No Way Out
Some of the world's problems have no solution.
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Now that Ukraine doesn’t seem to be working out as hoped, and the war in Gaza appears to be going nowhere violently, there are the first voices calling for a “solution,” for “negotiations,” for “cease-fires” and “armistices,” and perhaps other clever initiatives that I have missed. Meanwhile, efforts continue around the world in Ethiopia, in Myanmar, in Sudan, in West Africa generally, in Mali and in half a dozen other places, to find “a solution.” But supposing there isn’t a solution?
Or rather, consider that the whole edifice of crisis management and resolution which was put in place since the end of the Cold War, with its cool normative Liberal design language, and has now had thirty years to prove itself, essentially hasn’t delivered. Trivially, this may be because the ideas behind it were wrong—which they were—but at a more profound level, it may be because many of the problems of the world have no solution anyway, or at least nothing that we in the West would agree to call a “solution.” Let’s look at that point in more detail.
Any presentation of a “solution” implies three components. They are (1) what you think the problem is about (2) what you plan to do and (3) the situation you hope and expect to produce at the end. It’s obvious enough, if you think about it, that the first point is actually the most important. If you do not know, or will not admit, what the problem is, then the rest is at best pointless and at worst dangerous. A typical case would be as follows. The “problem” is identified as civil conflict in a country, and deaths of non-combatants. The “solution” is all-party talks and the deployment of a UN Mission, and the “expectation” is a political compromise and a peaceful future. And of course in a few years time, the fighting begins again, and no-one can understand why. Yet if we consider the “problem” to be the coexistence in the country of various ethnic groups providing the power-bases of different politicians, an economy of predation and rent which makes control of the state the only real pathway to wealth, and neighbours who encourage and arm various factions, then we won’t be surprised at all. The difficulty is that it is politically very hard to recognise that this is the problem, because it implies that a “solution” will be difficult or impossible to find.
As human beings, we like to believe problems have solutions. Oh, there’s a small minority who welcome and profit from chaos and even conflict, but most of us cling to the belief that solutions are always possible. And the more that attempting to find solutions is part of your job, the more you will cling to the hope that a solution, any solution, can somehow be found. When I joined the public service, it was made up of people with an essentially practical orientation, who had joined to do something, and solve problems. And politics, now as then, consists largely of problems, from the trivial to the life-threatening. What should we do about this? was the most common question put to people like me by senior officials and Ministers. It probably still is, though the general de-skilling of the public sector over the last generation or so has made it more difficult to reply usefully. But, “sorry, Minister, there’s nothing we can do,” is as unpopular an answer today as it ever was.
Probably no area is more permeated by the culture of obsessive problem-solving than that of international diplomacy. Diplomats, much as I admire what they do, have the professional weakness of wanting to have solutions, or at least progress, at almost any cost. I’ve sat next to diplomats, behind diplomats and sometimes at the table myself, while we went round and round the same problem: what can we do? What initiative can we take? Surely there must be something we can agree on? In such an environment, going home with nothing agreed to report is a defeat, and this is especially true for countries that consider themselves major players, regionally or globally, and for international organisations that are often in competition with each other. So people will say “It’s unacceptable that we should do nothing to address this crisis.” And subsequently there will be the traditional tripartite decision-making process: (1) We must do something (2) This is something ( 3) OK, let’s do it.
I don’t mean to sound facetious here. Not only is it hard, when you have the resources of nations and international organisations theoretically at your disposal, to accept that there’s nothing you can do, and people will just have to suffer; there is often also enormous political pressure from domestic constituencies and opposition politicians to “do something.” Even if a lot of this pressure is little more than standard attention-seeking behaviour, it does have a political impact, and has to be taken into account.
A case in point was Bosnia from 1992-95, which as well as being the first, is in some ways the epitome of this kind of process. At a time when the world was being remade and there were a thousand other things to think about, nations and organisations had no time to delve into the details of a conflict which few of them had the remotest idea about. But there were people dying, so that was defined as “the problem.” The solution? Ah well, that was another thing entirely. So major states, NATO, the then-existing Western European Union, the UN and subsequently the new European Union spent untold hours in meetings circling around the same fundamental problem, which I thought at the time resembled the conclusion of a duo in a Mozart opera:
We must do something.
But there’s nothing useful we can do.
But we must do something.
