European presence in tropical Africa was mainly confined to a few coastal outposts and (preferably) ships offshore where trading with native leaders for commodities and slaves was conducted. Europeans certainly did not conduct slave raids inland which would mean almost certain death from disease, if not native hostility.(22) (It was not until the mid-19th century, when quinine's ability to protect against the deadliest forms of malaria was discovered, that Europeans could penetrate inland at acceptable risk - and that was well after slave trading had been outlawed by the chief Western nations.)

The Portuguese and Spanish, and a bit later the British, Dutch and French, purchased slaves from tribal chiefs and shipped them in large numbers to their new colonies in the Western Hemisphere, to satisfy the demand for plantation labor. The biggest and closest market was Brazil; next in importance were the Caribbean islands (mostly for sugar harvesting in both cases). The more distant British colonies in North America, too far north for growing sugar, where cotton and tobacco plantations had been established, were a distant third in numbers of slaves imported, though a considerably larger proportion of these survived to reproduce themselves.

It is estimated that during the 16th to 19th centuries roughly eleven million African slaves were shipped to the New World, the majority from West Africa. Less reported and thus less known to the general public today is: that over the centuries considerably greater numbers of black African slaves were transported by Arab traders to the Near East and North Africa. These have been estimated at fourteen million, not to mention the many killed in the initial raids and those who died en route. They were in demand for both labor and for harems, women as concubines and domestic servants, men for menial labor as well as a great number castrated to become eunuchs for service in the harems. (White European slaves were also common until the late 19th century.)

The distinguished black American scholar, Thomas Sowell, has graphically described the journeys of slaves forced to walk across the Sahara. During three-month journeys from Lake Chad several died for every one that reached the Mediterranean alive. On the infamous overland route to Cairo the estimate was ten dead for every survivor. Also, about ninety percent of the many men or boys castrated before arrival for eunuch service died from the crudely performed operation. And the toll of women and children on these routes was especially high. Survival rates were better on the sea routes from the slave-trading port of Zanzibar (Omani-Arab-controlled from the late 17th until late 19th centuries), although a ship's telltale human cargo might be thrown overboard to drown when a British slaver-hunting warship appeared on the horizon.

The overall death rates of black African slaves bound for the Near East by land and sea were twice as high - an estimated twenty percent - than for those shipped in crowded holds to the Americas in the18th century in British vessels, horrific as that was at 10 percent.

Although the numbers of African slaves who did reach their destinations in Muslim lands, especially the Ottoman Empire, were clearly greater than the numbers sent to the Americas, that fact has been underreported in the West, mainly because there was no anti-slavery movement in the Muslim world and almost no outsiders able to observe the daily lives of slaves. Also, there are nowhere near the numbers of people of clearly black African descent in the Near East today as are found in the Americas, for the simple reason that in Muslim lands they were by and large unable to reproduce themselves. Marriage and sex among them was suppressed, and, of course, the eunuchs could not leave any descendants at all.

Black slavery in Arab and other Islamic countries both began earlier and endured longer than in the West, continuing in the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in World War I, in some Arab countries until between or after the world wars, and still existing on a considerable scale in the Sudan and in Mauritania. In addition, slavery of blacks by blacks continues in parts of Nigeria and a few other places in West Africa.(23)

The European colonial governments during the 19th and early 20th centuries attempted to suppress the institution of slavery wherever it existed, but it must be remembered that in Africa colonial rule did not last nearly as long as it had in the Americas or in Asia. The European "scramble for Africa" did not begin in earnest until the 1880s. (Although the Portuguese were in Africa much earlier and developed some disease resistance, even they did not expand very far inland in Angola until late in the 19th century. In South Africa the Dutch-descended Boers and then the British did move inland earlier, but that region was blessedly free from insect-borne tropical diseases.)

The European tide in Africa peaked between the world wars, to the point that during the 1920s and into the 1930s, other than Egypt's conditional sovereignty with some remaining British fetters, there were only two independent African-ruled states on the entire continent, Liberia and Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia), and even the latter was occupied by Fascist Italy in 1936, leaving tiny Liberia for the next five years as the continent's sole fully independent state.

