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When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 04:10am
by FaxModem1
Not sure whether to put this in History, Off-topic, or News and Politics. If needed, move elsewhere.

Over history, there's been plenty of examples of someone or someones living somewhere, and another group coming in and trying to also live there, peacefully or violently. Sometimes trade is involved. Quite a few times though, one group has been harassed, eliminated, conquered, or forced out. Later on ,that losing group will want that land back. When is that claim on the land no longer valid? Can it ever be invalid? I'm being generalized to try and not make the issue heated.

But for examples, does Mexico have a valid claim on a great amount of the United States? Does Rome have a sizable claim on Europe and northern Africa? Do the First Nations have a right to North America? To South America? Does Egypt have a claim to the rest of it's historical empire? Does Britain have claim to the it's old empire? Etc.

For all these places, what happens to the people who have lived there for generations, but weren't originally there? Do they not have a valid claim, or do they?

When do these not matter anymore? Why? Why not? How far back are you supposed to go? As a historical example, I'm from and live in Texas. Famously, the land has been ruled over by six countries(hence why we have the famous theme park Six Flags) in it's past, not counting the Native tribes that lived there before European colonization. Just how far back would you have to go before such a thing could be considered invalid? Why?

Discuss.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 04:33am
by mr friendly guy
One of the arguments (and I am not sure if I consider it valid or invalid, but I am putting it up for discussion) is that if people x never gave up their "right" to the land, they can still get it even hundred of years later. If anyone can't guess who put up that argument, its the current PM of a country which makes up one half of a topic the board has banned discussion on. :D

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 08:10am
by Jub
A claim is valid if you can enforce it and invalid if you cannot, this holds true now as much as it has throughout history.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 09:19am
by Crazedwraith
Jub wrote:
2018-06-13 08:10am
A claim is valid if you can enforce it and invalid if you cannot, this holds true now as much as it has throughout history.
So, might makes right. Cool.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 09:28am
by Jub
Crazedwraith wrote:
2018-06-13 09:19am
Jub wrote:
2018-06-13 08:10am
A claim is valid if you can enforce it and invalid if you cannot, this holds true now as much as it has throughout history.
So, might makes right. Cool.
It's not just might, you could have enough popular support to manage reparations for past claims after all, but the reality is that claims only matter if you can enforce them. If you can't your claim is just noise until you can get enough might/popular support/diplomatic sway to make good on it.

We can argue about if a claim has any merits beyond just being a land grab but such discussions are best done on a case by case basis. We can also argue about the effects of past claims being denied/pressed/or made good on and how that affects things in the present, but again case by case.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 10:55am
by Lagmonster
I sat down and tried to consider the logistics of booting all the non-Native Americans out of North America and/or requiring them all to transfer ownership of their land to a coalition of Native governments...and within moments the list of unassailable obstacles was longer than the single pro of reversing a historical injustice.

It's terrifying to consider the costs of disruption and displacement of any settled population. Texans probably would not want to be Mexicans; the cost to tear down and rebuild all the military bases, factories, and other infrastructure owned by the US and its interests, and then to pack up and permanently relocate all the people, rebuild the borders, etc., must cost a brutally obscene amount of time and money and possible create a horrifying humanitarian crisis. And leaving everyone behind could create an abandoned citizenry, without legal status or protections under the new owners, and who thus risk persecution or displacement. I would wager that it just might be less expensive politically and financially for the US to simply move in and hold Texas by military force than it would be to give it away.

The only way ancestral land claims seem workable, just on the basis of the net effect to human lives, is on very small scales where either the land isn't significant to the conquerors in the first place, or where the conquest is highly recent and regions haven't had a chance to stabilize and resettle.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 01:59pm
by Eternal_Freedom
I am hardly an expert on such things, but I can think of a few concrete examples where any historical ownership is moot, and that would be when the territory has been actually sold/conceded (freely and not at gunpoint in a peace treaty, anyway) to another nation - the Louisiana purchase and the US' acquisition of Alaska spring to mind - Russia and France could hardly ask for those states back. To use your example, Britain couldn't demand her Empire (despite what some people here might want) because those territories were granted independence, thus negating any claim of ownership.

I would also argue that states now can't argue territorial rights from previous states - so Italy can't claim most of Europe because it was the Romans who held those lands, and Italy isn't the Roman Empire. That is admittedly an argument I am less certain of than my first one about actually trading/conceding territory

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 02:28pm
by K. A. Pital
Lagmonster wrote:
2018-06-13 10:55am
I sat down and tried to consider the logistics of booting all the non-Native Americans out of North America and/or requiring them all to transfer ownership of their land to a coalition of Native governments...and within moments the list of unassailable obstacles was longer than the single pro of reversing a historical injustice.
Yes, the unassailable obstacles were - suffering.
Lagmonster wrote:
2018-06-13 10:55am
It's terrifying to consider the costs of disruption and displacement of any settled population.