But there’s nothing useful we can do.
But we must do something….
And so on. In the end several “somethings” were done, not because they would be useful, but because non-action was politically impossible, and the result was essentially to prolong the war and get more people killed.
But there was another consideration as well. The “solution” had to have various tags attached to it: it had to be “fair” “just” “inclusive,” and, most of all, one that could be sold to an inflamed western media and elite opinion as being acceptable to them. What this meant in practice was that various initiatives that could have ended the war (notably the 1993 Vance-Owen Peace Plan) were sabotaged by groups in Europe and especially in the US, who wanted the war to continue until the “right side” won. Tens of thousands of Bosnians died as a result. The war eventually sputtered out from sheer exhaustion, and the tacit agreements between the factional leaders were eventually perpetuated in the long, complex and largely ignored Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995.
Thirty years later, the problem hasn’t been solved, because it can’t be. The International Community’s objective of creating a stable system of multi-ethnic or at least cooperating political parties has failed, and there s no chance that it will succeed. When two communities identify with foreign countries and the third with a unitary state, no compromise is possible. (The VOPP was the best shot but even that might not have worked for long.)
But wait a moment. There was a multi-ethnic political party at one point, wasn’t there? It was called the Yugoslav Communist Party, and it kept the peace through a mixture of careful balancing between communities, and ruthless suppression of nationalist tendencies. Instead of which, the International Community preferred to try to build the roof of a Liberal democratic state without the foundations, or even the walls, in a political culture that had been constructed on threats and bribery since Ottoman times. Even early on, it was obvious to those dealing with the problem what the actual solution was. It would have meant turning Bosnia into an international protectorate, with an administration capable of making and enforcing laws and rules, disbanding all armies, and very slowly allowing political life to resume under very firm constraints. Only multi-ethnic parties would be allowed to register, and attempts to organise ethnic-based parties would be punishable by imprisonment. Politicians from multi-ethnic parties would be very well paid, as would their staffs, and they would have as many international trips as they wanted. This was impossible, of course (not practically but politically) but it would actually have gone a long way to solving the “problem.”
I want to suggest that there’s actually nothing unusual about this episode: it represents a type of problem which is structurally impossible to “solve” with the limited repertoire of tricks available to the international community, and in fact probably has no long-term solution at all. Most of the problems of the world today, including the crises in Ukraine and Gaza, can best be seen in such terms. But why?
There’s an important conceptual distinction between problems that are hard to solve, even very hard, and problems that are structurally impossible to solve. The political transformation in South Africa comes in the first category: very hard, but in the end not impossible, largely because there was no alternative that was not worse for everybody. But that is actually quite an unusual state of affairs. To say that problems are insoluble is to say one, or both, of two things. The first is that the problems are structurally insoluble by any reasonably imaginable means. The second is that, whilst they may have theoretical solutions, they are in practice insoluble, given the political realities that impose upon western powers and those they influence in trying to resolve them.
Let’s enlarge on that second point for a moment. I’ve written before about how Liberal state theory only permits the recognition of a certain number of causes for conflict. Conflict is regarded as irrational, since anything that a group or nation reasonably wants should be available by negotiation instead. Conflict thus results from one actor being irrational. Once the “entrepreneurs of conflict” or “spoilers” are replaced by solid, rational people, or once the confusion and ignorance that has led to the conflict are dissipated, there will be no more fighting. Sometimes additionally, sometimes alternatively, “underlying causes” such as human rights violations, poverty, “exclusion” or discrimination are considered causes of conflict. As I have pointed out before, there is absolutely no pragmatic evidence for these theories, but they have the practical advantages that they seem to provide easy solutions for governments to identify, and that they lead to lucrative contracts for parts of the crisis management industry. For example, whilst there is no conflict in history that has arisen purely out of spontaneous reaction to human rights violations, if a conflict has arisen in a country where human rights violations do exist, then it is possible to argue that a further outbreak could be prevented by, for example, human rights training for the armed forces carried out by western trainers. It may not be a very convincing argument, but nonetheless it provides the comforting feeling that a solution is at least ideally available, and that “something” is being done. After all, if such problems are genuinely insoluble, what are all these organisations going to do in the future?