Without doubt the premier modern example of an ethnically based multiple dismemberment of a sovereign state prior to the last decade of the 20th century is the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Until with its German ally it lost the First World War, it had ruled substantially the same territories for some two hundred years, ever since Austria became strong enough to push the Ottoman Turks back into the Balkans. In the Versailles peace settlements ending World War I (1919) Austria fared worse than Germany, whose territory was "clipped rather than shorn." Unlike Germany, Austria-Hungary was ethnically far more complex than its name indicated, comprising not only those two peoples in their own lands but several major groups of Slavs both to their north and south, many Romanians to the Southeast in Transylvania, and a small Italian area on the south slope of the Alps. With the order of the day being President Wilson's principle of self-determination, the former empire was split into no less than eight pieces, some independent, others assigned as parts of neighboring countries - a settlement politically imposed by the victors, yes, but nonetheless based mostly on ethnic-cultural groups. Ironically, the Great War itself had been touched off by the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne by a Serb nationalist.

The major German-speaking region became a shrunken Austria and most of the Hungarian-majority region a separate Hungary, both with boundaries that remain today. In the Slavic areas to their north the Czech, Slovak and Ruthenian regions were combined into the new country of Czechoslovakia, while comparably-sized Galicia still farther north became part of a reconstituted Poland. The Empire's South Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Bosnians), also Slav Macedonians plus ethnically Albanian Kosovars, all became part of another new country, Yugoslavia, built around the Serbian kingdom which earlier had freed itself from the Ottomans. Transylvania with Bukovina went to Romania, and South Tirol, plus Trieste with the Slavic Istrian Peninsula, to Italy.

There were anomalies. The northern half of the region called South Tirol by Austrians (Alto Adige to Italians) was overwhelmingly German-speaking, and despite strenuous government efforts to settle Italians there, outside of two cities is still Alpine Austrian in character and the area remains a potential sore point. The Czech borderlands or Sudetenland, populated by Germans since the Middle Ages (originally invited to settle there by Slav princes, as noted earlier), would prove to be the trigger of World War II after Hitler annexed the region in September 1938 under the Munich agreement and used it as the springboard for swallowing up the Czech heartland less than six months later. When the war ended the Germans in their centuries-old Sudeten cities were forcibly sent "back" to Germany, with many killed in the process. And then, the peacemakers' attempt to patch together several mutually antagonistic groups as Yugoslavia was in the end to prove a tragic failure of colossal proportions in which millions would be either savagely killed or forced to flee home and country as refugees. Two other Slavic groups whom diplomats had deemed sufficiently akin to maintain a viable nation  Czechs and Slovaks  have since split into separate nation-states, in this case at least peacefully. (Not to mention the Russians, Belarussians, and Ukrainians.)

The European colonial powers, exhausted after World War II, began to pull out of Asia in the late 1940s (India, Burma, Indonesia, etc.), and from Arabic North Africa in the 1950s. The process accelerated and in 1960 came the "grand slam," with sixteen countries in tropical black Africa formally granted independence that year. It continued during the 1960s, European countries most often relinquishing power without major struggle. (An exception was Arab-Berber Algeria with its million French settlers.) By 1970 the pullout was almost complete except for the long-held territories of Portugal (which also put up a struggle, especially Afro-Portuguese in Angola and Mozambique until Portugal gave up in 1975). Africa-based white rule still prevailed in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Namibia and South Africa - but black rule came even to the latter in 1994. On most of the continent the period of white rule had lasted well under a century.

The problem of strife between a multiplicity of rival ethnic groups within most African countries by no means disappeared with the departure of the European colonial powers, however. On the contrary it more often intensified with the removal of foreign administrations that in many cases had served as a kind of arbiter between them. The Congo, Uganda, Angola, Mozambique, the Nigeria-Biafra conflict, Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Sierra Leone, were some of the more searing of such recent conflicts, in some cases causing deaths numbered in millions. Even Liberia, the single African country that had never known colonial rule, was by no means immune to ethnic strife of the most devastating and deadly sort.

Two peoples whose roots in the Near East span thousands of years and whose histories have taken conspicuous turns in the 20th century deserve special notice here.

