State legitimacy comes from Bloodshed
Ahmad Reza Taheri
For good intention or ill intention, whatever, a state ultimately would be legitimated through bloodshed. Putting aside a few rare cases such as the glorious revolution of 1688, bloodshed has always been the central cause of the process leading to “state legitimacy”.
It is, unfortunately, proved by the history. Right from the earlier times to the present, the world’s political experience teaches us this bitter lesson. The Americans fought the British (1775–1783) to form a free and new country. In the development, at least 40,000 people lost their lives to create the United States of America. France faced a similar experience during its revolution (1789–1799); more than 40,000 people were killed in the guillotine’s reign of terror.
These states of the West, however, subsequently underwent much domestic reforms. Today, for example, it is far from the Danish citizens to violently overthrow the Danish government. In case of discontent with the government, popular regime itself makes it right. This political culture, goes without saying, must be appreciated. The internal reforms, therefore, may promise no more of such upheavals in the present day of Western Europe or North America.
Yet, the “ill thoughts” very much exist in the mentality of the powerful Western conspirators when it comes to foreign intervention or international politics. The regime change in Iraq and war on Afghanistan are two contemporary known instances that can be referred to. I do not defend the brutish role of Saddam Hossein in Iraq and that of Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. Rather, I demand for “nonviolent alternatives”, without taking the lives of millions of innocent people to legitimate new regimes.
Although state legitimacy might no longer result from bloodshed in the present day of Western Europe or North America, such legitimacy does result from bloodshed in less developed countries. It appears that the “internal reforms” have never occurred in much part of the world; much part of the world lacks rich political culture. The undeveloped or developing nations are not capable of applying bloodless methods to change their regimes; a weakness.
I regret to say that in such systems bloodshed will have to follow. The new regime in Iraq legitimated itself and the cost of such legitimacy till today continues to be paid by the poor common Iraqis. Gazafi, who ruled Libya from 1977 to 2011, was finally overthrown. The legitimacy for the new regime in Libya did not come up easily; it was bloody. In the beginning, few people shed blood. Still, apparently, it was not sufficient to meet the expectations of brining in a new regime. The bloodshed became greater and when it appeared to be large enough to meet the expectations then the West leading by NATO got on act to free the Libyans from Gazafi by toppling his regime and legitimate a new regime.
We are not done with Syria yet. I agree, there is bloodshed in Syria, but apparently it’s not enough for the UN or NATO to take action against Bashar Asaad. Does not the scenario indicate that the more Syrian people shed blood the more Assad’s regime loses legitimacy!
Whatever, sadly to be added, the worse is awaiting us. Bloodshed, to bring into being new regimes or new states, will certainly hit the other countries of the region. We will see more bloodshed and more of new regimes or new states. To me, bloodshed, unlikely, will stop only when we gain the same experience that once was experienced by the developed societies.
Thus, it will take a long time to embrace a rich culture in politics. Till then, it sounds that, from time to time we have to witness revolution, blood, and new regimes or new states. Perhaps, the theme we are discussing is what that once was expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the following way, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”