So in many cases, solutions that might actually work are politically excluded, because of western ideology about the causes and remedies for conflict, as well as the range of aesthetically-pleasing permitted outcomes. It is a commonplace of western Liberal thinking that “lasting peace” is based on all sorts of good things like democracy, human rights, inclusivity, the suppression of corruption, multi-party political systems etc. Now, whilst few would argue that any of these ideas are necessarily bad in principle, it is true that there is no evidence that any of them have a causative relationship with “peace,” however defined. Rather, they are phenomena that are more likely to appear after peace and security have already been established. Thus, military solutions are often criticised for “short-termism” and not dealing with the “underlying causes.” But this dreary rhetoric fails to take into account that most of the genuine underlying causes cannot really be addressed anyway, and the use of force is often a way of buying time, which will be popular with those whose lives are being saved.
I suggest that there are basically two sets of circumstances which produce problems that are “insoluble” in the terms that Liberal state theory recognises, and may, indeed, be “insoluble” in the wider sense, of simply not having a solution that is practically possible, at all. They are first, problems that arise from power and class relationships in societies, and second, problems that arise from attempts to construct nation-states out of the wreckage of empires or multiethnic confederations.
All societies go through different stages of social and political development, and the distribution of political and economic power changes over time. Few of these changes are entirely peaceful, since there is no reason of principle why a dominant group should give up its rights and privileges quietly unless it has to. So political transitions are often violent, especially when a reasonably coherent group is in control, capable of organising and defending itself against new forces. For much of the western world, this is just colourful history. We think of the conflicts in England in the seventeenth century, the French and later Russian revolutions, the Spanish Civil War, and so on. What we fail to understand is that something like this logic plays out in most societies in the world, and well-intentioned Liberal attempts to impose “democracy” on societies where there are historically dominant and subordinate groups are more likely to cause conflict than resolve it, because they leapfrog the stage of the replacement of traditional elites. (Liberalism itself, of course, essentially developed after this stage was already under way.)
The classic case is the dreadful violence that took place in Burundi and Rwanda from the 1970s up to more or less the present day. Here, a traditional aristocratic class (the cattle-owning Tutsi) dominated the Hutu peasantry. Because like all aristocratic classes they were a minority, this domination was exercised through strict social hierarchies and recourse to extreme violence if necessary. This pattern was continued during the (brief) colonial parenthesis. After independence, the Tutsi managed to hang on to to power in Burundi through the use of widespread massacres of Hutu, especially the more educated, whereas in Rwanda the Tutsi leadership were chased from the country, and remaining Tutsi reduced to subordinate status, and massacred during periodic attempts by the Tutsi elite to return from their Ugandan exile to retake power.
And the solution was what, exactly? When the French and other western states began to put pressure on the two countries to democratise after the end of the Cold War, how could political parties possibly be organised except on traditional class lines, which meant that Hutu parties would predominate, as was comparably the case in the nineteenth century in Europe? In that latter case, the ruling classes fought a long delaying action, sometimes violent, to ensure that the franchise was only extended a little at a time. In Burundi, the Tutsi, with their control of the Army, managed to retain power. In Rwanda, elections produced an unstable coalition of Hutu parties, that soon found themselves fighting a civil war against yet another Tutsi attempt to retake power, but this time much larger and better-organised, under a ruthless and ambitious leadership.
The disastrous Arusha Treaty of 1993, which restarted the civil war and provoked terrible massacres, can thus be seen as comparable to an attempted power-sharing agreement between Reds and Whites in the Russian Civil War, or a scheme whereby half of the French Army in 1791 was made up of Royalist troops and half of Republicans. There are some things that just cannot be done. The sad fact is that Rwanda was stable under a line of Tutsi Kings, stable under colonialism, stable under Hutu domination after independence, and stable under one-party rule since the end of the Civil War. The one time when the country was disastrously and violently unstable was during the period of breakneck democratisation, elections, power-sharing, an inclusive government, attempted creation of a new national Army, a UN Force in the country and considerable interest and involvement from the international community and NGOs. Irony has a particularly ironic and savage way of conducting itself sometimes.
Now that does not mean that any of the measures listed above are necessarily wrong or undesirable (though elections frequently have a destabilising effect in fragile situations.) But it does mean that faulty diagnosis of the underlying problem cannot, except by accident, produce the right solution. I’m not aware of any case in history where a dominant social and economic class or group has voluntarily surrendered power after forcibly monopolising that power for long periods. Of course, if your primary concern is not with stability as such, but with the aesthetic appeal of a reformed political system, you may find that less important.