This is because usually to right a wrong such as an ethnic cleansing, you would have to remove the colonizers - doing it immediately would still be within the ongoing conflict... but centuries after, this is not pretty. However, originally suffering was inflicted.

We just choose to forget and do nothing, most of the time.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 03:15pm
by Simon_Jester
FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-06-13 04:10am
Not sure whether to put this in History, Off-topic, or News and Politics. If needed, move elsewhere.

Over history, there's been plenty of examples of someone or someones living somewhere, and another group coming in and trying to also live there, peacefully or violently. Sometimes trade is involved. Quite a few times though, one group has been harassed, eliminated, conquered, or forced out. Later on ,that losing group will want that land back. When is that claim on the land no longer valid? Can it ever be invalid? I'm being generalized to try and not make the issue heated.

But for examples, does Mexico have a valid claim on a great amount of the United States? Does Rome have a sizable claim on Europe and northern Africa? Do the First Nations have a right to North America? To South America? Does Egypt have a claim to the rest of it's historical empire? Does Britain have claim to the it's old empire? Etc.
The way I figure it, claims have an expiration date and can be voided.

Mexico's claims have been, for all intents and purposes, voided by time and treaty. Back in the 19th century the Mexicans could credibly argue coercion rendered the treaty irrelevant, but long-term positive relations between the US and Mexico tend to undermine the claim that the US has been bullying Mexico into accepting territory they honestly felt they had a claim to for all this time.

Rome had a successor state, but it was the Byzantine Empire. And they don't have a successor state. You can't go back to Constantinople, because it's Istanbul, not Constantinople. Without a successor state, there's no one to exercise the claim.

Ancient Egypt doesn't have a successor state. Modern Egypt... what empire, exactly?

The British don't have credible claims because they recognized the independence of each nation as they withdrew from it.

The First Nations or Native Americans have a credible claim but the practical consequences of trying to enforce it are chimerical; you'd have a minority of about 2% exercising sovereignty over the other 98%, even if they didn't force mass relocations. At a bare minimum the Native Americans have excellent claim to many things explicitly promised them in treaties, and subsequently ignored by the US/Canadian/other governments that reneged on those treaties.
When do these not matter anymore? Why? Why not? How far back are you supposed to go? As a historical example, I'm from and live in Texas. Famously, the land has been ruled over by six countries(hence why we have the famous theme park Six Flags) in it's past, not counting the Native tribes that lived there before European colonization. Just how far back would you have to go before such a thing could be considered invalid? Why?
A period of amicable relations between the nations involved should be considered to void territorial claims, simply because you can't go back from a state of "we don't think of this as our territory" to "we DO think of this as our territory."

A treaty signed without coercion should void claims. A treaty with coercion, well, map back to the question of amicable relations. Claims established by a treaty never expire, amicable relations notwithstanding.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 03:52pm
by Lagmonster
K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-06-13 02:28pm
We just choose to forget and do nothing, most of the time.
Then you need to establish a clear set of rules for who's going to pay for what. A question which is far more difficult when the people who directly owe you compensation for their ancestor's actions are themselves dirt poor, experiencing political instability, or only stopped from carrying out further persecution because of persistent outside military threats.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 04:18pm
by K. A. Pital
I know.

I merely say that we choose to have the claims expire, in order to have peace.

However, therein lies a hidden danger when successful feats of ethnic cleansing and colonization would be serving as examples for future invaders, encouraging them to keep the territory for as long as possible to let the claims expire.

I mean, Northern Ireland is a prime example. Ireland cannot have its territorial integrity because a part of it was literally settled over centuries by British loyalists. I am sure other examples can be found as well throughout history.

I am not saying perpetual war is preferrable. I think it is not possible to right every wrong. But an acceptance of a past injustice without accepting any adverse consequences... rings hollow nonetheless.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 08:29pm
by mr friendly guy
Eternal_Freedom wrote:
2018-06-13 01:59pm


I would also argue that states now can't argue territorial rights from previous states - so Italy can't claim most of Europe because it was the Romans who held those lands, and Italy isn't the Roman Empire. That is admittedly an argument I am less certain of than my first one about actually trading/conceding territory
Certain states are counted as the successor states of others, and benefit / bear the responsibilities from various treaties. I do not think Italy counts as a successor state to the Roman Empire despite having Rome in its territory, no more than Tunisia is a successor state to Carthage. Thus it should not benefit from any legal rule the Romans had over other territory.

Examples of successor states include Russia gaining the old USSR's seat in the UN, the UK and PRC negotiating on Hong Kong even though it was the British Empire and the Qing dynasty who negotiated the original treaty. Of course modern China benefited from that by incorporating Hong Kong into its territory when the British lease expired (and some tough negotiating positions of course to get more than just the leased part back).