The continuing Arab-Israeli conflict had roots in the arrival of some tens of thousands of Jewish refugees in then Ottoman Turk-ruled Palestine starting near the end of the19th century, these having been repelled by pogrom massacres in their Russian settlements and attracted by the ideals of the Zionist movement to set up a Jewish homeland in the land of their ancient origins. Upon arrival they found few Arabs. (During that period Mark Twain wrote a striking description of the region's emptiness and desolation after a visit.) Numbers of Jews continued to trickle in during the remainder of Ottoman rule and after World War I during the British mandate of what was given the name Palestine, then applied to the whole area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Numbers of Arabs also came to settle during that time in response to economic opportunities the Jewish towns were increasingly providing.

Then in the 1930s and again in the aftermath of World War II in the mid-1940s, Jewish immigration increased dramatically as survivors of the Nazi persecutions and its wartime Holocaust flocked to Palestine. The UN in 1947 called for the territory's partition into Jewish and Arab sectors. Six months later on May 14, 1948, the British formally ended the mandate in order to withdraw. On that same day Jewish leaders proclaimed the independence of Israel. The combined armies of surrounding Arab countries attacked the next day in an attempt to eliminate the Jewish state. They were not only defeated but the Israelis were able to extend their holdings. Ever since, a state of hostility has prevailed between Arabs and Israelis, marked by three more short but major wars (1956, 1967, 1973) and many outbreaks of Arab-Israeli violence with no end in sight.

Another people of ancient Near East origins show almost uncanny parallels in their history with that of the Jews. These are the Armenians, not of Semitic but of Indo-European ethno-linguistic background. They are apparently descended from Phrygians (whose earliest known origins were in Thrace in the eastern Balkans) who invaded Asia Minor and with Luvians overthrew the Hittite kingdom around 1200 BC. A group of them subsequently moved on and settled in the South Caucasus-Lake Van region. Armenia as such first appears on the map around 330 BC after emerging out from under the Persian Empire upon its overthrow by Alexander. After periods of varying Greek influence or rule, Armenia gained a sizeable empire of its own, which peaked early in the first century BC when its territory stretched all the way from the eastern Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea. Subsequent Roman and Parthian/Persian expansion reduced Armenia to its core area, and although for some years it was officially annexed as Roman territory, Rome's control was generally loose at best. About AD 300, Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity officially.

During the eras following Rome's collapse, however, the Armenian homeland came successively under Persian, Arab, Seljuk Turk, Mongol, Timurid, Ottoman Turk and Russian domination, with only a few fleeting periods of independence between. During this long era of political eclipse Armenians became scattered around the world in a diaspora in many ways similar to that of the Jews, and like the Jews never lost sight of their national identity or their religion (Armenians hold to their ancient and distinctive Christian rite). Both Jews and Armenians living in the United States today number in the millions and comprise a large proportion of their respective world populations. Another striking similarity with the Jews (and others in history such as Carthaginians, Lebanese, and in modern times overseas Indians and Chinese) is that Armenians have long been a commercially-minded people and have excelled as traders, their success redounding in the resentment and envy, and, many times, persecution by other groups among whom they lived and who have had difficulty competing with them. (It is often not recognized by the ignorant or spiteful that in trading and other pursuits requiring above average resourcefulness and ingenuity such groups create wealth where it didn't exist before, in the end economically benefiting the other peoples among whom they live as well as themselves.)

Armenians also share with Jews the ultimate tragedy of having been victims of government-instigated efforts to eliminate them with wholesale massacres of men, women and children. During World War I, when the decaying Ottoman Empire was allied with the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, the Ottoman regime in 1915-17 unleashed a pogrom in which an estimated 1.75 million Armenians were deported from their homes and some 600,000 massacred at the hands of the Turks, the latter figure conservative compared with some claims. In any case, the number of Armenians killed and driven out was, in proportion to their world population, on a similar order as to what was to happen a generation later to the European Jews at the hands of Nazis. In the turmoil a large number of Armenian refugees managed to reach the U.S. with American help. After the Ottoman Empire's fall in 1918 and the establishment of the Turkish Republic, further suppression and massacres in northeastern Turkey took place in 1920-21 when Armenian separatist feelings were running high. As a result, most Armenian survivors left the region. Only the Russian presence and the establishment of the Soviet Republic of Armenia in 1921 averted a Turkish takeover of the whole Armenian homeland. This helped moderate any anti-Russian feelings on their part. On the breakup of the Soviet Union Armenia once again regained its independence, albeit occupying only a small fraction of its former lands.(24)