But at least, you might say, in Rwanda and Burundi it’s essentially a class struggle, and history suggests that class struggles are eventually decided, even if bloodily. But there are plenty of other countries where there are ethnic, linguistic and regional differences to take into account as well, as well as the weight of the past. (In many African states, for example, resentment of tribes that carried out slave-trading by the descendants of their victims in an important political factor.) Political power is in the end a zero-sum game, and those who have it require extraordinary incentives to surrender it. Attempts to change the balance of power, even if well-meaning, almost always create chaos, especially where the security forces are involved. Indeed, playing around with the political control of the security forces is like playing around with a live hand grenade; not that the West, as a whole, has ever understood this. Yet at the same time the security forces are the basic tools for gaining and holding power in any state, and this is why political crises in divided societies tend to involve conflict: nobody should have really been surprised by the recent civil war in the Sudan, for example.
So the first type of conflict arises from political transitions, where one class or or one group has had a monopoly of power enforced by violence. (This is not the same as the transition from authoritarian states or dictatorships, which is a separate subject and needs separate treatment.) The other type, into which the crises in Ukraine and Gaza both fit, is the results of attempts to construct nation-states on the ruins of Empires. Now in the West, we tend to associate the concept of “Empire” with the short-lived British and French colonial experiences in Africa, but in fact nearly all the major security crises of the last thirty years or so have arisen from the effects of the abrupt disappearance of the Ottoman, Romanov and Habsburg Empires, and the attempts ever since to replace them with functioning nation-states. To understand the almost dialectical nature of the resulting problems, let’s look at Empires, and then at nation-states.
Until very recently, Empires were the normal form of political organisation in the world. That is to say, a centre of power, generally under a ruler or ruling dynasty, would expand through conquest, and occasionally marriage or agreement, and bring neighbouring regions under control. Sometimes this process was extremely violent (even genocidal) and the scars remain to this day. New territories became possessions of the ruler or the dynasty, and their inhabitants became new subjects. Empires rose and fell, and where they came into contact there were generally wars, as between the Hapsburgs and the Ottomans. And as with these two, there were often disputed border areas, where control was less evident. One such was the Krajina, the military frontier between the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires in the Balkans. The word itself (which shares a root with “Ukraine”) seems originally to have meant “borderland,” and was the local name for the defensive belt to halt Ottoman expansion. Vienna decided in the sixteenth century that it would be a neat idea to move outsiders (principally Slavs) with reputations as tough fighters, into the area. Hundreds of years later, when Croatia became an independent nation, their descendants were still there, thus bringing about a small but nasty component of the wars related to the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
As that example demonstrates, “Empires” looked at everybody as subjects. They might, as did the Ottomans, treat different religious groups differently, but essentially the imperial powers took little account of ethnic differences in the management of their territories. Towns and regions often had their own identity, a bewildering variety of languages would be spoken, but identity, such as it was, was both very general (subjects of the faraway Emperor) or very specific (this language, that religion, this town.) For centuries, regions and towns could move from one Empire to another with only modest effects on the lives of individuals, and it was common for territories that we now think of automatically as nations, to be divided among Empires and Kingdoms (often the difference was one of terminology) with a host of independent cities and territories, often owing allegiance to a greater power. A map of the political division of Europe in the sixteenth century has only the most surreal resemblance to the division of the continent in recent generations, apart from countries like France and Spain with relatively natural borders. This is not surprising when we consider that the way in which power was then used to divide up physical space bore no resemblance to was to follow.
What was to follow, of course, was the rise of the nation-state. As its name implies this was the confluence of two things: the concept of the “state”, dating ultimately from the Peace of Westphalia, and the discovery of the “nation” as a political entity. In theory, but hardly ever in practice, a “nation” was entitled to its own “state.” The problem was that there was no agreement about what “nation” or for that matter “people” actually meant in practice, nor what the qualifications were to be one, nor what rights being one gave you. And the same confusion was repeated in many other languages, with no certainty that there were simple equivalents between languages themselves, either.
This was further complicated by the fact that the prototype nation-state was France, and that state was constructed upon Republican principles, which made it the state of all those who lived there, and of all those who applied for and were granted citizenship. The great French historian Ernest Renan defined a nation as “a never-ending plebiscite,” ie a group of people who explicitly decided to live together, irrespective of origin. And in spite of the best efforts of American-inspired identity politicians, the French nation is still, just about, organised along those voluntarist lines.