The next thing is, what makes a state a successor state to another stat?. Generally in the way of diplomatic relations, one of the things is, it has to be recognised by its peers as so and also consider itself as such. Generally the UK considers Romans a separate state, even though Rome did occupy the British isles, but considers the British Empire as its predecessor. I mean if a UK citizen or historian talked about the Empire did, they would use "we did", just as easily as using" the British Empire did", whereas when they talk about Rome in Britain, they never use "we did", but "Rome did". The same would be for a Chinese citizen talking about the Qing.

I would also argue to be recognise as successor state, the country must uphold all treaties and debts the previous state held. So the UK still pays off debt the empire accrued to the Americans for their help in WWII, even though the Empire has ended. The PRC still upholds border treaties signed by the Qing etc. Russia upholds treaties on arm controls etc. The fact that other states choose to negotiate with successor states in regards to treaties by the predecessor state implies tacit recognition. I mean the UK could have chosen to recognise the Republic of China instead. :D

For example, the US negotiated with Russia when it came time to review arm control treaties which they negotiated with the Soviets. They didn't negotiate with Ukraine or the other ex Soviet states. The UK and PRC negotiated with each other, implying a tacit recognition of each other as the successor states to the Empire and the Qing respectively.

By contrast, no one, not even Italy recognises itself as the successor state of Rome.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-13 08:38pm
by U.P. Cinnabar
Also, self-determination, by the people in a given territory, trumps all historical claims to that territory, both real and imaginary, per international law.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-14 05:40am
by mr friendly guy
U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-06-13 08:38pm
Also, self-determination, by the people in a given territory, trumps all historical claims to that territory, both real and imaginary, per international law.
What happens if people in that given territory themselves want to further secede? For example, some Serbs in Kosovo want to secede and rejoin Serbia. Should they be allowed (assuming the pro secessionist area is contiguous with Serbia).

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-14 06:48am
by Gandalf
U.P. Cinnabar wrote:
2018-06-13 08:38pm
Also, self-determination, by the people in a given territory, trumps all historical claims to that territory, both real and imaginary, per international law.
What happens if the original inhabitants of a territory are forced out, and a bunch of new people take up residence?

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-14 07:55am
by houser2112
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-06-13 03:15pm
You can't go back to Constantinople, because it's Istanbul, not Constantinople.
You are an evil man. :)

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-14 10:47am
by Simon_Jester
K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-06-13 04:18pm
I know.

I merely say that we choose to have the claims expire, in order to have peace.

However, therein lies a hidden danger when successful feats of ethnic cleansing and colonization would be serving as examples for future invaders, encouraging them to keep the territory for as long as possible to let the claims expire.

I mean, Northern Ireland is a prime example. Ireland cannot have its territorial integrity because a part of it was literally settled over centuries by British loyalists. I am sure other examples can be found as well throughout history.

I am not saying perpetual war is preferrable. I think it is not possible to right every wrong. But an acceptance of a past injustice without accepting any adverse consequences... rings hollow nonetheless.
The thing is, the practice of ethnic cleansing and settling new ethnicities in a region as a tool of control and imperialism is fading, for its own reasons. The places still doing this (e.g. China sending Han colonists into Tibet) tend to be on the low end of the human rights curve anyway, and they're not doing it because Westerners gave them the idea- it's been a standard part of the imperialist playbook for about as long as there have been empires.

Nobody in, say, modern Europe is going to look at Ireland and say "Well gee, the British 'got away with that' for a very nebulous value of 'got away with' that includes IRA bombings. So let's do it ourselves!"

Punishing people for their wrongdoing only works as a deterrent within a certain time horizon, and in a society where others are likely to commit he crime themselves if not explicitly deterred from doing so.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-14 04:50pm
by K. A. Pital
Simon Jester wrote:Nobody in, say, modern Europe is going to look at Ireland and say "Well gee, the British 'got away with that' for a very nebulous value of 'got away with' that includes IRA bombings. So let's do it ourselves!"
Nobody in Europe? Maybe. Israel? Oh well.

So sorry, but it's certainly a lesson some have learned already.

And yes, it can include rebel activity for decades and decades, but if you are smart in choosing friends, you can get away with it. Nobody questions the legitimacy of British rule in Northern Ireland. A lot of nations do it with Israel, still on an official level. But do you think they wil still question it 50 years down the line? What about a hundred years?

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-14 05:35pm
by LaCroix
Israel did not need the UK as an example - their holy scripture has god telling the Isrealites exactly how to ethnic clense the area when they settled there the first time. They are just slightly more restrained, this time...

And they are paying the same price as Britain did - Bombs and Missiles. And as long as there is still armed "questioning" of the legitimacy ongoing, the issue won't be forgotten.

Re: When are territorial claims valid/invalid?

Posted: 2018-06-20 08:12pm
by EnterpriseSovereign
So the UK still pays off debt the empire accrued to the Americans for their help in WWII, even though the Empire has ended.
Actually, that was paid off in 2006. :mrgreen: