From the perspective of what political scientists would call a “rational actor,” the notion that Scotland might choose to abandon its close ties to England makes no sense given the economic and military security England offers Scotland, especially considering the ongoing threat of globalized terrorism and the ripple effects of the Great Recession. As political relations between the two partner states are stable with relatively little strive, an independent Scotland may be excluded from the Europe Union, and a potential war with Russia is brewing, among other mounting global crises, we would expect the political climate in Scotland to largely favor the security that comes with being a part of Great Britain. That said, people do not simply make economic decisions as pursuing one’s own interests is only part of the decision making process, which includes both emotional and social considerations.
A strong cultural identity, which Scotland and most European countries have, often translates into a strong national identity when nations are dominated by a unified culture. In turn, there is often great social pressuring favoring the national identity as well as strong emotional attachment to it. Even though Scotland has been part of Great Britain for over three hundred years, this is why the Scottish have never been fully assimilated into English society, despite the extensive efforts of the British Empire to “culture” the rest of the world, i.e. force others to integrate aspects of English customs and traditions into their cultures. That said, understanding why Scotland is now pursuing efforts to break away from England means going beyond efforts to analyze how poor policy choices on behalf of the English government may have pushed Scotland to pursue this course.
Between the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War, the United States replaced the British Empire as the world’s most powerful government, but America also became the truly first global Superpower. During the Cold War, the bipolar dynamics of our strengthening International Community resulted in all nations needing to either align their policies with US interests or Soviet Union interests. With the collapse of the USSR, the monopolar nature of the post-Cold War world meant the United States as the world’s only global Superpower was the only nation that enjoyed true sovereignty, i.e. the ability of a country to act without the authority of another power. Over the last couple of decades, countries have found they no longer have to align their interests and policies with America, thus we now live in a multipolar world as we did before World War II.
As nations reclaim their sovereignty, the International Community is engaged in a resovereignization process where countries are continually seeking the best way to reclaim their sovereignty and national identities. Under this context, the emergence of arrangements like the European Union, where individual countries sacrifice part of their sovereignty to international institution, only make sense as part of an effort to counterbalance America’s far greater influence. On the other hand, this reasoning requires the European Union to eventually break up. It also helps explain why Scotland would want to leave Great Britain then potentially rejoin the European Union and NATO for economic and national security reasons.
In many respects, resovereignization also explains why Russia has been so willing to endure huge economic costs just to dominate Ukraine while Ukraine is seeking closer ties with the European Union despite the threat of continued Russian reprisals. Over the past the couple of decades, political shifts in Japan, Germany’s willingness to take on a global leadership role, China’s increasingly aggressive pursuit of its interests, Venezuela’s harmful criticism of the US, Iran’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons, and so many other examples fit into the resovereignization model. Consequently, what is happening in Scotland can also be seen elsewhere.
Looking at the Arab Spring revolutions, we see the Peoples of the world engaging in democratic actions, i.e. people pursuing their own interests through political means in order to force governments to be more responsive of their interests. Coupled with resovereignization, the International Community is now a democratizing system of democratizing nations instead of a slave to American dominance. An unfortunate side effect of this new world order stems from the reality that change always translates into some degree of instability, which is more than self-evident in the Middle East. Focusing on Iraq as the International Community comes together in an effort to address the threat of the Islamic State, the international forces of change clearly have taken hold of the Peoples of Iraq.
Because Iraq was created from various territories held by very distinct cultures, i.e. the Shiites, the Sunnis, the Kurds, and other minor groups, resovereignization has likely been helping to drive division within Iraq for years and could lead to the split of Iraq along cultural lines. Like Scotland, the regions of Iraq, which are defined by very strong cultural identities, are being pressured to form their own national identities based on their cultural identities. Unless the cultural/”national” identities of the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds are safeguarded by supporting a unified Iraq, Iraq can be expected to eventually split into, at least, three territories then seek new political arrangements with neighbors sharing similar identities.
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