But that wasn’t the case elsewhere. “Nation” in most cases had ethnic, religious and cultural dimensions that were exclusivist, and often regarded as inherent and permanent. And the chaotic nature of the progressive construction of nation-states out of empires, with the associated violence and movement of populations, was a product of the romanticism of the nineteenth century, and the worship by nationalist intellectuals of traditions and histories which, to put it kindly, were sometimes more constructed than real. The result, of course, was that, as became clear with the wreckage of empires after the First World War, there was no way in which borders could be drawn to place “national” groups neatly into “states.” For example, the question “who is a German?” arguably the most profoundly important historical question of the twentieth century, had no answer, or, if you prefer, as many answers as you like. If “nations” could somehow be clearly distinguished from each other by identity markers that were universally accepted, there might have been some possibility of a solution, but there was none. The result was war, chaos and carnage, moderated to some degree by NATO, the Warsaw Pact and the EU, but whose underlying fault lines are still obvious. Ultimately, this is where all the talk about where Ukraine’s “borders” are, were, were once or might be in the future actually comes from. The chances of constructing even approximately coherent nation-states out of the multiple intersections and the itinerant borders of Ukraine, Poland, Rumania and Hungary are too small to be worth bothering with, even without adding other factors. The abrupt move from Empires with fluid borders and multi-ethnic populations to nation-states with ideally homogenous populations and rigid borders, has created a series of problems that are essentially insoluble by Liberal democratic norms. Once again, these regions were generally stable under outside political control before the First World War, and after the Second, with some awkwardness in between. History appears to be trying to tell us, as with Yugoslavia and Rwanda, that we can have stability or we can have Liberal democratic norms, but that it’s tough to have both at the same time.
The bloody history of Europe in the twentieth century is largely the result of first the interaction, and then the disintegration, of the Romanov and Hapsburg Empires, with a little help from the Hohenzollerns. But most of the conflicts since the end of the Cold War, from Yugoslavia round to the Maghreb, have been related in some way to the poisonous legacy of the Ottoman Empire, which divided its subjects against each other by religion, making religious differences the only way in which politics could be structured when the Empire disappeared almost overnight. During the brief British and French mandates in the Levant, the western powers struggled with the legacy, without finding a real solution. In reality, the attempt to draw lines through Ottoman provinces and create nation-states in their place was inescapable for political reasons, since the age of colonies was ending, but also foredoomed to failure. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the borders were entirely artificial and meaningless: talk to Iraqis, Syrians and most of all Lebanese, and you will get a genuine sense of collective consciousness based on history and culture. It’s well-known, for example, that Shia troops in the Iraqi Army fought the Iranians during the War with as much commitment as Sunni troops did, because they saw themselves as Arabs defending against the historical Persian enemy. But what you can’t do is extend that to an agreement about firm borders and demarcation of territory: indeed, for all that borders in the Levant, for example, don’t “make sense,” it’s actually impossible to design nation-state borders there that do. (Actually, borders in Western Europe don’t necessarily “make sense”, either, but in that case they are also the result of terminal exhaustion after a series of bloody wars: not a recipe one would want to propose to others.)
It’s in this context, perhaps, that we should best see western-inspired attempts at “negotiations” to achieve a “solution” for Gaza, and indeed for the wider Palestinian question. In simple terms, we can say that no solution acceptable to Israel would work, and that no solution that would work would be acceptable to Israel. I’d add that it’s unlikely that Liberal democratic norms could be stretched to include a solution that was acceptable to Israel, although no doubt enormous efforts would be made. Now by “work,” I simply mean a solution that would minimise further bloodshed as far as possible. I suppose for the sake of completeness it might be argued that a solution in which all Palestinians were expelled from Gaza and the West Bank would be one that Israel would accept, but, since that would guarantee millions of angry refugees in adjacent countries, it’s hard to see it as a real “solution.” Beyond that, we’re inevitably forced back on fantasies of a non-confessional state on the territory of the old Palestine where Jews and Palestinians live side by side. Of course it would have to be an international protectorate, largely disarmed and with a permanent international military and police presence, limited political activity … well, I don’t really need to go on. In the real world, we just have to accept that this conflict, like all conflicts in the area, will be settled by brute force, and that the Israelis will therefore keep winning, unless and until sufficient brute force is used against them. This is not because all of those involved are inherently evil (for all that some are pretty unpleasant) but rather that the rules of the game are determined by the fact that there is no nation-state solution that will satisfy everybody, and one will therefore be imposed by the stronger.