In another instance of the ups and downs of ethnic conflict, Armenians shortly thereafter extended their area of de facto control by taking over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in a bitter armed conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan (Turkic and Muslim), after Armenians in the enclave declared independence from Azeri sovereignty. (After the Bolshevik revolution the new Soviet Union's internal boundary-making had given that nearby and mostly Armenian-inhabited area to Azerbaijan.) In consolidating their gains Armenians also seized sizeable intervening and neighboring areas of Azerbaijan. A million Azeris fled as refugees. The fighting has since been put on hold mostly on account of exhaustion on both sides but the situation remains unresolved and clearly contains potential for further conflict, not excluding the possibility of Turkey once more becoming directly involved in support of their ethnic cousins in Azerbaijan.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Regarding immigration, what does all this likely portend for America? If the record of conflicting cultural groups through history, both between and within sovereign countries, continues in patterns it has followed for thousands of years - especially apparent in the last half-century, more often within countries than between them - the changes that present immigration flows are bringing to the United States could easily split the American nation apart and cause its dissolution, quite conceivably before a tricentennial can be celebrated. As the eminent ecologist Garrett Hardin has noted succinctly, "Unity within a nation requires considerable uniformity in beliefs and practices."(25) That is precisely what is threatened by the current wave of immigration to the U.S. The numbers alone, in some years of the 1990s nearing a million new legal immigrants annually plus the variously estimated but certainly several hundred thousand net illegal immigrants per year,(26) would properly be of great concern wherever they came from. All these put additional pressure on an infrastructure and ecosystem increasingly hard put to serve the existing population adequately - as well as crowd out especially the lower-paying jobs and earnings of American-born citizens, as has always been the case. Are these people being consulted by vocal immigration enthusiasts, usually affluent, self-appointed champions of the unfortunate?

The character of U.S. immigration under the unexpectedly far-reaching reforms of the 1965 law is of at least equal concern. Within a few years after that measure became law the traditional European sources of immigration were drying up, crowded out by the filling of overall world quotas by immigrants from Third-World countries in Latin America and Asia - whose numbers came to be swelled further by a chain migration of relatives under that law's liberally defined "family reunification" rules (outside any quotas once citizenship is attained). Even so, that was not enough to accommodate all prospective migrants, so the illegal flow also increased dramatically. This trend was abetted by many American employers willing to "look the other way" when hiring cheaper illegals, and also by a successful selling of the diversity ideal by intellectuals and the media. (Although polls have shown consistently that a majority of Americans have remained unsold, many are unwilling to speak out at the risk of being labeled as bigoted, racist, etc., in the current intellectual climate. Prosperous times have also helped mute their reservations.) The revisions of 1986 (amnesty for persistent illegals) and 1990 (reinforcing diversity aims), ostensibly meant to tidy up and help limit the incoming flow, have had exactly the opposite effects. So the mess continues.

The overall effect of U.S. immigration reform has been not only to increase the flow enormously in total numbers, but to swell arrivals from impoverished Third-World countries to a proportion fluctuating around ninety percent of total immigration, whereas people of European origin in the era prior to 1965 accounted for ninety percent - a complete reversal of the historic American pattern upon which the nation was built, resulting in demographic consequences already mentioned. Even if immigration should be stopped in its tracks now - hardly likely - the percentage of people of non-European origin in America's population will continue to rise for a long time on account of those groups' higher fertility patterns.

None of this is to denigrate individuals from those groups, most of whom have succeeded and will continue improving their own economic situations in the more open society to which they have come. But their radically different cultural backgrounds certainly make it more difficult for them to "fit in" in many ways, and their sheer numbers complicate the problem enormously. If those numbers continue to increase on the scale of the last three decades, a critical mass will be reached that will snuff out what is left of the assimilation process, resulting not in fusion, but fission. Early signs are already becoming apparent. America will have to face the problem squarely,

and the sooner the better. If not - or not soon enough - the consequences will become irreparable.

The history of multicultural countries around the world is not encouraging. In the 1990s alone the examples are chilling the breakup of what were Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia, rebellion in Chechnya, three decades of warfare before Eritrea managed to break off from Ethiopia, near-genocide in the Sudan and Rwanda, continuing chaos in other African countries earlier mentioned, recurring separatist disorders in India, prolonged and bitter civil war in Sri Lanka, savage interethnic violence in several regions of Indonesia, not to mention the endless Arab-Israeli and India-Pakistan conflicts, are only some of the larger examples. Some have ended in more or less peaceful resolutions for now at least, others in savagery and bloodshed almost unimaginable (to us), and some remain wholly unresolved, but their roots lie in cleavages between distinct ethnic-cultural groups.

Americans have become used to immigrants scattering around the country, with their second or third generation becoming genuinely part of the American nation. But the current glorification of diversity and officially encouraged retention of separate ethnic identities and language have thrown a monkey wrench into this process. Many groups are tending to coalesce in distinct districts or regions, and give signs of staying that way. In the largest such region, the Southwest from Texas to California, the now great and growing number of Mexican immigrants has spawned a group with radical separatist aims, the Aztlan movement, using rhetoric blatantly racist while without a blink stereotyping Anglos as "racist/fascist." A prominent Aztlan activist and text writer, Rodolfo Acu�a, told attendees at a Latino student gathering in 1996, "Right now you are in the Nazi United States of America."(27) The movement draws recruits from among increasing numbers of Chicanos in the U.S. and further strength from the presence of a nearby and porous border. Sufficiently large groups looking at an ethnic homeland just across a border have historically given rise to separatism. Other diverse groups who lack that advantage could still in due time coalesce in sufficient numbers to assert themselves in a separatist way. Where recent groups of immigrants differ from previous ones is that most are culturally much more different from the majority of Americans - white and black - than has been true in the past.

We should not forget that diversity is the direct opposite of unity. An underlying cultural unity nurtures and preserves nations. The most successful nations are based on a large degree of internal unity in such matters as language and basic culture, which make ready communication and working together effectively possible. Within nations, diversity in small doses can stimulate, but too much can be deadly poison. At the same time, diversity can and should be preserved between different nations "The disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all peoples were made alike with one character, one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind," Solzhenitsyn said in his Nobel Prize address. Fortunately "One World" is surely unattainable.

If the title of Victor Davis Hanson's new book, An Autumn of War (Anchor, 2002) should turn out to be prophetic, an idea also hinted at by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in Pandaemonium (Oxford, 1993), we may be spared much more war between countries, though we still need to keep fingers crossed on that one. But it would be more than tragic if a lessening of wars across borders was offset by a rise in the internal ethnic strife to which Moynihan's title referred, especially since the latter tends to be the more bitter and savage. (Of course, the two can be combined, viz. the Arab-Israel conflicts and the current anti-West jihad, which came to a horrendous apex on September 11, 2001.)

If international wars are contained, the problem remains of insuring a modicum of unity within sovereign countries. Major cultural contrasts within countries work against such unity and strongly tend to promote strife among diverse groups, as we have seen again and again in all parts of the world. America can't do much to save the whole planet from cultural conflicts, but we can limit the damage here. The first line of defense is to regain control of U.S. borders and call a halt to open-ended immigration. It will take guts to do so, but national survival hangs in the balance. A moratorium on immigration could let us sober up after the binge, while new priorities are sorted out as to how many and who can prudently be admitted into the national family.

Hardin has suggested that a proper goal should be zero net immigration with newcomers limited to the same numbers as immigrants who leave,(28) the latter by no means insignificant. In any case, immigration at present levels is an indulgence America cannot afford much longer if it is to remain the United States of America.


1. Lee G. Madland, "Immigration, Ethnic Strife, Nations - and America," The Social Contract, Spring 2000, p. 161-177. The figure of 194 sovereign states is currently correct if the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are counted separately rather than as disputed parts of a single sovereignty. The former has been a de facto state for more than half a century and the latter for over a quarter-century. The newest addition to the list of countries is East Timor, a clearly ethnic-cultural split-off from Indonesia, born in fire in September 1999 with thousands killed and refugees in six figures  this in an area the size of Connecticut. Its independence became de jure in June 2002 when interim UN tutelage ended.

2. Caucasian is not used here in the "racial" sense which has largely appropriated the term in today's common usage, but in its original and correct cultural meaning as people who speak a tongue of the Caucasian group, which today stands in isolation as probably the world's oldest surviving language family, presumed to be a remnant of pre-Indo-European tongues and not known to be directly related to any others except possibly Basque.

