Real people versus ideal people

We are going to assume that the people in Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria are free and rational. Consequently, each of the representatives is free and rational. That is to say, they can decide whatever they want without being imposed any action, omission, or way of thinking. Moreover, they understand what they do or do not do and the consequences or their actions and omissions. Finally, the people in Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria stand by their word. They do not need to make promises. When they reach any kind of agreement they will honour the decision.
For the average reader, it may be evident the paragraph above is a bit of an irony. “Why?”, one may wonder. If we assume that the people in our story are free, rational, and they stand by their word and they conduct negotiations in order to put a solution to the sovereignty conflict or dispute related to Khemed, they may reach an agreement. If they did, by consequence it would be an agreement any free and rational being would have to stand by.
So far it makes perfect sense, you may still think. But what the average reader may not see is the fact that this intends to show us how real people in real case scenarios related to sovereignty conflicts or disputes such as Jerusalem, Kashmir, Falkland/Malvinas islands, Kuril islands, Catalonia, Tibet, Gibraltar and many others neither may be free nor rational. In addition to this, it may be not that evident real people in these real case scenarios would stand by the agreement they might reach should they decide to go into negotiations.
Why is that? Very briefly:
First, the way in which the parties go into real case negotiations in real case sovereignty conflicts or disputes may be different. In other words, not all parties in real sovereignty conflicts or disputes are free to present their arguments, and in most cases, there are in unequal bargaining comparative situations¾i.e. colonialism, neo-colonialism or simply imposition and domination may have long ago finished according to international law but they are still part of realpolitik. In addition to this, real people may be rational to an extent, but not all people are able to detach themselves from their emotions and passions when discussing sovereignty conflicts or disputes. Indeed, in many cases this sort of disputes is very close to the hearts of some of the parties.
Secondly, real people may stand by the final agreement and whatever this implies. Similarly, real people may not. We have assumed that Khemed, Syldavia and Borduria have people that are self-centred. But that does not mean they are selfish. There is a subtle difference between being self-centred and being selfish. The former implies that between you and I, if I have to choose in a situation in which only one of us may result in a win, I will choose myself. However, this does not mean or imply I will harm you or keep you away from harm. In the extreme case your life and mine were in danger, I would choose to save mine. But I would not take your life to do it. There is a limit to my behaviour. To be selfish, however, means I might take a step forward in an extreme situation since I would not be taking you into account as another being. If I were to be selfish, you result in being another means to an end.
Enough theory for now. The point is clear. Real people include these two and many other borderline cases, from someone who may be completely selfless to someone else who is the epitome of egoism. This is particularly important in sovereignty conflicts or disputes because more often than not the parties take the view that “victory for us is to see you suffer.”


People may be selfless, self-centred or selfish. But we all live in communities. Interrelations¾both at the level of the individual and at the level of the state¾are possible because of a certain value: toleration. In principle, it may seem sovereignty and toleration are far from related. At first glance, sovereignty implies absolute imperium or supreme power over a given territory and its population. On the contrary, toleration should be present in cases in which an individual or a group aims to impose views, actions (anything really) onto someone else because this someone is considered different in any sense. In what it matters to our sovereignty conflict, every party objects or disapproves its opponent’s claims over Khemed. By including toleration, these parties would at least agree reciprocal respect. How far this special kind of international toleration can be extended?
At first glance, toleration seems to imply negative obligations in the form of not to do, not to interfere with someone else. In tune with this, at international level, we have the principles of non-interference, non-intervention and territorial integrity. In that regard, omitting to do something can have a strong or weak sense depending on several factors such as knowledge, power, and intention. The levels of omissions are as follows:
  1. Not to do, without knowing I can do, not having the power to do (weakest version).
  2. Not to do, without knowing I can do, having the power to do.
  3. Not to do, knowing I can do, having the power to do.
  4. Not to do, knowing I can do, having the power and intention to do, refraining from doing it (strongest version).
  5. To do, knowing I can do, having the power and intention to do, trying to do it but without a result (try).

Adapted to sovereignty conflicts, omissions can be observed as what in international relations is named as non-interference. As in the different levels of omissions, non-interference is also directly related to knowledge, power and intention. From there, the different levels of non-interference are as follows:
  1. Non-interference, without knowing I can do, not having the power to do.
  2. Non-interference, without knowing I can do, having the power to do.
  3. Non-interference, knowing I can do, having the power to do.
  4. Non-interference, knowing I can do, having the power and intention to do, refraining from doing it. (the case of sovereignty conflicts)
  5. Interference, knowing I can do, having the power and intention to do, trying to do it but without a result.
  6. Interfering.

From the list above, the one labelled “the case of sovereignty conflicts” is the one that better describes the situation in which Khemed, Sydlavia and Borduria are. All three have the power to act upon Khemed, the knowledge of the existence of that territory, the rare metal, and their opponents and they refrain from fully exercising their claimed rights. With all this in mind, what kind of form or level of toleration the representatives need to move from the zero sum game or non-zero sum game in relation to sovereignty conflicts of disputes like Khemed?
The first thing the representatives will have to agree upon is the procedure they will follow in the negotiations. Our next post will introduce the first point of discussions in the negotiations: the applicable rule to solve sovereignty conflicts or disputes
Jorge Emilio Núñez

09th October 2017

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