Conquest is not 19th-century, its Disco

Secretary of State Kerry has famously referred to Russia’s Crimean conquest as “19-th century” behavior. This reflects a broader view that at least in the post-WWII world, we no longer play Risk in real life. This suggests Kerry missed the 1970s, and a lot since them.

Conquest has never gone away, it has just been ignored. As I write in today’s Los Angeles Times:

Russian President Vladimir Putin needed to look no further than his Black Sea neighbor Turkey for inspiration. In 1974, Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, and continues to occupy the northern third of the island under an unrecognized puppet regime… This has not prevented the development of close relations, and even solicitude, from the EU toward its own occupier.

As Turkey was grabbing Cyprus, Morocco snatched the massive and resource-rich Western Sahara . . .Indeed, U.S. policy now supports Moroccan proposals to retain the occupied territory under Moroccan sovereignty with local autonomy. Moreover, European companies happily help Morocco exploit Western Sahara’s resources, and recent treaties with Europe even acknowledge and engage with Moroccan control.

Perhaps the most egregious examples are the bloody conquests of entire countries. It seems 1975 was the year for such things, with North Vietnam wiping South Vietnam off the map and Indonesia seizing East Timor. All nations now recognize Hanoi’s sovereignty over all Vietnam. And despite a hostile Security Council resolution, the West quietly supported Indonesia’s Timor position for decades, before Jakarta’s brutality made the issue difficult to ignore.

Interestingly, there seems to have been a big conquest spike in 1974/75. I blame bell bottoms.

Eugene Kontorovich is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, and an expert on constitutional and international law. He also writes and lectures frequently about the Arab-Israel conflict.

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