3. Armenian is not a Caucasian but an Indo-European tongue distantly related to Greek. Chechen is a Caucasian language, but for all their trying Chechens have not yet, at least, achieved independence.

4. The first such upheaval took place around three centuries earlier; many believe it marked the migration of Abraham's clan from Ur, following the bend of the Fertile Crescent to the Land of Canaan on its opposite horn. That move, planting the seeds of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, may have been precipitated when Ur, caught between Amorites and Elamites, was sacked by the latter in 2004 BC, ending Sumerian rule and influence. If this were the case, in fleeing the Caucasian barbarians Abraham would naturally have moved into more kindred Semitic lands.

5. Colin McEvedy, The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History (Penguin, 1967, still in print), p. 28 and 30. Three companion volumes cover the medieval, modern, and recent periods. Other historical atlases by the same author and/or publisher cover specific topics such as Africa, ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, Vikings, the Pacific, and North America. Also, John Haywood's Atlas of World History (Oxford, 1997), and six similar thinner volumes on each period containing additional maps and data, 1998). All these and a number of others are not simply collections of historical maps as has been usual in the past, but contain substantial text that explains and summarizes events covered by each map. All are highly recommended as aids in making sense of the complex sweep of human history and discerning meaningful trends within it.

6. Aryan simply means "Iranian." The word is attributed to Old Persian ariya, and Sanskrit arya. It seems also to have connoted "aristocrat," appropriate to progeny of conquerors. The misuse of this term for the Nazi ideal of a Nordic blue-eyed blond sub-racial type is ironic to say the least, which we cannot go into here (but see note under "Aryan" in the new 4th edition of The American Heritage Dictionary.) Linguists divide the Indo-European language family into three major groups the Iranian (or Indo-Iranian) languages; to their east, the Indo-Aryan (or Indic) languages of northern India based on Sanskrit; and to the west most European tongues, running the gamut from Russian to Latin to English.

7. Punic is short for Phoenician, used by Romans specifically to mean Carthaginian.

8. Adrian Galsworthy, The Punic Wars (London Cassell, 2000), p. 133-136 (1st quote p. 134). Alan Lloyd, Destroy Carthage The Death Throes of an Ancient Culture. (London Souvenir Press, 1977), p. 129-131 (2nd quote p.129 ).

9. Phoenicians, including Carthaginians, were of course Semites, speaking a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew. A few Classical historians such as Polybius (who was present at Carthage's fall) were, however, very critical of Rome's action. See Polybius, The Histories (Loeb Classical Library).

10. Or, Qin in the now-preferred pinyin spelling (q = ch). This is the source of our word China. Colin and Sarah McEvedy, The Classical World (MacMillan, 1973), p. 6.

11. Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (Doubleday, 1995). Quotes p. 16-17, 30.

12. Martin Gilbert, Atlas of Russian History (Oxford, 1993), p.15.

13. Many Americans today seem to be unaware of this ethnic cleavage, abetted by media coverage that often tends to equate Islamic countries and leads to thinking of them as Arab. But Iran is not an Arab country - ethnic Iranians are of Indo-European stock and language, Arabs Semitic. And though Arabic is by far the most widely spoken Semitic language, if one lists in order the countries with the greatest Islamic populations today, one does not find an Arabic-speaking one until the seventh down the list (Egypt). Too, it is worth remembering that during the 1980s Persian Iran and Arab Iraq fought a bitter eight-year war. Reaching a height of absurdity, some current press and TV commentary attributes "anti-Semitism" to Arabs in the current jihad against Israel, those writers and commentators apparently unaware that Arabs are Semites!

14. Bernard Lewis, The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (Oxford, 1967).

15. Shortly before William took England, Norman adventurers were driving the Byzantines out of southern Italy. This region, with Sicily, was ruled by Normans for over a century afterward.

16. The most commonly used English transliteration of the Mongol title is "Genghis;" this spelling had led to the common mispronunciation of the initial letter as a hard G. (The second G is pronounced hard.) Recent writers have used spellings more clearly matching the pronunciation, such as Jenghiz and Chingis.