Under these circumstances, the failure of the Liberal democratic nation-state to properly take root in the Arab world is not surprising. It is doubtful that it ever was going to. Nor is it surprising that in some countries people have turned away from the very concept of the nation-state, in favour of the Ummah, the community of believers, transcending national boundaries and run according to the dictates of the Quran and its commentaries. Both its political manifestations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and its violent manifestations such as the Islamic State, promise to do what the nation-state cannot, and the Ottoman Empire more or less did: provide certainty and stability under an accepted political and normative framework.
I’ve left Africa to last, partly to emphasise that it’s actually just a special case of a more general problem: the inability to create Liberal democratic nation-states from, effectively nothing, out of thin air. Even at the time of independence, it was obvious that this was an act of faith, for all the enthusiasm and ambition of a generation of (mostly western-educated) putative leaders, and the support of the former colonial powers. It’s hard to remember how enthusiastic people were about development in Africa in the 1960s: within a couple of generations, it was thought, Africa would have industrialised and be quite similar to Europe. Alas, the attempts to construct nation-states from colonial territories containing many different political and cultural groups, often across religious divides, turned out to be impossibly difficult. There were some small successes (Botswana for example) but many large failures. Parts of francophone Africa worked reasonably well (the Ivory Coast was approaching levels of income of some poorer European states in the 1980s) but this was at the cost of heavy French involvement in these countries, which provided stability and ensured growth, but prevented any real political development, and created popular resentment.
But then again, as Africans I have discussed this point with are fond of saying, what’s the alternative? The road taken in the 1960s is now fixed. The same is true, pretty much, of all areas of the world where nation-states have been conjured into existence on the ashes of dead Empires. We have to accept that we are still, even today, very much dealing with the consequences of the fall of the great Empires at the end of the First World War. In previous eras, Empires had split up (as did Alexander’s) or been absorbed by new conquerors. The idea of trying to establish completely new political systems overnight, which depended for their success on a near-perfect overlap between ethnic/religious/cultural groups on one hand, and lines drawn on maps on the other, is not one which would have been tried if there had been alternatives but, following the fall of the the three Empires, there weren’t any.
So we have to accept that struggles between dominant and subordinate groups, and struggles over identity groups and boundaries, are going to remain part of international politics for a long time. The solution is not going to lie, except at the margins, in political initiatives and compulsory niceness. It’s not a question of “ancient hatreds” that can somehow be overcome by western-organised initiatives to promote love and understanding. I’ve suggested many times that the fundamental question in politics is”who will protect me?” In a developed and mature nation-state with strong institutions, then the central state itself fills that role. (Though even there, minority communities often complain that they are not properly protected.) But in unstable and insecure states, people look to their identity group or larger community for protection, precisely because they don’t trust the state. And in such circumstances, the more control you have over the state itself, and the more your community lives in a homogeneous area you control, the more secure you feel. Hence, inevitably, conflict.
In the words of one academic to whom I outlined this analysis many years ago: '“you’re just going to let them die then?” But this is a misreading of the situation, as well as a form of emotional blackmail. It’s really a question of recognising limitations, and especially what’s impossible. The idea of international intervention, with its apparatus of negotiations, peace talks, power-sharing, reconciliation, inclusivity, the inculcation of Liberal democratic norms and more recently just bombing people, has so much inertia now that it’s not clear when, if ever, multiple serial failures will lead to its abandonment.
But it’s not just that western interventions have often been disastrous, it’s that the belief in “solutions”, particularly inclusive, just, equitable, comprehensive, lasting etc. etc. is a misunderstanding of the situations we are confronted with, and a misreading of history. The struggle between dominant and subordinate groups, and the drawing of nation-state borders have been violent affairs throughout history. We may be able, and we should certainly try, to make the process more rapid and less bloody where we can. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking there are “solutions” ready to implement. Sometimes the best that we can do is to manage intractable problems as well as we can. Sometimes there is no way out.