17. As quoted by Mike Edwards, "Marco Polo in China." National Geographic, June 2001, p. 41.

18. Ibid., p. 25

19. Vassal states, which paid annual tribute to Mongols, consisted of, in the West, the Russian principalities from Kiev to Novgorod; Georgia; and the Turkish Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia. Those in the East, added in the 1280s, were Kashmir including the greater part of the Punjab plain; Pagan, consisting of the northern half of present Burma; and Dai Viet and Champa comprising the northern two-thirds of present Vietnam.

20. The population estimate has been compiled by this writer from figures given by Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones in their Atlas of World Population History (Penguin, 1978). All the vassal states made up a small proportion, perhaps 10 percent of the total population of areas under the Mongol sway. It is true that the British Empire at its height in the early 20th century contained a somewhat greater total area (roughly 25 percent of the world's land compared with the Mongols' 20 percent), but it was scattered piecemeal around the globe, held by sea contacts, and its proportion of world population was half as great. Moreover, the British level of control varied widely from direct rule to protectorates and areas of indigenous authority with only symbolic fealty to the Crown - plus large self-governing states like Canada and Australia, whose attachment to the Crown became mainly sentimental.

21. The pejorative use of the term (e.g., "imperialism") is a recent innovation. In the early 20th century the newly established Soviet Union dispensed with the title of "empire" and started calling other countries imperialist although it was itself still an empire in all but name. For that matter so is the smaller but still huge successor state, Russia. Although the Soviet breakup did at least restore Great Russians from just half the population to an 80 percent majority status in the country, there are still around a hundred large and small non-Russian nationalities within its far-flung borders, most clustered in distinct regions. Such ethnic clustering is not only natural, but the larger and more cohesive of such groups have historically posed a threat to the unity of the governing state. We may not yet have seen the end of the Russian breakup.

22. A stark example of those hazards was an expedition led by the Englishman Mungo Park, who in 1805 set out to discover the course of the Niger River by descending it with a contingent of British soldiers. By the time Park got a boat launched on the upper Niger after a march inland from the Gambia of 300 miles or so, 42 of the 46 expedition members had died from malaria. The four determined survivors then descended the river for a thousand miles before they were killed by an attack of non-Muslim Africans who ironically mistook them for Muslim invaders. (McEvedy, Atlas of African History, revised edition, 1995) p. 92, 108.

23. Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures: An International History (Basic Books, 1998). See p. 109-112 and 153-170 for data on slavery in Africa, the Near East and Western Hemisphere.

24. Another people, the Kurds with twenty percent of Turkey's population, predominate in southeastern Turkey and overlap the former Armenian area. Although like Turks Islamic in religion, they speak a language of the Iranian group rather than Turkic. Groups of them have at times staged separatist agitation and rebellions, which Turkey has so far succeeded in suppressing.

25. Garrett Hardin, The Immigration Dilemma: Avoiding the Tragedy of the Commons (Federation for American Immigration Reform, 1995), in Preface, p. iii.

26. These numbers do not include the huge spike of "amnestied" immigrants in the late 1980s and early 1990s that had been in the U.S. illegally for some years (three-fourths of whom were from Mexico alone). In its peak year, 1991, these newly legalized residents outnumbered all new legal immigrants by 3 to 2; and in the 1989-1993 period the amnestied accounted for 42 percent of the total "legal" immigration of 6.3 million - which does not include the hundreds of thousands of net illegal arrivals each year during that five-year period. President Bush currently favors a second amnesty to cover the new crop of more recently arrived illegals now in the U.S., although on account of popular and Congressional opposition since the events of September 11, 2001, the plan has so far been put on hold. Amnesty data see Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation (Random House, 1995), charts p. 30-31, 32, 40-41; and table, Appendix 2 (from INS statistics).

27. See Maria Hsia Chang, "Multiculturalism, Immigration, and Aztlan," The Social Contract, Spring 2000, p. 207-211. Also Georgie Anne Geyer, "'Official Spanish' Push;" and Diana Hull, "Ethno-nationalism, Aztlan, and �Official Spanish'," both in the Fall 1996 issue, p. 36-41.

28. Garrett Hardin, "Free Immigration, the Enemy of Free Enterprise," in The Immigration Dilemma, p. 121 (adapted from an essay originally in Population and Environment, vol. 14[1992], p. 197-200.

About the author

Lee G. Madland, Ph.D., is currently a consultant in Missoula, Montana. His doctorate in geography is from the University of Southern California and he has taught at the University of Las Vegas in Nevada.

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